A Long Slow Walk to Nowhere or Watching Hamsters

Coach Mike Boyle – One of the best strength, conditioning, exercise, and all-around common sense coaches in the world, with good reason!

Michael Boyle's Strengthcoach.com Blog

This was the second of a series I wrote a few years ago based on my visit to a commercial fitness facility. I was moved to repost/ revise it after I walked by a commercial fitness center in a mall. All I could think of was watching hamsters on the wheel in the HabiTrail.

In part 1 I covered weight training. To review, look at what everyone else is doing and, don’t do it. Pretty simple. The Charles Staley 180 Principle. Everyone benching, think more rows. Just keep telling yourself, do the opposite. Guy does arms for an hour. You should do legs. Just a thought. How many people walked by you on their hands today? My guess unless you went to the circus was zero.

In regards to “cardio”, the same is true. I hate the term cardio. Most of the people I saw in the gym the day…

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Low GI: A Low Priority?

I’m not sure exactly when “Low GI” really caught on in the world of fad diets. The theory itself was developed 30 years ago, and has been the basis of many very popular diets such as Atkins, South Beach, and the Zone. But is a high GI rating really a high dietary risk?

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly and significantly a food can raise blood sugar. The index dates back to 1981, when it was created as a proposed management tool for diabetics. Though the relationship between GI levels and health problems has been widely researched, there is still much debate in the academic world as to how closely linked a high GI diet is to obesity and lifestyle diseases. Continue reading

Precision Nutrition Certification

Precision Nutrition is one of the top nutrition education programs around, especially if you don’t want to the several-year plunge into a nutrition/dietetics degree. The course takes you through a systematic and scientific approach to nutrition coaching, and was created (and is run by) one of the best in the nutrition business, Dr. John Berardi. The course actually forms the basis of a Masters course in sport and exercise nutrition that Dr. Berardi delivers at the University of Michigan – so you know it’s good stuff.

Even with all that plugging, I initially wasn’t sure about taking the course. I was interested, but apart from being hard to get in (the program runs infrequently and only takes a small number of people), I wasn’t sure if I was ready for nutrition at this level. When I heard a new cohort was opening up, I had a poke around the StrengthCoach.com forums to see what everyone else had to say about it. All the comments were positive (both from a coaching and education standpoint), and when I saw a post from Mike Boyle saying JB was the best in the business, that was good enough for me!

About two weeks later, at 1AM on a Wednesday morning, I managed to score a spot in the Precision Nutrition certification course. I’ve gotten off to a slow start (I enrolled in March), but have really gotten into the study this weekend, and I’m very excited to continue to work my way through it. And because I want to learn this stuff like the back of my hand, I’m going to keep you posted on the progress (no pun intended). Each time I finish a chapter (hopefully about once a week), I’m going to do a post on what I got out of that chapter – without giving away any state secrets, obviously! (If you want all the info, you’ll have to do the course yourself 😉 ) It will be my take on the information, how I think I can use this to benefit my clients, and maybe a few tips here and there. So stay tuned, I’m sure there will be some interesting stuff coming!

In the meantime, if you want to find out more about Precision Nutrition Coaching and/or Certification, check out the website here.

Adam Carolla’s Lifestyle tips

I love Adam Carolla. Smart and funny is always a good combination. He recently had actor Jerry O’Connell on his podcast, and during the show they worked their way around to discussing diet, promting this outburst from Adam…

“Used to be potatoes were good for you, now all that starch is gonna kill you, then it was all protein, now, you have to have a balance… the reality of diet is: Move around a little bit, don’t put so much emphasis on anything. If you have a piece of pie, have a piece of pie. Don’t have eight pieces of pie. Just have one, and move around a little bit. If you have ribs, don’t have nine ribs, just have three or four. Have a little smaller portions, mix it in with a little exericse, and you’re good.”

I told you he was smart. And it gets better- a minute later he went on to say that it’s not going to get you in shape for an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, but if all you want to do is be able to pick your kids up, you’ll be fine.

We’re talking general health here folks, and even if you do want the sidekick role in the Governators next flick, it’s the right first step. Follow the Ace Man’s instructions. Come back here when you’re ready for more.

You can hear Adam’s interview with Jerry O’Connell here, or check out his free podcast on iTunes. It’s awesome and highly recommended 🙂

Notes on an Interview: Mike Robertson’s In the Trenches with Mike Tuchscherer

I’m a big fan of Mike Robertson’s In the Trenches podcast series. The most recent podcast was an interview with Mike Tuchscherer, the founder of Reactive Training Systems (RTS). RTS is not so much a training method in itself, but a system that allows you to train with your program more efficiently and effectively. As Tuchscherer says in the cast, it will help you listen to your body, so you can change your program and do what your body will respond to. I got a lot out of this particular episode (even more than usual) and thought I would share the notes I took from it.

Two basic concepts of RTS include the use of a Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale, and the use of a Fatigue Index. While I am very familiar with the use of a 0-10 RPE scale to track training loads, the Fatigue Index was a new concept to me. However, once I heard it explained, it not only made perfect sense, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it in such terms myself. I won’t keep you in suspense any longer:

When the body encounters physical stress beyond what it is used to, it responds via a process of adaptation, whether that be getting stronger, increasing lean muscle mass, or getting more cardiovascularly fit. If the physical stress it encounters is less than that threshold level, or what it is used to, no adaptation will occur. Basically, if it isn’t hard enough, you won’t get anything out of it- you need to work to a certain level of difficultly or fatigue to get the benefits of adaptation. That’s where the fatigue index comes in: identify how much fatigue you need to achieve adaptation, and you can tailor your training session around that. If you need X amount of fatigue and you’re feeling a bit tired, sore, run down, whatever, you might only need three sets of a given exercise to reach that fatigue level. On the other hand, if you’re feeling awesome, pumped up, ready to go, you might need to do the same exercise for six sets to achieve the same level of fatigue. Rather than working for a given number of reps and sets, you end up working to a certain level of fatigue. Since fatigue = adaptation, makes sense to me!

Of course, the intensity you’re working at will make a big difference to your fatigue levels, and this is where the RPE scale comes in. As Tuchscherer points out, lots of program work on a percentage basis (i.e. X% of your 1RM), so that a light day might be 60-70%, a medium day 70-80%, a heave day 80-85% and above. But what happens when you train hard on a regular basis? In theory, you should be getting stronger. And since no one does a max test at the start of every session, you can pretty easily end up with some skewed percentages- by which I mean, your 1RM should be increasing, so your “70%” might actually be closer to a 65%, or a 60%, or lower- depending on how long it’s been since your last max test. Tuchscherer says that your motor units (the actual muscle cells and the neurons that make them fire) only care about how hard they have to work, and how many times they have to work (which goes back to the fatigue index and how that affects adaptation- it’s one big circle). The “percentage” doesn’t matter.

A Basic 0-10 RPE Scale

So using an RPE system means that you can be really accurate with your training from day to day. Just like the fatigue level, your training can change based on whether you’re feeling flat, or feeling awesome. Basically, if you train based on a percentage, you risk training at a lower percentage than you think you are. If you train based on an RPE, you can increase that load as you get stronger, thereby gaining bigger increases in your true strength. What’s not to love?

Admittedly, after a little bit of digging on the RTS website, the RPE method outlined in Reactive Training Systems is somewhat different than the simple 0-10 scale shown here. In fact, Tuchscherer suggests customizing your RPE scale to match to percentages of your lifts in order to really maximize effectiveness (you have to check out the website for more information though- they didn’t actually talk about this during the interview).

While there is much more to Tuchscherer’s Reactive Training Systems, these are two of the basics concepts that were discussed in the interview. You can find In the Trenches at http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/podcast/– be sure to check it out for some great info. You can also find out more about RTS at http://www.reactivetrainingsystems.com/ , but even taken on their own the concepts of working towards an RPE or fatigue will go a long way towards appropriate and effective training. Keep it in mind next time you hit the gym, or even better, sit down and write it into your program!

Your personal trainer is keeping you fat, small, and slow.

Your personal trainer is probably hurting your chance of success.

Surprised to hear this?

Maybe you are, many you aren’t.  It’s not difficult to become a personal trainer these days. You can get a certification in six weeks from places like the Australian Institute of Fitness.  You can’t learn your anatomy in six weeks, let alone all the training principles that go along with specific goals.  And that doesn’t even touch the nutritional aspect of training, or recovery, or the mental game and motivational side of things.

If you have a personal trainer, I would like you to think about why you hired them. Is your goal weight loss? Do you want to increase size and muscle mass? Are you an athlete who wants to improve their sport performance?

While it’s true that there are many roads to Rome, there are some that are slightly better than others. Your personal trainer or fitness coach is supposed your personal guide.  Time and again, I’ve seen trainers doing things with their clients that are completely unrelated to their training needs and goals, and even worse, putting clients through exercises that guarantee long-term damage to knee, backs, hips- you name it.

Think back to your goal again.  Next time you have a session, ask your trainer WHY they have picked your exercises.  Ask about your training volume (i.e. reps, sets, and sessions per week), and your loading and/or intensity (how much weight you’re lifting, or how fast you are going). 

Ask them how your session will help you achieve your goals, and if they have a long term training plan mapping out progress goals and milestones.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. If they can’t give you these answers, you shouldn’t be giving them your money.