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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Strength is fun!

...or it should be!

I like lifting weights, for me that is fun.  You may come with me, train & think "I don't like this", it may be that the way I train I may not 'do it' for you.  Maybe you have to try out other ways of lifting weights, maybe Olympic Weighting, maybe strongman training, maybe highland games, maybe circuit training using machines is 'your thing'.  To be honest it doesn't really matter what it is as long as you have fun & enjoy doing it.  It may be that using weights at all might not be of interest to you, maybe you prefer bodyweight training, or some form of fight training like wrestling, boxing or MMA, or maybe you like to run, swim & bike or play soccer? 

Whichever activity you like, I do suggest you aim at getting the strongest you can without adversely affecting your sport as that will make you a better athlete, but how you get there....well there are 101 ways to achieve that & it should be fun.  Now 'fun' is relative in some ways, if fun for you it doing a heavy squat, then it really isn't 'fun' doing that, the achievement is the fun, the getting there is the fun, the actually few seconds of the lift, let's be honest, that isn't fun in anything other than a really weird, warped version of 'fun' that some of us develop. When I boxed I knew fun was not getting hit in the face, but getting hit in the face was part & parcel of the whole fun of getting into the ring, so I suspect ultra-distance runner have 'fun' at certain part of their race, but probably not as they get to a really hard part, but that 'really hard part' makes the completion of the run that much more 'fun' for them as they look back. 

They say "You have to find your poison" & with all of us we find fun in our own special style of discomfort, for some lifting low reps very heavy will be their fun (that's my fun right there), for others it will be doing higher reps & really 'feeling the burn', still others will find doing gymnastic movements are the way they enjoy themselves, some will enjoy the world of machines, while other will insist upon free weights, some will go for kettlebells, while other will pick up rocks & tree trunks.  None of these are wrong, doing 100 push-ups is a great feat, deadlifting twice your own bodyweight is a great feat, throwing a hammer for a long distance is a great feat, doing an iron cross on gymnastic rings is a great feat - so if you have tried one type of training & thought "This isn't for me", then think again, go out & try lifting a big rock, find some kettlebells & give them a go, try machines or free weights, find a coach & learn some Olympic weightlifting, try out bodyweight exercise & some gymnastics.  Find the training that is hard, but fun for you, then keep at it & really achieve a decent level of fitness & strength at that activity. 

I believe that there is probably something for everyone out there, you just have to find it, so if you have so far failed to be motivated & are still thinking "I SHOULD exercise", then you are in the wrong mind set.  Yes, you do have to exercise, but you should not be doing anything you loath doing or you will not commit long term to it & exercise is a long term commitment.  Conversely, if you find an activity you enjoy you will not have to drag yourself to every session, you will be planning it, looking forward to it & be eager to get to it, THAT is the mentally you should attempt to achieve.  This attitude will almost guarantee success for you.  Just like you don't force a kid to play, you shouldn't be forcing yourself to exercise, it should be a form of play, if it's not then you are going wrong somewhere? 
Oh yea & the final point, once you get 'strong' at your chosen activity it is fun, it really is :-)

Moving servers

I've just been told that our server is closing down at some unspecified point in the next couple of weeks.  So, we have to find a new server, move everything over, the email has to be moved etc.  So, over the next few weeks we will be having some time off-line I expect as we move over, test stuff out & whatever other stuff you need to do to move servers (no, I don't know either)?
Most of the pictures for this blog are hosted via our website, so some might disappear for a bit (but they will be back!), the main vegan bodybuilding website might go down & emailing will have to be through just to make sure emails  don't bounce (just for a week or so).  There will still be the VBB facebook group (don't forget the free weekly contests we are running over there!), the messageboard & email list will still all be there so plenty of ways to keep up if we vanish for a few days.
The blog may look a bit weird if the pics vanish for a bit, but it's only while we move everything over to a new home (once I find one!).
Thought I'd better let you all know.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Overcoming issues (making changes on the fly)

I'll use me as an example.  This last week I caught a very nasty bug.  So for the last 8-10 days I've been unable to eat properly, lost weight, felt weak & been unable to train.  I think this is certainly the worst illness I've had in well over a decade (maybe 20 years since I was anywhere near this bad!), so I realise my immediate training plans are up in smoke as I have to think about regaining previous mass, so when I get back to training the plan I had has just been chucked out the window & it will be a hypertrophy (muscle growth) phase. 
Stuff like this happens, it can be illness, injury, sudden change in circumstances.  It can be a pain if you planned a cycle or two where you wanted to make some real strength gains on your 1 rep max & instead you have to spend time building up the size again as you've lost a lot unexpectedly.  Those are the breaks when it comes to training in the real world, stuff happens!

If you are a beginner this won't affect you too much as you just get back on doing a weight you can do & begin the build up again, but as you develop a goal, you have to play about with things as you work towards it.  For me I know I need a certain bodyweight to perform or I suck in terms of strength, so although my goal is to achieve a decent amount of absolute strength, to achieve that I need to build up my size a bit more again, that is the only option for met.  For some people that might not be an issue.  You may need find that after a stressful month you've added fat & so need to move from a mass building to a cutting phase for example.  Sometimes we need to adapt when life smacks us in the face.  So, don't be afraid to change the plan if you have to.  This isn't an excuse to have you swapping up stuff every few days as you find THE new routine in "Big & Buff" magazine (trust me it's not 'THE' routine, it's just a routine often written by the copy writer for the magazine & then they add the pictures of the latest Mr Perfect to that - Mr Perfect does his own routine & has 'supplements' to help him achieve his results).
So, plan your training, but remain flexible enough so that when the world hits you in the face you bounce & don't splat!
If you've hit a roadblock in your training, don't hesitate to post below, or for a more indepth answer pop over to the messageboard at & get the help of a whole herd of clever people!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Planning Diet & training: an Introduction

Let's talk about your training & diet for a bit.  First of all you have to set one thing.  What are your goals?
If you are trying to loss weight then what you do will be different to a person who is trying to add muscular mass, or the athlete who needs time & recovery to also work on their skills.  So, first pick what you want to do!
Next work towards that goal & that goal ONLY!  It is amazing how many people I see that will have a goal of losing fat & then read the latest "Big & Buff" magazine article about adding 20 pounds of muscle in 2 weeks & get excited & start doing that, then read the latest "Supercleanse diet" & hop onto that, then onto the next thing.  This is the way to stay exactly the same!  Just pick a goal, a single goal right now - imagine I have a gun up to your head, I am now forcing you to write down one thing you want to do between now & summer, if you write 2 things I WILL shoot you!  Do not fudge "Big & Ripped" is TWO, you will get shot!  Pick one goal, this will be your aim over the next month or so (or maybe longer depending upon what your goal is).

So, now you have one goal, let's set a date to achieve that goal, make this goal realistic.  Let's say you want to loss 10 pounds of fat.  Do not give yourself 2 weeks, that is stupid. Give yourself a decent amount of time to get those goals, something like 10-12 weeks for a 10 pound loss in fat.  Why?  Because although you could lose weight much more quickly if you wanted to, you actually want to hold onto muscle while you lose fat.  This makes fat loss a slower process.  Now we have a goal & a time frame.  We can now see that a loss of about a pound a week will have you hitting your goals while still holding onto your precious muscle mass.  Muscle building is a slower process than fat loss.  While fat loss can be fairly quickly, muscle mass gain can be really time consuming.  Often you will gain some fat while you gain muscle, you will almost certainly need to up the amount of calories you need to consume as you are trying to make a bigger you.  For a reasonable time frame, assuming you aren't near your genetic potential (the more muscle mass you have the harder it become to add to), if you plan a 12 week training cycle you could add 5 pounds if you are quite new to training & very lucky.  Also bear in mind you are fighting homoeostasis (the bodies desire to stay the same) & adding muscle is a harder fight than losing fat, so a real hardgainer may take a couple of 12 weeks cycles then from zero gain they suddenly gain 5-7 pounds from nowhere.  Exactly why this happens I'm not sure, but these 'growth spurts' seem common amongst people who gain more slowly, it's like you have tip the metabolism over a cliff before it accepts growth, then it shoots you up to a new size (which you have to cling onto for a while), then you have to start work again looking forwards to another few months of zero growth before you hit another growth spurt.
If you have 2 goals here's what you do.  First do one, then do the other.  Simple huh?  I prefer to add mass, then loss fat, but really the way you do it is which is most important to you.  Remember you don't have to do everything at once.  You don't have to go first from 100 pounds to 200 pounds (if your goal is 180 lean), then try to cut.  You can go from 100 to 120, then cut to 110 lean (holding onto that muscle mass), then up to 130, then down to 120 lean...see the pattern.  That way you don't get too fat between.  Of course you could go 100 to 200, then cut to 180 lean, it might mean you even get there more quickly?  But you will add more fat & for some that simply isn't acceptable, so consider your methods.

Now let's talk about the issues competitive athletes may come across.  You can't afford to suffer bad DOMS (after exercise soreness) if you have to do skill work & training.  So moving to things like one leg deadlifts, split squats etc are important, exercises that work you out hard, allow you spot developing imbalances between left & right.  For the athlete spotting compensations becomes a even bigger issue as athletes are experts at developing patterns of lifting that hide weakness.  Hiding things like glute weakness are so common it's frightening.  No having weak glutes is not affecting you right now, but having weak glutes means that the lower back & hamstrings are doing the glutes job, does that sound like a recipe for a long sporting life to you?  Ideally I'd say get yourself assessed & screened by someone you trust, if that's impossible you & a mate learn a bit about assessment & screening then screen each other, keep an eye out on your range of motion, check out ankle & hip mobility, check shoulders for full range of motion.  If you are in some sports (throws, hitting, kicking etc) then some differences left to right are ok, but keep track of them, if they change, then something could be wrong, so get it checked out.  Athletes can often still perform, but be a mess physically, so be honest & work out any issues before they end your career.
We have basic guides for anyone into training whether for fun, fatloss or muscle gain for basic nutritional advice download this, for basic beginners lifting download this we haven't got a basic guide for athletes as there are too many variations in sporting needs to really do it justice.  If there is a demand we could write a basic cookie cutter guide for the totally novice athlete in a strength related sport, so let us know & we'll get one done if you want it?
That's a basic outline of how you should be laying out your training, if you'd like any specifics just ask & I'd be happy to go into more detail about it

REVIEW: Mike Boyle Functional Strength Coach 4

I've been quite ill this last week, the one good thing about that is that it has given me a chance to check out this 6 DVD set.  For those who don't know who Mike Boyle is, he is one of the best known coaches in the business.  In the past he has managed to use really unique marketing approaches to sell product (for Functional Strength Coach 3 he managed to hype sales to the maximum with the whole "Death of the squat" idea he pushed with that DVD set), the question is, would this set be as controversial?  The simple answer is no, it isn't.  There are some advances from the last series, but this DVD set did not have the same hype-frenzy we saw around FSC 3.  If you haven't seen Boyle before, this is a good one to get.  If you are after FSC1-3, you might want to go to ebay, or check it out second hand as the sets are all pretty expensive.  You get quite a bit, in this set you get 6 discs, with about 10 hours of lecture & hands on, but the older sets I suspect can be had on ebay for a lot less if you are shopping for those.
OK how do I sum up 10 hours in a few sentences?  I can highlight a few points that grabbed me, this isn't a comprehensive review, I can't cover all the facts.  Boyle covers a lot about training, his thoughts about putting hands on, dealing with pain etc.  Those have been pretty consistent throughout the FSC series, new stuff are an inclusion of kettlebells which I agreed with, I too have been doing that for a year or so now, for pretty much the same reasons as he says.  He also talks about the FMS he also argues the longevity aspect, not the immediate injury aspect of the screen rather like I did in this post.  Also he uses the idea of foam rolling, STRETCHING, then warm-up, then workout.  This is an idea I believe he first put forward in FSC 3 & I have started to test out recently.  The idea of stretching cold to get increased usable ROM makes some sense, but I'll have to see how this pans out for a longer time before I can say for sure if I notice any difference or benefit.  He does cover stretches for those without tables (a point many complained about in FSC 3, but not a problem for me as I'm a massage therapist so tables aren't an issue :-), warm-up, exercise choice & program design in some detail.  I don't agree that zero ab flexion is the answer as Boyle does (for more on why see my post here), but evidence is there if you wish to take that route.  I am also a user of progressions in my training, both in resistance & exercise performance, so I like some of Boyle's work in that area as he comes up some interesting variations.
So, having said all that who is this product for?  Coaches should view it, those who do their own programming should view it, those who want to learn about how to design programs get something that will work pretty well.  Who should NOT get it?  Those who want a cookie cutter routine will be disappointed, those who want to be told exactly what to do should avoid this product.  To make the most of this product you need to have a desire to do a little work, know a little anatomy, plan a little bit, if you don't want that, then this product is a waste of money, you'd be better off picking any cookie cutter routine you find for free off of the internet & just follow along with that.
I like the way Mike is fine about changing his mind (you won't find many coaches willing to do that once they market a product they seem stuck to that formula forever), but he also doesn't do the opposite which is throw everything out with a new DVD product, he stays the same on many things but throws out what he believes needs to be removed.  I don't agree with all his choices, but I do like that he has reasons for his choices & does put together a decent product for the person willing to think a little bit about program design & exercise choice.
To get a copy of FSC 4 pop over to Perform Better

Sunday, 12 February 2012

REVIEW: Stuart McGill Ultimate Back DVDs

This is actually a review of both the:

The Ultimate Back : Enhancing Performance

& The Ultimate Back : Assessment and Therapeutic Exercise

Stuart McGill is one of those guys with a huge brain (you can see it pulsating with energy I'm sure you can!).  At the moment he is probably if not the top, then fairly close to the top guy looking into backs  & back health for athletes & strength people.
The first DVD gives corrective ideas for people with bad backs, the second is how to achieve maximum performance if you have a history of back problems.  This is not easy stuff to dive into.  I suggest you get his books & DVD if you really want to understand where he is coming from.  The DVDs are not professionally shot, a lot of the times it looks like Stuart himself or colleagues do a lot of the filming, there is tripod creek in the first DVD & some of the angles mean at points he is hidden behind things...but all that being said the info is very useful if you have a bad back.  He does expect some knowledge of anatomy & terms used, so if this is new to you, buy the books (see below) & use google to  find out what he's talking about.  Personally I found the second DVD more useful to me than the first.  The first wasn't bad & had some interesting bits, but I found more use from the second.  For best results I'd suggest watching both & reading his books "Low back disorders" & "Ultimate back fitness & performance" both available here.
I found a couple of useful things to add into my warm-up, noted some instabilities I had, so hopefully I'll have a stronger lower back & more stable core if I include these movements?  That being said I do have some concerns with the ideas of McGill.  I'm sure the guy is much more intelligent & knows a whole lot more about backs than me, but I had no issues with my lower back until I followed McGill's advice & dropped all flexion abdominal movements (so crunches, sit-ups & similar) - so, after a couple of flare-ups I reintroduced flexion, but I am sticking to quality over quantity & a lot of my work is actually resisting movement in the core, so ab-roller (you've got to love that roller!), planks, side planks, suitcase lifts & carries, waiter walk, one leg deadlift & squatting & as I said 'some' flexion of the abs.  Stuart McGill got his ideas from testing pigs spines, he got a spine from a dead pig & put it in a machine that bent & bent the spine like repeated crunches.  To me that seems a bit of an odd way to test a theory as the spine is dead, so is has no synovial  fluid & no chance to recover & rebuild as a normal spine would, even without the ethical considerations it wouldn't be my testing of choice, I am not the only one to think this (see abstract here), I think the answer is probably somewhere in the middle, don't do 3,000 crunches every day, but doing some may help & probably won't hurt you...but the choice has to be your own, read McGill & make up your own mind.
If you don't like technical stuff, then this may not be for you, but if you like to see options on how to correct stuff for you & you clients then this might be of interest.
Oh yes a final note, the first DVD starts a lot like a physical therapists lecture, you might almost turn it off thinking this isn't of any use to me, but some useful stuff does come out during the lectures & practicals, stuff you can really use.  If you are somewhere where personal trainers can't lay hands on their clients, then this will be hard to do some of the stuff as McGill is very hands on.  I'm a massage therapist so I can touch people as needed & I suggest any personal trainers get some experience doing something hands on as it really does make a world of difference if you can touch someone to correct stuff.
So, these DVDs will suit personal trainers, those with back issues who know a little anatomy & are willing to learn.  I enjoyed the set (this is not my first view of the product, I will go back to it a few times just to review & see what else I can find as it's very useful to me).  I think many of you will find these very useful  & maybe correct some issues they have on the way!

To get hold of these DVDs click here

Final note:  This is a warning!  A lot of people start viewing corrective work & slowly the 'corrective stuff' takes over the workout.  A workout should always involve some heavy lifting under most circumstances.  Do not go the way of some trainers who extensively use pink dumbbells during their training sessions.  Unless you have a current issue, stick corrections into warm-ups, cool downs, between sets or other parts of the day, most of your training should be heavy.  That doesn't mean you can't do some core stability work using a heavy one leg deadlift for example, corrections can get heavy too if you choose carefully!  Just don't go the way of the 'corrective guy' as that way leads to being really weak & about as functional as a grandmother with arthritis!  If you're on a stability ball juggling oranges, pressing pink dumbbells or other annoying movements, you are avoiding doing the work you need to be doing, get off the ball & lift some poundage!  Don't let corrections rule your workout!  Warning over....

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Veganism - bad for you?

You read all the time "Is vegan diet safe for vegan athletes?", "The dangers of vegan diets!" etc.  Usually touted by someone with an agenda, so I think I might just have a little rant about it if you don't mind, as today I read yet another, stupid, ill-thought out claim from yet another site.  So, let's cover a few facts.  I won't reference this as I want to rant, not dig about on the net, if you really want references ask below.  First off, is a vegan diet safe - you have all these gurus, often with a paelo agenda, or into keto-style eating moaning about the 'dangers' of a vegan diet.  So, let's look for a moment at science & how it works.  First off, a study shows us very little really, one study says virtually nothing, a few imply something, a lot show what we call consensus.  Research is an attempt to achieve consensus by looking at loads of research & seeing if any common threads occur.  Therefore I can find a study that says blueberries are bad, this does not mean blueberries are bad, because the consensus is that taking everything into account blueberries are actually pretty good!  So, to avoid the 'annoyance' of consensus many authors, especially those selling a product like a book or product do what is called 'cherry picking' studies.  Dig through the studies & you will find some that will show you that fruit is bad, that veggies are bad, that grains are bad, that nuts are bad take your pick & I can find a study or 2 that can back up your claim if I cherry pick.

Now let's go back to the vegan diet.  What is the consensus.  I could go dig up a load of studies about vegan diet, both good & bad, but I could cherry pick or I could show them all, but let's avoid that.  Most dietary organisations have already done the hard work for you & we find that just about every major dietary organisation in the world say that a vegan diet is safe for any age (I say 'just about every' because it's possible there are some I've missed out, I don't claim to have checked out every single dietary organisation on earth!).  They have all looked at the studies & all found the same thing...& yet the nay-sayers still jump up & say 'the science says vegan is bad!"...NO IT DOESN'T!  You are lying if you claim that anyone of any note says that, it is simply not true.  No one actually says that apart from a few self-opinionated gurus with an agenda, so simply ignore that.

...but what about PERSON X (fill in the name yourself), they ate a vegan diet & they got sick...let's tackle this head on shall we?  Chances are they actually did something wrong, VERY wrong!  Let's compare to the average meat eater?  In the US & UK at least 25% of people get something very wrong in their diets - you think I'm lying?  Just look at the obesity figures for those countries & you will find that approx 25% of the populations are obese (very nearly all will be typical meat eaters).  This doesn't include other conditions that occur to meat eaters JUST obesity!  So, 25% of average meat eaters go very wrong eating an animal based diet.  They all know to eat fruit & veggies, they know whole foods are better than refined foods, but they still become obese because they get it very wrong.  So, here we have proof how easy it is to get something very wrong; now suppose you try to move to a vegan diet?  Some people eat the same, but drop the meat, those fail pretty quickly.  You lose vast amounts of calories daily & soon lose vitality & health.  It's a guaranteed formula for failure.  You have novel foods that people have to find, get used to & start using regularly, you often have to eat more in portion size to maintain the same calorific intake, so people trying to add mass have to eat a LOT more than they are used to to keep growing, also the intestinal bacteria is radically different between a flesh eater & a plant-based eater, so you might need some help breeding the right intestinal 'friends' to help with the digestion.  So, you have a lot on your plate (pardon the pun) when you first become a vegan.

"..but those paleo people say we were designed to eat meat!".  No we weren't.  I suggest you go & look at ANY book on evolution, humans were not 'designed' for anything.  Humans evolve (& we still are evolving) to suit our environment.  But let's take a look at the paleo arguments.  Early man ate meat, so meat is the perfect food for humans.  First off pre-man ate plants well before early man at meat, but let's leave that.  What does this argument say to you?  Assuming early man did eat a lot of meat (which is by no means settled, but let's accept the premise) what does that say?  Does it say that this is the perfect food for humans, or just it was the most convenient food for humans.  Did early humans live longer than humans today?  No, they didn't, we don't think living in a cave is superior to living in a house, we don't think we should all be forced to live in extended family units where the alpha male beats you into doing what he wants?  So, why is the meat argument any different?  We ate the most convenient thing, not necessarily the best stuff for us..."but if plants are better for you why wouldn't early man eat them?".  Good question right (again you are using the proposition that early man MAY have eaten meat).  Collecting fruit & veggies may have been less effective at the time.  If you had to forage for miles to find a few sweet potato roots, it might have been more efficient to just kill something even though the food source may have been sub-optimal.  It was the supply chain that may have been the sticking point not the foods themselves.  But, see how as soon as people discovered they could grow things, they did grow things & the hunter/gathers where basically only the failures, those unable to get or hold land suitable for growing stuff, yep, all those people still clinging to that old culture where failures forced to marginal land & scrape by while those who grow stuff took over the rest of the land mass of the planet.

Let's look at longevity & evolution.  Again people get confused, evolution has nothing to do with longevity at all.  The one function of evolution is to reproduce, that is it.  I started to become sexually aware in my teens, I began breeding in my mid-teens & without contraception I would have certainly produced enough offspring to have kept my genetic line going (barring disaster of course).  After my breeding life is over (I don't consider my breeding life quite yet over yet thank you very much!) then evolution has done it's bit with me.  How long I live after that will not affect anything from an evolutionary standpoint, like a women after menopause it won't affect evolution except in a small way (like if she can act as a carer while the young breeders leave the small children & forage for example).  So, you can't really 'evolve' to live a long time directly, it may come as a freak benefit, but you can't directly control it in nature as if you are 'progammed' to die at 50, then you will still have produced offspring & they will have grown enough to survive & possibly in some situations you dying young could even add an advantage to their existence?  So, longevity is an attempt to make the most of what you've got, not something that we will 'evolve' at all unless we plan breeding & breed long lived people together, find a gene or 2 that make people live longer etc.

Early humans lived short, hard lives, why?  Because the water wasn't clean, they had to forage or hunt extensively to find food, maybe the diet wasn't perfect either?  Basically you eat what you can find within walking distance of your cave right?  If I dumped you into Africa right now, how much would you find?  I don't know about you, but I'd be pretty hard pushed to keep going a week in those conditions.  If you only have a few miles to gather food, any lack of food & you are in serious trouble.  Suddenly the strongest guys & gals hog the food & the weaker people starve!

You don't look back to find some mystical 'perfect diet', let's be honest it never existed!  Even if we proved that early humans ate whole, vegan foods, that in itself doesn't prove whole vegan foods are the best foods to eat.  So, we from here let's move on to athletes & people who train.....
It's strange?  You read all about the problems of being a vegan athlete, "Oh it's so hard!", "Person X failed at it!" etc etc...but there is a strange issue no one I know has actually mentioned...we are too good!  That's right vegans seem to be too good at sports.  Look at sports, you see vegan athletes everywhere, in strongman, in bodybuilding, in powerlifting, in sprinting, in distance running, in treadmill jogging even (yes, it is a sport & yes I know a vegan who does it)!  If you look at the amount of vegans you see we are still a small percentage of the population, & of those most do not show any inclination towards fitness (in fact a lot are mainly 'foodies' they love food & think nothing of exercise at all), but a tiny % do find their way into training, so that tiny % of a tiny % get into sports & what happens?  They excel!  Not everyone of course will excel, but a surprising amount for the people actually involved do get well above average - why is that?  It might be the pH is better for recovery, it might be that the anti-oxidant or anti-inflammatory effects of fruits & veggies affect them in a way that improves performance?  I honestly don't know?  There is also another great effect for the older athlete, if you start getting joint pain through training then sometimes going vegan can lessen or even eliminate it!  Yes, going vegan can seem to extend some peoples ability to continue in the sport they would otherwise have to give up.  Why?  Again, I don't claim to know, but I have seen it time & again with athletes who've tried it.  A boost in energy & pain diminishes or disappears, you can't guarantee it, that would be an absurd claim, but you can say "why not try it?  If you have to stop anyway, this may help you to continue".  Often it does.

Let's get down to details. Yes, you have to have a source of B12 (take a multi-everyday & that's covered), yes you need to find a source of omega-3 fatty acids (use ground flax, walnuts or hemp seeds AM with your breakfast-if you are in training I do suggest a DHA/EPA pill made from algae later in the day sometime & you're covered for that), if you live in a cold, dark place (read the UK or similar) take a vit D pill (you can now get vegan vit D3 if you prefer that-I'm still testing that out, so I'll keep you posted on that).  Other than that eat whole foods & watch your calorie intake (both in terms of total calories eaten & macro-nutrient intake- how much carbs, fat & protein you eat).  Other than that it really is fairly simple, eat for your needs, you can use stuff like protein shakes, if you need them, green smoothies if you need them, fake meats now & again.  If you want soya have some, but don't go mad on any one food (if you eat soya, have a non-soya fake milk, if you drink soya milk don't use a soya protein powder), vary your foods a lot, eat a lot of colours, eat things like quinoa (pronounced "Keen-wa" don't ask me why?), amaranth, buckwheat (not a grain, but a seed - buckwheat pasta is awesome!), tofu is becoming normal, so is tempeh, lupin is ok (be aware those with peanut issues steer clear of lupin), the list goes on.  Try cooking from other cultures, try different veggies to the one's you always buy, get a couple of cook books & pick a new recipe to try out a few times a week, experiment a bit.  For the physique types pick the off-season to make any changes, the same for sporting athletes as you may not find the ideal diet for you immediately, so give yourself some time to adapt.  You may need probiotics & digest enzymes for a while (hell, if you are bulking hard, then use them anyway as the gut is having a hard time already!).  If you are really stuck pop over to the forum ask any question you like.  You may not get your compete contest prep if you are a competitor, but you can get some tips & advice so you can get a decent start to your dietary change.

So, hopefully my rant has slightly entertained, possibly amused you?  Yes, I read yet another junk article & I really had seen enough of the garbage spewing from alleged nutritional experts (they really aren't experts you know), people who failed eating vegan (that's like asking a guy who gave up powerlifting after he failed every lift & got injured at the one meet he has done, his thoughts on powerlifting & how to prepare for it!).  It's a stupid & pointless thing to do.  Mr X tried veganism & failed is the same as Mr Y who tried powerlifting & got injured.  Mr X doing it wrong doesn't make veganism wrong, just like Mr Y hurting themselves powerlifting doesn't make powerlifting bad for you!  As I said we excel at sport, our accomplishments go far beyond what our numbers indicate it should.  Sure you can do it wrong, at least 25% of meat eaters do their diet wrong, I don't know the figures for vegan diets but it might be the same for vegan diets, it might even be higher as the change can be hard to grasp for many people (& it is a very different way to eat for many - Yes you eat vegetables AND fruit, shocking isn't it!).  So, ask if you are unsure, we can point you to what has worked for many people, we don't have a special system to sell you, everything is free, there is no secret inner circle or direct debt club for you to join to get the secret, the forum is free, the help is free, if you are really stuck or have personal issues you'd rather not bring up on a forum I'm happy to get personal emails from people.  Use the resources we offer & get the best results we've managed to find so far in terms of diet & health.  I'm not saying we have 'solved' the nutritional puzzle, everyone is different & learning to be your own nutritionist is the goal in all of this.  Some people need more or less fat, some higher or lower carbs, some higher protein than others, but we've had quite a few years working at this & can offer you possible solutions to your problems or answer tricky questions that you may not have quite answered yourself.
So as I feel all 'ranted out' now I'll leave it there!  Thank you for taking the time to read this, now go & get some training done :-) (by the way all the pics are of vegans, enjoying the forms of training they prefer)

Sunday, 5 February 2012

REVIEW: Secrets of the Hip and Knee - Gray Cook, Brett Jones

This will get a few people in a tizzy I know.  The whole 'does the FMS work at all?' argument that has sprung up.  So, let's cover that first.  The FMS (functional movement screen) is at its heart a series of 7 movements using bodyweight & a few tools like a height adjustable hurdle, a measuring rod & a board.  I won't go on to describe every movement involved, but if you are interested pop over to the Functional movement website & check it out (& buy the book called movement if you want a real close look at it).  So, let's cut to the chase.  Looking at the research it does not look like the FMS does a good job of predicting short term injury, if you want references I've got quite a few & the consensus seems to be that for short term injury prediction this isn't an accurate tool, it is very bad at picking up on previous injury (the single biggest indicator of injury is previous injury, if it can't spot that, then it's in trouble when it comes to short term injury prediction).  So, the FMS is worthless right?  Well, no, I don't think so.  A huge factor of the FMS is finding asymmetry & correcting these as much as possible & creating a minimum acceptable movement pattern.  For some things this will be useless or even counter productive, so asymmetrical sports like throwing, fighting etc may actually suffer from symmetry!  But symmetrical sports like swimming, running etc or your average gym-rat may not gain short term injury prevention, but may gain longevity in an activity if they remain more symmetrical & keep decent range of motion.  My personal view is the FMS does a fair job of that, well part of it, I have seen people who can breeze a lot of the FMS tests, but load them & suddenly their squat looks REALLY ugly, so assessing under load is as vital as unloaded to get a full picture as well as previous injury history & many other bits before you can really understand a persons needs.
I haven't referenced the above as I just wanted to give a brief snippet of the arguments raging right now, if you want a piece specifically about the whole FMS debate post below & I'll do a fully referenced blog on that as it would take some time to take you through the whole thing covering all the issues.
So back to the DVD.  Whether you accept the FMS or not this video has some useful exercises you could incorporate into your training & shows you how many knee & lower back issues can be traced back to the hip (the ankle being another major cause of issues elsewhere too), so although the DVD says it's about knees & hips, it actually focusses on the hip as the major player in the whole knee problem arena.  As long time readers will know I have had a few back issues in the past & a couple of the things mentioned on this DVD showed I was definitely lacking in some core stability (especially when loaded across the body - so for example loading the right arm while on the left leg), I cannot hold this stable when moving - for some reason I've never thought to load up like this before, so for example a one leg deadlift with the left arm picking up the weight, while the right leg stays down on the ground & I look like I'm tightrope walking (all wibble-wobble), so that's got to get included.  I do regularly foam roll & as a massage therapist I obviously agree with soft tissue work (nothing beats hands-on, but a roller can get done everyday, so use both!), so I'll be doing the one leg deadlift & I'll be including a split squat progression that isn't exactly the way these guys suggested it, it was something I coincidently had planned for this cycle anyway, but watching this I'm going to load only the opposite shoulder with a kettlebell (you can use a dumbbell just as easily).  So, remember when the weight bearing leg is the right, hold the kettlebell or dumbbell in the left hand at the shoulder, like you are about to press it). My progression ideas for this are as follows:

Stage 1/ Static split squat
Stage 2/ Rear foot elevated split squat
Stage 3/ Forward, backward, lateral lunging

Each stage will be worked until total stability is achieved.  These are not going to be my 'strength moves' as such, I still have to keep my big 3 lifts going the right way (barbell back squat, Barbell deadlift & bench), so I'm keeping them in & working these in around that - that probably wouldn't be to the authors of these DVDs liking as they believe in dropping exercises & focussing in on issues, fixing them & then reintroducing other exercises, but for now I'm trying it this way, if that fails to correct things then I'll think about dropping the big movements, but for now they are staying - as they say, we learn best by doing, so I'm doing this, I may learn it won't work this way..or I may learn that in some situations it does, either way I'll learn another lesson.  By now you probably know I don't always just follow what people say, I tend to tweak & see if I prefer another path, sometimes I've really gone wrong, but on others I've found new ways of doing things that I've included into my bag of tricks.
So DVD, worth the cost or not?  I'd say yes.  If you are new the whole corrective idea it is a good place to start.  If you've had bad knees, hips or lower back in the past (this includes runners, not just lifters), then I'd say yes get it.  Please don't follow the whole 'corrective exercise' thing right down the rabbit hole (Alison in wonderland reference), please do not end up on tip toe balanced on a bosu ball, juggling oranges while pressing a pink dumbbell.  Most dysfunction is fixed by lifting heavy & getting a decent mix of strength, power & muscular endurance, going unilateral where necessary & finding the issues, the whole squatting on a stability ball is just a short cut to an injury in my view.  If you want instability, add chains, add weights from the bar hanging from bands.  These add instability without the injury risk.  If you are not spending at least some of most sessions going heavy (heavy for you that is) then you are doing something very, very wrong.  So, yes do any correctives you need, but do not fall into the 'corrective trap' or you'll waste years doing all sorts of nonsense when you should have been gaining strength! ...ok rant over.

If you want to get hold of the DVD pop over to dragondoor