Assessment: Why is it important?

“If you don’t know where you are going, any path will take you there”

-Lewis Carroll

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Without a proper assessment of your current situation how can you decide what to include and what is not necessary in your current program design?

Think of your program like a recipe, you need the right ingredients for your dish or you will not have the desired outcome- A delicious meal…or in this case, achieving your fitness or performance goals.

try and stay with me, as I know this analogy is a little obscure. Each ingredient in said recipe, on it’s own does not make the meal, it is the combination, the precise measurements, the care put into the recipe and the cooking that creates the culinary delight. The same is true in a program, a sprinkle of this, a couple of movements like that, constant analysis and adjustments as necessary and voila, you get results!

Getting Specific

Goals come in so many different forms in the fitness industry; muscle gain, fat loss, body composition, skill acquisition, strength, flexibility, joint ROM, sport performance, etc…

For personal trainers and coaches it is our jobs to have systems in place to assess and test certain populations and people to ensure we have gathered enough data to “know” where the client is coming from and wether or not we can help them achieve their goals.

For some these assessments may take an hour, for others it may mean days…but the most important thing is we have something to base our decisions off of and continually evaluate true progress.

One of the best parts about creating an assessment for the individual is that when asked “Why was this included in the program?” You have an answer.

Constant Evaluation: Monitoring 

I cannot emphasize the importance of consistent check-ins on progress; daily, weekly, monthly and yearly progress must be constantly on our minds. If you are not looking at these things, how do you know you have made significant improvement in a certain area?

The answer is…You Don’t!

The lack of a proper assessment to me is a clear sign that the person evaluating the client has no respect for the clients needs and is not representing the profession in a appropriate manner.

Prescribing exercise should be taken seriously, you are responsible for that persons health and fitness.

Take this as an example, this may sound a little far fetched…or is it? let’s say you designed a program that the client was not prepared to handle and it lead to an injury that was directly related to them having to miss work, which lead to them losing their job. How would that make you feel? How did that person benefit from their increased fitness and your service? Simple answer, they didn’t!

Take the time to evaluate your training.

What Are We Assessing?

because everyones needs and goals are different, we need to have an arsenal of questions in our assessment tool box. Asking the right question is as much a skill as writing the program.

Some things you may want to consider:

-Goals

(Fat loss, weight gain, performance?…how much do you want to loss? What do you want to weigh?)

-Medical/Injury History

(Medical history, injuries(current and past), supplementation, etc…)

-Past Training History

(what have you done? how much? and how recently?)

-Current Lifestyle*

(What do you do for work? Are you married? Stressed? Food Journal?)

*This is more important than most people give it credit.

-Structural/Postural Assessment

(Any imbalances, dysfunction, postural imbalances, tissue quality issues..etc..)

-Performance/Capacity Tests

(Upper Body Strength/Stamina, Lower Body Strength/Stamina, Midline Stability, Aerobic Capacity, Anaerobic Power, etc… The list here is endless)

The key here is to streamline your test to get as much information as you can from as few test as necessary. I see some people in this industry getting carried away, testing every single muscle fibre and every disease know to mankind in their assessment form. A good rule would be ask as many questions as needed, but no more.

Options

There are numerous places to start gathering information on proper assessment and testing while trying to develop a system that works for you and anyone that you are helping.

A quick list of two that can help you get started:

OPT CCP Assessment Course

-FMS-Functional Movement Screen

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you will be further along than most if you can master the techniques within these two resources.

Conclusion

As the popular saying goes, “Assess, don’t guess”. Make sure you have your systems in place to create predictable results. Don’t be “that guy” who doesn’t take care of his business!

SG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Start Leaving Stuff Out!

internet-world

The beauty of the instant information era is that we have so much at our disposal. With the click of the mouse and a few words typed into a google search you can find the answer to any random question you may have been looking for.

But the less talked about side of that equation is we can become so overwhelmed with this abundance of information that we don’t know where to start: paralysis by analysis!

The fitness industry is no different, in fact, It may be worse! Being such a new profession, with information, research, and practical experience changing the game constantly it can be hard to stay up to date. My job is to sift through said information and simplify all that is available down to the nuts and bolts, making it easier for me to educate people on the most efficient way to reach their goals.

what is interesting to me is that the most important part isn’t what we include but rather what we decide to leave out!

Here are some simple ways to reflect on and figure out wether or not the information you have just read is right for you.

Coffee

1. Does it fit in my lifestyle?

No matter what fad might be going around if it doesn’t work into your lifestyle it just isn’t a match for you. Bulletproof Coffee, Carb Backloading, Crossfit, If you can’t stick to the plan because of other priorities it just won’t benefit you…leave it out and find something that works.

2. Is it appropriate for my goals?

This may seem like a no brainer but you would be surprised how many people make mistakes on the application part of the process. This may be happening to you if; you are looking to gain some weight but are fasting 18 hours of the day. You want to become stronger but aren’t following a program specifically designed for that purpose. You are playing a sport that relies on specifics skills and energy systems and are totally neglecting that part of your planning in your program design.

3. Has anyone had results?

This may be the only question you have to ask yourself to figure out wether or not the information you are looking at has any real weight behind it; Has anyone else with similar goals and a similar lifestyle gotten the results you are after. If the only person making gains with said program is a 15 year old boy, who’s mom cooks all of his meals, and plays video games 6 hours a day is getting results then it may not be the right fit.

Trial and error and sticking with it…

Once you have found a way to eat, train, and a lifestyle piece that creates a sustainable plan that works for you…ignore the rest. Stop searching for the holy grail, it does not exist, make changes only when progress stops, and reap the benefits of the simplicity you have created for yourself.

SG

Remember You Will Die

Morbid? Maybe….

Too many people fall prey to thinking that “there’s always tomorrow”. In reality action today is the real catalyst to achieving a life worth living, so if this simple reminder is enough to change your perception of how much time we really have, that is all that matters.

Translated the Latin phrase “Memento Mori” roughly means “remember you will die”.

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               The day of my wedding a little over 2 years ago. Time flew by!

Craig Weller of Scrawny To Brawny wrote about a beautifully simplistic chart where you create a table 52 cells wide(weeks in a year) by 80 cells long(potential years of your life) that illustrates how much of your life you have lived to this point. Each cell is unique, it represents a week in your life, at the end of each week you fill in one more cell and reflect upon what you have accomplished. Did you do all that you set out to do? Are you happy with how that week turned out? If you answered no, then what could you change today that would ensure that didn’t happen next week.

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This is what most people will struggle with, learning from the moment, and then changing the things necessary to make the outcome different next week. I am not going to lie, change is hard, it is a constant struggle, but I am hoping with a little reminder such as this one you realize just how little time we actually have.

So take 5 minutes today, fill in a “Memento Mori Chart” up until this past week of your life, and see just how powerful this can be.

Reflection bring about awareness… and for some, the willing, this will lead to change.

Start Building an Aerobic Base!

Disclaimer: This is by no means an exhaustive list, so before you go and post about how there are more efficient means to build the aerobic system or you disagree, please take the time to reflect on the possibility that there is:

1. More than one way to create results.

and

2. What has worked for you may not work for everyone.

That being said I am open to a debate on the topic that is well thought out and informative for everyone to enjoy.

Aerobic Training

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I think that many coaches believe in building a “foundation” or “base” before moving to higher intensity training methods. Part of that process is building our aerobic system so that we can handle higher amounts of “work”(i.e train longer, more often, and harder), recover from sets and sessions, increase mitochondrial density, heat the tissue in our bodies to allow for ease of movement so that we can train more efficiently and utilize less energy. All this sounds like an amazing plan for anyone looking to achieve higher levels of performance!

The logical next step is where do we start?

When we think aerobic training, most people would default to the standard methods; running, cycling, rowing, etc…for long periods of time. But what if this was an inefficient use of our time? Or it lead to injuries based on excessive volume and overuse?

If we are training our body for any specific energy demand, we are looking at both the local effect(muscles and muscle groups) as well as the systemic effect(what is happening to the whole body as a result of the training).

Two methods that can help in your quest to build a solid foundation and may have more direct transfer to field sports, team sports, and allows you to control volume to create a better progression, which in turn can reduce the risk of injury are; Tempo Intervals and Density Sets(M.A.F Session).

Tempo Intervals

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Made popular by the late Charlie Francis Tempo Work is sub-maximal percentage based sprints with moderate to short rest periods. Charlie’s sprinters were not only powerful and explosive but they were very well conditioning. Charlie believed in a high/low method that placed all higher intensity sessions within the same training day(maximal sprints and weight training), followed by recovery sessions the following day, thats where Tempo Intervals come in.

A session could look like this;

After a long warm-up consisting mainly of easy running, movement drills(dynamic warm-up), easy medball throws, you would begin your tempo sprints. because our goal is to improve the aerobic system, recover so that we can perform the next high intensity session, and improve our work capacity, these sprints are performed at approximately 75% effort. You would run at that speed for 12-15 seconds, rest a minute or until your heart rate recovers to 130-135BPM and repeat it for 12-20 sets depending on your current conditioning level. The beauty is that it is that simple!

Density Sets, AMRAP or Maximal Aerobic Function Sets

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Wait a minute, I know this guy!

When most people think weight training they don’t think aerobic work, but a well designed training session that incorporate lower percentage weights, some bodyweight movements and even some traditional aerobic methods can have the same effect if your heart rate stays in the appropriate zone(this is a systemic effect).

Starting to sound familiar? Crossfits AMRAP(As Many Rounds As Possible), Charles Staley’s Density Sets, and M.A.F sets, all have the ability to build aerobic work capacity when done correctly.

The key is choosing movements or methods that allow for you to move at a constant rate keeping your hear rate in the aerobic zone(130-150BPM for some, depending again on fitness level and age). When using these methods for aerobic training the key is to limit the amount of lactic acid build up in the muscle, we want to encourage blood flow but not the production of waste products.

A session Could look like this;

30-60 min @ an aerobic effort:

3 chin-ups

6 kettlebell swings

9 push-ups

12 walking lunges/leg

150m backwards sled drag(light)

*like I said the key here is to remain at a constant pace that both allows for you to hit the right heart rate and doesn’t encourage lactic acid build up. the limit to the possibilities are really your creativity and the needs of the athlete.

Aerobic Training Can Be Cool!

There is a time and place for any method of training, it comes down to the right application for the right person. I hope this made you think outside the box at what is possible. Give these two methods a try, plan the progressions appropriately and give me some feedback on how it went. Any questions, just ask!

SG

Game Day Prep For The Everyday Man

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What you do in the morning set’s the tone for the rest of the day.

If you are like the average person, this is what most mornings may looks like;

Hit the snooze 3-4 times, drag yourself out of bed, shower if there is time, and rush around trying to get organized hoping the whole time you arrive before your boss does so he doesn’t ask why you were late!

The simple solution to this answer is to form new habits that set you up for success , choose 1 add it to your daily routine for a week before trying to add another one.

  • Wake up earlier, 10-15 minutes makes a huge difference in the morning.
  • Prepare your gym bag and food the night before.
  • Drink 1/2 a litre of water first thing in the morning.
  • Get moving, perform some light exercise and stretching.
  • Leave enough time to eat breakfast and enjoy your coffee.

Ultimately some planning ahead goes a long way, so if you find yourself playing catch-up all day and feeling a little overwhelmed try adding some of these to your game day prep!

SG

 

 

The 4 Phases of Training

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This is competing 

“Why am I not making progress, am I not doing enough?”

“Should I be doing high volume or low volume?”

“High intensity or low intensity?”

“What am I missing?”

We tend to have one gear in our training, vision of athletics, and fitness, we lean towards going all out every training session regardless of the time of year or priority. What if this was actually detrimental to our progress? What if backing off from time to time could help us in our quest of extreme fitness, athletics or health and wellness.

As many of you have experienced when training in an all out fashion for a little too long we tend to get sick, run down, or worse, injured. Re-read this line carefully because it has taken me over ten years to allow for this to sink in. So if this is the case why do we continually do so? How come we do not learn from these mistakes?

I believe there are many factors at play as to why we continually repeat these training cycles, but this is a whole other topic of conversation. What I want to do is provide a non-scientific view on some training phases in no particular order and why they can be important to your overall plan and progress….

Phase 1: Play

Remember playing basketball in front of your parent’s house? Playing tag in the playground after school? Remember playing, period. There is something therapeutic about interacting with others, laughing, enjoying, and just fooling around… No real plan, just fun. As adults we lose the ability to play, some may compete in recreational sports, but gone are the days of calling up your buddy to meet you to throw the football after work…just cus’.

Vacation is a great time to just leave the strict guidelines of the weight room to the way side; try a new activity, play on the beach, let your body recover and restore, enjoy new, local foods, refuse the urge to count macro’s, or if you at enough protein at your AM meal, just enjoy! The psychological break alone will be well worth it. The rule for this one is: “There are no rules”

Phase 2: Crusin’

Kind of a new one to me, this is when your training has a clear theme, but no real progression method built in. You have no psychological attachment to the outcome, no attempts at PR’s, just sweat, detoxify, and move on to the next day. To make this a little clearer, you have a set plan for your week, but no program in place, for instance, squat on Mondays, intervals on Tuesday, press on Wednesdays…etc… Your whole goal is to get in hit it based on how you feel that day and leave in a better mood then when you came in. The rule for this on is: “Always leave wanting to do more.”

Phase 3: Training

All right, now things are getting a little more interesting, this is the phase that you should be spending the bulk of your training year in. Your priorities are now becoming clear, you have a theme, but also a plan, you’re implementing a formal progression model and are pushing the weights up and/or energy system demands. The major difference between training and the final phase competition, is based on how advanced you are as an athlete; you are “testing” throughout this training cycle. The general rule of thumb is that the more advanced you are the less frequently it becomes. Some like to test every 9-12 weeks with some easy weeks planned amongst the training (Deload). The volume and intensity within these weeks of training should be varied, allowing for compensation and recovery, as well as progress. Just make sure that you aren’t going for a personal best each and every session and that you aren’t exaggerating the amount of volume in each session. The rule for this one is: “There is always tomorrow”

Phase 4: Competition

This is it!! Time to ramp everything up, this tends to be when an important event is approaching, the length of this phase depends on the event and the person, it can be as little as 2-3 weeks and as long as needed to get the desired result… Priorities are clear and understood as well as critical to the success of the athlete. The priorities dictate the theme of training and it’s frequency.  How to organize this is based on the individual and the event, but the hit home point is that everything in this phase is accounted for; training, recovery, diet, lifestyle, sleep, game day preparation, psychological factors, everything!!! You name it, the coach and the athlete have discussed prior, leaving nothing unsaid, or unprepared for. The more frequently you compete, the more clear all the details become, the more the little nuances make the difference. Many times you can see an elite athlete compete, do well or poorly, and they can tell you the exact reason as to the outcome. “3 nights ago I couldn’t sleep, it messed up my routine and threw everything off…” The rule for this one is: “Follow the plan!!!”

Conclusion

Whatever your goals, elite fitness, athletics, health and wellness, everyone can benefit from time in each phase of training. If you listen a little closer to your body it is telling you something. You should have the ability to move from phase to phase seamlessly, allow for your mind and body to recover at times and test your limits at others. Whatever your goals, it is a journey, not a race, with some smart training and some planning the results will follow!

Media Monday 30: Structure Your Day, KStar, Healthy Fats

Alright! I am now officially embarrassed, 2 weeks no post, no excuses really except some quality down-time with family, friends and 25-30 degree weather in Montreal.

Things are ramping up quickly, finalizing a few things this week and then everything should be up and running in full force starting next week. So excited about being back!!!

Let’s get down to the real reason you guys are here…

Lifestyle

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Chad Howse hit’s this one right on the head with his interpretation on how to increase productivity throughout the day by eating a little better and making exercise a part of your day.

http://addicted2success.com/motivation/how-to-structure-your-day-for-maximal-output/

Training

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This is no doubt my favorite section of Media Mondays, this podcast with a legend in the making Kelly Starrett is loaded with great information on everything from training, assessments and mobility.

http://thefitcast.com/episode-262-becoming-a-supple-leopard-w-kelly-starrett

Nutrition

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I have been preaching the benefits of ingesting quality dietary fats for years. In this article you can see just how important it is to get a balance of the right fats through your diet.

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-balancing-fats

That’s it another Media Monday in the books,

SG