Tertiary exercises and why you need to do them

How do you structure your workout, and do you include any tertiary/pre-hab exercises?
What are tertiary/pre-hab exercises? Read on and you will learn what this is about and why it’s important.

Exercise categories

I like to split exercises up into three main categories.
Primary exercises are your goal or target exercises. For example, you might want to bench press your own body weight.
Secondary exercises are things you do to complement the primary goal.
Tertiary exercises are the ones that strengthen the synergist muscles (the ones you never knew the names of until something goes “pop” and you need to visit a physiotherapist).

Tertiary exercise example. Internal shoulder rotation with resistance band.

Programming

You can create your exerecise program a few different ways to fit these in. The bench press is used below as an example.

  • Start with some tertiary exercises to warm up the shoulder muscles. These are performed using very low resistance, and should work the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis muscles. These are also known as the rotator cuff (the ones you’ve probably never heard of until they go “pop”).
  • For your secondary exercise you can do a few full range pushups, maybe also including an isometric hold in the high position. Along with other benefits, this will train you to properly control and stabilize your scapulae against the rib cage, which creates a stable platform to push against.
  • Now your muscles are ready and warmed up, and it’s time to hit the primary exercise. The warmup and the neuromuscular coordination you gained with the secondary exercise will set you up for a safer, and most likely more efficient bench press.
  • The long term benefits of the tertiary exercises include reduced risk of shoulder injury from exercise or day to day activities.

Conclusion

There are other combinations when programming these types of exercise, but the main objective is to fit them into your program somewhere. If you need some help with this, working with an exercise professional can be useful.
Contact me if you would like some help creating an exercise program that will progress you towards your goals.


Returning to the gym after the lock down

With restrictions easing and fitness centers, health clubs, and gyms reopening it’s a good time to look at our workouts. A few questions you need to ask yourself are below.

  • What are your goals?
  • Where are you right now in respect to what you want to achieve?
  • How are you going to get back into a regular habit and workout routine?
  • Think about your values and the real WHY and what motivates you.

Your goals.
These need to be something meaningful to you as an individual.
An example might be to shed a few pounds by Thanksgiving. The best way to succeed in your goals is to structure them into little chunks so you can see progress and stay motivated. I have another post on setting goals for reference. In short, don’t set lofty goals that are long term. Set short term goals for which you can see progress on a weekly basis. For example, rather than saying lose a certain amount of weight by a specific event or holiday, it’s much better to set short term goals like “this week I will lose 1.5 pounds by committing to my plan”

Figure out where you are right now.
Remember that you can’t just jump back into your old workout, even if you have been able to do a good body-weight workout at home to stay active. This is quite different from lifting weights or jumping back on the cardio equipment.
It’s really important to ease back into a routine slowly. You’re putting yourself at a high risk of injury if you don’t ease back in over a bit of time.

Now you have your starting point figured out, how are you going to get going?
It’s a good idea to get into a regular habit to make something stick. Some examples might be to workout three times a week. Rather than say “three times per week”, commit to something solid like “I am going to the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6am for 1 hour”

As well as having made the commitment to yourself and possibly adding some accountability, for example telling someone you will do this, make sure the time you spend in the gym is productive.

Every exercise or every interval spent on cardio has to be productive and for a specific purpose. Structure your workout to target all the major muscle groups and the five everyday movement patterns. Incorporate these movements into your plan: single leg, bend and lift, pull, push, and rotation.

Are your cardio intervals for base building, endurance, or power? You have to know this before you start any cardio work. Not having any structure is unproductive at best and possibly harmful at worst.

If you go food shopping without knowing what you need are likely to come home with what you need? Probably not, but you might be lucky and have a few things you need. Workouts are the same. Plan them out and you will see value in them.

Finally, the WHY part of all this. Only you can answer that, but make sure you think about why.
We all have our own internal driving force, so follow that and use it to stick to your plans and goals.

For example, someone who volunteers their time to a community project or group is driven by feeling helpful to their community. If that involves being fitter and staying in good health then that is the persons driving force behind sticking to a fitness plan, and they can remember that on the days when going for a workout feels like an inconvenience. The inverse to this is someone that has been TOLD to exercise because they need to for health reasons. This person isn’t likely to stick to it or have the drive to go out and exercise on days they don’t feel like doing it because the reason behind it isn’t using their internal driving force.

Need some help?
Sometimes this planning can feel overwhelming or you might not even have any idea where to start. If you need some help with motivation, structuring your goals, accountability, or putting an effective workout plan together I would value the opportunity to help you with this.

Contact me and we can discuss your needs and goals.

Our Immune System and why it matters

What is the immune system?

The immune system is an extremely complex and interconnected system. It works to fight infections, disease, and assists in the repair of injury. It is made up of a complex system of tissue, cells, and organs throughout the body.

There are two parts of the immune system which I’ll describe in this article: the innate system and the adaptive system. Having a readily available supply of nutrients is vital to the immune system, so your daily nutrition intake plays a huge part on the effectiveness of your immune response to the constant barrage of potential infections we encounter all day every day.

I will keep this article fairly high level, but if you want more detail check out the reference links at the end.

The innate immune system

The innate immune system is our first-line army which works to protect us from foreign invaders. It acts immediately when an intruder is detected. Unlike the adaptive immune system it treats all invaders the same way every time they are encountered, and a byproduct of this response is inflammation.

Since this is our first-line defense system, it’s vitally important that it works well. There are many ways this can be enhanced, but nutrition and preventing constant “overuse” of the workers is key to a healthy immune system that’s ready to tackle infection when it strikes. You can’t “prevent” infection, but with a strong healthy body and immune system you might never know you had been fighting something off!

Examples of the innate immune system

  • Physical: The skin for protection from exposure to environmental sources, and mucus linings of the nose and throat.
  • Chemical: Acidic properties of the stomach.
  • Biological: Gut microbiome which manages the bacteria in the gut. There are good and bad bacteria which must be kept in proper balanced proportions to keep us healthy and able to extract the nutrients from our food.

The adaptive immune system

The adaptive immune system, also known as the acquired immune system, has knowledge of specific invaders and knows how to deal with them from previous exposure. It also learns new forms of threats from exposure, but this takes days or weeks, and while this work is in progress the innate immune system is still the first-line defense against these invaders until the adaptive immune system knows how to and starts to deal with the new threat. In short, the healthier you are and when you have an adequate supply of nutrients, the faster you will respond and start to fight an infection.

Fuel for the immune system

Generally with most things you can only get out what you put in. The immune system is no different.

This is why you have to maintain a healthy lifestyle with a good whole food balanced diet rich in nutrients and vitamins. The whole spectrum of nutrients is needed, but at a minimum vitamins A, C and D are high in demand when you are fighting intruders.

How can we assist our immune system so it’s ready to fight off the constant barrage of intruders?

Healthy whole food nutrition, appropriate exercise and recovery, and stress management are factors which heavily influence our general well being.

I will be writing a number of articles covering all of these topics. I started with the immune system because everything is interconnected and what we do and what we are exposed to influence how we feel and ultimately how we react to foreign invaders. The effects of what we eat and how we live our lives have a major influence on health.

There’s a balance of dependencies between nutrition, exercise, how we perceive life, and how this affects our long term health. For a while someone can get away with tipping this fine balance, but eventually it catches up and the result is usually not good.

References:

https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/immunity-in-brief

https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/immunity

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23688939

Part 1: The journey to a healthy and active lifestyle

healthy and active lifestyle

This is the first of a series of posts about healthy and active lifestyle choices.

Almost everywhere you look you see articles promoting easy solutions for weight loss, heart health, diabetes management, and a million other things.  Their aim is to try to sell you the latest ideas or miracle products to instantly solve your problems, and it can all be quite confusing and even misleading.

The truth is that unfortunately there is no miracle fast track to weight loss and better health.  Overnight or even weekly 10 pound (4.5kg) weight loss simply isn’t sustainable or SAFE, and we have all seen these claims on the front pages of magazines!  It takes effort, determination, time and will power. The good news is that every little step that you take towards improving your lifestyle has an immediate and positive effect.

In this series of blogs I am going to cover some of the fundamental and essential components of a healthy lifestyle that you can sustain for your whole life.  Each post will cover one bite sized chunk of information.

The list below includes just a few of the reasons why a healthy and active lifestyle is important, which you might or might not have considered.  I plan to cover most of these over the series of posts.

  • Bone density (reversal or prevention of Osteoporosis and Osteopenia)
  • Muscle tissue loss due to aging (Sarcopenia)
  • Immune system health
  • Balance and fall prevention skills
  • Staying independent while aging
  • Cognitive Decline (skills to help keep the mind muscle active)
  • Heart Disease, Hypertension, Diabetes, and the other modern lifestyle diseases prevention or reversal
  • Blood glucose regulation though physical activity
  • Avoiding inflammatory foods
  • Mental health (emotional stress management and sleep hygiene are components of a healthy lifestyle)

A healthy lifestyle is more than diet and some occasional exercise.  It’s a balanced combination of healthy nutrition, being physically active, and mentally present and aware.

Follow my blog posts as I cover the journey towards a fulfilling lifestyle.
You can also contact me if you are looking for health or fitness coaching.

Committing to a challenge

Committing to a challenge sometimes requires determination to see it through. If it was too easy then it wouldn’t by definition be a “challenge”. The opposite of that is if its too big a goal then it becomes overwhelming and is difficult to achieve. When setting health related goals it’s important to find what drives you towards making the change or achieving the goal, and not what someone tells you to do.

There’s a lot of satisfaction in achieving your goals so its really important to set yourself up for success.
Find your own challenge set some goals around it and commit to the task. You will be surprised at what you can achieve when you commit to it.

Your first step is to identify WHAT you want to achieve. Goals based on something meaningful and personal to you have the greatest chance of success. So identify something you really want to accomplish.

I’ll use my latest challenge as a real life example which you can fit your own personal goals into.

My goal: I wanted to go out running every day in January.

My big goal of running every day for 31 days

That’s quite a big chunk of time to commit to and could feel overwhelming to start with.

Knowing there are 5 weeks in January it was much easier to take it week by week and day by day.

One week block of running

The small one week mini goal was set up where I had a target mileage for the whole week and I had that planned day by day (seven even smaller goals). However, to meet that target mileage meant running in every type of weather that the Oregon Coast decided to hit us with.

One day at a time

I had to adjust some days that were supposed to be a long run with a shorter one when the weather was just too bad to go out for multiple hours at a time, then when the weather was a bit better I fitted the long run in.

The key thing here was having the one week plan and going back to that keeping track of my progress and the days left to complete it. It would be too easy to bail out at the first bad day that wasn’t suitable for a long run and say “too bad, the weather failed me I cant follow the plan!” What I done here was I planned ahead, identified what could be a potential barrier and had a work-around ready to implement.

Adapting as I went through the week and successfully reaching my mini goals closed in the weeks and finally the whole month.

Setting health related goals
Five one week blocks of mini goals

Breaking this down onto the daily and weekly chunks made the whole thing possible while still achieving my weekly mileage goals and the big longer term goal of running every day in January.

Setting health related goals
Big goals are just a collection of smaller goals.

Finding your “why” to set a goal against

If you have a personal meaningful reason to do something then that’s your driving force. For example, “you” want to stay active and healthy to see your grandchildren grow up.
If the reason is because someone “told” you walking 2 miles would be good for your health then you might not be as determined to reach that goal! Personal values are important to identify when picking a goal or challenge. When it really has a meaning to you then it sticks.

If you need help setting health related goals I would value the opportunity to work with you to see you achieve them. Contact me to get started on your journey to build the new healthier you.

Why I use minimalist footwear

personal trainer functional exercise
I wear minimalist shoes for running and everyday use.

As a personal trainer and functional exercise specialist I understand the importance of proper biomechanics. Your feet are your roots and foundations. Buildings and trees need good foundations and roots to be able to function properly. We are the same! We need good biomechanics to move freely and with proper form, and the starting point for good form comes from your connection to the ground.

Headaches, shoulder pain, back pain, and knee pain can all have the same source of the cause. The foot!

Raise your heel and squash your toes together as most regular shoes do to the feet and instantly your fighting to correct it and as a result you lean forward from the ankle, you have to correct that by leaning back knocking the hips out of the neutral position its supposed to be in and increasing the curve of your lumbar spine. Do this for long enough and you not only get compromised posture, but it also leads to lower back pain. Add to this sitting with poor posture in front of a computer for too long and you really start to add some stress to your body!

The foot is a really complex structure which acts as a stable base to support us, and also has the ability to bend and flex to grip the ground allowing us to dynamically move and transfer weight in all directions. When it’s functioning well we have really good balance. When its function is compromised our balance is also compromised, leading to increased risk of falling.

To put things into context, think about wearing a very stiff and inflexible glove for 12-15 hours every day. Do you think your fingers and hands would be as effective and even function properly? What would happen is the muscles that move the fingers would atrophy causing reduced function.
This is exactly what stiff narrow shoes with arch support do to the foot. Think about that for a bit!

There are many exercises to strengthen the foot, the first one is really simple and you can do it at home. Simply take your shoes off!

Many of the common foot problems are recurring issues, and can be prevented by allowing your foot to work as it’s intended. Orthotics and cushioned shoes might seem to make your problems go away but the underlying cause is still there! I don’t recommend a sudden change from using orthotics to going full time barefoot, but with gradual progressions its possible to prevent or fix a lot of issues and reverse a lifetime of pain. (consult with your physician if you have been prescribed orthotics!)

To get the foot ready for everyday load bearing tasks I have lots of suitable exercises.

If you are interested in learning more about good functional movement, posture, balance and foot strength let’s talk. Follow my page Active4Health and visit my website and blog. Contact me for more info on appointment availability.

The end of the personal trainer?

Could phone apps be the end of the personal trainer and a potential for injury to the users?

My blog entry this week covers what I perceive as a dangerous trend in the fitness industry.
One which has potential for accelerating the already declining health of the population, rather than its intent of improving health.

What am I seeing? Personal Trainer phone apps replacing personal trainers.
Why is this so bad? It’s like a really poor version of Dr. Google.
Really? How can it be like that? Well let me explain.

A good quality exercise plan is important because it has to be efficient and cover the individual’s needs. We are all short of time, and we all need effective exercise one way or another.
Just as importantly the exercise plan has to safely fit the individual since everyone is unique, has different goals, limitations, abilities and postural deviations.

Since a huge percentage of the population are seated at desks, or in front of the TV, or driving for long periods of time we have developed some postural issues and as a result 80% of US adults already have or will suffer from chronic back pain. (ninds.nih.gov paper on low back pain)

Personal Trainer phone apps
Poor mechanics in the body are like a poorly hung door, its eventually going to break!


Poor mechanics in everyday movement are just like a poorly hung door. If the hinges are not aligned then the door won’t operate properly. Over time as the door is opened and closed it breaks and stops working properly as a door. The human body needs to function the way it was designed to, but prolonged periods of sitting or working in a compromised position create imbalances in muscles, just like the poorly aligned hinges on the door. Add to this an exercise plan that doesn’t take into account any of this and you are heading for a mechanical breakdown in your body at some point in the future! All because you tried to do the right thing exercising following an app that told you it was what you needed.

Why are the workouts in phone apps so bad?
It’s not so much that they are “bad” workouts (well mostly anyway), they just don’t provide the feedback and analysis on an individual’s posture and form while performing each exercise. They also lack the ability to design an individualised exercise program to balance out the damage done by the prolonged periods spent in a compromised poor posture position.
They also can’t tell your progress and safely progress, or regress you when needed.

To give a basic example and put this into context, think of the desk worker with the typical forward head position and hunched shoulders. That person goes to the gym on the way home from work and does an even balance of push and pull exercises as directed by the phone app exercise program. There’s a good chance the “pull” exercises are making things worse for the hunched shoulders and forward head position. The push exercises “might” partially help address this, but since its a “balanced” exercise plan of push/pull it simply compounds the problem.
The result is an even more compromised posture which is corrected by putting the spine into a less than ideal position which in turn leads to headaches, lower back pain and shoulder discomfort.
Since everything is connected, everything is affected!

In Summary:
The current state of the population is not in good health overall.  Between the modern lifestyle diseases, poor nutrition choices, and everything being designed to make humans more sedentary it’s a very unhealthy world.  Exercise is one of the components of lifestyle medicine which can combat and prevent these diseases. It’s unfortunate that non-specific to the individual plans in phone apps are likely to add to issues rather than prevent them!

Working with a fitness professional who can perform posture assessments and build an individualised workout based on that assessment might cost you a bit more cash up front, but what are the long term costs of adding to your poor mechanics by using an out of the box exercise plan and having lasting joint damage or injury! You wouldn’t wear someone else’s glasses. Your exercise plan should be just as individual.

Click here for my other blog posts.

Accountability

accountability personal trainer

Having some form of accountability when it comes to achieving your goals can be really useful. As a health coach and personal trainer I have worked with some clients that needed very little in the way of cues or advice, but they lacked the drive to get out the door to the gym or the park for a workout. Others I have met were really enthusiastic but lacked the knowledge or skills to structure their workout so needed advice in that form. We are all different and need our own form of accountability.

Having accountability whether its meeting someone for motivation, working with a personal trainer or coach, or simply telling your network on social media that your are committed to doing something can make a huge difference to your success with a goal.

I am intrinsically motivated, meaning I have the internal drive and will power as well as the desire to exercise. I still however post my intentions publically on social media and blog posts.

My latest running blog post is exactly that. I have a place in a 96 mile race in May, I have posted my blog saying I’m doing it. My personality type likes to succeed and achieve goals, and even though I have that internal drive I still like to make myself accountable to my words.

How do you get your drive and accountability?

See my blog post below for my plans for a big goal for the first half of 2020.

West Highland Way Challenge Race Blog Post

Structure to gym workouts

A really short blog entry this time, but one I feel needs addressed.

I’ve had a busy year running and training for ultra marathons, and as usual at this time of the year I take a short break from running to allow my body to recover, grow stronger, and get ready for the next training blocks leading up to whatever new adventures I plan.

I still like to keep active and fit during this low to non-running period so I have been mixing things up with various outdoor low-impact activities like cycling and enjoying time walking on the beach and also spending time working out in the gym.

During this extra time I have been spending in the gym while doing my own workouts it’s become noticeable to me the number of people in the gym who migrate from machine to machine or the free weights but have no particular focus or direction in their workout. A lot of what I have been seeing is taking up the persons valuable time but providing little to no value from a fitness or health perspective.

If you are reading this and feel like you could use some guidance and structure to your workout I would value the opportunity to work with you.
Maybe this short post will spur you into adding structure and direction to what you do in the gym and help you reach your health and wellness goals.

Why would you choose to work with a Personal Trainer?

How many times have you seen things pop up saying “This is the ONLY workout you ever need” or “Here is the BEST workout/exercise for…”? I see them everywhere and If you are looking for a workout plan or exercise I’m sure you have too. Here are a few of the many reasons that there’s no such thing as the BEST or ONLY exercise you need and why working with a personal trainer can be beneficial.

Safety First
This in my opinion is the number one reason why working with a personal trainer is a good idea.
When you do an exercise you want to get something out of it, and usually by adding external resistance to movements whether it’s using a barbell, dumbbell, a machine or even just body wight. You have to be sure that the exercise is appropriate, that you perform it correctly and with good form. As a personal trainer my number one priority is my clients safety. I see a lot of people working out with the best intentions but in fact they are actually potentially damaging their body using poor function and form.

Adherence
Possibly you’re not getting as much out of your workouts as you hoped for, or you simply struggle to get to the gym regularly. Maybe you don’t know how to structure a workout.
When you have invested some of your time and money into gym membership or working with a trainer then you are held accountable to yourself for getting the best value out of it.
You probably wouldn’t go to the coffee shop and order a drink then walk away without waiting for your order. This is much the same as paying for a gym membership and not going there.
Working with a personal trainer you get a structured workout to suit your needs at that time. This can make a huge the difference to how you feel about taking the time to exercise and seeing the results.

Purpose
What do you want to get out of your workouts?
The answer to this is individual to you. Likewise your workout has to be something tailored to fit your needs at that point in time.
As a personal trainer I work with my clients to help them get the best value from their time spent doing their workout. Every exercise I give a client has a purpose.

Methods
In life there are many ways to do the same thing, and this goes for your workouts too. However lots of people stick to the same workout routine for weeks, months and even years. Not only do they stop seeing gains, it’s also a really good path to injury.
Functional exercise is something I am an advocate of. There are a lot of things you can do to exercise, but if what you chose isn’t done the way the body is designed to move then it’s counter productive. Everything in the human body is connected and movements at one end of the body can be compromised by even a minor deviation anywhere else in the body. Our modern conveniences and lifestyles promote poor posture. Doing an exercise which may seem “good” could be potentially damaging for one person and ideal for another depending on their individual postural deviations and imbalances. I work with my clients to address this.

Progressions
When you work the same muscles with the same movement you reach a plateau and stop seeing gains and there’s a good chance you are heading for a muscle imbalance related injury. You have to balance your workout to balance your body. Everyone is an individual with individual needs, strengths, weaknesses, and imbalances. These things all change over time and have to be monitored and addressed. As a personal trainer I work with my clients to ensure they get that balance and a workout to fit their needs.

Other reasons
There are so many more reasons for having a progressive and adaptive workout. Some people have the knowledge and understanding to adapt and progress their workouts, while others may struggle with this. For those that can safely create their workouts, the BEST and ONLY articles I mentioned at the start of this post are a good reference for ideas to switch-up their workouts. For most though they are not optimal, and worst case potentially dangerous.
Would you use a hammer to fit something together with a screw? In a lot of cases yes, it will work, but it’s not the best tool for the job. Exercise and the body are like this too. There are lots of exercises available to us, but choosing the correct one at the correct time for a particular reason is something that doesn’t have a binary answer.

My aim as a personal trainer is to provide my clients with an individually tailored safe and appropriate workout to progress them towards their personal goals. This is something we continue to evolve and adapt over time.
If this sounds like something you need then I’d love to hear from you and discuss your exercise needs.