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Exercise Won’t Give You a 6-Pack

Weight loss (fat loss) is the #1 reason people seek out a personal trainer. (Note: there is a difference between weight loss and fat loss, and most people want the fat loss, so we will continue with that phrase). And we will also note that everyone has a 6-pack, it’s just a matter of if we can see them or not.

If your goal is fat loss, a good personal trainer will stress that fat loss starts in the kitchen, and exercise should supplement your fat loss goals. We stay in our lanes. We are not registered dietitians, and while we can give general advice on how to improve your nutrition (drink more water, eat less processed foods, cut back on sugar, eat more whole foods, fruits and veggies), we are not experts in what exactly you need to create the safest and most effective environment in your body for fat loss.

(Side Note: In my opinion, if a trainer pushes you to try the latest and greatest diet trend out there – Keto, Paleo, etc. – or pushes you to buy some type of shake they sell – RUN for the hills. Personal trainers should be teaching you exercise, fitness and physical activity – not selling you diets and shakes.)

So with nutrition being the single most important variable in fat loss, why is there such a focus on exercise? People are misinformed thanks to the internet, and continually think that they can out-train bad nutrition. You can’t. Exercise isn’t going to burn off the bad food or excess calories you ate. In fact, the whole “burn up to 600 calories” per workout (and for 72 hours after!) is bunk. It’s misleading and has been proven by science to be inaccurate for years…decades, in fact.

This is why you see so many personal trainers peddling nutrition, because they KNOW that it’s crucial in their clients’ journey to getting results (fat loss). You often see “fat burning workouts” or the best “fat burning exercises” all over the internet. Well, sorry…but it’s all BUNK.

Do you burn calories when you workout? YES. But not as much as you think, and not enough to be your one and only fat loss strategy. The quantity of calories you actually burn in a workout session is lower than you’ve been led to believe, and the extra calories you burn from exercise only account for a small part of your total energy expenditure during the day – somewhere in the range of 10-30 percent. The remaining 70-90 percent comes from your resting metabolic rate, the energy used to carry out the host of physiological processes that are constantly occurring in the body. (Be wary of activity trackers, as they tend to overestimate the caloric burn from these processes.)

Do you continue to burn calories for many hours or even days after your workout? NO. Depending on the specific type of training you are doing, your metabolism stays elevated post-workout for about the length of time you trained, but not much beyond that. And certainly not for days! And at this point, I am sure HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has come to mind, which is one of the most popular fitness trends being marketed as purely a fat burning workout, especially in the Edmonton fitness scene. The science has been out that true HIIT can definitely improve V02 max, and improve blood sugars. However, the energy expenditure is just not enough because of the duration of the session. True HIIT sessions (and that is where you are literally working at your MAX heart rate for the work periods) are only meant to be done for anywhere from 10-20 minutes. While many studies show that HIIT can help with fat loss (negligible) than other forms of exercise, the biggest factor in that was, of course, nutrition and appetite suppression (nutrition!).

I would add (as a shameless plug) SVPT Fitness + Athletics has NEVER ever marketed or sold so-called fat burning workouts, fat burning exercises, weight loss shakes, or any kind of supplements. We have never made false claims about training to entice clients into our gym. And we have been successfully in business for 10 years.

We take pride in refusing to spread inaccurate information. We don’t even believe in putting an emphasis on exercise for burning calories. We put the emphasis on quality movement that will benefit your health and your life. We know that if you want to lose fat or have long term weight loss goals, it is all about the food! This is why we partnered with dietitians to help our clients navigate those waters. It’s the best way for them to learn the most effective ways to lose fat and keep it off over the long term.

BUT WAIT…does this mean you don’t have to exercise to lose fat? NO. You still need to exercise so you can do ALL the things you want to in life. So you can be independent. So you can prevent injury. So you can golf into your 70s, or hike into your 60s. So you CAN LIVE A FULL LIFE. Exercise shouldn’t be a punishment to burn off something you ate, or earn something you want to eat. Exercise should be your tool to live life to the full. Exercise GIVES life. Exercise improves health. And when you improve health, you improve quality of life.

Here is why you still need to exercise, regardless of your goals:

  • Joint health
  • Muscle strength, growth and maintenance\
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Improve blood sugars
  • Improve mood
  • Decrease stress, anxiety, fatigue
  • Improve attention
  • Improve sleep
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Prevent disease and illness
  • Resilience
  • Independence
  • Longevity
  • Vitality
  • Resilience

….the list is extensive and can go on even further. Essentially, we just move less than we did 50 years ago.

Exercise is excellent for health and wellness; it’s just not that important for fat loss. So don’t expect to lose a lot of fat by ramping up physical activity alone. If your workouts are soul crushing every day in an effort to “burn more calories” or “burn fat” to get to your fat loss goals, you are actually doing yourself a disservice. Not just that day or that week, but long term. The hormonal ramifications of soul crushing workouts every day are huge, not to mention that you are also risking burnout and injury.

With all of that said, it’s still awesome to challenge yourself with a really tough workout every once in a while. It simply has to be programmed properly – both to occur at the right time, and to include movements that won’t get you hurt. This is where seeking the advice of a fitness professional can help you.

If weight/fat loss is your goal, please seek the help of a registered dietitian to learn about food, proper eating habits, and your caloric range to help you get to your fat loss goals safely and effectively. At the same time, realize the genuinely incredible health benefits of exercise. While exercise is still an important part of the fat loss puzzle, remember that it shouldn’t be the ONLY piece.

Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC

Why Hire a Personal Trainer?

It’s simple — hiring an SVPT certified personal trainer can take out the confusion and guess work about proper training as well as reduce the risk of injury. In the long run personal training can help save you time and money all while getting you fitter and healthier, and living a fuller life.

  1. Assessment
    Many of you are doing exercises and programs that just aren’t suited for your body, fitness level, or goals. This is why many exercise and see no results.  Assessments can teach you about the imbalances, strengths and weaknesses in your body. Assessments help SVPT personal trainers create a program that is individually suited to you so you can train to your full potential, without wasting time and risking injury.
  2. Knowledge
    Hiring a personal trainer is an investment. During your sessions, you will learn the how and why to train effectively, efficiently, and safely. We educate you so you can take away as much knowledge as possible, so when the time comes you can train on your own, and do so with confidence. We expect you to leave the nest eventually, in fact that is our goal, is to have you feel so educated and confident, that you can train on your own. When you leave the nest it means we have done our jobs in teaching you how to train properly.
  3. Motivation
    We all struggle with training motivation at some point. A personal trainer can give you the extra little kick in the butt when you struggle. We can’t do the work for you and we can’t make you want it, but we can give you a little nudge in the right direction.
  4. Accountability
    Accountability is strongly tied to motivation. A personal trainer can keep you on track with your goals so you can get the results you seek. Life can get in the way, and usually the first thing to go is exercise. Consistency is the key to success, and having someone to hold you accountable can keep you consistent and on track.
  5. Goal Setting
    Sometimes we want everything all at once, but that is usually a little unrealistic and overwhelming. Our personal trainers can help you set realistic fitness goals that are achievable and in-line with your lifestyle, fitness level and budget.

So now that you know the WHY, learn what you should be looking for in a personal trainer and check out our blog from January 2018 – “What Makes a Good Personal Trainer?

Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC

T’is the Season for Maintenance

For many personal trainers, the month of December might be properly referred to as a “Maintenance Month.” December is typically filled with social obligations, and stress surrounding the holidays in general for clients.  Your regular routine and schedule goes out the window and all the holiday parties and gatherings mean you’re tempted to indulge in foods you otherwise would avoid and to also skip workouts.  As it is, committing to a regular nutrition and exercise schedule can be tough year round from life’s ups and downs, but the holidays in particular can exacerbate these stresses.

The holidays can bring about added stress from shopping, increased food preparation, house guests, frequent visitors, financial stress, more demands on time, and simply a change in schedule.  A change in routine, whether it is good or bad, equates to stress.  The biggest complaint personal trainers hear during this time of year is clients not being able to fit in workouts or stick to their nutrition regime, due to all the added obligations.

One of the reasons personal trainers and nutritionists really stress creating exercise and nutritional habits year round, is so when life happens, like the busy holiday season, the repercussions of missing a workout or indulging in holiday goodies will not set you back to square one.  In fact, if you are consistent  (not perfect) all year round, you might welcome the relaxed holiday season. Consistency year round allows you to have some time to just maintain, which might look a little more relaxed.

Let’s be clear — not being perfect does not make you a failure. All areas of our lives have ebbs and flows, which are necessary elements of life. The easiest way to understand this is using the term burnout. We all know what causes burnout – not enough balance and/or recovery. It’s ok to hammer away at something for a while, and it is just as ok to back off when you need to. And this might mean using the holiday season to do so.

Maintenance might be one of the least sexy words out there, but maintenance is about doing the little things in order to keep us at the same level, or not allow us to go backwards.  Just like life doesn’t need to be a continual march forward, neither does your fitness journey.  Sometimes we need to march in place when competing priorities are difficult to manage.  So you had to skip a few workouts for a social event or other holiday obligations? In the long run and the bigger picture of a year round commitment to a healthy lifestyle, this is inconsequential. Even 3 or 4 parties like this are not likely to affect your overall health if you are  maintaining a routine of health and fitness year round. Your batting average is still going to be high.   It also might be argued that a little break from your routine will help you appreciate it a little bit more when it comes time to get back into it.

So what does maintenance look like?  It’s just simply, marching in place, getting it done.  It can also be defined as keeping healthy and injury free, while not moving backwards – keeping status quo.  If you exercise 4-5 days a week in your regular routine, maintenance might look like 3 exercise sessions.  And should that get away from you, aiming to do any kind of movement for 30 minutes, regardless if it’s in your regime or not.  Any physical activity is better than nothing.  Walks, skiing, skating, etc. with the family are a great way to stay active.  You do what you need to do not go backwards and just maintain.  If you are not worried about maintenance during the holiday season, then use exercise as a great form of stress relief and a welcome break from the hustle and bustle.

This season the last thing you need is added stress.  Give yourself permission to maintain, do your best, and just enjoy the holiday season for all it has to offer.

 

Kristen Hansen, BA, CSEP-CPT, PFT-NAIT, NASM-CES, FRCms

Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC

No Trends, No Fads, No Quick Fixes

Some might say what we do at SVPT is boring.  From a certain point of view that is true, as we aren’t sexy, we aren’t flashy, and maybe the cool kids don’t dig us.  But what we are great at is teaching you to master your movement and build fitness that will ultimately make you a bad-ass in life…….for the long term, not just for the next 2 months.

There is no screaming at you, making you puke, or trying to crush your soul.   We believe in building you up, not breaking you down.  I mean, isn’t that the reason you started exercising in the first place – to feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally? No one likes to walk away from a workout feeling worse than when they walked in.

It’s not about being flashy or sexy, cool or stylish – it’s about building fundamental movement skills through challenging fitness fun.  Mastering fundamentals reduces injuries, slows aging, and builds a body that allows you to live a fuller life. When you move better, you live better.  Isn’t that what fitness is supposed to be about? Living a better and more full life, because you are physically able to.

We frequently get asked, “Hey have you seen the latest fitness trend _______ on social media?”.  We see it.  We have cringed at it, and we don’t do it.  We don’t get caught up in the latest social media phenoms.   (And we won’t name any of the current trends/fads out there, because this is not about bashing them, it’s about explaining why we don’t buy into them.)

Training trends and fads are usually the ‘latest and greatest’ exercise, system, or concept to gain attention in the fitness industry or achieve notoriety on social media.  However, just as the latest diet and fashion trends die off, training fads and trends will fade.  And after they fade, you will see many coaches and trainers reverting back to tried and true ‘boring’ systems, because they work.

Boring works.  Simple is genius.  So yeah, we are kind of geniuses.

While we do continuously educate ourselves about the “new” fitness trends, we have found that the common themes of most good fitness systems in our industry involve simplicity.  As we continue our education, we continue adding more tools to our training toolbox.  But more importantly, we learn through experience when it is appropriate to use those tools.  This would include knowing when to use non-traditional or “fancy” implements such as kettlebells, bands, chains, TRX, stability balls, etc. We also know when and when not to use more advanced training methods such as eccentric training, tempo, volume, etc.

A lot of the trends and fads can be effective (for a time), but it comes down to understanding if these trends and fads serve the client’s purpose and goals LONG TERM, because we want to see you continue with your fitness, not blast a 30 day challenge twice a year.  Quick fixes in fitness are just that – quick.  Often not long lasting.  Building fitness is a skill and takes time, just like any other skill.  If you are jumping around from trend to trend, you are more than likely risking injury and not truly building a solid fitness foundation. A foundation is what you need to sustain fitness for the rest of your life.

Great coaching, efficient programming, and good results will never go out of style. More importantly, they will never stop being effective.  Mastering the basics and building a foundation will never be wasted time, and learning quality movement will always be important.  It’s a matter of understanding when the basics can be modified to make them more challenging and fun, but still effective and safe…not a circus act to post on Instagram that will eventually make the Gym Fails compilation.

So when a client vocalizes their disdain for a certain exercise due to boredom or simply because it is a hard exercise, we remind them of the why.  Something wonderful happens when you explain to a client why they are doing something. They become empowered.  All of a sudden they do that exercise just a little bit better.  Ultimately our job is for you to feel confident enough to leave our little gym nest……FLY BIRDIE FLY!   Our job is to have you not need us anymore, and if we are constantly bouncing from trend to trend, we aren’t giving you the foundations to understand fitness and do it on your own.

You will notice we do not sell anything or push anything flashy, sexy, or trendy on you except good old-fashioned hard work, consistency, and sound programming.  That is the secret, our “secret”.

 

Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC

Strength in Many Forms

When a lot of us think of the word strength, our minds might jump immediately to a picture of someone hoisting a fully loaded barbell from the floor, squatting with an extremely heavy load, or cranking out rep after rep of pull-ups. And that isn’t necessarily wrong! Those activities obviously require a great deal of strength…but are they the only way to express strength? Are there many ways to be strong, and many activities to be strong in? We think so. Strength can be expressed in countless ways and is not pigeonholed into one activity, one lift, or one sport.

Strength is very much individual-specific and context-specific. A person may be incredibly strong for their unique work, life, or sport activities, but may not necessarily be strong in another activity – especially if it is a task they have never attempted before. For instance, a person who can squat an extremely heavy weight is certainly a strong human, but could he or she demonstrate strength in the same manner as a Cirque de Soleil performer? Absolutely not! By the same token, the Cirque de Soleil acrobat is an unbelievably strong athlete, but likely cannot squat an extremely heavy load.

This is obviously an extreme example, but hopefully it illustrates that there are many ways to be strong, and many methods to get there. Cyclists express strength by driving incredible forces into bike pedals, wrestlers express strength through tremendous grip and body leverage, gymnasts express strength through their ability to achieve and control extreme body positions…the list could go on. Every activity has different strength demands, yet all of these people can be classified as “strong”.

The key element that ties all of these different activities and types of athletes together is that they still all need to be strong! Whatever that might look like for any given person, the common thread remains – they need to be able to bring their specific strength to bear in a specific way for their activity.

It is important to note that we are not saying that strength gained by lifting weights in the gym has no carryover into sport or life activities. It most certainly does! Each athlete mentioned above could improve their general strength by performing a weight training program. However, improved ability to express strength through a squat or deadlift does not directly translate into improved ability to express strength through a bike race, wrestling match, or gymnastics event – the athletes must still utilize task-specific strength when they participate in their sports. The weight training program simply gives them more potential to do exactly this.

We can apply this overarching theme to ourselves as weekend warriors, gym enthusiasts, or people training for general health and wellness. Getting “strong” may not look the same from person to person, as everyone has their own unique life demands, jobs, or activities that they are training for. Different people may need to express strength differently in their daily lives. But regardless of what it looks like, everyone should still train for increased strength. Strength is king – it is required for almost everything in life, it is needed in many forms, and it is for everyone!

Erica Saunders, BPE, CSCS, FRCms

 

 

 

The ONLY Thing You Need to Get Fit EVER

Now that we have your attention, it’s about time we talk about this one thing that you need to get fitter, healthier and dare we say, happier:  SLEEP.

I am sure you have read or heard before how important sleep is.  Well, we are saying it’s the ONE AND ONLY thing you need to live a healthier and fitter life.  Big claim, right?  Well, we dare to say it because if there is one consistent factor we see in clients that affects their performance, mood, food choices, mental clarity, stress…it is LACK OF SLEEP.  Everyone wants to get more done in a day, and with our hectic lives, sleep is usually the first activity to be sacrificed.

We see a lot of people at SVPT and can honestly say that the one issue that keeps coming up with clients is their lack of sleep, or living in sleep deprivation.  They think it’s their training program or diet that is not working but actually it’s the fact that they just simply are not getting enough sleep! 

Proper sleep means normal energy levels. If you are trying to get in shape and sculpt your body you will definitely need energy. People who feel sleepy can’t find the energy to work out, prepare a healthy meal or simply take a walk.

On top of lack of energy, sleep deprivation also means that your body won’t have time to recover from training. In case you didn’t know, your body needs some time to repair muscle tissue after a workout and also restore chemical balances.

Here are a few other things that can happen with a lack of sleep (no citing sources here, but you can ask your doctor and the internet):

  • Memory Issues
  • Mood Changes
  • Weakened Immunity
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Accidents
  • Weight Gain
  • Poor Balance
  • Risk of Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Decreased Performance/Endurance
  • Injuries Won’t Heal 

You cannot crush fitness goals in a consistently sleep deprived state.  Normally we would say that consistency is the real key to fitness success, but without sleep you can’t apply consistency.  

Sleep is one of those things that needs to be trained, and made into a routine.  The body loves routine and homeostasis.  Make a plan to go to bed at the same time for 2 weeks.  Yes, even on the weekends.  Commit to getting a solid 8 hours for 2 weeks and see what happens to your energy, recovery and quality of life. 

We dare you.

A well-rested body (and mind) is a force to be reckoned with! 

 

Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC

F*ck Burpees!

Literally. Please stop the madness. STOP.

We don’t burpee. Ever.

On the heels of some of the top trainers in the world, including Ben Bruno and Mike Boyle, we too are saying NO to burpees. #justsaynotoburpees

I know, I know – there are no bad exercises, only bad application. The fitness industry is awesome at fear mongering when it comes to certain exercises (squats are horrible for your knees, don’t you know??!!), but this demonizing of squats, deadlifts, or any number of other legitimate exercises is generally unwarranted and unnecessary.

However, we believe that burpees are one of those exercises that is an exception to this rule and should be retired. While ANY exercise can be dangerous if performed incorrectly, we as trainers can teach and reinforce proper technique to reduce injury risk, as well as scale the difficulty level and choose appropriate load for the trainee. But…burpees are neither coachable nor scale-able.

Simply put, there is no good way to perform a burpee! Too many things can go wrong, as instant fatigue quickly leads to a breakdown of form and feelings. Excessive fatigue leads to sloppy movement, and the resulting floundering, flapping, and flopping that is commonly observed during a set of burpees is a little bit hard to watch, if we’re being honest.

Let’s be real for a moment. There are not too many humans on this planet who actually truly enjoy doing the movement. Why push a client to do something they don’t like, when you can find something they dislike a lot less and you will get far better work QUALITY? After all, isn’t training primarily about learning proper movement and constantly improving the quality of this movement?

Why does a trainer even consider a burpee? Most trainers (and by most, I will say those that are using them regularly) use burpees to ‘punish’ or to raise the heart rate, as a conditioning tool. And of course, it works ‘every single muscle’ in the body. More bang for your buck, right? The huge downside is that as the client gets fatigued, form becomes absolutely atrocious and their risk of injury increases – especially in the lower back. All for the sake of making them tired.

Full disclosure here. Did I program burpees in the past? Absolutely. But once you know better, you do better. As a new trainer, I thought my job was to kill the souls of my clients, and what better way to do that than burpees and all the variations of burpees known to mankind!

Once I started getting more experienced and educated I thought to myself…there has to be BETTER options for the same effect (whole body movement, conditioning, energy system development). After seeing clients butcher the burpee and literally just stop having any productive or high-quality movement, I cut the exercise from my programming for good.

In summary, we free you of burpees for the rest of time. You do not have to do burpees to get in shape, to be fit and to crush goals – there are so many other options and exercises that, when programmed properly, can crush your soul all the same.

Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC

The Muddled Meaning of Mobility

“Mobility” has become a huge buzzword in the area of fitness and health. The term gets thrown around quite often in online articles, but rarely is its true meaning explained. What exactly is mobility, why is it made out to be such a big deal, and why is it so good for me?

The general definition of mobility is “capable of moving, or being moved freely and easily.” The word mobilityas it relates to the human body refers to a joint’s ability to actively achieve a certain position – that is, to move the joint using the body’s own muscular strength and control, without any external assistance. This is the joint’s “usable” range of motion, the range of motion that you are able to access at any given moment, during any day-to-day activities.

This is in contrast to flexibility, a term that is often used interchangeably with mobility, despite not meaning the same thing. They sound similar, but they are not synonyms! Flexibility means “capable of being bent, usually without breaking.” When talking about the body, it refers to a joint’s ability to passively achieve a position – that is, to use no muscular effort or activation to get there. To get an idea of passive movement, picture a yogi grabbing her foot and pulling it up behind her head. While her joints can obviously get into those positions, it requires the external help of her hands to do so. It is very unlikely that she could lift her leg into that position completely on its own, without her hands pushing it into place. In this example, she has great flexibility but limited mobility. The crucial difference between the two is the way in which her body’s joints achieve the position. Any joint position that requires external help to get into is not a usable position, but is “un-usable” range of motion.

Despite the “un-usable” label, passive flexibility is not bad. It is actually needed in order to have mobility, but it is only one part of the equation. Mobility is a combination of flexibility, strength, and control. To have mobility, you need:

Lots of available passive range of motion (flexibility)  +  lots of strength throughout that range  +  great control over that range

From this, we can see that we have the potential to convert passive flexibility into active mobility through training. Using our yogi as an example, we could train her joints to have the strength and control to lift her leg behind her head unassisted, thus giving her the active mobility to match up with her great flexibility. All of her passive range would become “useable”, which is a very good thing!

Now that we have a better understanding of what mobility actually means, we can dive into why it is so important to have it, as opposed to just having flexibility. Mobility is the key physical ability of the body. If we know that having good mobility means having active control of joints, being able to move them into a ton of different positions, and having strength in all of these various positions, then it’s easy to make the case that having mobility in your joints is the single most important prerequisite to any activity that you do in sport or life. Without the ability to move your joints into the positions needed to do a squat, to take a shot in soccer, to reach overhead and paint the walls in your house, or to bend down and pick up your toddler, your ability to perform those activities safely and effectively is severely compromised. No matter how strong you are, no matter how fit you are…if your joints cannot physically get into the positions that you repeatedly ask them to, your performance and your body will suffer.

Mobility is the base of the training pyramid, and it undergirds absolutely every other physical quality that you can train for (aerobic capacity, strength, power, speed). Mobility is what allows you to pursue and train for all of those other qualities without getting injured, without wearing joints down, without spending undue amounts of time and money on trips to the doctor or the physiotherapist. Mobility is what keeps your joints healthy as you age and prevents you from losing the ability to do the activities you were once able to do.

 

 

Maintaining the necessary mobility to do all of your favorite activities into your later years doesn’t just happen on its own, though. Joints don’t maintain themselves – it takes time, intention, effort, and a lot of movement on our part. Consistently challenging and constantly using the active ranges of motion that you currently have in your joints is the key to keeping those ranges over months and years and decades. Think of a person you know who is older than you. Have you ever heard him or her say something like “these knees/hips/shoulders just don’t move the way they used to” or “I used to be able to [insert activity here] but my [insert joint here] just can’t do it anymore”? Most people would chalk this up to simply getting older, but in many cases the main cause is actually disuse rather than age. Losing mobility in your joints is only a consequence of natural aging if you let it be. The best way to prevent this from happening is to never stop using your joints through the biggest possible range of motion you can.

Is training for mobility fun? Not usually. Is training for mobility easy? No, it is in many cases much more difficult than strength or endurance training. Is training for mobility important and rewarding? Absolutely. It should not be overlooked, or skipped, or disregarded as less worthy than lifting weights or going for a run. Mobility training is an investment in your body, a very long-term one. If you prepare your body to its very best ability to handle the tasks that you throw at it, you put yourself in the best possible position to not only crush life’s daily physical demands, but to keep your body as pain-free and injury-free as possible while doing so.

 

Erica Saunders, BPE, CSCS, FRCms

Social Graces of Stair Season

The weather is finally nice, and stair season is upon us.  This is where all Edmontonians take advantage of the beautiful river valley and get their fitness on the stairs.  Did you know Edmonton has over 40 sets of stairs of all sizes for you to utilize for free for your workout?

Top 3 Sets of Stairs (most well-known):

  1. Glenora (202) – Ezio Faraone Park
  2. Fox Drive (242) – Whitemud Park
  3. Wolf Willow (200) – Access from Westridge Park (*steepest in the city)

Whether you are a newbie or a veteran, there are some common sense rules that we feel need to be followed to ensure everyone has a great experience, especially when the stairs are jam packed on a hot sunny day!

  1. Head Up.Watch where you are going.
  2. Stay Right. Rules of the road. This is the most simple rule to prevent chaos.
  3. Be aware of the people around you.  I get that you are in the zone with your headphones while crushing your personal best, but pay attention to people in front and behind you.  Turn down the volume of your motivation mix so you can hear people coming up behind you.
  4. Mid-Stair Stop. If you have to stop mid-stair to catch some wind, do it off to the right side, and make sure you aren’t disrupting someone else’s goal crushing (refer to #3).
  5. It’s awesome you have brought your best fur friend to workout with you. Keep them on a close leash next to you, not a long retractable leash that allows them cut people off.  (I have actually seen people TRIP up and down the stairs from dogs cutting them off and tripping over leashes.)
  6. Single File. You and your bestie are hitting the stairs, chatting up a storm while you suffer the burn together – love it.  However, when you are going up and down side by side, you are disrupting the space of others (especially when the stairs are packed).  It’s hard to pass team bestie on the stairs when you are shoulder to shoulder.
  7. Respect.  Some are walking, some are jogging, some are sprinting, some are jumping, some are sightseeing, some are dancing.  You don’t know everyone’s goals and history.  Respect everyone’s workout goals. Someone might be just starting, someone might be back from an injury, someone might be training a different energy system, someone might be crushing their second workout of the day. You don’t know everyone’s story – don’t be so judgy and think your workout is more important or better than yours.
  8. High Fives. Ever just high 5 a stranger?  Try it.  You are both there working your butts off, and sometimes you just need to celebrate. Or try it because sometimes you see a person there struggling, and maybe they need it!

We get that stairs should have no rules, its free, its open to anyone to enjoy and no one owns them.  But if we all follow a few of these rules, then everyone’s experience will be more positive.

Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC

Functional Fitness

All fitness is functional.  All exercise is functional.

All exercise will help you do daily activities with greater ease, and therefore allow you to live a more full and adventurous life.

When most people see the words “functional fitness”, one of two things usually comes to mind:

  • Some type of circus-act exercise that makes you look absolutely ridiculous.
  • Exercise that looks exactly like the movement you will be doing in life.

We have all seen the crazy circus-type exercises on social media. Cringe.  And I am sure you have seen our commercial, where you will see people doing exercises that mimic everyday activities.

Sled pushes will help you mow the lawn, but so will any well-rounded fitness program that includes general lower body, upper body, and core strength exercises.  Landmine squats with a press will help you lift your child over your head, but so will dumbbell presses and squats, performed independently as part of a complete workout plan. Farmer’s carries will help you carry your groceries, but so will planks or chin-ups.  What we are trying to say is – full disclosure – the people in that video do other exercises too! And those other exercises are no less functional than the exercises they so expertly demonstrate for us on camera.

Functional fitness is typically considered to be less about isolation and more about integration –   all the body parts and systems working together seamlessly to accomplish a task. The more you can train your body to work as a whole, the more you will benefit in everyday life and the more injury-resistant you will be.  When you work your entire body in multiple directions of movement and ranges of motion, you can avoid overuse injury in a single direction or range and instead allow your body to be strong and functional in all of them. This style of training prepares you for anything unexpected that might occur in your day-to-day life. It’s about being proactive, rather than reactive.

Isolation exercises such as bicep curls are often criticized for not being ‘functional’, but if your biceps are a weak link in the chain of your body, then they might be an incredibly functional exercise for you. What counts as functional exercise all comes down to the individual – what is functional for one person might not be for another.  Getting an assessment from a qualified trainer to find anything that may be preventing your body from working as a strong, complete unit – and finding out what exercises are therefore ‘functional’ for you – is a great idea.  Eliminate the guessing game, save time and invest in a proper program (Shameless plug: svptfitness.com)

All consistent fitness and exercise will help you fend off those injuries that happen simply because your body is not strong enough or fit enough to handle the activities you are trying to do every day.  For some, like an older population, that means preventing falls and creating physical independence, and for the younger population that might be preventing a knee blowout at a weekend flag football game, or on that impromptu ski trip.

Finally, functional fitness is a bit more fun and a lot less boring than bicep curls!  Exercises that tend to involve more movement, in multiple directions and range of motion, can add more challenge. Because let’s face it, moving all the parts of your body at once is harder! Think about a bear crawl – fun but hard, and working EVERYTHING – co-ordination, legs, shoulders, arms and all the core in the land.  Does a bear crawl translate into everyday activity? Not straight across (unless you have to bear crawl for a living), but all the things happening when you are doing it will help you – carry groceries, play with your kids, go for a hike, help a friend move…all that great stuff.

So is running on the treadmill or sitting on the bike functional fitness?  YES! Cardiovascular health is super important for heart health and the ability to be able to sustain physical activity and daily activities longer (i.e. mowing the lawn without breaks ). Is chest and bicep day functional fitness?  YES! If upper body strength is your weak link, chest and bi’s will certainly help you in that regard. Of course, what would be even more optimal would be to include additional training that ties those muscles in with the rest of your body.

The takeaway point is – all fitness is functional and all fitness will improve your quality of life!

Shara Vigeant, BA, CPT, CFSC