What are the toughest challenges?For many people, defining “the toughest challenges” might not be so easy. So I asked around. After gathering my responses, the nutshell definition I'm going to put to you all is that the toughest challenges are the ones we are not conditioned or ready for.
Training when you have a specific goal in mind is “easy”. You simply identify what it is you need to do and do it. There is certainly work that needs to be done, but your direction is set. If you have some good support around you in the form of coaches, etc., then things get easier still. You periodise your program, eat well, hydrate well and recover like a superstar.
But what if you don’t have a target?I don’t have a specific goal. I train to be ready to do pretty much anything at the drop of a hat, to keep myself moving well and feeling good. Now when I say “anything,” that broad spectrum comes at a cost. It means that I won’t have the specific conditioning required to complete a marathon and be competitive. I’ll finish it, but I certainly won’t be at the pointy end of the field, but neither will I be at the other end. I can sprint, I can jump, I can climb, I can crawl, you name it. I do all of these things because one day when I think “you know what? I’d really like to go and try *insert challenging and possibly obscure event here*”. I can. I'm physically and mentally capable of trying things if I choose to. A few years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to try out for the Australian World’s Toughest Mudder Team (you know that 24 hour obstacle race). At that stage, I was far away from being conditioned for that level of endurance, but thanks to the type of training I had been putting myself through I managed to make it to the final stage of selection, down to 30 people...but didn’t make the cut of the final 4.
Now you may be thinking that sounds like a lot of work. But I can tell you, it doesn’t require any more effort than a standard exercise regime might. I need to stress that I am by no means a professional athlete. Yes, I am a Trainer and I spend a bit of time in this environment of activity, but my job is not to train me, it is to train YOU. “for a free trial click this link”...just kidding.
Even though I lack a specific target, there are still things I enjoy doing. I work my movement regime around those things and add on from there. Here is where PTAGs 3D Checkpoints come in handy. Using 3DC, you can take any movement and change it to better suit your needs, allowing you to move with less repetition. Take a squat for instance - you can prepare for the unexpected by simply adding a reach to your squat. Then by changing where you reach (which side? How high/low? How far?), you change the demands of the move, preparing your joints and tissues to better handle loads in different directions. Even altering the position or angle of your feet will create a change too, more than you might think.
What about the upper body? Do me a favor - take your arms and swing them around. Make big circles with them. Go both directions. Now start to twist your body as you do this and feel how much space your arms cover. Okay stop. Can you feel just how big a range of movement we have to play with here? Now I want you to imagine you're at the gym. You've got a barbell in your hands and I want you to do a Shoulder press. Think about the range of movement we just utilized for our circles. How much of that available range is being used here? Not much. You are most definitely going to be able to lift a heavier weight if you simply go straight up, but by manipulating your loads and directions, you can start use more of your shoulder, preparing it to survive a more varied assault from whatever you have a go at.
Move In Multiple Directions and Be Ready For AnythingThere are many benefits to moving in multiple directions. But firstly, let’s clear that up a little. We have 3 basic planes:
Sagittal (that’s straight ahead);
Frontal (this one is facing forward, but moving sideways) and;
Transverse (twisting and turning).
You can find a lot of what we do in the sagittal plane, so I use as much frontal and transverse as possible. There are still times when you're going to want to use the sagittal plane and a well-rounded routine will include that, but including the other two will prepare you for just about anything.
But what’s the benefit of moving in multiple directions if you’re not going to move in multiple directions? Well, if you train your body and move your joints in different ways, you’ll be creating what I like to call ‘movement integrity.’ With good movement integrity, we understand that the work you do when going sideways supports you when you need to go forward. You will also be minimizing wear and tear. When you use more variation, you call upon more varied tissues to get the job done. You may not feel like you're someone who moves in multiple directions, but when you're simply going about your day to day life, I’m sure that if you take note of your movements, you’ll see that something as simple as getting into and out of a car involves direction change.
And let’s make sure we don’t forget recovery. Without recovery, there is only injury. In my experience, it seems that everyone is willing to put in the work (well...almost everyone), but when you put time into recovery, only a few manage to keep the effort up. When you exercise, you are breaking yourself down. You don’t finish a workout stronger or faster than when you started it. It is after you recover from that particular session that you can reap the rewards. The world it seems is still sold on the “No Pain, No Gain” mentality, and it’s one of the toughest battles I can have with clientele when I'm trying to reassure them that it’s okay to have sub threshold sessions. In fact, it’s MORE than okay, it’s recommended!
So, in a nutshell, if you stress your tissues and joints with changing loads and directions and if you recover well from your sessions, you will be in better condition to tackle any event (or real-life situation) that you may find yourself looking at.
Having kids, while being hugely rewarding, is something that takes up a lot of your time; parenting is, after all, a full-time job.
There are a lot of people who already struggle to find the motivation to get to a gym. Adding kids to the mix can often spell disaster for someone’s efforts at exercising more. We've all heard the phrase “use it or lose it” before and it applies very much to your mobility and fitness. If you stop moving you’ll begin down the slippery slope of an unhealthy lifestyle and possibly even injury.
Where to StartSo, what can we do?
Well, we already know that you're time poor and likely exhausted too. I think it’s a good time to ask the question, “What are your goals?” Do you need to actually go to a gym? Some people need that kind of accountability, and that is fine, but many of us do not.
If you've decided that a gym setting is not necessary or just not feasible, then let’s continue now by forgetting exercise as something that has to happen at a designated time of the day on a particular day of the week for a predetermined period of time.
It doesn’t matter when you move, it matters that you move.
Sprinkle little bits of movement throughout the entirety of your day instead of just into 30 or 60 minutes. Lead a more movement rich lifestyle (walk to the shops or playground, sit on the ground instead of a couch etc) and that will take care of many of the basic needs people have for heading to a gym.
Include Your KidsWhilst they're little, try to carry your children places (in your arms if you can). Let them start to see the world and continue to bond with you while they do. When my kids were little, taking them outside was one of the things that calmed them (and us) down when they were upset.
Just a small walk to the end of our street and back was like magic for everyone’s stress levels. But I know it can be easy at this point to fall into the trap of thinking that going out for a walk is just too hard, and you know what? Maybe a big walk would be. But a short trip (because it really does not have to be long) is a great way to start and it gets you out of the house. There is absolutely no problem starting with a simple 60 second foray into the great outdoors.
As your kids get older, take them on hikes or walks. Start small and build them up. Just like you wouldn’t grab the heaviest dumbbell in the gym, don’t expect them to be able to start at your level. After all, you've been on your feet for most of your life and they're just getting started.
Try not to have any hard plans for timing and distance and let your kids be your guide. One of the most enjoyable hikes we've done was when we left the navigation up to the children.
And do you know what the best bit is? When they get tired, you get to carry them back! I know it might not sound like great fun, but I think most people will have a fond memory of being shoulder carried by their parents at some point. Here’s your chance to pass that joyful moment onto your kids.
Now, let’s not forget you in this equation; while they're up on your shoulders or on your hip taking in the world, you’ll be working hard. All the muscles required to keep them up there and you on your feet moving forward need to be active, and (just because everyone wants a great core exercise) this will most certainly have your core firing... especially if they're squirming.
Have you ever tried to carry someone, even a little someone, up a hill?
Get ready for a Heart Rate Peak!
Bonus BitsCarrying your kids or simply holding them as your “weight” is a great way to get some extra loaded movement in. This is something I like to refer to as “Organic Load.” Organic Load is a brilliant term I pinched from fellow PTA Global Ambassador John Polley and have used ever since he mentioned it.
I will often do some Organically Loaded movement with my kids. But what’s most important is that they love it. I have two children, and if I do some lifting with one of them, you can bet the other will be there waiting for their turn. In a short couple of minutes, I'm tired and we’re all smiling. It’s great.
With this, it’s important to note that you should always move within your bubble. If you overreach and pop that bubble you’ll likely hurt yourself, so stay within your means.
All Fun and GamesPlay games with your children. Challenge them and challenge yourself. Classics like Chasey get all of you moving and is great for their development. I've taken things further and built us a basic balance beam for our backyard. Once that was there we had an apparatus that helped challenge us and could easily be tied into any sort of silly game we could think of.
Playgrounds… they're not just for children, but you get less weird looks when you go there with your kids.
Once you're there with them, don’t just sit idly by, JOIN IN!
When was the last time you did some monkey bars? Can you still do it?
Getting your kids involved in YOUR efforts to become a more healthy and balanced human being will do wonders toward setting them up to lead a healthy and movement rich life. Here we come to what I believe is the most important part.
You are the example that your children look up to. Set the standards that they can aspire toward, and leave the world with a better person.
I love to run. I've always enjoyed running
Once upon a time I found that I’d had enough with running. What I didn't realise at the time was that it wasn't running that had lost its appeal, it was the type of running.
After taking a break, I tried to get back into it but the inevitable drop in performance frustrated me. I persisted and, through a series of accidental events and some conscious changes, it turned out I still loved running. What I disliked was the endless kilometres of concrete and ever-repeating training routes.
Breaking Down Social BarriersI experimented. I began to avoid paths and trails and started bush bashing. For those of you not familiar with Australian slang, “bush bashing” is exploring off the paths in our natural landscape. Most of us have been wired to stay on the path; I was and prescribed to “don’t wander off.” Taking that first step was a big thing and a real mental challenge, but it was completely worth it. I can still feel that block there in my mind if I'm on a trail and decide I want to venture off and I know I'm not alone in that, but like many things, it’s just stuck in my head. Sure, there are places where it isn’t wise to wander off alone and of course you shouldn’t trespass where you're not welcome, but with a little common sense, I now run with the purpose of avoiding paths wherever I can.
I also stop and climb: trees, boulders, anything really.
This was difficult at first too, because when you stop, you're messing with your run times right? And you can’t do that! Then there's the whole notion of what people will think; once you get past the strange looks people give you - an adult, climbing trees - it can actually be a hugely enjoyable challenge. I'll do big climbs or small, fast climbs, and each time I have a load of fun.
The Benefits of Being OutdoorsGetting yourself outdoors has many benefits and there’s plenty of research to back it up. Given the shorter nature of this blog though, how about we settle for a nice, easy list of why you should consider going outside:
1. Your stress levels will go down.If you’re stressed out at home or in the office, it’s amazing what a quick walk outside can do for you. Add a few trees in the mix and you’ll feel even better.
2. It’s better for your eyes.You probably already know that all those hours staring at the screen are bad for your eyes. Particularly for children. Time outdoors is good for the eyes. Focusing on something more distant exercises different muscles and allows the eyes to relax and recover. Additionally, natural landscapes simply look amazing.
3. Get some vitamin D.Many of us are not getting enough vitamin D, probably because we’re spending so much time indoors.
4. It will help you sleep.How well you sleep has a lot to do with hormones like melatonin and your own natural circadian rhythm. These are effected by your exposure to light—including sunlight. If you’re spending too much time indoors, you’re isolated from the source of your body’s natural rhythms.
5. Attention/memory will improve.Having a hard time concentrating? Get outside for a few minutes. A little fresh air and sunshine can help increase your attention span.
6. Nature sounds good.What we listen to can impact our health and wellbeing. Humans find bird songs reassuring. We intrinsically feel that all is good in the world if the birds are singing.
7. Nature Smells Good.Our sense of smell is closely linked to the parts of the brain responsible for processing emotion. The scents we inhale have an immediate and profound impact.
8. Water is good for you.Not just drinking it. Negative ions are natural antidepressants and found in abundance near water. Walking trails beside lakes or along rivers are recommended for their benefits to emotional health.
Get OutsideThat small list is all good and well, but for me the best bit is that out there, the chance to never do the same thing exists. Yes, you have the repetition of walking or running but the scenery changes, the ground changes, the temperature changes and the conditions change. For us, human variability is crucial.
Finally, you have the chance to seek out things seldom seen. I often explore in search of waterfalls. With a little Googleing it’s possible to locate areas where you can explore and find things that probably haven't been seen by many people.
One of the most rewarding sessions I've done recently was a search for a particular waterfall. I’d researched and picked up a couple of landmarks then set out to explore. This journey took me through some very tough terrain, but when I finally located these falls, the feeling was simply amazing. Never have I had the sense of achievement and satisfaction from a session like I did that day!
Some simple examples of what you can do out there that I enjoy: Rock hopping, climbing trees and mountains and traversing through and across the top of them.
Of course, the idea of hiking and climbing mountains might not to appeal to all of you. Perhaps you’d consider taking some equipment outside to move, but getting the benefits of the great outdoors can be as simple as taking a walk in the park.
Everyone can benefit from some time spent outside. You don’t need to take your whole routine out there, but try it a couple of times and see how you feel, I guarantee it will be worth it.
I'm a PT and movement coach and there are many moulds that I fit into to do my job. What mould exactly depends on my client, and what they want, as well as what they need.
Our industry was formed by a genuine desire to help people achieve lifestyle changes and goals. These days though, anyone with a Facebook account would be excused for thinking that it has become more about the trainers rather than the clients.
ProfessionalismAs a professional, it falls to me to ensure my client’s safety in the studio, to push when a push is required, but also to ease off on the gas when my client’s Daily Readiness isn’t so crash hot, and of course, to make sure their movements are safe and effective.
And so, it concerns me that the quest for “Likes” on social media platforms can appear to compromise the professional integrity of some movement coaches.
Videos pop up from time to time on social media and, classically, what these clips are showing us is a compromise on quality. And whilst we don’t know the context of the clips concerned, it appears here’s another professional in the industry I love, seemingly putting their client at risk in return for a cool video. That trade of quality for “Likes” might seem like a good idea at the time but at the end of the day it’s going to hurt your professional integrity and that of our industry as a whole.
“Likes” Versus TrustWhat’s a “Like” worth anyway? Does it stack up against the relationship you have with your client? Is it worth not giving your client your full care and attention? Maybe it gets your business a little more exposure on social media, but if you’re not focusing on your client in their session, might they go somewhere else? We know word of mouth is the best way of gaining new clientele in this industry; when someone is happy, they’ll happily spread the word.
Our clients need to trust us and they need to know that we are there for them and not the other way around. This trust needs to continue for our relationship to be a productive one. What happens to that trust if they get hurt during a session? Society needs to know that we really are here to help. We want to help; otherwise we’re not going to succeed long-term.
PT is about much more than some weight lost, or some muscle gained... or indeed, a PB lift.
It’s about the relationships you develop and how, in these relationships, you can positively influence and empower your clients to better themselves and their quality of life.
So, what can we do?
Well, for starters, if your client’s going for a PB or a heavy lift, put down your phone and make sure you're there to spot them; in fact, if you're providing a quality service, you shouldn’t have your phone during a session AT ALL. If you need to film something at least set your phone up somewhere it can video you and your client making great things happen together. They may have done the lift 1000 times before, but that doesn’t mean the next one won’t be the one where they're a little distracted and need you to have their back.
Daily Readiness ObservationLearn to alter programs based on your client’s daily conditions. PTA Global’s Daily Readiness Observation tool (DRO) is easy and perfect for this. Your client will tell you what you need to know and you tweak from there.
Educate your client. Not just on ideal technique but on why today may not be the day for massive lifts if you haven't slept well or are barely hydrated.
On a side note, perfect text book form is a myth. We’re all simply too different to fit into the exact same mould to have something that can be called “perfect form” (possibly a discussion for another time). However, what we can have is something that is ideal and safe for each of our clients.
As an industry, I feel we are much, much better than the amount of “Likes” we can get on our social media posts. If you get “Likes” because of being true to your clients’ needs and by meeting them where they need to be met, then great! You should celebrate your clients’ achievements, just make sure those achievements are steering them toward a happier, healthier future.