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Programming 201

In the previous instalment we went over how to create the starting point to build your own gym program. Today we’re going to look at how you can use the data you collect to inform decisions about how to adjust the program going forward.

If you can take 10 minutes go back and read through the Programming 101 article to understand this in context. If you’ve already read it, well done, I’ll quickly remind you what the key points are so your memory is refreshed

  • Get assessed – hire someone or do it yourself. Figure out where and what your problems are
  • Know what adaption it is that you want to make – Have A, that is 1, clear goal.
  • Volume and Intensity – Make sure the total number of repetitions you do fall in the right zones (to start with) and the weight on the bar is in the right area to achieve the adaption you want.
  • Pick exercises that appropriately fulfil your desired adaptation goals, sets, reps and intensity. – simply put, pick exercises which fit the above criteria.
  • Keep going until it stops working.

Because you guys are manifold there is no way I can guess what your program looks like so instead I’m going to talk about the next step in terms of principles.
Let’s make a few assumptions:

  • You followed the structure I laid out for creating a program
  • You kept track of the data in a spreadsheet
  • You kept going until you stopped seeing your numbers increasing at the same Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

Which puts you at the point where you’ve kind of stalled. You’re not seeing an increase in the weights you’re using whilst maintaining the same RPE. We’ll work from this point.

Step 1: Take a transition block.

You’ve probably heard about this importance of “deload” weeks. That is regularly planned blocks of time where you back off from higher intensity work in an effort to manage fatigue. If you’re fatigued, you aren’t recovered, and you won’t recover as well workout to workout.

A transition block is a similar method of managing fatigue but instead of being at an arbitrary time, an arbitrary length, and an arbitrary decrease in volume/intensity you’ll look at refining it just as much as you do the developmental blocks.
Let’s take a step back and address how we control the block lengths.

In Programming 101 Step 5 was to stick with it until you stopped progressing. In other words, keep going until you find out how many weeks it takes you to stop seeing results from a certain training stimulus.
For example if we use an arbitrary 6 week developmental block where you train using the same stimulus (program) for 6 weeks it will work for some people. But what happens if you stop seeing improvements after 3 weeks, you adapt really quickly? The last 3 weeks are wasted time where you could have transitioned and almost completed another development block. What about if you would of kept seeing progress if you’d stuck to the program for 9 weeks? If you stopped after 6 weeks you’re missing out upon 3 weeks of potential gains.

Neither scenario is great.

That’s why I’m asking you to track the data and have an actual time frame which is personal to you. For the sake of argument lets just say we hit it on the head with the 6 weeks.

You have a 6 week window to peak adaptation. So you can work about 6 weeks before you plateau.

We then take approximately 30% of the your window to peak adaption time as a transition block, 2 weeks in this case. If you took 9 weeks you would have a 3-week transition block etc. etc.

In terms of what happens on the transition block, the goal isn’t just to reduce fatigue. The key is to re-sensitise to the desired training stimulus. If you’re been working hard to create a strong signal to your body to grow muscle, then the stop in adaption means you are desensitised to that stimulus.

Whilst then we can manage fatigue through dropping the volume and intensity there is a call to change the stimulus as well. It doesn’t have to be a huge change, just something that allows the body to recover a little. For example, if you’ve been working purely on strength in the transition window you might look a little more at explosive power work or being more athletic overall, if you were looking purely at increasing size then your transition might be some kind of strength work?

Transition Protocol:
Length: 30% of window to peak adaptation length

For Strength goals reduce the average training intensity by 30%, the volume by 10%, and change training stimulus to a non-competitive yet different adaptation (power, hypertrophy, speed)

For Size goals reduce the average training intensity by 10%, the volume by 30%, and change training stimulus to a non-competitive yet different adaptation (power, strength, capacity).

Once you’ve completed the allotted time for the transition block you can go back into a development cycle (or peaking block).

NB – just because you’re changing the training stimulus slightly doesn’t mean that you can ignore the sports skill. If you’re a powerlifter or a weightlifter, then you still need the competition lifts (or close variation) in the transition block but you’ll just have them in a slightly different place.

Step 2: Making a new Development Block with changes

This means going through steps 1 through 5 again of Programming 101. The changes come however by making small changes based upon your training data. To understand what changes you should make comes down to understanding your weaknesses and where you’re failing.

In turn this comes down to the assessment step.

In “Programming 101” I mentioned how we take videos and observe lifts to find out where they fall apart and from this infer where what areas and exercises might be best. You should be running this exact procedure again.

Variables you might want to look at altering might include

  • Intensity ranges
  • Volume
    • Daily
    • Weekly
  • Exercise Selection (including variation)
  • Lift phase emphasis (eccentric focus, isometric focus, concentric focus)
  • Unilateral vs Bilateral

Etc. To get the most out of this you’ll need to spend a lot of time on it and on your spreadsheet (which is why you should really have a coach). With this type of data collection and analysis we must take something of a Bayesian approach. Bayesian inference, in a very basic way, says the more data we collect the higher the probability a correct inference can be made. Or, the more data we collect the clearer the picture becomes.

The classic example is firing photons at a “target” through slotted paper. At first the results appear random. They show up on the target in no clear pattern. But as more and more photons are “fired” the outline of the slots appears progressively more defined. Basically you’re more data increases your resolution.

In real words what’s this means is the more data we collect, the more development cycle you run, the better picture you can build up of what works.

Take a look this snapshot of training data:

This is a macro view of a few squat variations (we didn’t start running good mornings until later in the year) and their relationship with the competition lift.  As you can see this is a VERY small sample size but we can probably that in this situation pause squats help and eccentric squats help. Potentially blocks of paused squats FOLLOWED BY eccentric squats help more.

Now lets say we have 20 or 30 cycles of training data we’d have a very clear picture of what works and what doesn’t. Knowing this you can then program being able to make strong inferences to what will work. This being said the human body is an open system so just because you do “A”  and it works really well in January doing it again in November doesn’t ensure the same.

Considerations

This way of programming takes time and for the first few blocks isn’t any clearer than traditional programming. The key is consistency to one goal over time, collecting the data and making sure you then look at it to see what’s working.  If you see that every time you add in heavy deadlifts your deadlifts goes down then you know that may be high intensity deadlifts aren’t the key for building your deadlift no matter what people say. Likewise, if every time you add in a paused bench press you hit new maximal numbers then maybe you every time you plan to hit a new record the block before should include paused bench press?

If you really want to make the most of the effort you put into the gym you should make the effort to stick with the programming and learn what works for you. We live in an age now where no one has the time to do this which leaves you two options

  1. Make the time
  2. Pay someone to do it for you

If you have the expertise and time then it’s very much worth learning for yourself. If you don’t you should hire a coach whom understands the training process but remember when you hire a coach they’re the expert, but you are the boss. If it’s not what you want or how you want there is always another coach out there.

Programming 101

The goal of getting in the gym and working out is to change your body. It doesn’t matter what the change is, you just need to understand that you’re there, primarily, to see a change to your body in one way or another.

Typically the goal for most people is to look great naked. For others it is to be strong or improve sports performance. Maybe even a combination of all the above.

You need to figure out what your reason for being in the gym is before you even start thinking about writing your own program. Only once a goal is in place can you start planning how to achieve it.

And that is all programming is.  A long-term plan, structured in such a way to bring about (or at least advance towards) the stated goal. It can be as complex as the below to take Hikaru to the IPL Worlds

Or as simple as do 5 sets of 5 reps and each week add 2.5 kg.

Both are legitamate programming style and effective for the right person. What we are interested in though is giving you the tools to let you build the right program for you to get you to your goal.
__________________________________________________________________________________

Disclaimer: Whilst the will be as simplied as possible it is expected that you understand some basic programming principles

What you will need:

  • Excel or another spreadsheet software to track your numbers (at a push you can go pen and paper but it’s going to get complicated VERY quickly).
  • The patience and self-belief to stick to the plan you wrote
  • Self-awareness to admit to yourself what has and has not worked. You will not ever write the perfect program, best realise it now.

For the sake of ease, we’re going to assume that this program is being written with the goal of building maximal strength in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. I’m choosing this because even if the goal is merely to look good naked or as complex as building sports performance you can do much, much worse that getting brutally strong.

Whenever you’re looking at planning anything it’s always worth measuring twice and cutting once. Know what you’re dealing with to start with, where your faults and weaknesses (both physically and technically) are, and be realistic about it. Very few people are going to go from not being able to execute a competent bodyweight squat to a 100kg back squat in 12 weeks.

Step 1: Assess yourself (or hire someone to):
If you don’t know what this means its best that you hire a great coach with a track record of producing high level athletes to do this for you. If you have an idea what you’re looking for but aren’t quite certain then I’ll suggest:

  • Video 3 to 5 doubles (2 reps) of squat, bench press, and deadlift above 90% of your max. The goal here isn’t to impress yourself with half reps but to give you a realistic idea of where your lifts are falling apart
    • Squat
      • Watch out for your chest and bar staying still but your hips raising. This is a very common fault and usually can be attributed to a technical understanding issue or weak quads.
      • Not reaching depth, it’s not down to poor ankle mobility or tight hips. You’re just weak or lazy. Drop the weight and work for the long-term results
      • Are you rounding your upper or lower back? Then your need to address how strong your trunk is. If you’re not strong enough to keep a position constant through the lifts then something needs fixing there.
      • Knee collapse, a lot of people are very quick to jump in and shout weak glutes at this but more likely you’re letting your feet do something wrong. Work on planting your feet strongly and screwing them into the floor.
    • Bench Press
      • Are you not managing to reach the bar t your chest every single rep. Lower the weight sunshine. You’re just not strong enough for that weight yet. It’ll come but for now focus on moving a load that you can do well and recover from.
      • Missing or grinding reps halfway up could be down to a weakness of the chest or lacking speed off the chest.
      • Not quite being able to lock your arms out at the top. This would be an unusual issue to come across in a normal gym but it could be down to weak or fatigued triceps.
    • Deadlift
      • Can’t even get the bar off the floor
        1. It’s too heavy
        2. Your set up is wrong
        3. Your core is too weak
        4. It’s probably too heavy
      • Can’t squeeze your hips through to stand up straight at the top means that your butt is weak, or you’ve taken too much time to get the bar that far. You have the video make the call
      • If you drop or feel like you’re going to drop the bar then your grip strength is letting you down.
      • And obviously any deviation from a long, straight spine position means that all of the first points fixes AND you need to check your ego because it’s going to get you hurt.

Step 2: Know what adaptation you want to create

The most common error I see in watching amateurs (and most professionals) do their own programming is that they program by exercise. You MUST program by adaptation. I’m going to say it again so you really get it

YOU MUST PROGRAM BY ADAPTATION

To explain what this means. You need to understand that the exercise isn’t important, what is important is getting to the goal. The goal is the goal. The goal is always the goal. So if my goal is to have the best squat I can but what’s holding me back is quads so week I’m not even being able to hold a good position to squat then whilst my skill work might be looking at building a great squat at a lower intensity (utilising whatever technical squat progressions you adhere to) the strength work doesn’t have to be based on squatting it can just be building quad strength in whatever way works for you.

To bring this back to programming by adaptation. In this case the change that we are looking for in increasing quad strength, how we get there is completely up to you. You are not tied to any exercise, you don’t have to do any exercises. You HAVE to do what gets you the changes in your body which gets you closer to your goals.
In step 1 when I explained the common faults in the squat, bench, and deadlift it should have given you some clues to what adaptations you are trying to create.

Step 3: Volume and Intensity

This can be thought as simply as sets, reps, and weights. You need to be using the right ones for the right adaptations. There is a few ways to do this. Something like Perilipin’s table:

Where there is up and down sides. Upsides it’s super simple to use and laid out in convenient blocks based upon adaptation and % intensity. Downsides, just because a % intensity is written in at these sets, reps doesn’t mean that is the adaptation that works for you personally.

The other option is to go back to the work of Helms and Morgan where the prescribe doing a total of 40 to 70 reps per muscle group per session and hitting each muscle group 2 to 3 times a week (so 80 to 210 reps per muscle group per week). If the goal is strength 65 to 75% of these reps should be at a greater intensity than a weight you can lift 6 times (that’s 52-60 reps and the bottom end and 136 -168 reps at the top end per week at above 6 rep max).  And the rest of your numbers at between your 6 and 12 rep maxes. Conversely if there goal is for muscle size then there proportions of sub and supra 6RM is inverted.

My personal preference is to use Helm’s method and a baseline and build from there.

Step 4: Pick exercises that appropriately fulfil your desired adaptation goals, sets, reps and intensity.

This is where you can start considering exercise selection. But you must be clear about your personal selection bias as well as what exercises are appropriate at what rep, sets, and intensity ranges. Furthermore, there must be consideration as to what the crossover in terms of muscle groups used in different exercises throughout the week. It’s very easy to overload the lower back when you forget that it’s a significant player in the majority of lower body movements.

To work through some short examples. It might sound great to consistently use a back squat for all your movements. After all it covers most of the lower body and lower back. Practically however have you ever tried to do multiple sets of 12 rep max set of squats at the end of a week where you have already done 150 heavy reps. The injury risk and just plain uncomfortableness makes it a bad choice. Maybe at this point you might be better off adding in some quad isolation work or leg press.

This lean towards machine and isolation work becomes even more noteworthy when you start adding in other movements, such as deadlifts, and, as previously mentioned, the lower back starts being used more. It suddenly becomes extraordinarily easy to do 300 reps of lower back work inevitably running into soreness and injury.

Step 5: Repeat the week until you stop improving

This is where you need the tracking and self-control. If you have followed the above instructions and used a little bit of good judgement, then you’ve made a pretty solid week-long program. The only to do now is to repeat it until it stops working.
This might sound counter-intuitive to do the same thing but if it’s working and you’re getting better than it’s nonsensical to discontinue. There is, however, a caveat. The sets, reps, intensity and exercise selection stay the same, but the weight should go up as needed.

This needs the introduction of a paradigm shift.

Intensity, whilst guided by % now becomes a how hard you’re trying. Say you must do 3 sets of 5 reps of squats in the first week at 80% you need to rank on your spreadsheet how hard you tried. The next week you should try work at the same difficulty but hopefully with more weight. I have people rate between 1 to 5 AND from “Easy” to “Pushing the limit” but it’s just as good to say you worked at an 8 out of 10 difficulty or a 7 out of 10 difficulty.

Please bear in mind that learning how hard you’re working out of 10 in a skill just like squatting and will take you a long time to learn. If every week the weight doesn’t go up that’s ok, if one weeks it goes down that’s also okay the trend however should be upwards (track this on a graph on your spreadsheet for ease).

When the trend stops going upwards you can consider these exercises spent for the time being and it’s time to redo the whole process again.

  1. Sale, D.G., Neural adaptation to resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exercise, 1988. 20(5

Suppl): p. S135-45.

  1. S tone, M., S. Plisk, and D. Collins, Training principles: evaluation of modes and methods

of resistance training–a coaching perspective. Sports Biomech, 2002. 1(1): p. 79-103.

  1. S choenfeld, B.J., et al., Effects of Low- Versus High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle

Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res, 2015.

  1. S choenfeld, B.J., et al., Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading

strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men. Journal of Strength and
Conditioning Research, 2014.

  1. G entil, P., S. Soares, and M. Bottaro, Single vs. Multi-Joint Resistance Exercises: Effects

on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy. Asian J Sports Med, 2015. 6(2): p. e24057.

  1. R obbins, D.W., P.W. Marshall, and M. McEwen, The effect of training volume on lowerbody strength. J Strength Cond Res, 2012. 26(1): p. 34-9.

How Many Carbs Should I Be Having? First Let’s Look in the Mirror

In a world of keto, low carb, high fat, low carb high fat, paleo, primal, vegan and carnivarian (actually a thing now) there’s no wonder there’s so much mass confusion about what the best diet is. Amongst these doctrines, there is very little room for context – the low carb keto folk will say that carbs are the devil, without considering someone’s level of exercise or hormone status, while some vegan folk think that plants will change the world and meat causes diabetes – an actual claim from the recent propaganda film: What the Health.

And I get it, tribes are cool and extremes are easy, but in order to work out what YOU should be eating, the solution goes beyond tribalism and into your personal framework. We learnt this in my previous post on carbs making you fat where I made the claim that carb intake should be dependent on your activity level and goals (weight loss, mass gain, performance). In this post we go deeper and look at different bodytypes and their ability to turn carbs into energy or store as bodyfat…. Yes, there’s solid evidence to say that your carb intake should be determined by your bodytype!

Let’s look at the three main bodytypes or somatotypes made popular by William Sheldon in 1940 (you might remember them from high school health class):

  1. Ectomorph
  2. Mesomorph
  3. Endomorph

Two important footnotes:

  1. You’re not one strict bodytype. It’s important to know that you don’t fall strictly into one category – categorisation always sucks! Rather, we’re a mix of all, and have one dominant bodytype, much like the vata, pitta and kapha doshas in ayurvedic medicine.
  2. You can move between bodytypes. It’s also possible that an endo can become a meso or a meso to become an ecto. Diet, activity and lifestyle play a strong role in where we sit and where we can go – GREAT NEWS!

Ectomorph:
These folk are usually long, lean and wirey. They are known as “hard gainers” as they will have a tough time putting on mass. They use strength from their nervous system rather than muscle mass, making recovery extra important.
On Carbs: These guys shouldn’t worry too much about how many carbs they’re taking in. They’re usually sensitive to insulin (good thing), making them efficient carb burners. They’re usually sympathetic nervous system dominant, have a high metabolic rate, and can annoy many of their friends by eating whatever they want and remain thin.

Nutrition recommendations: Ensure you’re getting a good amount of carbs throughout the day, particularly around exercise. Also make sure you’re getting protein at every meal. Your body wants to stay lean, so make sure you keep your muscle mass high by eating enough protein. And don’t use your ecto status to eat whatever you want! You must take care of your gut, liver and nervous system (all seem to be more sensitive with ectomorphs) by eating quality foods.

Exercise recommendations: You may like your cardio because you’re good at it, but don’t ignore weight training as it’s probably going to be more important for you. Do compound exercises (squat, bench press, pullup, deadlift) at a heavy weight and make sure your nervous system is well recovered between sessions.

I hate celebrity comparisons but Beiber is all Ecto

Mesomorph
These guys are characterised by having higher levels of testosterone and growth hormone, and  having a high potential to gain muscle mass. Like their ectomorph friends, they’re usually more insulin sensitive, making it easy to process carbs, especially if they’re active. Ectomorphs usually hate these guys as they can spend a few months at the gym and be looking like the hulk.  Mesomorphs guys should still watch what they eat if they want to stay lean, as a big off season can mean storing of bodyfat. Carbs should still be eaten at every meal, and should be prioritised around training.

Nutrition Recommendations: Eat a mixed diet of proteins, carbs and fats, getting a solid serving of carbs in around workouts. If you’re more sedentary, watch your carb consumption if you want to keep lean and mean.

Exercise Recommendations: Ensure you keep up a regular training regime. Don’t let it slide and rely on your natural athleticism! Embrace variation and get into both strength and conditioning.

Serena Williams: The ultimate Meso.

Endomorph
Our more grounded, heavy set friends, these folk are known to be less active, and often curse themselves for their uncanny ability to put on weight… They’re usually weapons in the weight room, and have a natural ability to lift BIG.
Carbs for these folk should be taken in with caution, as too many can easily be stored as bodyfat. Getting the bulk of them in around exercise is a good idea, and monitoring their intake at our times in the day is also recommended.

Nutrition Recommendations: Prioritise fat and protein, and get the bulk of your carbs around your workouts. A low carb diet might work well for you, particularly if you’re sedentary. Also, chew your food for improved satiety signalling and watch for portion sizes! If you’re new this, you might want to track your calories via an app like myfitnesspal to get an idea of where you’re at.

Exercise Recommendations: Move! It may not always feel easy but trust me it’s worth it. Cardio might feel tough, but it’s going to do you the world of good and give you energy! And cardio doesn’t always mean running! If you can’t make it to the gym, then a long walk is nearly as good.

If anyone knows this lady, I’m currently taking on new clients.

So what to take away from this? Work out where you’re at, where you want to go, then put together the right plan to get you there. If you need some help getting yourself there, that’s where coaches come into play!

Feel free to get in contact here to organise your free consultation and talk about your health coaching options.

2015_19_02_BAREFOOTHEALTH0175Steve is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. While based in London, he works with clients around the world to restore health using fitness, nutrition and lifestyle protocols.
*Disclaimer: This post is for information purposes only, and is not designed to diagnose or treat any disease. Always seek help from a medical professional whenever you undergo any dietary change.

 

References:

Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin SecretionThe DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2673150

The role of carbohydrates in insulin resistance. The Journal of Nutrition. DOI: https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/131/10/2782S/4686473

Main characteristics of metabolically obese normal weight and metabolically healthy obese phenotypes. Nutrition Reviews. DOI: https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article-abstract/73/3/175/1837133?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Somatotype, Nutrition and Obesity. Reviews on Environmental Health. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11199249

Somatotype and disease prevalence in adults. Reviews on Environmental Health. DOI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12088094

Carbs… Will they make you fat?

carbohydrates-foods
Carbs…. it’s a dirty word. Controversy, curiosity, even conflict arises when you bring up this word among the healthsphere.  Everyone has an opinion on carbs; how essential they are, how they’re going to kill you or how they make you a bad person. The food industry has noticed this too and we’ve seen a low carb revolution where people can feel better about their 6th pint of beer because this one is low carb.
A few things about carbs before we start:
  • There are many foods that are classified as carbohydrates: breads, pasta, rice, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, oats, fruits, legumes.
  • They’re one of three macronutrients, alongside fat and protein.
  • They’re broken up into sugars, starches or fibre.
  • They mostly provide energy, but can easily be turned into fat (this is an important evolutionary mechanism).
  • They’re actually non – essential (despite what our health professionals may believe). You can get on fine without them, whereas protein and fats are essential.

Much of the myopia around carbs has come from our awful food guidelines that have told us to eat a shitload of them. And why not, they’re cheap, easy to access, and usually delicious. Check out the old food pyramid:

After a few decades of rampant obesity and dietary disease, people began to question this pyramid and everything we believed about nutrition. There’s a great piece from the New York Times on that here. As a result, there’s been a crusade of folk condemning carbs, many trying low carb diets, paleo diets, ketogenic diets. Many doing well off them, many not so well.

Like most things in nutrition, the answers about carbs really depends on you. Who are you? What do you do? How does this feel? how does that feel? The answer cannot be explained in a BuzzFeed news title.

These nuances are prevalent in the many studies that have been done on different diets of traditional societies. On one side there are the Kitavans who eat a high carb diet (rich in starches) on the other side there are the massai who are reported to eat a diet low in carbs. Which is superior? Well, both diets seem to work as they don’t suffer from any dietary related disease or metabolic syndrome, and are robustly healthy as noted in Staffan Lindeberg’s research

Where we DO have some more answers is with carbs and their influence on physical activity. And we know this, right? “Carbs give you energy!” Says everyone who objects to your low carb diet. And they’re not wrong, carbs are a valuable source of energy and they’re the body’s first choice of fuel for most physical activity. Though this mantra tends to be abused as the office jockey will stock up on muffins to give her “energy” to get through the day.

So what do I do?

First, start by “earning your carbs” which means we’re matching our carb intake with our physical activity, and getting the nutrient timing right to maximise your recovery.

To make this simpler, here are three different people, with very lifestyles, each of whom has a completely different carbohydrate need:

Person 1: Office Jockey
Goals: Lose 20kg of bodyfat.
Training Volume: Very Little. This guy moves from his bed, to his car, to his office and then reverses these steps at the end of the day.

Recommended Carb Intake: Very little. I’d recommend going  low in carbohydrates (<100g per day) and sticking to a higher fat, moderate protein diet. These carbs should come mostly from green leafy vegetables and he should go easy on the fruit.

Since weight loss is his main goal, I’d prioritise fat and protein, and aim to get these at every meal. It also goes without saying that he should get some god damn movement in his life and avoid all refined carbs and sugars.

Person 2: Fit Mum

Goals: Lose a few kgs, stay in shape for life, keep up with her kids.
Training Volume: Crossfit 3xpw, long walks on weekends, general moving around with kids.

Recommended Carb Intake: Moderate. Between 100-150g per day, and slightly more on training days. Carbs should come from green leafy veggies, and starches (potato, sweet potato, pumpkin) and the bulk of her intake should come post workout. Two pieces of fruit per day is okay, but she shouldn’t go overboard, and should still make sure she’s getting adequate protein and fat at each meal.

Person 3: Games Athlete

Goals: Improved performance: stronger, faster, compete at an elite level.
Training Volume: Training 6+ times per week, sometimes twice a day. Lifts weights, sprints, does cardio, and high intensity sessions.

Recommended Carb Intake: High, >200g of carbs per day, from a variety of sources: starches (potato, sweet potato), rice, rice, oats, whole grains.

BUT THEN…

Even these are very vague guidelines. If you want a more accurate snapshot, you need to factor in thyroid status, adrenal profile, and gut function and this can play a huge role in the impact carbs will play on the body. For example, if we’re suffering from hypothyroidism, then a moderate carb approach will be more appropriate due to the raised insulin and conversion of T4 into T3. Whereas if you’ve got blood sugar issues, then any sort of ‘moderate’ approach to carb consumption can be like kryptonite.

Summary
So as you can see, there’s no perfect health diet for all humans, and anyone who says otherwise is misinformed or an arsehole. A good place to start would be asking yourself, “what is my physical activity like?” “How do I feel when I eat this?” “Am I over/underweight?” What’s my performance like?” “Do I have an underlying health condition?” With an understanding of your body and it’s needs, you’re setting yourself to be a strong and capable human.

2015_19_02_BAREFOOTHEALTH0175Steve is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and a Coach at Crossfit London.

Paleo and CrossFit… Can They Coexist?

CrossFit and paleo, two concepts that have grown side by side for the past fifteen years. Two market driven movements that promote health, minimalism, community, and two movements that are as controversial as they effective.
Having high stakes in both of these (I coach crossfit and use a paleo template in my nutrition coaching), I have seen first hand just how effective, and also how damaging these approaches can be.
First, we should look at both movements in their rawest form.
CrossFit: A method of exercise that practices functional movement at high intensity.
Paleo: A way of eating that promotes eating fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, nuts and seeds. In other words, eating as minimally processed foods as possible.
paleo-foods
USUALLY, a standard paleo diet will be slimmer on the carbs and larger on the protein. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t consciously smash your sweet potato and go “high carb paleo,” but most of us who go paleo will be leaning to the lower side of carb consumption (<150g per day) – that’s about 3 sweet potatoes.
Now, questions of doing paleo and crossfit; “is it optimal? Will it help me lose weight? Will it help me gain muscle? Will it save my life?” The answers to these are like so many in nutrition… “it depends.”
So it’s hard to give a definitive answer as to whether it’s right for you, but in an effort to reach a conclusion, I’ll give you three real life examples of people I’ve come across and you can make up your mind where you sit from there.

  1. “The Athlete.”

 
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This girl is training 2 hours per day, 5+ times per week. She lifts heavy, goes fast, and is completely dedicated to making the sport. Her goals are to to put on muscle to lift heavy, but not too much that it interrupts her conditioning.
 
2. ‘The Superdad.’
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He’s recently taken up crossfit and trains 3 times per week. He has a busy schedule with two kids and a full time job, but fitness still holds an important part in his life. His goals are to lose weight and stay strong to keep up with his kids.
 
3. ‘The Office Jockey.’
keith from the office
This guy has recently taken up crossfit as the doctor suggested it. He’s overweight, has insulin resistance, and has high blood pressure. This guy is also extremely sedentary, and hasn’t had regular movement or sunlight since school. He’s started training 2 times per week and goals are to lose weight, feel more energy and build some muscle mass.
 
Now, the verdicts.
1. Should the “Athlete” eat paleo?
No! Why? Let’s look at her schedule… She’s training around 2 hours a day and spends the rest of the time recovering and thinking about training… Glamorous?! She’s using her anaerobic system consistently, and this system runs on glucose (carbs), not fat or ketones. Fran doesn’t run well on fat.
Carbs such as potato, sweet potato, beets, pumpkin, as well as non – paleo foods in rice, quinoa, oats (gasp) and other whole grains should be a staple for these guys, whereas our first two friends should be more diligent with them. Protein should obviously be a priority as maintaining muscle mass is important, and fat should be adequate.
Nutrient timing is also important. Post workout carbs will help funnelling nutrients to the muscles so adding some dextrose to her Barefoot Health protein shake would be helpful.
But won’t all those carbs store as bodyfat? Carbs, insulin, fat storage right?! Not quite. When we’re doing this type of anaerobic training, we mostly store these carbs as glycogen, not body fat. A whole different set of rules applies to our “Superdad” or “Office Jockey”, so don’t do a Michael Phelps and eat 12 wheat bix for breakfast just yet.
 
2. Should the “Superdad” eat paleo?
Yes! Greg Glassman’s initial mantra of “eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar” is a perfect fit for this guy. In addition to this, a little tinkering with carb timing and quantity is required here to make sure he’s keeping the belly fat off.  He should ensure he’s getting carbs post workout, and enough to support his activity – around 150g per day seems to be a good area to stick to. His plan also has some wiggle room… Since he’s pretty active, sleeps well, and has good community, sticking to a plan of 80/20 paleo/non paleo will work well and be sustainable and give enough room for a glass of wine over his grass – fed steak.
 
3. Should the ‘Office Jockey’ eat paleo?
Yes! Absolutely. It might just save his life. Most carbohydrates will not be friends with this man, and his diet should be centred around healthy fats, protein and veggies.  Why? Well he’s one of 2 million Australians with pre diabetes, and a continuation of his current lifestyle will land him will land him in a very dangerous state. Having extremely low glucose tolerance means eating things like cereals and wholegrain bread is lethal, as it’s jacking up our blood sugar, and we don’t have the necessary insulin function to maintain homeostasis. (cereal and wholegrain bread are both recommended from our chief authority on diabetes – shocked face).
Now, should this fella get into the gym, and I hope he would, he might want to add some post workout carbs in the form of sweet potato or pumpkin, but I’d recommend going between 50-100g of carbs in the short term to restore some baseline of health.
 
Wrapping Up
So the point here is to accept that we’re all the same but different animals with different nutrition requirements for optimal health. At a baseline we can all agree that a diet with heaps of veggies, enough protein and healthy fats is good for all. But digging deeper, we need to consider our genetics, activity level, activity type, hormonal profile and GI status when deciding what the optimal diet is.
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Coach Steve

I'm too inflexible to try Yoga or a flexibility class!


“I’m too inflexible to try Yoga / a flexibility class.”
It sounds backwards doesn’t it. Surely that’s why you need to come to a class?
But I get this statement a lot.
And yes, with good reason. If you can’t touch your toes isn’t a splits class going to be out of your depth? Or a bridge class knowing your tight shoulders?
Fortunately not. This is where scaling bears it’s fruit.
Crossfitters reading this will know scaling well. You do a workout with 100 pullups but know that with your max 4 reps completing in several minutes is an impossibility.
So you scale. Make it easier so it’s something you CAN do.
Those who are willing, will find a way.
Luckily fhe same works in flexibility.
Lets take the bridge as an example. A mean fear when your shoulders force nothing less than a 90 degree bend in your elbows. While your hear practically sweeps the dust off the floor.
So we scale:
1. Firstly you will need a partner. For sole traders out there, a chair can work depending on the shape, but a breathing obstacle works better and can be recruited with a suitable dose of chocolate.

2. Warm up suitably and do some preparatory stretches of your shoulders (find some examples in our flexibility class)


3. Start your bridge position lying on the floor, heels tucked to your backside withe feet on the floor
 
4. Your partner stands facing you with feet at your shoulders either side of your head
5. They then walk out at a 45 degree angle from your shoulders, starting 1 foot away
6. You grab hold of their ankles, elbows pointing up

7. Your partner supports underneath your shoulders, while you push off your hands and feet into a bridge
8. If unable to lock out your arms, bring your head to your chest and lower down, have your partner walk out a bit more from your shoulders then try again

9. Stretch out your back after you finish
10. Scaling like this you can hold and work on a proper locked out bridge, and work towards doing it solo
 
Come to the flexibility class for a full breakdown of this and more shoulder stretches.
Or  if you’re keen to get flexible quicker or prevent pains and injuries, try a 1-1 by booking a free session here:

https://10to8.com/book/qwzphv-free/191921/

CrossFit Legends: It's never too late to get off the couch

18893445Recently the news has been full of stories of older people improving their health by taking up sports, dance and other physical activities formerly associated exclusively with the young. CrossFit London is proud to be doing it’s bit too with the “Legends” kick-off class for men and women in their 50’s and older.
Read more about CrossFit Legends here
Book your space here.
It is well known that exercise has enormous health benefits, and I encourage you to read this CrossFit Journal article by Lon Kilgore on the subject.
To quote:
“It is never too late to get up off the couch and start training to improve strength, endurance and mobility. Although each of these elements of fitness is exquisitely developed by CrossFit training, any system of exercise can be used as long as it is progressive and improves fitness in some aspect.
When an older adult starts training, the results can be spectacular. Strength levels can increase by 23 percent in as little as 12 weeks, even in those up to 92 years of age. Endurance levels can increase by 16 percent in as little as four months. Mobility can improve, too, with a significant 62 percent reduction in falls seen after a year of training. And when we bundle those outcomes together, we find that not only are physical function and quality of life improved, but creating fitness in older adults also cuts the risk of disease and death significantly.
Simply put, the concept that older trainees cannot adapt to training has no merit. Similarly awed are recommendations that older trainees aspire to only the lowest levels of physical activity— the bare minimums. If higher fitness is related to lower disease and death rates, then we should use methods that create those levels of fitness.”
So make 2018 the year you started at CrossFit London and began changing everything for the better.
Any further questions, email kate@crossfitlondonuk.com
We can’t wait to meet you! Sign up now by clicking here.
 
(Grateful thanks to Mike Warkentin of CrossFit 204 for permission to use original images from CrossFit204.com)

Remembrance Sunday: 'Murph'

As is our tradition, the workout this Sunday 12 November will be the classic CrossFit WOD “Murph”.
There are two sessions to book into for ‘Murph” this Remembrance Sunday; 10.30 and 12:00. Both sessions are 90 mins in length, to give everyone a chance to complete the WOD:
‘MURPH’
For time:
1 mile Run
100 Pull-ups
200 Push-ups
300 Squats
1 mile Run
Wear a weighted vest. Break up reps into any order.
NB all scaling/subs options are available: ring rows for pullups, rowing for running etc
In memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005.
In addition, we would ask everyone who is available to attend a ceremony at the Memorial in Bethnal Green gardens (outside the library). The ceremony starts at 10.45. We will also be observing 2 minutes silence at 11:00 at the gym
 
Below is a think piece, ‘Service and Sacrifice’, by Andrew last year.
“On Sunday we once again reschedule our CrossFit morning classes to honour those people who gave their life so we might live in freedom.
Remembrance can be viewed as both positive and negative. What we try to focus and reflect on is service and sacrifice.
It is easy to romanticise warfare and violence: Hollywood  does that. But few people want to emphasise the day-to-day services and sacrifices that effective people do in effective relationships.  Too often what eludes us is good old-fashioned respect: for ourselves and others, consideration , empathy, duty and the ability to work hard. (I prefer working effectively, but I hope you see what I’m getting at).
This Sunday, as you remember the sacrifice our (often young) people made at the cost of their lives; commit to making day-to-day services and sacrifices yourself.
Service and sacrifice are not emotional, showy things. They are often done away from the glare of public adulation. Every time you vote, support your colleagues, cherish your partner, help your friends, and act with compassion toward a stranger: you genuinely honour their sacrifice.
Be your own, walking, daily memorial. Serve and sacrifice. ” By Andrew Stemler
 
Check out what we did in previous years
 
https://crossfitlondonuk.com/2014/09/04/remembrance-day-murph-lone-survivor/
 
https://crossfitlondonuk.com/tag/remembrance-day-murph/
 
https://crossfitlondonuk.com/2014/11/09/remembrance-day-2014-at-crossfit-london/
 

Crossfit Beginner Fun

Another batch of noble beginners,  decided to kick their training up to another level by starting their level 1 classes, where, uniquely in a group format, Crossfit London teaches you all those “difficult moves” that leisure centres avoid, using a step by step method mixed with lots of kindness .
Often, difficult to master ground based moves, are limited not by flexibility but by balance. In our classes we get our clients to start working on the balance problems with safe, effective, supportive drills , that work. In 1.1  we look at the air squat, the front squat and overhead squat, along with a bit of hanging work such as basket hangs  and  toes to bar . Along the way we start to  discuss some of  our abbreviations like  WOD ( Work Out of the Day) and AMRAP ( As Many Rounds as Possible)  and start introducing you to moving around the gym  ( actually called a Box) safely.
Here is a useful drill  that fixes your squat

 
Most sessions end with a mini WOD, but its not  set to be challenging, merely a light rehearsal of newly learned principles. In our sessions we focus on teaching skill, so whilst a flexibility drill may feature we don’t waste 15 minutes of your time on aerobic warm ups and endless stretching . We use the skill progression to warm you up for the  full range of motion skill you are about to do. Jogging around is a great warm up if you intend to run. Squat drills are the best warm up for squatting. Long term , for those serious about flexibility, we have some fantastic flexibility classes that really push your range of motion along.
So get some serious skills and join our beginner  classes now

KNOW You Should Stretch But Just Don't?

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We’ve all bad it. You get to the end of a workout, or a long day and your muscles are tight. You know you should stretch – but life gets in the way. You don’t feel like it.

What do you do?

The answer is accountability.

Having someone, like our Bethnal green Crossfit box to hold you accountable makes sure you get done what you need to.

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This can be a coach or a class you go to, or a friend or partner. One advantage of a class is group energy – doing something in an environment where others are doing the same makes it easier.

Whoever it is, tell them what you have to do, send them a message, tell them in person.

It doesn’t matter if they respond or not. I send messages to my accountability partner and just knowing I’ve told them makes me do it as I don’t want to admit I haven’t.

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So next time you say you ‘have to stretch,’ tell someone else and give them a date to follow up with you by. See how much YOU can get done.

Get your stretching you know you need done, come along to a flexibility class or if you’re serious about FAST results book a ‘Less Pains, More Gains’ get-flexible 1-1 on:
07504 142211
felix@superflexcoaching.com
Felix
Our classes are at the fantastic Crossfit London Bethnal green E2