Friday, 13 December 2013

 Peter Armistead takes 3rd place in Whistler 50!

You may recognize this photo from the cover a recent edition of the Whistler Question. Yes Peter caused quite a stir with his incredible podium worthy performance in his first ever ultra marathon...and rightly so!

I helped Peter prepare for this 50 Mile race and got to know him pretty well during our many hours spent out on the trails. I have to say that I'm impressed but not surprised by Peter's third place finish. In an effort to help you get to know the man behind the performance a little better, here's my attempt at being a sports journalist; 

Peter, what do you enjoy about running?
"I've been a recreational runner for many years but it was only since starting trail running last year that my interest has really spiked. For me the combination of being in the mountains, seeing and smelling nature and breathing in the fresh air totally invigorates me.  Add to that an amazing work out and trail running really takes top spot as my favorite summer sport.  It really takes me back to basics. There's nothing more basic than a person and a pair of running shoes going up and down a few mountains using his body."

What do like about racing?  
 "Racing really takes running to another level.  You obviously need to have all the right preparation and training but when it comes to a race nothing can provide you with that 10-20% extra that you always manage to find. In a race I am constantly borderline out of control. I'm pushing my heart, muscles and nutritional preparations in ways that I would never have planned for.  As Mike Tyson once said "everyone has a plan, until they get hit in the face".  Its the same in running. You never know what you're capable of until you're in the unknown."

Finally, how does running contribute to your overall training program and health?
 "I left my life as a corporate lawyer in London to become a skier and improve my fitness levels. I spent several years getting fitter and stronger, but it wasn't until I started running with focus that I really improved my fitness levels.  Last year I increased my running from doing 3 runs of about 40 mins each a week on the Valley Trail, to trail running up to a couple of hours 5 times a week. I signed up with Chris as I was at a plateau and I didn't think it was possible for me as a 41 year old to make any more improvements by myself.  I was basically going out and doing the same type of runs (hard and fast for as long as I could) and getting the same results (which weren't bad admittedly!).  It was certainly better than not going out and running!!  However with Chris's expert knowledge and instruction, the last 5 months have been absolutely life changing for me and my fitness levels."
Way to go Peter! What a day!

Monday, 1 July 2013

2013 Helly Hansen Trail Training Tuesdays - Schedule

Sunday, 12 May 2013

$100 HOME GYM 
Home Gym

These days I workout at home 1-2 times each week. Just like it is great to train in a well equipped facility, the same can be said for the convenience of not having to travel to the gym.

Life Get's in the Way 
How many training sessions have you missed because you couldn't find time to get to the gym in the last 6-months? 10%? Maybe 25%? Maybe you gave up all together? That is the other huge benefit of the home gym. It eliminates your ability to make excuses.
Budget: $100
These days $100 doesn't buy you much. Heck, my cell phone bill is usually over $100 and that is about the going rate for a good pair of training shoes. With that being said, let's make sure we spend it wisely.  

1) Dumbbells - $40: A good chunk of your $100 should be  spent on weight. Since it's resistance training we're doing, we're gonna need some resistance. While I personally prefer kettlebells because I think they're a bit more versatile than dumbbells, they're also usually more than twice as expensive as dumbbells. The specific weights that will be best for you will depend on your training history. I recommend 1 heavier dumbbell and 1 lighter to start, around 10-15 pounds apart. Dumbbells generally run about $1/pound so a 15 and a 25 would cost around $40.  


2) Step - $15: maybe you already have one of these lying around the house, but I bet you've never looked at it and thought "man, I bet that step could get me legs super strong!". I use this step (shown in picture to the right) with a home based client and it's great for a tonne of great exercises - single leg squats, rear foot elevated split squats, step-ups, single leg bridge, barbell bridge, bench for single arm dumbbell chest press, etc. Just make sure it's strong and sturdy! This step can be found at Home Depot is rated for 300 pounds. 

3) Skipping Rope - $15: no surprises here. The skipping rope  has been around for a long time and for good reason. Very little space is required and you can get a high quality aerobic workout.  

ab wheel4) Ab Wheel - $15-20: The ab wheel is one of those pieces of equipment that's an old school classic. It is an inexpensive and seemingly innocuous device that presents quite a challenge. There are a number of ways to increase and decrease the challenge with this device, but what I like most about it is that it teaches how to maintain a strong midsection while moving the limbs. I wouldn't consider the ab wheel to be a home gym essential, but for $20 it's a sound investment in a stronger midsection. 

5) Tennis/Lacrosse Balls - $5-10: excellent tools for performing self-massage to help maintain good tissue quality.  

So there you have it, some simple tools that you can get a tonne of mileage out of when paired with the right program. With the right knowledge and instruction (hint, hint) a huge variety of exercises to challenge all abilities is possible.  

Having the option to perform a workout at home from time to time will go a long way in helping you stay on track. As I've said many, many times "the best exercise program is the one that you actually do!".  

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Exercise for Fat Loss

Exercise and fitness programs have long been marketed as weight loss and "body transformation" programs. Many fitness professionals and slick marketing salesmen who sell exercise books, machines, DVD's, etc. have INCORRECTLY shaped the public's expectations about what exercise can and cannot do for them. The problem is, exercise by itself is an extremely ineffective weight loss method. The public then buys into this, have high expectations, and then are very disappointed in their results. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the realistic contribution of exercise to the fat loss picture.

Cardiovascular Activities, on average, burn about 10 calories per minute. A beginner with a very low level of fitness and poor work capacity will burn less. A trained individual can withstand intensities which will burn more (up to 20 calories/minute). But, let's call it 10 calories per minute on average.

Weight training burns roughly 7-9 calories per minute. I should note that there is huge variability here. The type of exercise you are performing (multiple joint vs. single joint), the loads you are using (heavy weight vs. light weight), the overall volume of the workout, your momentary effort level on each exercise, etc. all will influence how many calories are burned. Also, keep in mind that strength training workouts are basically interval workouts: you do a set, rest a minute or so, do another set, etc. So, while you may be in the gym for an hour when you strength train, probably only 30-40 minutes of that is actual metabolic work.

Ok, so let's say you were to exercise 7 days/week for an hour: 3 strength workouts (perhaps Mon/Wed/Fri) and 4 cardio type workouts (Tues/Thurs/Sat/Sun). Let's assume the strength workouts, on average, burn 7 calories/minute and you are performing actual work for 40 of those 60 minutes (this is generous). Let's also assume you are doing 60 minutes of continuous calorie burning work at an average of 10 calories/minute on cardio days. Again, this is generous. So...
  • 3 strength training workouts: 120 minutes of work @ 7 calories/minute=840 total calories burned
  • 4 cardio workouts: 240 minutes of work @ 10 calories/minute=2400 total calories burned
Grand Total for the Week: 3240 calories.

The reality is it's not all that much. 3240 calories is less than 1 pound of fat (3500 calories roughly).

This is why people who don't change their eating habits (which doesn't require any actual time I might add...beyond planning) and try to "exercise off" body fat fail miserably, become discouraged, and say "screw it".
Think about it this way: It can take up to 6 hours-based on the calculations above-to burn 3240 calories. How long does it take to eat an extra 3240 calories each week? How long does it take NOT to eat 3240 calories each week? 

 I should also mention that the majority of information regarding EPOC, the "after burn" is drastically over stated and misinterpreted. If you look at the research on post workout calorie burn and metabolic rate elevation, it's not significant enough to even be considered. I'll be generous and give you an extra 10% (based on what most research has shown).
So, someone hitting the gym EVERY day for an hour, after a month's time, assuming they are not ingesting more calories than they are expending, may lose 3 or 4 pounds. This is isn't exactly motivating for the end user, especially when the experts have made exercise out to be a great stand alone weight loss method. What typically happens is the well meaning exerciser who has been making a huge time commitment will say "screw it" and abandon exercise all together because they think they are not getting anything out of it. I mean, who can blame them when guys like me have been telling them otherwise? 

Friday, 13 July 2012

Back Troubles in the Long Distance Runner by Stuart McGill

Smart guy with an epic 'stache.
I'm not a betting man, but I'd put money down that you've heard of Dr. Stuart McGill. Whether you're a professional athlete or someone who just wants a stronger core, you probably know of him. And if by some chance you haven't heard his name, I guarantee that many of the core exercises you're currently doing have been influenced by him.

In 2002, McGill released his landmark text Low Back Disorders: Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation and it changed the way coaches, bodybuilders, athletes, and non-athletes approach core training. With his books, articles, seminars, and more than 30 years of clinical research with everyone from elite athletes to disabled workers, Dr. McGill established himself as the premier voice for core development.

In the passage below, McGill discusses some of the reasons why runners may have back issues. This passage can be found in his excellent book Ultimate Back Fitness & Performance;

"Efficiency in long distance running depends on a stiff torso. Suggesting that runners "image" not having a joint between their shoulders and hips is a start. Training the weak link of the torso stiffness and stability in their overall program is easily addressed. Another common practice among this group is an overemphasis on flexion (forward bending) stretches. Runners tend to overstretch the hamstrings at the hip, the spine and shoulders in flexion. Many have developed accentuated kyphosis (slouched or "hunchback" posture). Interestingly, I would not suggest stretching beyond the range of motion needed for running. The great runners, to a large extent, run on their passive tissues (natural "spring-y-ness" of muscles and tendons - think kangaroos). Some would do better with less stretching! I generally only suggest stretching to correct asymmetries (differences between sides). Here is why is take this approach. When I am asked to see the cross-country or long distance track athlete with back pain, I look for movement asymmetry in the torso. For example, upon right foot heel strike there may be torsional motion in the lumbar (low back) region. There could be several causes for this. Further screening is conducted to sort out the cause, which is then addressed. However, more core stiffness mostly always helps. Challenged breathing while performing torso stability work ensures the ventilation system and diaphragm function are not compromised with abdominal muscles contraction. The full side bridge (see photo) during heavy breathing is an excellent start on this approach. Generally, the trick is to remove the cause of the back trouble in these special types of athletes, rather than create a new set of general training exercise."
Side Bridge. Required eguipment: floor.

Helpful words from the Back Master. Let me know if you have any questions about the information presented here or would like to learn more.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Milo and Progressive Overload

Milo was a wrestler.  Not just any wrestler, but possibly the greatest wrestler of all time.  He won and unmatched 5 Olympic titles.  For 5 consecutive Olympic Games Milo was undefeated in the sport of wrestling.  He competed in a sixth Olympic Games and then still came in second.  By the time of his sixth Olympiad he was well into his forties. Even then he was never equaled in strength and only lost to a much younger opponent who avoided Milo for most of the match.

In addition to his wrestling prowess, Milo possessed unmatched strength.  The wrestler could stand with his right arm at his side, elbow bent at 90 degrees, thumb pointing straight up in the air with fingers spread and keep any who tried from bending so much as his little finger.  Continuously demonstrating his almost super-human strength, Milo proved he was the strongest man on Earth.

What was the secret to Milo’s great strength?  Progressive Overload.  You see, Milo was a cattle farmer.  One of his cows was born lame.  The otherwise healthy cow could not walk.  Milo had to carry the young calf to pasture in the morning and again carry the calf to his pen in the evening.  As the calf grew heavier, Milo grew stronger.  Over the course of time the calf became a full-grown bull.  Milo’s strength grew accordingly.  After a while, Milo was lifting and carrying an adult bull around the barnyard several times a day.

When the calf was first born Milo could easily carry him.  Things changed when the calf began to gain weight.  As the young calf gained weight, he became an overload on Milo’s muscles.  Milo adapted to this load and became stronger.  As the calf continued to grow and Milo continued to gain strength. 

When we train with weights, our goal should be to progressively overload the muscular system so it can adapt and get stronger.  This means that every time we train we should try to increase either the amount of weight we use (like Milo’s calf gaining weight) or increase the number of reps we perform (like Milo carrying the calf around the barnyard and not just a direct trip to the pasture).  Other methods of overload can be to train at a faster pace, spending less rest time between sets or increase the speed at which we move a given weight.