Unilateral Training

If you are one of my clients you will know I do a lot of single leg and single arm training, or Unilateral training to give it it’s proper name.

 

Unilateral training has lots of great benefits. Of course if you’ve done it you will know it challenges your balance. This will improve the stabiliser muscles around the joints for example the hip, knee and ankle during a single leg deadlift. It of course improves your core stability as your torso works harder to keep you level.

 

Another thing unilateral training is great for is improving symmetry. If you have one side stronger than the other (most people do) then it can be easy to take more load on the stronger side and therefore never really focus on strengthening the weaker side.

 

The stability benefits are important for preventing falls and subsequent pulls and strains. They are also great for improving athletic performance. A stable joint is better able to produce power as it uses less effort to function correctly giving it more energy for power output.

 

Having a stable torso also means you will fatigue less quickly. Again a strong, stable body uses less energy to move and therefore is able to perform longer. Another benefit of a stable torso is that it will be easier to stay upright, which in turn means you will keep your chest open leaving room for your lungs to fully expand and get more oxygen in.

 

A symmetrical muscular system is less prone to injury as there will be less chance of over and under use of muscles or more weight being placed on one side.

 

Now you know the great benefits do you want to add some unilateral training into your programme.

 

Why not try adding these to your training.

 

  • Single arm Snatch

 

  • Windmill

 

  • Single Leg Deadlift

 

Hard Graft and Organisation

Jasmin Paris became the first female to win the 268 mile Montane Spine Race along the Pennine Way back in January. She beat the previous course record by 12 hours finishing in 83 hours, 12 minutes and 23 seconds.

 

Firstly that is an extraordinary achievement in itself, however she did all of this whilst being mother to a 14 month old baby for whom she had to express milk for at her refuel stations. So she’s a new mum, but also works full time as a vet and is completing a PHD! I’m actually exhausted just thinking about all of that!

 

In her blog she talks about running early in the morning at 4.30 -baby sleeping through the night or not! Apparently the sleep deprivation was an essential part of her training! She ran around 80-100 miles per week juggling motherhood, work and studies. Of course non of the training, work etc, were especially new as she is already an accomplished ultra runner-just not normally this far and perhaps people thought she’d be taking things easy whilst she had a young child.

 

Jasmin said towards the end of the race she was hallucinating whilst it was dark and had to try exceptionally hard to remain focused and keep pushing forward. That must have been some push to take 12 hours off the previous time set by a male runner!

 

Now I could probably leave this there as I reckon many of you will be inspired by that information alone-I was!

 

However I think there are some takeaway points to think about with your own health and fitness journey.

 

Firstly, you do not need to go and sign up for a crazy ultra race unless you want to.

 

You do need to ask yourself though what your health, fitness and weight goals are and how much graft you are prepared to put in to achieve them.

 

I say this a lot yet I still feel people are surprised when you question them on why they haven’t made time to achieve their goals. If you want something enough you can make it happen, it will just involve organisation, sacrifice and hard graft. If you don’t want it enough you will just make excuses.

 

So if a new mum, full time vet,studying for a PHD can be a record breaking ultra runner you can probably make some time to food prep and get to the gym or a class a couple of times a week…….right?

 

Be a Balanced Athlete

If you train for a particular sport it can be very tempting to just train that sport. For example runners just tend to run, cyclist just tend to cycle and if you think Triathletes get out of this they also tend to just do their 3 disciplines-yes it’s marginally better but it’s still very linear training.

 

Although of course exercising regularly is great, but if you are training for performance even in a personal pb kind of way rather than as a professional, your training still needs balance and to cover all aspects of good performance.

 

The act of training in the same way creates repetitive movement patterns and in turn can create weakness in the underused and injury in the overused.

 

In order to become a bulletproof, injury free athlete you need to address full body strength and mobility. Or at the very least do another activity that can help to address some of the muscular imbalances.

 

Firstly any endurance athlete needs to do strength work to help ensure all bases are covered as far as muscle balance is considered.

 

Vice versa a strength athlete needs to have some level of endurance in order to have healthy heart and lungs.

 

Also, being stronger gives the endurance athlete more power to perform better at their sport as their body finds it easier to hold itself up and can give more effort to it’s movement. I.e the legs run or cycle harder, the upper body holds itself without collapsing as the core is stronger. A stronger body is more efficient.

 

A strength athlete with good endurance will be able to lift heavier for longer as they will be less out of breath.

 

Both the endurance and the strength athlete need mobility. Adding some stretching and mobility work ensures that muscles don’t repeatedly become shortened and encourages the return of full range of movement.

 

So, whatever your chosen training preference have a think about what might be lacking in your training. Not so that you need to switch your activity but focused so that it can enhance it.

Healthy is not a Punishment

I was talking to some ladies in the gym the other day and one of them said she was in the gym that day because she had eaten and drunk so much over the weekend, which then lead onto a conversation about why all came to the gym in the first place.

 

Unfortunately it seems that for most people they workout as a way of “undoing damage” or punishing themselves for the perceived sin of food and drink, usually socialising etc.

 

Now of course exercise is a great way of moderating energy intake i.e burning some calories to take into account any excess, but movement and looking after your health should not be seen as a punishment.

 

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “look after your body it’s the only place you have to live.” Well of course it’s true and the thing is the more you look after it the more it will give you in return.

 

If you eat nutritious food you will have more energy, your skin will be brighter and you will more than likely have less  health problems as a result of it. So, eating vegetables, fruit, salad etc. is not a punishment to yourself it is an act of care for yourself.

 

The same goes for exercise, making your body strong makes it more resilient, and better able to cope with demands of daily life i.e less aches and pains.

 

Taking time to get your body strong and flexible and to get your heart and lungs strong is a way of preserving it.

 

The same goes for other ways of looking after your body.

 

  • Resistance training, going for a run, swim, cycle; to a dance class helps your body become strong and stay healthy.
  • Meditation is not a waste of 10 minutes it is an act of looking after your mental health.
  • Having a massage is a way of relaxing your body and resetting it for all the things it does for you every day. I definitely have trouble not feeling guilty for this.
  • Ok, this one I’m not great at either. Foam rolling, stretching, yoga all acts of self care for your body.
  • Taking a walk in fresh air is good for both your mind and body.

 

I want you to think about this over the next week. How are you looking after your mind and body and rewarding it for looking after you?

 

What is Core Stability?

What is core stability?

 

It’s like one of those trick questions isn’t it? Like, we all talk about core stability all the time, we talk about how to train it and why we need to do it-or why we think we need to do it but if I asked you what it was…..what would your answer be?

 

You might say it’s something to do with your abs…or maybe your abs and back or perhaps your spine…..

 

If you check the dictionary:

 

noun: core stability
the capacity of the muscles of the torso to assist in the maintenance of good posture, balance, etc., especially during movement.

 

So, basically it’s the ability to move and not fall over. If you are currently able to do this the you have core stability-well done! Of course we want to more than strong enough to just stand up!

 

Also “the muscles of the torso”? Does that mean from hip to rib cage, hip to top of shoulder…..the glutes and hip muscles are also involved so it would be the whole of the pelvis so I guess that means anything that isn’t an actual limb I.e all the supporting structures. So that is spine, shoulders and pelvis, all of the muscles that work to support and control those. That’s quite a lot isn’t it? Those ab crunches aren’t looking so convincing as core training now are they?

 

These muscles need to be able to work together in balance, so that some muscles aren’t being overworked whilst others do very little-that can be what leads to aches and pains. Most back pain is caused by a weakness somewhere in the body-quite often in the back itself, but also potentially in the shoulders, glutes and other hip muscles or the abs. This is why rest is no longer the cure for chronic back pain-weakness feeds pain whereas strength can cure it.

 

Which leads us to……how do we train “core stability “ then? The answer is to actually exercise using the whole body. Yes if you have a particular issue you may need some remedial isolation work to relearn some recruitment patterns and also it can be good to do some isolation work alongside the full body stuff but never instead of it.

 

We’ve been through the Turkish Get up as an example, but also Deadlifts, squats (with good, proper form) Plank variations and working on an unstable surface such as a wobble board etc will all work your core way more effectively than a round of ab crunches.

 

Create Your Own Recipe For Health

I’m sure you read, hear from friends, see on the TV lots of different ways that claim to be the the best way to eat and stay fit. So you try them and you might find they work great for you or you try something else that worked great for your friend but for you…..not so much.

 

Now there are lots of different reasons why certain things work for one person and not another. It could be genetics but it could also be there own personal habits and preferences that make something stick for one person but not another.

 

Our bodies are all built differently. I get this a lot in particular with back pain clients, 1 person says Yoga is the best cure, another Pilates and then someone else says weightlifting saved them. Then people will say they tried Pilates, Yoga etc and it didn’t work for them so it mustn’t work at all…..

 

The thing is what worked for that person is right for that person. It’s only the wrong choice is having honestly given it a 100% effort it still didn’t make you feel better. But that still doesn’t make it the wrong choice for someone else.

 

The same goes for your diet. Perhaps your friend had great success with Intermittent Fasting but you tried it and felt tired and lethargic, or your sister swears by a green juice every morning but the very idea makes you feel a bit sick, does that mean you should stick with it and feel awful? No it doesn’t!

 

So what do you do?

 

Create your own recipe for health and fitness!

 

Take all of the health and fitness advice that you like and that works for you and make that your own recipe for success.

 

If you find Yoga and Tennis with 3 square meals keeps you at a happy weight and you feel great then that’s your recipe. Whatever it is, so long as you are genuinely feeling awesome doing it and getting the results you want then that’s the perfect recipe for you.

 

Then like a chef adapting a recipe to make it their own, if you find something lacking in your routine take something from another recipe and see if it works with yours. If it does keep it, if it doesn’t try something else. Sometimes you add salt sometimes you add chill-sometimes you add a bike ride sometimes you add protein, the formula is personal to you.

 

Have you found your perfect recipe yet? What is it or what needs tweaking? If it helps I’m not sure I’ve completely found mine yet but it’s fairly close, it might just need some extra nuts…..

 

Staying Fit to Work

 

 

Ok this sounds a bit confused after last weeks getting fit staying still but to stay healthy you need to move. To clarify we looked at static muscle contractions last week as a way of getting stronger.

 

However this week I want you to look at firstly the way you move generally and then the amount you move. Unfortunately many of us spend 8+ hours sat at desks. Generally for our movement this can be undone with some stretches and just taking joints back through their range of movement to help it feel less stiff-common in the hips and chest.

 

However if you think you’re nailing this movement for health lark because you go to the gym a couple of times per week then I’m sorry but the science does not support you.

 

It is not necessarily the daily exercise total that matters per se it is more the time spent sedentary. So, that hour in the gym won’t undo the health impact of the 10 hours you spent being still. That’s being still not necessarily sitting, which means even standing still for long periods has the same affect.

 

This is in short due to the decrease in circulation through the body I.e less oxygen and nutrient transportation for regeneration of cells, organs etc. It also of course uses less energy meaning there is a bigger potential for blood sugar levels to remain high as the conversion to energy is not required and of course any posture whether good or bad will over time cause repetitive patterns that will cause certain muscles to work harder and others to become weaker. So all of that adds up to a high risk of musculoskeletal issues such as back, hip knee pain, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. I know I’m sounding like a right misery!

 

Thankfully the solution doesn’t involve quitting your job and dedicating your days to new and inventive movements. All you actually need to do is move a little more often throughout the day. Just getting up to walk for a minute every hour, rolling shoulders, generally having a fidget and a wriggle frequently throughout the day will actually have go a long way to lowering your risk of these diseases.

 

And if your boss asks what your up to, tell the, you’re keeping yourself fit to work…..

 

Get fit without moving

Last week I was talking to a client who has recently started Planking every day, and how this has made him feel fitter and eased his back pain. He’s only doing a minute so it’s not like it’s a huge overhaul of his routine but it is having an impact on his well being. This got me to thinking about other easy to do, short exercises you would have an impact on your general strength and possibly ease some aches and pains.

 

How about a wall sit?

You just need yourself and a wall! Leaning on the wall, with your thighs parallel for up to a minute.

 

Or a Static Lunge?

Done every day either of these would increase your glute and leg strength. This will of course help them look more “shapely” but will also help them to support any dodgy backs and knees.

 

Side Plank.

 

If you feel like regular plank is old news why not try Side Plank. You will hit your Obliques (waist) and your Shoulders a little more with this variation too. Ok so if you go for a minute you have to do both sides so that’s two minutes but you can do it front of the TV so it’s not even an ad break length!

Low Plank

 

If you want some serious back and arm strength, whilst still hitting the rest of your body, try this low plank. It’s basically a static tricep press up, elbows tucked right into your sides hold them bent aiming to have the back of your arm straight from the back of your shoulder. I reckon even getting to 10 seconds will be challenging to most people but you’ve gotta start somewhere! If you can work up to a minute you are a legend! In fact I’m tempted to try this one myself……

  1. I’m sure Simon is so thrilled he has inspired an entire blog post he’ll barely mention it later……

 

Master Your Bodyweight

Bodyweight training is often seen as “beginner level” exercise.

 

Of course initially to anyone starting out they may well just work with their own bodyweight and that would be a challenge, however even for the more advanced gym goer truly mastering your own bodyweight can be hugely challenging.

 

I know my clients always look worried if at the start of a session I have zero equipment out! Apparently that means it going to be extra hard (as opposed to if I had say 2 20kg kettlebells…..)

 

Bodyweight Training or Calisthenics is a great form of training that has a huge range of benefits. It encourages your body to work as a complete machine rather than in isolation. Our bodies are designed to work as a unit combining strength and stability throughout each movement we perform in a day. This could be as basic as getting up off a chair right up to a handstand press up, both movements require the body to work as one.

 

If you struggle to get up off a chair without shuffles, using your hands, grunting etc. then that is a sign that your body does not work as a unit.

 

This isn’t just important for athletic performance. I talk about this all the time, being fully functional and mobile ensures you will stay that way well into old age, and prevent you having falls etc. that are a major contributor to immobility in the older generation.

 

Training with your bodyweight and experimenting with new and ever challenging movements not only increases muscle strength, power and endurance it also trains your central nervous system as it continues to build new pathways to learn these new movements. Again not only does this make you a good athlete now but it also keeps you firing on all cylinders as you age.

 

If you train heavily for other sports such as Running, Cycling etc. bodyweight training can be added to keep you mobile and prevent repetitive strain injuries without overloading your system and making you too stiff and sore to train at your preferred sport.

 

Where to start though?

 

A great full body exercise that can be done unweighted is the Turkish Get Up. This challenges your entire kinetic chain, your co-ordination, strength and stability.

 

If you are struggling with your mobility in any way don’t write this exercise off, just break it down and start with the first part, (just sitting up from the lying position as unaided as possible) master that and then add on a bit more. I promise you just doing 2 or 3 per side each day will make a huge long term improvement to your mobility and strength.

 

If you are more advanced, you can do more reps per side, maybe do them faster, or add a weight.

 

 

Know Your Why

I think I’ve covered this topic before but I feel like it’s the sort of thing people need reminding of particularly as those new year goals start to feel a bit like hard work.

 

Knowing your why is the most important thing when it comes to goal setting.

 

Whether that is for weight loss,fitness or even career and personal goals, you have to know why it is important to you to achieve it.

 

This comes into effect when people talk about will power when dieting. They will say “I was doing great but then I couldn’t resist the cake/biscuits….” Now there are other factors in terms of dieting that can affect your ability to eat less food, but a really big one is knowing why it is more important to you long term to be lighter and healthier than it is to eat whatever it is you are currently lusting after.

 

This also applies to fitness goals and I use it a lot with those I am working with to overcome injury problems and pain conditions. You have got to figure out why putting yourself through the initial uncomfortableness of exercise is better long term than staying where are now.

 

Often this comes down to the possibility of being able to ride their horse, play with their kids etc. And it can be quite emotional for people to admit that to themselves but that is exactly the point!

 

If it causes you emotional pain to think about what to you are missing out on because of your current situation use that to break through the emotional and/or physical pain barrier to do what you need to do to change it.

 

No one said change would be easy or pain free but they also say nothing worth having ever comes easy.

 

If you want some help to deal with your injury and/or pain barriers I have just a couple of spots available for 1 2 1 training.