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.
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?
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.
Master Personal Trainer
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.
Certified Spin Instructor
In my previous article , I wrote about the importance of exercise and exercise variability on mental health. I’m going to expand on this topic in regards to what is happening in the brain and the tissue and how that can be incorporated into exercise.
Regular physical activity plays a crucial role in health maintenance and disease prevention. However there is an increasing occurrence of excessive exercise among certain population groups, which have adverse effects on both physical and mental health. I want to set a framework to help you find balance and question your perspective about what exercise is for you and how you approach it.
I believe, all too often in our society we approach exercise as something we have to do often because we want to lose weight or use it as a mechanism to keep on top of our mental health. Both of these reasons are perfectly valid and effective forms to achieve such outcomes, however I want to prompt you to think about why it is you exercise and whether what you are doing is enjoyable.
In my previous article I wrote about the Default Mode Network (DNM) and how it is active when a person is focused internally, e.g. Ruminating, and is less active when focused on attention-demanding tasks. Previously I wrote that a hyperactive DMN is associated with mental health issues such as obsessive behaviour, anxiety and depression. I explained how a hyperactive DMN results in less neural patterning, meaning we continue to strengthen the same neural networks, therefore have the same thought processes, increasing our anxious thoughts.
When relating this to exercise, one of my favourite sayings is ‘create more movement options’. What does this mean? Simple.
Move more, move different and move more often .
It doesn’t matter HOW you move, as long as you are spending time doing different exercises, reaching in different planes of motion and getting your heart rate UP and DOWN in different increments regularly. Any exercise is good exercise, however if relating this to our brain activity, we want to be able to keep exercise enjoyable and variable in order to thrive rather than survive in everyday life.
Having spent a lot of time working with cyclists, I always think they’re the quintessential example of what we’re talking about here. Cyclists are by nature pretty obsessive people! They often have what we term ‘type-A’ personalities, i.e. they’re ambitious, rigidly organised and status conscious. They’re your classic ‘high achievers’. Cyclists spend a lot of time in the same position, often a lot of time in a similar heart rate zone and, are quite often in high achieving occupations.
Which comes first, the obsessive behaviour or the rigid exercise routine? It’s a chicken or egg situation. Someone with a type-A personality is likely to be more attracted to endurance sports, e.g. cycling, running etc, because being driven in this sport is what allows them to excel at it, however too much of this type of activity, ie. low neural patterning, will also result in a hyperactive DMN.
There is nothing ‘wrong’ with cycling itself (I spend a lot of time riding bikes myself), however for people who spend a lot of time doing one thing, even sitting at a desk, should consider creating more movement patterns.
This is where at Personal Best Fitness we see the benefit of implementing tools such as ViPRs in your exercise routine. ViPRs bridge the gap between movement and strength. By shifting weight, rather than lifting it against gravity, engaging your muscles with variable stimuli. They allow us to adapt to new movement patterns by stretching and loading as you move, resulting in a lean, long and strong system.
“Any exercise is good exercise, as long as what you are doing resembles what you ‘think’ you are doing.”
Written by Senior personal trainer, Sofia Tsamassiros
We’ve all read that exercise is great for mental health and there is exponential research to support that claim. Exercise releases ‘feelgood’ hormones such as endorphins and serotonin, boosting your mood and reducing stress and anxiety. What if I were to suggest that you can approach exercise in a more effective manner in order to reduce these symptoms?
Having recently reading ‘How to Change Your Mind’, a book about psychedelics and their potential as a treatment for mental disorders and higher thinking, it intrigued me from both a personal and professional aspect. I definitely recommend the read!
One such discussion was that on low entropy state. Essentially explaining how excess order (eg. Rigid thinking and obsessive behaviour) results in a hyperactive ‘default mode’. This ultimately traps us in a repetitive and destructive state of rumination. – Think classic signs of Obessive Complusive Disorder, anxiety and depression and to a lesser extent, obsessive eating or exercise habits. If on the other hand, we are able to access a high entropic state, the brain becomes less specialised and more globally interconnected.
Learning entails the establishment of new neural networks (neuroplasticity) – If we are able to boost the diversity in our mental life (ie. high entropic state), the more possibilities the mind has and the more creative our solutions will become.
Where am I going with this, and what does it have to do with exercise?
Most of us understand that we need to change our exercise program routinely in order to see improvement; whether it be increasing the resistance, trying a new exercise or trying a completely different sport. When we first try something new, it’s hard and we’re rarely a natural at it. It is this same concept that we can employ with our workout routine. We want to ‘surprise’ our body as often as possible, not only to improve our physical function, but also our mental function.
If you always exercise on the same day, at the same time and do the same routine on those days, try changing it up. Come to Personal Best Fitness at a different time or try a different workout routine or class. The members in my small group personal training will know I love using ViPRs and will often introduce a few group activities or exercises in which they’re made to focus on what they’re doing and creating ‘game’ based training. This can be as simple as throwing a tennis ball or other games you used to play as a kid such as Simon says. You’d be surprised about how quickly this kind of exercise can get your heart rate up, all the while putting a big smile on your face. And better yet, you’re improving your brain’s ability to wire itself and improving your mental health.
Senior Personal Trainer
Here is some further reading on the research discussed in the article:
Dufek S, 2002. Exercise Variability: A prescription for Overuse Injury Prevention. ACSM’S Health & Fitness Journal.
Mohan, Akansha, Aaron J. Roberto, Abhishek Mohan, Aileen Lorenzo, Kathryn Jones, Martin J. Carney, Luis Liogier-Weyback, Soonjo Hwang, and Kyle A.B. Lapidus. 2016. “The Significance of the Default Mode Network (DMN) in Neurological and Neuropsychiatric Disorders: A Review.” The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 89 (1): 49-57.
Pollan M, 2018. How to Change Your Mind. Penguin Group, United States.
Ross R, Goodpaster BH, Koch LG, et alPrecision exercise medicine: understanding exercise response variability. British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 12 March 2019. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-100328
Many of us can remember the days of leotards, leg warmers, high leg kicks and grape vines, none more so than Colin who has been one of the trailblazers in the Tasmanian Fitness Industry.
Colin started teaching aerobic classes back in 1982 and became what was then termed a ‘fitness leader’. He subsequently established the Tasmanian United Fitness Leaders Association in 1987, which later became Fitness Tasmania.
Away from the fitness industry Colin had a distinguished career of 38 years at the Australian Taxation Office, during which time he established a fitness centre there. Colin retired from the ATO in 2002, at which point his focus shifted entirely to the fitness industry.
During his 35 years in the fitness industry he has presented at FILEX, the largest fitness industry conference in the southern hemisphere and also organized and promoted fitness seminars and workshops in Tasmania.
Colin enjoyed competing in aerobics championships and subsequently became the first accredited aerobics coach in Tasmania in 1994, as well as the Director of the Tasmanian Aerobics Championships from 1988 to 1993. In addition to this he was the Tasmanian coordinator for Australian Fitness Network and was Network’s Tasmanian Ambassador.
Since 2005 Colin has been a co-owner of Personal Best Fitness, with his primarily role being to ensure that Personal Best maintains its high standard of excellence and meets the clients and staff needs. Colin also enjoys his role as a personal trainer and has been training some of his clients for over a decade and recently had a 14 year anniversary with his first small group “Coot Camp”, Boot camp for old coots! ‘I particularly enjoy working with the 40+ sector as I can relate well to them’.
Colin is a firm believer in life long learning and he recently completed the Understanding Dementia Course conducted by the University of Tasmania. He is a Level 2 Strength and Conditioning Coach and a Certified Functional Ageing Specialist.
The most rewarding aspect of Colin’s involvement in the fitness industry is the relationships he has developed with his colleagues, clients and the team at Personal Best Fitness.
‘My main focus now is ensuring that Personal Best Fitness continues to lead the way in delivering ‘cutting edge’ personal training and that our members and staff feel valued, recognized and appreciated’.
Living by the practice what you preach motto, Colin exercises most days, he is a keen cyclist and has been weight training for some 38 years. One of his long term goals is to always be able to do as many chin-ups as his age!
Away from all things fitness, Colin is a devoted father to Sofie and he enjoys reading, a wine or two, the beach and is a fabulous cook of Asian food. He is also one of the most organized people that we know.
Colin is a wonderful role model to the broader fitness community and we are so fortunate to have his knowledge and skills to call upon at Personal Best.