Is your exercise programme leading to short term gain for long term pain?
Introduction for those new to the news letter
Before I get going on this month’s news newsletter I would like to welcome all the new subscribers and customers of Evolution Organics and also introduce myself and tell you a bit of my story. I very much hope that you find this a useful resource as you move on your journey towards greater health and happiness.
As we move through the year I do my best to cover a wide variety of subjects that relate primarily to the foundations of health. I do not focus on individual ailments as these tend to be symptoms of a greater disorder. I have found that if people address the foundations of health they tend to get better even from apparently very complex issues. The foundations of health are exercise, nutrition, breathing, a meditative practice, optimal hydration and optimal sleep.
Is your exercise programme leading to short term gain for long term pain?
Although Evolution Organics primarily sells supplements and we know that they are very powerful and important to achieve optimal wellness they are only part of the health equation. It’s critical that if you are taking supplements you do so knowing that there is much more that need be done to be healthy than taking a daily shake or oil (although they are key steps in the right direction!). We produce this newsletter so that we can support you in maximising your health by exploring all the other opportunities there are to achieve greater health and wellness.
How I came to ‘know’ about pain, exercise and physical rehabilitation
I started out my journey towards understanding the dynamics of optimal health at age 6, not as formal education but in the caring hands of my mother who took the time to practice yoga with me, I remember being able to do the full lotus and other deep stretches with ease (as I would hope most 6 year olds could!) and even at such a young age I remember being very interested.
I was never much of a reader as a child as I found most books frankly boring, however at the of age 12 I found myself fully engaged with the autobiography of a yogi (Paramahansa Yogananda). This was the most extraordinary life story, filled with great wisdom (much of which at 12 passed me by!) and incredible stories of miracles, death and self-realisation. The stories of self-realisation and the seeming fantasy of an almost magical world of energy, of light and wondrous phenomena captured my imagination and triggered a spark inside me, a spark that would later profoundly change my life.
I started working with weights and training when I was 14 under the guidance of my older brother Toby: he was massive! Really, he had hit the weights with vengeance and I wanted to be like him so with no regard to function, balance or control I started lifting as heavy as I could armed only with Gold’s Gym Book of Body Building (we all have to start somewhere). It would seem that I did not tie together stretching from yoga to weight training and at this point any influence my mum had had was blown away by the prospect of bigger muscles… I was 14 after all!
As a very capable athlete I competed in many different sports although I never really enjoyed formal competition. For me sport and training was a personal internal battle to push myself harder and to perfect what I was doing to the degree that I understood it and to feel free whilst I was doing it.
By age 16 I had already had a series of significant injuries including a minor disc herniation. I had trained so hard when I was growing that I damaged the head of my growing femur leaving my right leg 4mm shorter that my left one. This as I now know can leave the body vulnerable to significant injury.
Between the of ages 16 – 34 I had almost every injury possible to have as a result of leg length discrepancy, really, it’s quite extraordinary. As I sit here writing this today in my beautiful barn studio I have no pain, no apparent injury and am looking forward to training later with a programme focused on function not form!
I write this so that you know what I write about is not purely theoretical, it’s not what I have made up, or just from reading allot of other people’s ideas, books and scientific papers. It’s come from a combination of a both a life time of personal experience of rehabilitation and having the great fortune to learn from some truly great teachers, one whom I can say is a genius, and I do not use the word lightly and I do mean it in the truest sense.
Exercise can make you or break you… which would you prefer?
There are numerous reasons that we might start training with weighs and it would seem that as the gym culture gets deeper in our society more and more people are taking it up, and overall that’s a good thing conceptually.
It would however seem that we have not yet got to the point where gyms are set up to assess people effectively and prescribe programmes that actually move people in the direction of better health from a mechanical perspective. They are too focused on the financial bottom line and not on what is happening to their client’s health. In fact, in my experience, they are simply not aware enough to care.
As a result of this I would estimate that 98% of all people training in gyms today are doing themselves more harm than good mechanically. So the question is how can we approach weight training to make sure we are getting great results and that we are building a robust healthy body that will last a life time?
1. Core stability and movement
I have put core stability and movement as my number one top tip for learning to train effectively, without injury and to maximise the positive benefits.
Think about this carefully for a moment, it’s super logical. Whether you want to build lean muscle to keep your metabolism high and lose weight or to build a strong pain free functional body you need to have a foundation to build that body on. To achieve an optimal muscle response with weight and stability training you need to be able to not only load the body but in time, as your tolerance to loading increases, you need to be able to load your body close to the edge of its ability.
It’s by pushing the body to the edge of its capabilities that we can build stronger muscles and develop greater stability. So consider what happens to the average body when you load it as hard as you can tolerate with muscle imbalance, a twisted pelvis and a curvy spine! That’s correct… you get a broken body and lots of pain. This is what I call “short term gain for long term pain”. And just to make sure you get the relevance of this, nearly everyone starts out with a muscle imbalance, twisted pelvis and curvy spine. So yes… that’s could be you too.
This means, logically, that if we want a healthy strong body for life as opposed to a few years or even months of short term gains then we need to address the function of the body before we purely address form, thus the saying ‘form follows function’. So my tip here is to learn to stretch properly and learn to address the muscle imbalance in your body before going crazy with the weights. As flexibility is improving address your core stability and make sure that you can stabilise your pelvis, your shoulders and your spine effectively.
Finally make sure that you learn to move properly, that you are learning accurate technique with your exercise. So I can hear you saying “that sounds complicated” and “that’s allot to do” well… yes… and that is why I highly recommend you hire a C.H.E.K practitioner to asses you and develop your exercise programme for you. You may have not have come across the C.H.E.K institute and if not you should take a look. It’s a truly comprehensive training programme unlike any other and those that have undertaken the training should be able to prescribe a programme that will transform your life to the degree that you’re ready for change.
Don’t take pain as the ‘action’ to go see a physical therapist, assume that your body is dysfunctional and get it fixed before you begin loading it, after all a healthy body is a balanced body that will last you for life, not a muscular physique that lasts a few years.
2. Build slowly and carefully
This is very simple however profoundly overlooked. When aiming to build lean muscle mass or function and stability contrary to how it might appear in the magazines or perhaps in your local gym it takes time. It is true that if you go at it like a mad person from day one and push yourself to the max 3 time a week that within a short space of time (providing you don’t break yourself too badly) that you will see a rapid change in physique however, surely what we are looking for is the opportunity to have the killer physique and pain free body for life… Not just a few months or years?
This means being respectful of your body and building load slowly over time. The less time that you have been training for, the more important this is as you need to build your ‘tissue tolerance’ (the ability of your muscular tissue to accept load without getting muscular injury) slowly.
As ever reps, sets and loads are a huge subject with many variables but as a general rule go slow and steady. I work as a neuromuscular therapist so see plenty of people that have pushed far too hard far too quickly; they pay the price in muscular injury, ligamentous injury and sometimes a lot worse. I have seen life altering and career ending injuries as a result of muscle imbalance and fast progression on weights. So take it steady.
3. Excellent nutrition
So as ever, nutrition is an epic subject so let’s keep this to the very basic. The single macro nutrient we all know we need when weight lifting: protein. Most of us know that we need to have an ‘adequate’ protein consumption whilst weight training as it’s the proteins that are broken down into amino acids that are the very building blocks of our muscles.
Having assessed the diets of many people over the years it has become clear to me that the majority of people do not eat enough protein to keep their bodies balanced at even a basic level let alone when they’re weight training and so increasing protein demand.
To make this picture more complex I have no doubt you will be thinking ‘how much protein should I be eating when training?’ The answer, broadly, is read the Metabolic Typing Diet by William Wolcott and find out what your protein requirements are. Once you know what ‘type’ you are then assume that the harder the stress on your body is (and weight training is certainly a stress) the more protein you need. Directly after training eating one type lower on the scale to boost your glucose and so in turn glycogen levels is advisable, this means I eat more carbohydrate after training. I am a strong protein type so eat approx 70% protein with each meal, after training I go closer to a 50-50 split of protein to carbohydrates.
If you’re new to this then the probability is that you just need a sensible focus on eating a little more protein with every meal to start out, don’t go crazy, and just eat a little more protein. Also make sure that you are getting the highest quality protein source you can afford, hopefully this will be either organic and/or locally produced meat or from high quality vegetable sources.
Then of course we have protein supplements available in our wonderful shop where you will find a wide range of high quality organic and/or all natural protein supplements. Remember that a good diet comes before supplementation however when you’re training to increase muscle mass the demands of protein consumption can be hard to fulfil so a protein supplement can be a powerful insurance that you’re giving your body everything it needs.
Rapid powerful and sustained results come from a gentle considered and educated programme progression. Any programme that advertises ‘6 pack abs in 6 days!’ or ‘How to get a ripped physique in just two weeks’ or ‘ how I lost 3 stone on just 7 days’.. Is just a load of BS! These programmes can deliver what they promise but they sacrifice your long term health to the demons of vanity and the human ego!
I think it’s time we moved beyond this embarrassing health con. Are we really going to keep falling for the same old marketing tricks… have we not all heard about airbrushing and photo shop!!Take your time and get it right first time… there is no destination; health is a journey for life not a ‘result to be attained