Function and Fiction!

I’ve been in the fitness industry for a while, I’l like to think for long enough to recognise the difference between function and fiction. If there’s one thing that really bugs me about what I do, it’s what I call the “cerebral onanism” of human movement. You see human movement isn’t that hard, we all start practicing it long before we learn language, and yet I see you tube videos where the explanation of a movement, takes 10 times longer than the movement itself! I often think, how am I supposed to teach all that instruction, in the time the movement takes? I can label many of the muscles in the human body in Latin, and every good Personal Trainer should know flexors from extensors, but I cringe when I hear people primarily cuing muscles instead of movement. If I can get through my life without ever seeing another fitness video where the trainer instructs participants to “engage your core”, I’ll be happy. Why? Because while human movement is easy, the human body is an incredibly complex system which thankfully is largely automated because without the automation we would all stop breathing the moment we went to sleep. There are many many muscles in the trunk that our body uses to stabilise the spine in response to different force vectors, velocities, and movements, a handful of which someone decided to label “core”. The idea that I need to activate muscles in order to move well raises many questions, that I cannot think of good answers too, here are some examples: I know that there are 3 branches of the thoracodorsal nerve that goes into each of my left and right Latissimus Dorsi, the big muscles in my back I use for pulling actions. But I can’t feel any of them, nor can I point to them without a textbook the way I can point to my big toe. So, If I cannot locate them by feel, how am I supposed calculate how many electrons I need to send to each branch to get the best results based on the angle of my shoulder when I’m pulling? There are 10 muscles that stabilise the sole of my foot, I can’t think of two things at once, how am I supposed to think about 10? Does anyone really think Logan was calculating which of his core muscles he needed to activate and how much, in response to his flipping/ twisting inertia and the rapidly changing direction of the pull of gravity when he was 6 metres off the ground in his freestyle BMX final, or was he just thinking about spotting his landing? I once heard probably the best skateboarder in human history describe a trick as “it’s all in the big toe”, as opposed to saying, “I just activate my Extensor Hallucis Longus”, now if they are both the same thing why does it bug me? Here’s why: Done well, explanations of what is occurring during a movement can be informative, and if the client/athlete believes that activating something helps, it probably does, because belief is a powerful performance enhancer. Athletes that believe in a god outperform those that don’t, regardless of which deity they believe in. Who remembers Power Bands? But what matters is the movement and feeling confident in the movement. I met someone at a function recently, he told me “I’ve been working with my trainer weekly for years, I never go to the gym without him, because I’m afraid of doing something wrong”, I changed the topic so I could avoid telling him that if he continued doing this, he would never be fit, strong or healthy. Similarly, I once overheard someone in the gym saying, “I’d much rather lift light weights with correct form, than trying to lift heavy weights”. These are both examples of an idea becoming a barrier to movement and human movement is rarely, if ever perfect, but it improves with practice, without doing something wrong, you’ll never do it right. Our body responds to stimulus, form follows function, it builds muscle in response to regular movement, it lays down myelin around the nerve sheath in response to repetition, tendons thicken in response to loading, our body produces Human Growth Hormone and Testosterone in response to strenuous lifting (heavy things). Lung capacity increases if we regularly get out of breath. Lean muscle mass, and lung capacity are two of the more reliable predictors of longevity. Some people don’t have the metrics to be great dead lifters, or rowers, me, I am too tall and have to much bulk to be a great hill climber on the bike. But that doesn’t mean I can’t ride my bike up hills, enjoy doing it, get benefit from it and get better at it. When I think of my most ‘successful’ clients, they all have one thing in common. It’s not a great knowledge of anatomy, nor is it the ability to activate many muscles at once while concentrating on the task at hand. It’s consistency, they exercise regularly, with many of them I know when they will be at Personal Best, even if I’m not there, and because of the work we have done together, I know they are safe and building strength and fitness while practicing the movements I have programmed for them. I’ll leave you with a case study. I spent over a decade coaching someone who loved competitive sport and worked very hard at it. During the 15 years we worked together he won state, national and world titles. When we first started working together, he told me “No matter how much I try I can’t activate my glutes”. Glutes are a hip extensor, it quickly became apparent that he couldn’t get good extension from his hips, and because of this, his glutes were doing very little. So, we spent a year stretching his hip flexors, and all of a sudden, his glutes started working, no thought required! On his part anyway. Marc Hand Master Personal Trainer

Why Spin?

Why Spin? Have you recently woken up from a comfortable night’s sleep and opened your curtain, only to be greeted by an ever-darkening morning sky, the feeling of cold coming through the glass window against your face and thought to yourself, “Going out there for my morning walk just doesn’t look too enjoyable today.”? Despite this, you go anyway. Happy that you’ve stayed true to yourself and your fitness goals. But all the while wondering if there’s an easier and more comfortable way of doing this at such a time of year. Fortunately, I have a solution for you! Indoor cycling classes can go by many different names. Spin, Spinning and Spin class are frequently used and what you may have heard your friends, family or other gym members speak of. Spin classes are typically 30 – 60 minutes long and simulate riding a bike outside by increasing and decreasing the “spin bike” resistance dial. Up hills, down hills, flat roads, standing or seated. You name it, a qualified indoor cycling instructor can put it into a Spin class! Whether you’re a novice gym goer, aspiring athlete or somewhere in between, spin classes can be of huge benefit to your mental and physical health, and overall wellbeing. In addition to these benefits, here are some reasons to make it a part of your weekly routine at Personal Best Fitness.
  • The cycling action offers a low impact form of huff n puff exercise. Spin classes are perfect if you’re recovering from an injury, starring down the barrel of knee surgery or just feel as if you need to take things a little more gently on your joints. Regardless of your fitness goals, you will still achieve a great workout. A well-designed class by an experienced instructor will allow you to go at your own pace. Afterall, fitness and physical activity is about improving the way you look, feel and function.
  • Whether you’re looking to increase your huff n puff fitness, lose weight or increase leg and core strength, spin classes can offer it all in a single workout. The action of pedalling with resistance will help your body deal with any instability as a result of weaker muscles. Increasing your heart rate will help you burn calories and increase your metabolic rate. You can burn up to 600 calories in a spin class. That’s the equivalent of 6 glasses of wine.
  • Increasing heart rate for prolonged periods like you will experience in a spin class will help to increase your bodies tolerance to other physical activities such as weight training, bush walking or hanging out the washing.
  • Beyond the physical benefits you gain from a spin class, you will not find a single person arguing about the benefits exercise can have on mental health. Increasing your heart rate and moving your body is scientifically proven to relieve stress and anxiety. This partly occurs as a result of the body producing endorphins, sometimes known as the “feel good” hormone. Spin classes are a great way to do this, along with the added social benefits of being in a room with like-minded people and the affect it can have on your mental well-being.
Here at Personal Best Fitness, we currently offer two spin classes per week. Both are 45 minutes in duration. This gives you enough time to properly warm your body up, enjoy a good workout and finally a cool down and stretch to aid the bodies recovery process. I invite you to join me for Spin on Wednesday at 6.15am or Saturday morning a 8am.  We will help with your bike set up and teach you all you need to know. Tristan North Certified Spin Instructor