Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some short answers (there are some very long ones too, which will end up in the Blog at some point) to some interesting questions I’ve received over the past couple of years.
What’s the best workout for me?
There are two answers to this. Firstly, the best workout for you is one that you enjoy doing and that spurs you into action. Doing something is 100% better than doing nothing! Secondly, the best workout for you is the one that is designed with your goal in mind, addresses your individual strengths and weaknesses and takes all your movement compensations into account. See the Corrective Exercise section for more detail on how we find out what this might be.
I can get a workout online, why do I need you?
Yes, there’s no shortage of free workouts available online, and as per the answer to the first question above, if it gets you moving and you don’t have a specific goal that’s great. For the best use of your time, however, it’s a good idea to be properly assessed from both movement and fitness perspectives, and have an individualised plan made just for you. If you just want a cookie-cutter workout, I’m not the trainer for you, but if you want to take a ground-up, detailed, tailored, scientific approach then we should talk.
I’m so confused about food – what’s the best diet for me?
The media, including the internet is full of confusing and contradictory information about food and nutrition. There are lots of ‘fad’ diets, and they are all apparently the best! The reality is; it is not rocket science, and in fact can be very simple. There is no ‘one size fits all’ as the Government would have you believe, there is so much vested interest in the food industry. In my capacity as a nutritional advisor I can help you cut through all the BS and eat in a way that is simple and supports all your activity.
What supplements should I take?
There are really only one or two I’d advise everyone to take. The supplement world is full of ‘must have’ potions that are guaranteed to improve performance, but the truth is they aren’t, and they don’t. Everything can be taken care of with a good diet, although there are occasions when supplementing that – and supplementing is the key word here – is deemed necessary. My staples are creatine monohydrate, essential amino acids, and collagen peptides. Creatine is a great all-rounder, improving strength and performance, and staving off muscle loss. Collagen is broken down into amino acids, which are instrumental in the functioning, repair and maintenance of the body’s systems. Additional whey protein, derived from dairy, has higher concentrations of amino acids and is favoured by bodybuilders and those looking to gain muscle mass.
Do you offer ‘sports therapy’?
Sports therapy is a very broad term, and the answer is both yes and no! Although my certifications in Corrective Exercise and Human Movement take me pretty-close on occasions I am not involved in the treatment of injury and leave that to my physiotherapy and sports therapist colleagues. There is crossover where injury prevention is concerned, this is an important part of my remit. There is also a rehab element to what I do.
What’s the difference between a Physiotherapist and you?
As per above, physiotherapists tend to be much more focused on the diagnosis and treatment of injury. Osteopathy is similar too, but my corrective exercise and personal training tends to come after someone has seen a physio. For example, I will receive a referral from a physio to plan and instruct a corrective routine to address a patient’s muscle imbalance after injury rehab. We all have our part to play.
Why can’t I lose weight?
The simple answer is that if you are not losing weight you are not in a calorie deficit. There is something called the ‘energy balance’ and someone must expend more than they accrue over a given period. Even when diligently tracking calories, it is very common for someone’s estimates and software itself to be as much as 20% out. The term ‘weight’ in itself is not actually helpful as we are looking to lower body fat percentage while maintaining or even increasing lean mass, i.e. everything that isn’t fat. We tend to use the term ‘body composition’ change to reflect this.
How do I build strength?
Strength is built using a concept called progressive overload. This essentially means that as proficiency is gained over time, we steadily increase the demand placed on the muscular and neurological systems of the body. The body adapts to the higher level, and the process continues. The technique used to achieve this is called periodisation and must be carefully planned and managed in order to be effective.
How can I find more energy to exercise?
All activity and exercise is fueled by food and nutrition. Not all food is created equal, and each food group – carbs, protein and fat – has a different function. Carbs, protein and fat are what we call macronutrients, and within these there are micronutrients – vitamins and minerals. Macros can be planned according to what someone wants to achieve in order to provide maximum support. In addition to eating well it’s very important to understand the importance of the gut and digestion, ensuring the nutrients get into the system and do their intended job. I encourage my clients to take good probiotics and digestive enzymes to help this process. These can be a real game-changer.
I don’t eat very much, why am I getting fatter?
I hear this from women especially. The message ‘eat less and move more’ is only partly correct and can actually be very damaging! Eating less over time can cause the metabolism to settle at a lower level, meaning that whilst you may be eating only 1200 calories and working out four times a week you are still not in a calorie deficit. All that happens is that one feels tired, the calories that are eaten are used to fuel the workouts and important metabolic functions are compromised because there is no fuel left for them. Among other things, this can lead to osteoporosis, a loss of bone mineral density. Over time, we need to gradually build up calorific intake to the correct level – a process called ‘reverse dieting’ – to restore the metabolism and a more sustainable level of activity, and in a way that does not cause weight gain. Once calorific intake is raised, it’s possible and healthy to begin to look at a calorie deficit to lost weight.
How important is exercise technique, or ‘form’?
Very. Totally! You’ve heard the expression, ‘practice makes perfect’ but this is wrong. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Every exercise has a purpose, especially where corrective exercise is concerned. Engaging the right muscles is crucial and a tiny error in execution can mean the exercise doesn’t achieve what it is prescribed to do or worse, does something else altogether. I am the self-styled Form Police, which is why I insist on regular face-to-face sessions to ensure people stay on track.
How do I improve at my sport?
Improving your golf swing, your agility on the football pitch, your strength on the rugby pitch or your speed and power in a martial arts environment is potentially about relatively small margins. Each sport has its own set of prerequisite skills and aptitudes, and its own distinct ways of moving. The trick is to analyse these movement patterns and requirements and structure a programme that highlights and eliminates any inherent weakness and then builds on that new base to produce a faster, fitter, stronger, more powerful end product.
I’m a pro athlete, how do I stay injury-free?
Slightly related to the last question, although distinct in as much as one thing underpins all the disciplines mentioned – mobility. Not to be confused with flexibility, mobility is the ability of a joint to move through the greatest range of motion under control. Flexibility describes passive movement, where a joint is pushed or pulled through a range. Through structured mobility training protocols, I help condition joints to be stronger through a wider range of motion, which allows better movement with less risk of injury.
How can I get rid of this back / knee / hip / shoulder / neck pain?
Whilst it is not my business to diagnose pain, science shows a very strong correlation between ‘sub-optimal’ posture and chronic joint pain – forward head posture and neck pain, for example. Cases of chronic back, neck, knee, hip and shoulder pain are increasing due to the way we live our lives and are caused by muscle imbalance around a joint. Muscles work together in ‘synergies’, and improper movement can disrupt the balance within the muscle synergy so, for example, one muscle becomes dominant where it should only be a helper, and the prime mover becomes redundant. This puts undue stress on a joint and will cause accelerated wear and often pain. Muscles feel tight and knotted, and the joint action is impaired along with a potential knock-on effect to another joint. Corrective exercise is the answer – it will highlight the imbalance/s and then a simple 4-stage routine then corrects it.
What exercises can I do to improve posture?
Isolated, single exercises generally do not improve posture, as some would have you believe. There are a number of recognised postural ‘syndromes’ that are well studied. Some are due to the shape of bones, such as scoliosis and are not generally fixable using exercise, but others are. The most common I see are ‘forward head posture’, or ‘rounded shoulder posture’ (kyphosis), and a ‘curved lower back’ posture (lordosis). Both can result in severe discomfort and make day-to-day living difficult. Both these involve multiple structures and affect joints above and below them. For example, a forward head posture or rounded shoulder posture puts the shoulder blades in a forward, downwardly rotated and forward tilted position. This will often result in shoulder pain as the shoulder joint itself is in a sub-optimal position and is being used incorrectly. This is especially true with overhead movements. Again, the 4-stage corrective exercise system restores balance, ensuring tight muscles are released and stretched, and underactive muscles are activated and re-integrated into the human movement system.
What stretches can I do to fix my posture?
Unfortunately, just stretching on its own won’t fix posture. The reason posture moves out of optimal alignment is due to an imbalance in the muscles around the joint, be it back, neck, hip, or shoulder. Maybe due to an injury or just a repeated sub-optimal movement pattern, some muscles become short (overactive), and overpower muscles on the other side of the joint, which become underactive. This means that no amount of stretching will help because without reactivating and strengthening the weaker, underactive muscle the joint will remain in the same position. Corrective exercise uses a 4-stage continuum of exercises to fix posture, namely; release, lengthen, activate and integrate. Each plays a part in restoring the correct length-tension relationships of the muscle group and returning posture to optimal.
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