Why You Should Watch Your Habits Not Your Weight

Comment

Why You Should Watch Your Habits Not Your Weight

I started my foray into exercise like many of you: in response to frustration with body image. I was around 210 lbs. at the age of 15, and this discontent resulted in dieting and exercising my way to about 160 pounds. Unfortunately, after settling into my first real relationship, the good habits didn't stick. Luckily, I was able to keep the weight off despite my lack of motivation once I reached this goal. As research suggests, and many of you can attest to, regaining lost weight is very common.

Now let's look at my second attempt at structured exercise a couple years later. I decided that I really enjoyed getting stronger, which was something I experienced in a resistance training class in high school. I made my mind up to focus on that aspect of self-improvement this time around. I had found something somewhat disconnected with my body image, yet with time my confidence was improved to a new level. As well, this time it stuck, and I have been regularly exercising for nearly 15 years now. 

I have worked with a lot of clients over the years, and everyone finds different things to ignite that passion for activity. I would say that it is a slim minority who find long-term results who only focus on training for looks, weight, and body composition. For everyone else, performance does more for motivation and confidence. The most trainable physical quality we have is strength. It is not uncommon for people to double or triple their strength with proper training. Furthermore, if you really train to improve this quality, body composition is very likely to improve as well.

One of the major downsides to training for looks is the subjectivity of your self-perception. Have you ever “felt fat?” This feeling doesn't only exist for folks who are obese, it is something that folks with healthy body fat levels also experience.

Our body image is incredibly fickle, and trying to set yourself up for a lifetime of success with exercise built on a foundation so volatile is a recipe for disaster for most of us.

Another advantage to training for strength is that it promotes regular progressive overload. You have to continually challenge yourself to pick up heavier weights to spur adaptation. Once again, this practice is very likely to lead to improvements in body composition. This basic tenet of exercise science is often ignored but is certainly one of the most important components of a successful exercise program.

I know it's hard to care about strength for some of you, but I'm willing to bet you will encounter moments in your life where you truly appreciate it. I have heard tons of client stories about being empowered by their newfound performance capabilities. Often times I hear stories of things people did with their children, how they were confident enough to try something they wouldn't have otherwise tried, or simply how many things they notice in everyday life seem easy when it used to be hard.

I'll share with you the first moment I truly appreciated my increased strength. I was on the island of Capri in Italy. My grandmother, who was terminally ill, sold her house and used some of the money to take one final dream vacation. Thankfully, I was included on this wonderful journey. Beyond her illness, she also had serious arthritis problems and a fairly recent hip replacement. When we finally got to the Blue Grotto, which was the central activity around which she planned this trip, she was crushed. There was a set of what seemed to be a couple hundred stairs to get down to the boat that would take us inside. She couldn't do it and told us to go on without her.

Photo Credit : Khachik Simonian

Photo Credit : Khachik Simonian

I wouldn't accept this; I picked her up and carried her down and up those stairs so she could realize her dream. The folks waiting at the bottom even clapped for us when we made it down. She must've told that story 100 times before she died. It was one of her most memorable experiences, and one of her most proud moments as a grandmother.

Photo Credit : Will van Winergerden

Photo Credit : Will van Winergerden

If I had never started trying to improve my strength, I would not have had the confidence to even attempt this, let alone the physical capacity to do so. This is the kind of thing that provides a lifetime of motivation to continue exercising. I have days where I feel like skipping my workouts too, but recalling this moment, among many others, can be very powerful for keeping consistent. 

I urge you to experiment with this mindset. It may not be for you, but as stated, a ton of my clients have found a lot of joy, pride, and confidence by focusing on this aspect of their transformation rather than body composition. Sometimes viewing things through a new lens can lead to an appreciation that wasn't there initially. Now go: be strong, and be beautiful.



Comment

Reset Your Mindset

Comment

Reset Your Mindset

“The body is wise, the confusion is from the mind” -Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel

In life, an achievement mindset allows you to get everything you can out of whatever activity you commit to. From an exercise standpoint, you want to do everything you can to reach your goal and to keep progressing each day, each week, and each month. Having control of your mindset and thoughts is the beginning of preparing for every session. How do you start practicing this art of mindfulness and how do you implement it into your routine?

  • Prepare your body.
  • Allow yourself to put aside whatever happened during the day.
  • Soak in those 60 minutes and really be present in that moment while you’re working out. (Imagine how many hours of your day were already spent working.)
Photography by James Zamora

Photography by James Zamora

This is how it begins.  With every bit of time you put in, it’s time that’s all getting you closer to realizing your potential and reaching your goal. So to do this, you have to be willing to work on your craft (body) even when you don’t feel like doing it. This could mean waking up an hour earlier on the weekend after you’ve already worked all week or coming in after a stressful work day. It could also mean waking up earlier before work and getting the early workout in to start your day while everyone else is still sleeping.  

Your preparation involves doing the little things such as foam rolling at home, before your session starts, and continuing to do so until it becomes a habit. Your preparation involves learning about your own body and being aware of how you feel. Your preparation involves being open to new environments and letting your coach push you out of your comfort zone. Like everything, it takes practice and discipline. The better you get, the more people will take notice of your progress.

By shifting your mindset towards achievement, you can better align all your actions with your goals and reflect on what you can learn from every outcome. You must believe in the process. Believe in yourself to figure out the best way to achieve what you really want from your time and energy.

When I am in an exercise environment, I have found that music creates an energy that puts me in a good mood and brings my attention and focuses to the task at hand. I find that I am not distracted from other thoughts or things outside of the gym that could be bothering me. Through music, I am able to focus on achieving my mindset for that day and what I want to accomplish. The point of having an achievement mindset is to help reach a different level that helps you focus on accomplishing something greater. Whatever it is that helps you achieve your mindset, find it and OWN it!



Comment

Bodywork to Make Your Body Work

Comment

Bodywork to Make Your Body Work

Almost everyone in San Francisco leads a very active lifestyle. From working the 9-5 to working out (hopefully), running errands, being outdoors to get fresh air and sun, and enjoying all the fun activities that the city constantly has to offer, San Franciscans are extremely social and busy people. We’re great at doing our work, being in school, and going out to do the things we love. Sometimes, though, we’re not so great at taking a step back to slow our lives down and take care of ourselves. We work hard and play hard, but we don’t always do enough for our “rest and digest” - our down time, our sleep, our nutrition: our recovery.

In previous posts, we’ve talked a lot about nutrition, sleep, and mindset, and these are all great and necessary elements to improve our general well-being and aid in recovery so that we can do what we do best: be active. So this time, I want to talk about another great way to recover, rest, and relax. I want to talk about massage.

As many of you know, massage is a great tool for relieving tension and tightness in the body, but people still have many misconceptions of what massage is.

Some people are afraid of massage because of a bad experience and say things like, “It was so painful! I think my body is just too sensitive to receive massage.”

Or, on the other end of the spectrum, some people say “I don’t feel like anything happened. They just rubbed lotion on me and that was it.” Many people don’t know that massage has the potential to reduce or even completely relieve pain. I think that it’s really unfortunate that not all people know how great it can be, so I want to break down a few different styles of massage and bodywork so that everyone can understand how this healing modality can play a vital role in your rest and recovery.


(Swedish) Relaxation Massage

The most prevalent form of massage for relaxation and enjoyment is Swedish Relaxation Massage. Swedish Massage is characterized by long, flowing, strokes that are firm, yet gentle. The massage therapist typically uses the palm and “heel” of his or her hands to glide across the skin over muscles and joints to lengthen and soften the tissues. Some type of lotion or oil is usually used and sessions can last from 30-90 minutes in a relaxing and soothing environment. This type of massage, or bodywork, is not as targeted as other modalities, but is effective in integrating multiple body parts in flowing moves to relax the patient and improve circulation and blood flow. Studies have even shown that Swedish Massage can help to reduce fatigue, depression, and anxiety - very relevant for the busy and often stressed-out San Franciscan.

p4l-massage

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is characterized by its concentration on the deeper layers of muscles and fascia. For deep tissue massage, the therapist typically uses knuckles, fist, or elbow. Typically, deep tissue massage requires little to no oil or lotion compared to Swedish, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be relaxing as well. This is the style of massage that some people might say is really painful, but proper deep tissue massage should sink slowly into muscle and fascia so as to not cause the body to tense up and “fight back”. This modality is great for breaking up adhesions and to really get noticeable softening of dense or knotted tissue.

p4l-massage-room

Clinical Bodywork

The last form of massage or bodywork I want to tell you about is clinical bodywork. Clinical bodywork is, as the name suggests, more clinical in its style and is a bit different from other types of massage, especially relaxation. Clinical bodywork is typically much more targeted, like deep tissue, and the emphasis is not on relaxation, but on helping the patient come out of pain from some type of injury or disease. During a clinical session, there is more communication between the patient and therapist to problem solve, and the practitioner will use a variety of tools to address the pain. These tools can include different massage modalities such as deep tissue, pin and stretch, myofascial release, and even Swedish relaxation strokes if appropriate. But, the practitioner might not be limited to just massage techniques and may incorporate other elements such as lymphatic drainage, cupping, special assessments, stretching, rehabilitation exercises and neuro-techniques to name a few. 

p4l-bob

Conclusion

Here at Perform for Life, we’re all about our training, education, and community, but we also really love to show our care for our athletes by providing clinical bodywork. We see and care for so many of our athletes going through pain from injury, disease, stress, and overwork and we want to make sure that everyone takes care of their bodies. We might do a great job at being active and working out hard, but it’s important to know when to let our bodies rest, relax and recover, and massage is a great way to do so.

From Swedish relaxation to clinical bodywork, there’s a type of massage for everyone to help with relaxation and even pain. Keep in mind that I’ve only gotten to talk about a few modalities of bodywork and that there is so much more out there. So, if these don’t work, don’t stop searching. Stay active but listen to your body and take great care of it - it’s the only one you’ve got.



Comment

How Athleticism Could Benefit You

Comment

How Athleticism Could Benefit You

May Small Group Class Focus: Benefits of Athleticism

Whether you’re training to improve your overall health or working towards a more specific goal, athleticism will help take your game to the next level. All athletes, regardless of their ongoing goal, can benefit from moving more freely and effectively. Developing athleticism insinuates a focus on speed, agility, quickness, reaction time, coordination, and anaerobic conditioning helps you gain skills that will seep into all aspects of life. Think about it - the more agile, energetic, and sharp you are mentally and physically, the smoother your day-to-day tasks will be!

Speed, Quickness, and Reaction Time

Typically, speed refers to how fast you can move your body in a straight line and how efficiently you use your arms and legs to do so. Although speed and quickness may seem interchangeable, speed primarily relies on a combination of core and lower body strength whereas quickness refers to your body’s reflexes. By measuring your body’s instant and rapid response (quickness), reaction time will also find it’s way into the mix. The quicker you are to get your body into position, the more explosive you are, and therefore your reaction time will decrease. Explosiveness, speed, and quickness are all a part of the formula that helps you to improve your performance, leading to stronger results.

Agility, Coordination

When you use agility training, your balance, control, and flexibility will automatically improve also, allowing the body to maintain proper posture and alignment while moving freely. Teaching correct body placement will simultaneously create a pattern of muscle memory while allowing for more effortless moving.  This is especially true with the shoulders, lower back, and knees, because it’s important to make sure they are protected during more explosive movements. With agility comes coordination - or the ability for your entire body to move smoothly and meticulously. Everything you do requires coordination, although some movements require more advanced levels of coordination, such as playing a sport.

Anaerobic Conditioning

Anaerobic training involves short-lasting, a high-intensity activity where your body uses the oxygen already stored in your muscles for energy, therefore, running out of steam quicker than using unlimited energy from breathing the air outside. This type of training can come in many forms that you may be familiar with, including High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), heavy weight lifting, jumping rope, etc. Anaerobic conditioning is primarily for improving overall strength and muscle mass as opposed to cardiovascular fitness. But building muscle also requires a lot of energy, so it can also help with weight loss if it is alongside the right diet. Whatever your ambition, anaerobic training is a good choice of exercise.

All in all, training in athleticism gives you a wide range of options to maintain an appropriately challenging and engaging fitness regime, all the while being fun by allowing you to mix and match various workout styles to keep it interesting. We all know how running or cycling in place on a machine can get relatively boring, so finding exercises that require little to no equipment and are easy to do at any time is really quite important. And as with any training, repetition, and consistency are key.


 

Comment

Exercise : Work or Play? You Decide!

Comment

Exercise : Work or Play? You Decide!

Exercise, for me, has always been a necessity. Although most people think of me as a “strength guy”, I do choose to exercise in different ways. Most people associate cardiovascular training with running and seem to think that it’s the only way to get their conditioning in. However, my fellow movement specialists at P4L have seen time and time again, running isn't for everyone.

During my time in competitive powerlifting, my coach didn't allow us to run because endurance training (long, steady runs) can actually reduce overall strength and power. Because of this, I found other ways to condition myself: taking fewer breaks during training, playing basketball or football with my siblings, or just tiring out my dogs. All of these involved running to a degree, but they also involved quick and athletic movements, which helped me in my training to develop more power during lifts. Most importantly, though, they were fun.

Pictured : Coach Charles

Pictured : Coach Charles

Running first became something I thought of as fun when I was in boot camp - honestly, it was our only way of having fun. After boot camp, when I joined the Naval Fleet, we had to run in order to meet the requirements of our physical assessments. I found, once again, that doing endless push-ups and miles of running weren't fun for me.

Exercise can be tough at times, especially when you don't want to do it! So why not make it into something that is fun?
Pictured : Coach Cheri

Pictured : Coach Cheri

As a movement specialist at Perform for Life, I try to ensure that the exercises I prescribe are fun and enjoyable! I think I can speak for my fellow movement specialists when I say that they aim to do the same.  When people are having fun, they work harder. All of us try to make the hour with our clients an hour that they can look forward to, and an hour in which they genuinely enjoy exercising. Having this outlook encourages people to come back, and most importantly, it makes them happy.

Pictured : Coach Brandon and Coach Randall

Pictured : Coach Brandon and Coach Randall

Because I love powerlifting, I always encourage others to try it. Most people think of powerlifting as only the “big 3” - squat, bench, and deadlift - and lifting as much weight as possible.  But in order to get the most out of your training (for powerlifting or anything else) it’s important to mix it up. Training can be done using dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, cables, and many other modalities. Mixing up your routines can make exercise more enjoyable. Not only this, but it can yield better results. Exercise, simply put, is a stimulus that your body must respond to. Without variety in exercises or weights, your body will adapt to the exercise you do and plateau when it has responded appropriately (by losing a corresponding amount of fat or gaining a corresponding amount of muscle, etc). By adding variety to your routine, your body will have to adapt to this new stimulus and respond to it by producing new and appropriate results.

Exercise should NOT be a burden, and my P4L family and I realize exactly that - we aim to make it a lifestyle. Do what works best with your body, and most importantly, do types of exercise that you enjoy. Whether you decide to take a walk in Golden Gate Park or jog down Ocean Beach during an incredible sunset, just get out there and have some fun!

And if you don't know where to start, scroll down the "Small Group" page on our website to see when you can drop into a class with me. I can give you tips on how to rethink the way you see exercise through functional strength and athletic conditioning.



Comment