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Saturday, 21 April 2018

Why learning to coach is important for everyone?


By Pete Ryan

There are several stages to learning within the exercise sphere.

  1.      You realise you know nothing
  2.      You learn a little and believe you have the answer
  3.      You learn a lot and most answers are “It depends”

This post will try to explain the reasons you should aim to reach level 3, why being a ‘guru’ with a definitive answer is not the goal (& why people are fooled by them). Also why, even if you only coach yourself, reaching the third level of understanding is desirable.
Firstly, let’s look at someone new to exercise or coaching. They will go and find figures of authorities to follow (magazines, youtube personalities, online coaches, books etc), they will learn a method or methods that prove most enjoyable or effective for themselves. This maybe after failing at several other protocols?

This moves them onto the second phase. They now know a little bit and have often found a protocol that is effective for them (for example HIT training, intermittent fasting, DC training, Paleo, Matrix training or whatever). They now become a zealot about this style or methodology and so tout this as THE method. When asked they have an exact protocol and a method that will fit everyone and suit every goal. People become generic and everyone reacts the same to the same stimuli. This is the realm of the ‘guru’, where they suggest one style of training or diet suits us all and one answer will be beneficial to everyone.
Many people stay at the second level throughout their training/coaching life. They have one system, and it works for a percentage of the population, but if you are lucky you will pass through that level and almost come full circle, you realise that the more you learn, the less you know, there are no definitive answers and experimenting is the best way to discover what works best for an individual. Eventually you will come to the conclusion that making one or 2 small changes and monitoring the effects is the ideal way to find the best working methods. Add to that the concept that often nothing works indefinitely and you get an interesting mix for a coach to digest and utilise.

There are definitely certain truths

  1. You need to progress   
  2. You need to exercise consistently   
  3. You need to work all the relevant muscular systems
  4. You need to avoid injury
  5. You need to be motivated
  6. You need to be able to recover

      These things and many more are proven facets of exercise, but within those foundations there is a world of diet and exercise protocols for you to explore. Most will be dead ends, either not enjoyable, or not as productive as other methodologies, but some will yield amazing results.
This is not to knock cookie-cutter programmes, such programmes can work and be tremendously effective, but ideally, a tailored routine will give you the biggest returns over time. Many people can reach a good level of health and fitness following many of the standard template systems out there, but if you have issues, or wish to reach higher, then moving towards a more tailored exercise, diet & recovery routine will improve results.


I promised to look at gurus and why you don’t want to fall into the trap of ‘one size fits all’. If you ask an actual expert, the answer “It depends” will often be their answer, often it will sound like they do not know anything, but the truth is they know enough to know that the answer is not simple. A guru however will sound immensely confident, “The answer is to do A, B & C!” this answer will be the same for everyone. Often a guru and an expert will offer similar starting points, but from there a guru continues to offer fixed methodologies whereas an expert will begin the tailoring process, so it is not always simple to weed the guru out from the experts. Your aim is to be able to start 2 people on the same programme and then work with them until those routines are tailored towards their goals and their preferences. So, you could start 2 people off with a routine based on 3 sets of 10, but after some time, one is doing 1 set of 20 reps, while the other is doing 5 sets of 5 reps, they may also be working out different amounts each week for different duration and be eating very different diets.
This should be your goal (even if you only train yourself). Learn to try small changes, monitor these changes and either discard that change or move on to the next small change. In time you will find a selection of protocols that work for yourself and others and you will understand why the term “It depends” is so common within the training world.

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Monday, 2 April 2018

Health and fitness misconceptions

By Pete Ryan 
 


Listen to any advert or guru and health and fitness is easy and fast. 4 weeks to a 6-pack, eat what you like and get thin, just 5 minutes a day…these are just a few of the myths that surround the health and fitness industry.  In truth health and fitness are a long, slow, on going process that you can begin at any age, but need to be continued throughout your life to be effective.
I will look at just a few of the common myths and walk you through why they are wrong and what the reality truly is.
Let’s look at one that specifically affects the vegan or plant based arena. It is the ex-vegan. The story usually goes like this:

I went vegan, I became very ill. I usually had a lot of soul searching, then I ate meat.   In most cases that first bite was amazing and suddenly they felt well and full of vigour.

So, that is the scenario. Think about that story for a moment. I am a clinical nutritionist, but you do not need to have any formal training to see the flaw in this argument. You are arguing you developed a serious deficiency due to a diet, then you cured a major deficiency with one bite of meat, immediately. This is not a deficiency, look up the treatment of scurvy or any other deficiency based disease and see that not only does recovery take a long time, but you also suffer lasting issues.  What they are describing is a psychological issue, not a nutritional condition. For some reason they have convinced themselves that they need meat and so exhibit symptoms. I am not saying you cannot suffer deficiencies on a vegan diet, that is possible eating any diet, but if you get immediate relief then the issue was not a nutritional issue, it was a psychological one.  I have worked with people who suffer from many eating disorders; binge eating, inappropriate food choices, and many other food -centred issues.  I always insist these people also work with the relevant mental health care worker as the issue is very deeply joined to early life trauma and other issues as it is to simply poor food choices. Let me reemphasise, you can suffer real dietary issues on any diet, including a vegan diet, but immediate relief of symptoms after a bite is a red flag that there are deeper issues involved.
What I would finally say about this is that anyone who has a concern, whatever their diet, should go and seek some form of help. Firstly consult a nutritional expert with some experience and if necessary seek counselling from a trained professional as these can really help you understand the condition.



Let’s move on from there to the “Reach your goal in X weeks”. We are talking diet challenges, mass gaining contests etc etc. These are all not ways to achieve long term success.  I haven’t got the exact percentages to hand, but it is over 90% failure rates for diet success over time, muscle building cannot even be done that quickly without heavy usage of “supplements” (steroids, HGH, insulin, SARMS or whatever the new flavour of the month is). Your actual goal is to build a new lifestyle, one where you are naturally leaner &/or one that adds to your muscle mass over time. You can diet hard and lose weight (and lose a lot of muscle along with the fat), but this will not stay off unless you adopt a new way of eating and living. You will not build muscle without spending years in the gym. Look at the extreme, Mr Olympia is usually a guy in his mid-30s, they have trained hard for decades and taken heavy doses of drugs. So, they are the genetic elite (in terms of muscle building potential) and they still took decades WITH drugs! Many people see this as a bad thing, but really it is actually a good thing, it means that we can continue to build our bodies, slowly for decades, so in 20 years time you can look better than you do now! Imagine I promised you a pill that would slowly improve you every month for the next 20 years…how much would you pay for that?  Well, I am offering you the “iron pill”, lift for the next 20 years, in a safe, progressive manner and you will look better in 20 years than you do right now!

Let’s briefly touch on the 5 minutes a day gadgets. Do not waste your time.  You can get fit and toned up using weights, using bodyweight exercises, using kettlebells or even odd objects.  The only rules are that the exercises are progressive over time.  So, they get heavier, you use a harder or novel variations, plus you need avoid anything that causes injury or injury type pain (you want the lactic acid burn feeling and the feeling you are working hard, but not injury type pain, these are very different).  Follow that and you will succeed in improving over decades, not just months and years.
If you need help getting started pop over to https://payhip.com/veganbodybuilding and download “An introduction to vegan fitness and health” (it is by donation, so give anything you like to help us build the site) and feel free to use the resources below.


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Saturday, 10 February 2018

Fitness is rented.



By Pete Ryan

We’ve all see older guys and gals, they often used to be fit or were in incredible shape, even just a few years ago. These people ‘achieved fitness’, they may have even reached amazing heights. The trouble is that fitness should not be thought of as a goal you achieve, fitness is process you move towards or away from on a daily basis. While one day may not make a difference, you may only move an inch in either direction, the process continues every day, and it is the summation of these days added together that give you the result. Worse than that, if we think of training as a bank account that you save into, or draw upon, then older savings are worth less and less as time goes on.  This can be negative if you used to be fitter, but it could be good if you used to be very unfit.  It is also more like rent, you need to make regular ‘payments’ or you lose the right to own fitness, most days you should try to move towards fitness. 

We all have celebrations or special days when we forget about fitness and enjoy an event, but generally we should try to make choices that move us towards fitness and health, and we need to do this regularly to achieve our goal. This does not mean take a 30 day challenge, fitness is not a 30 challenge, it is a lifelong challenge and one we need to grasp firmly and decide we are going to battle for every day. These battles need not be excessive, it may be walking up the stairs and not using the lift, getting to the gym once or twice a week, it may be not adding high calorie dressing to your meal. Whatever the battle, however small the victory, it inches you closer towards fitness.  Remember you do not ‘achieve’ fitness, you move towards or away from the goal in an undulating pattern throughout your life. At some points you may get very fit, while at other times, you may have moved some distance from fitness. It is virtually always possible to regain lost fitness, it is also very easy to let fitness slip through your fingers. It is time to forget about the goal of fitness and look at the process of fitness, it should be a goal to maintain fitness in the on-going journey through life, not to simply achieve it, then move onto the next challenge.

How to plan for success


The first idea you should get away from are the ‘challenge’ style of dieting, or short term dietary fixes. These ideas may be ok to kick start a lifestyle change, but your aim needs to be to make lifestyle changes that you can live with, but still move you towards fitness. I suggest making small manageable changes. Add more greens into your diet, eat fruits and vegetables every day, drink more water, buy a smaller plate (so you can fit less food on it) if you need to lose fat. Make one or two changes every few weeks. Each change will take a while to become a habit, but if the changes are small, then they should not be so hard that you cannot maintain them.  The good thing is these small additions and subtractions can accumulate over time. First you can add more greens, this will fill you up more, so you eat less, so your fat levels will drop. A few weeks later you could increase your intake of water, this will full you further and so more fat is lost, it will also hydrate you, so your body starts to function better and your skin looks healthier…The process continues, and if you do not back slide, before too long you will move towards fitness and health.  The secret is to constantly maintain the habits you add, if you can keep the exercise you introduced and the dietary changes these will keep you on the right track, even if you fail to add more things you think you need for a while, still hold onto the things you have already started to do.  There is always time later to add more things, but never drop a fitness improving facet of your life as long as increasing fitness is your goal.  Obviously there are special occasions or events that mean plans must change, but generally try to keep those actions as habits that are a normal part of your life.


If you always remember that you do not ‘achieve fitness’, that it is rented, and every month you need to tally up your ‘rent’ and see if you have earned enough to have it, or if you are drifting away and need to work more on it. Hopefully, if you can stay consistent you will maintain a fit, healthy body throughout your life.

 




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Saturday, 4 November 2017

Adding for fat loss



By Pete Ryan



Fat loss is often focussed on deprivation.  You will often see the gurus online touting this and that, and usually these people will suggest things like:

  • Giving up carbs
  • Cutting out fat
  • Removing treat foods



How about we turn this idea on its head and see where that journey will lead us? Most people who want to lose fat have a few related issues. They do not eat well and they do not move enough.  If we look at these dual issues and consider our problems from the viewpoint of adding things then we can develop a very interesting approach to dealing with these issues.
Let’s look at 2 scenarios and how we approach them…and the probable result:

Scenario 1

You come to me and I say you will no longer eat treats, junk food or desserts. You will cut all sugar from drinks and only eat whole food stuff from now on; you would also limit yourself to 2,000Kcal (or less) per day.  Would that work?  Well, technically yes, IF you did that, then you would most likely lose weight…but would many people stick to it? Research suggests that most people will not be able to maintain the discipline necessary to keep this up over the long term, so they will fail and return to their old eating habits.  They may lose weight for a while, but eventually the fat will be regained and maybe they’d even develop more as they rebound from the caloric deprivation back to surplus calories.

Scenario 2


Suppose a person comes to me and I say they can continue doing exactly what they do now, but add some vegetables (focus mainly on green leafy vegetables), have them with as many meals as they can and try to eat those first.  I suspect most people could do that, they would also be filling themselves up with bulky greens and so not have so much room for everything else.  So, after a week or two they may well find that they have lost fat, and also that they have started to feel better too.  So, now  suggest that they add a 10 minute walk after each meal. No crazy workouts, just a walk at a pace that is just above their normal walking pace, but not exhausting.  Most people could do that as well.  Pop on an audio book or podcast and take a brisk stroll for a few minutes after most meals.  No need to become a zealot, but if you have 10 minutes, briskly stroll around the block, through a park or whatever is nearby, even on a treadmill while watching a TV programme if you prefer that. I can see people managing those things without too much trouble.


So, let us look at these two scenarios.  One will lead to extreme deprivation and most probably lead to failure, while the other is very easy to implement and kickstarts the fat burning process without any sense of deprivation at all.  The mindset is different when you add compared to when you subtract things.  People feel better when they have more, the fact that having more will mean they actually consume less and burn more calories doesn’t matter.  The fact is that having more will allow treats and indulgences, but will still often result in fat loss and improved health. This means that for some of the population, this method may be the key to success.  Remember, you do not have to stop there, continue to add things that will improve health, add foods you haven’t tried before, add things like a new activity to your lifestyle.  All of these changes, small as they are, soon add up.


This approach will not work for everybody, some people have a single slice of cake, then uncontrollably eat the whole cake! If you suffer from addictive tendencies, then this method may not work for you.  Know yourself, if you are an average person with some fat to lose, consider this method as an option.  Make slow, calculated changes over time.  Spend a few months eking out the pound or two lost by adding in greens, the pound or two lost by adding in a ten minute walk. Keep the fat loss going over a few months and you will look like a new person and not have to have given up on any food you enjoy.  You will find that naturally you will eat some things less, but that is all, with the added bonus that you can have that piece of pie or slice of pizza.

It is a good method to begin the process of fat loss for most people, so consider adding things to your diet and lifestyle, not taking things away when you begin the fat loss process.

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