Tag Archives: HIIT

Fitness vs Health

The problem is that we have equated fitness to mean health, and health to mean fitness, and neither is accurate nor true.

fitness-vs-healthFitness can be gained in a relatively short period of time.  The predominant research today in performance has nothing to do with health, its all about fitness. HIIT (Hi Intensity Interval Training) programs which are most heavily researched lead to quick gains, and in a society where yesterday is still too late, quick gains are a must.  Problem though is that fitness gains do not equate with gains in health. In fact the opposite is often the case… the results from intense training come at the cost of your health.  I ain’t making this up, the reverse J chart correlating cardio-vascular disease and training intensity has been shown to be both reliable and valid.  Therefore, athletes who suffer heart attacks, strokes, or die during competitions are not a genetic oops, but the outcome of an athlete straining to deliver a performance way beyond their capacity.

Put another way… you may be fit enough to finish a marathon, but not healthy enough to deal with the strain of the effort. Sounds paradoxical but it isn’t.

That’s the problem when two different metrics – fitness vs health – are confused and substituted for one another as if equal.

Unlike fitness, health cannot be gained or lost quickly. Why is it that despite not exercising for a decade (typically in the mid 20s for most) we do not suffer any real health setbacks or diseases? Because the health of our youth manages to hold on. We lose the health of our childhood over decades, not a weekend at Bernie’s.

Equally health takes a long time to regain once it has been spent. Yes, spent. Not keeping up proper sleep, proper eating, proper exercise over one, two or three decades depletes our health asset column. Once our balance sheet inverts and our health liabilities grow larger than our health assets, disease should be no surprise to anyone… you should predict and be able to predict that you will end up injured, chronically in pain, fatigued, or end up diagnosed with a disease simply because you no longer have the assets to keep your body operational.

Balance sheets are used to identify the ‘health’ of a company, well it ain’t any different for you and I.  If our life balance sheet is overleveraged, with a few our of assets depreciating to the point of becoming impotent, then why should it be any surprise that your health fails? There will be no foreclosure or bankruptcy proceedings when it comes to health, there is simply impairment, then dysfunction, which leads to disease and finally death.

By our mid to late 30s, once our health asset column is coming close to our health liability column it starts… aches, pains, nagging niggles that won’t go away. So what do we do? We pop an anti-inflammatory, take a few pain killers, get a massage, an adjustment, tape over the injury, fill a prescription for a medication that will reduce our signs and symptoms. Because the signs and symptoms are managed, we interpret it that we are once again healthy, that our health asset column has been restored and off we go.  We sign up for an obstacle race, start to train for a half or full marathon, or take on the immensity of an iron distance triathlon. The fact that we are not cured nor healed of our aches and pains matters not, as we simply progress to stronger and stronger ointments, potions, pills, and treatments, to continue to manage our ills.

When we really start to breakdown, when medicine no longer has a cure for us… all of a sudden we wake up and realize that the years of neglect and then the years of leveraging the remaining health assets using a variety of health care instruments to prolong our denial of dwindling resources hits us like a 2 by 4 in the back of the head.

Is that what you are waiting for? A reality check from a hospital bed?

Do you need heart palpitations in your 40s, arrythmias and a pacemaker in your 50s, TIAs or a full blown stroke or early onset dementia in your 60s or will you wake up today?

For your sake, for the sake of your spouse, your kids, your family, your own life, I implore you to wake up! Stop buying what everyone is selling you desperately as a quick fix solution, and start to reinvest in your health, in you, in your vitality and your longevity.

The fitness craze is only that… a craze of protein powders, HIIT workouts, compression clothing and gym memberships designed to make you look healthy, but fail to actually make you healthy. If you want health, you have to pursue health, not fitness.

Health is a different form of fitness, its not tolerance, its capacity.

Does Daniel Clarke Have A Death Wish?

After reading the title of Clarke’s Vlog #047 “Nutrition Breakthrough”, I wondered what was the epiphany this triathlon neo-pro had today. I don’t watch all of Clarke’s vlogs but once in a while I give in and think… why not. It tickles me now being in my 40s, with two kids of high school age to watch the arrogance/ignorance of youth, especially youth which has been put on a podium or puts itself on a podium.

Today, there was no tickling… I watched Clarke’s video and was gob-smacked.  He didn’t really say what I think he just said… did he? Hold on, let’s play that back and listen… and then I had to listen again. He did! He really did say what he said… and the thought crossed my mind…

Does Clarke have a death wish?

Below is a transcript of Clarke’s vlog #047 starting at 2:39, and here is the link to the Youtube video if you want to hear for yourself:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14LqTn0cglY

Daniel Clarke:

“Usually when I do longer harder workouts, I feel like literally everything has been drained out of my pores, I feel really weak, sometimes I would have headaches, there would be a little bit of dizziness, sometimes my vision would be a little bit blurry. I always in the past just attributed that to the fact that triathlon training, Ironman training its hard, its meant to be hard, you are pushing your body I just accepted that’s the way it is and I never investigated it further. The big takeaway… just because you are doing something one way doesn’t mean that its optimal for you. And because what I was doing wasn’t broke then there is no reason to fix it… but in Tremblant it broke and fixing it is something I needed to do.”

Clarke’s fix… salt pills.


Cadel Evans, leader of cycling WorldTour team, TEAM BMC, winner of the 2010 Giro d’Italia, winner of the 2011 Tour de France, winner of 2009 World Road Race Championships shares in his book “Cadel Evans: The Long Road to Paris” that on one mountain stage he started to lose vision as a result of the effort he was putting forth.

Its one thing to be a GC (General Classification) contender, to be a leader of a cycling WorldTour team, to be leading a team of top professional cyclists with the expectation of winning the Tour de France, to be competing in the Tour itself, a race that lasts 21 days covers 3,500+ km of horizontal and 35+ km of vertical distance, to be on a mountain stage at altitude, in the moment of competition against the best of the best in the world of cycling, to be an athlete with over a decade of training and racing experience at an international level as a pro, to be an athlete who knows what they are doing to their body, who understands and is able to weigh the risks of their actions.

Its one thing to be the leader of the Tour or to be going after the yellow jersey – because there are a select few times in life where it may be appropriate for an all out effort – BUT…

Its an entirely different thing for a neo-pro, who demonstrates little evidence of having enough knowledge or understanding of basic human body function, let alone advanced physiological and psychological principles and training concepts to push themselves routinely to extremes. Besides, Clarke is talking about training; he is not experiencing these medical signs and symptoms while competing in the race of his pro career, he is talking about headaches, dizziness and vision loss in regular training! Worse, he is talking about training during a long distance session… as in training which should be aerobic, not at or beyond VO2 max.

Clarke inflicts upon himself signs and symptoms that anyone else would seek medical assessment, emergency medical assessment if these signs and symptoms were severe.

[Honestly, tack on slurred speech and you have ALL the symptoms of a TIA or a stroke!]

Clarke, thinks its A-OK to repeatedly subject his body to stress & strain of such intensity and duration that pain, vision, and balance are compromised.

FYI… its NOT!

Hey, Clarke… ya think asphyxiating yourself on a regular basis to the point that you’re dizzy, to the point that you have visual disturbances is in an way healthy?  Can you consider that maybe you are so high on yourself that you falsely believe that the account from which you constantly overdraw from (i.e. your health) to bulk up your fitness is not endless and maybe, just maybe, one day the piper will come calling, and your debts will have to be paid?

Think about it…

Your brain – the most important organ in your body, the organ your body will defend to ensure that it gets the resources it needs – is FAILING IN ITS ABILITY TO FUNCTION… ya think that there may be an issue with what you think is “not broken”?

If your brain is going blue (as in blue from vasoconstriction), then how do you think your liver, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, intestines, all your other internal and vital organs are doing? If your brain is blue, how do you think your heart is doing? If your brain is blue, then what sort of training are your muscles, your nerves getting?  What sort of resources are they receiving if your brain ain’t getting what it needs?

What’s the plan?

Do Ironman entirely an-aerobically, holding VO2 max for 8+ hours?

Is this what you deem a smart race strategy?

Is that why you think what you are doing can in any way be called “training”?

I assure you… what you are doing is not training; unless your goal is near death experiences.

“No pain, no gain”, “PR or ER” are impaired mental states and not philosophies that consistent peak performers follow to achieve their fullest potential. These are sales & marketing ploys used by industry to sell you on narratives such as “Beast mode” and other absurd, juvenile, insane concepts of health and wellness.

Clarke, you needed things to break @Tremblant – i.e. you needed a crisis as a pro athlete – in order that your eyes and ears open to the fact that… you might not know everything there is to know about training, racing, lets not mention just basic human body physiology… so do tell… what happens when you are in your late 30s, maybe early 40s and all this catches up to you? I mean… surely you have stopped for a moment and considered what asphyxiating yourself will eventually do?  Right?  You have, haven’t you… stopped and considered the consequences, the side-effects, the long term risks of what you are doing?

What’s the plan? When you hit 40, or maybe ‘old-age’ doesn’t catch up to you til you are 50 and the headaches, dizziness, and vision difficulties don’t go away… then what?  Head to the doctor scratching your head as to why, or how, or what ever could be the source, the cause, the root of all these impairments?

You may not even need to wait til 40, as there are athletes of your age who as a result of their own or their coaches mantra to go hard, harder, go til you pee or cough blood led to them suffering heart attacks, developing heart beat irregularities, even brain aneurysms. I’ve met an athlete who had to have a defibrillator implanted into his chest. Imagine needing a device the size of a deck of cards to be implanted under your skin to make sure you don’t die on a daily basis. Sure, lifesaving device, but what if the need for that device was self inflicted, or perhaps coach inflicted from chronic overtraining, overstressing a young body, demanding that it puke up one more rep, even faster than the last, and then another and another?

Then what?

You are free to do as you please with your body and brain… they are after all your body and brain, but what I believe is 100% careless and reckless is that there are amateur athletes both age group (as in kids) and masters who watch your vlogs and will think to themselves… oh, you mean that’s how hard I have to push myself in training.  You mean that’s what I have to do to myself in order to be considered a ‘serious triathlete’, this is the expected ‘payment’ in blood that has to be made to call oneself a pro? And without any further investigation whether or not its the right way to train, whether or not its healthy… will monkey see, monkey do, and train in similar ways as you.

Clarke, are you prepared to handle the consequences of your “advice” falling on unsuspecting amateur athletes that wanna be like Clarke, who then do like Clarke, and train like Clarke… train til they cannot see straight or retain balance while standing? Are you prepared for the call when they are in a bike accident having pushed themselves til they can’t see straight… when they trained like they heard you train?

I worked in long term care, in convalescent care, in pre and post surgical units, with the chronically and terminally ill for over a decade. I can tell you one thing for certain… not one patient I ever met thought that when they were young that they were living ‘wrong’, unhealthy, in a way that would have consequences on their health as an adult. When we are young, all of us think we are invincible, immune to anything going wrong. When they were young (for example) smoking cigarettes was new, was cool, was the ‘in’ thing that all the ‘in’ kids did. Today, struggling for each breathe, able to function only because of the oxygen they inhale through nasal prongs, dealing with chest infection after chest infection… some will still deny that the pack a day, or two, for a few decades has anything to do with their lung disease, be it cancer, COPD, or however it manifested. Why? Because we do not believe, we cannot believe that we could inflict upon ourselves such injury, that we could ever cause ourselves harm, dysfunction, let alone disease.

Wakey, wakey… we can and we do it to ourselves all the time. We just don’t like to admit it.

Clarke, I hope you and everyone else who trains in a similar manner receive this blog not as a slight, but as a wake up call. Read it appreciating that I have true concern for your well being, for your state of mental and physical health, concern for you from the damage you are repeatedly inflicting upon yourself. Damage that unlike @Tremblant, I guarantee you do not want to ever experience, because if you do, it could very well be too late for a salt pill to make it all better.

We Are Wrong About… Fat [2]

In post [1], the concept of fat used by our body as an electrical insulator to protect all our vital organs from excessive periods of load and/or excessive electrical spikes of loads illustrated that the calories in vs calories out model is overly simplistic. A model based on calories simplifies the weight loss process to calorie restriction plus HiiT exercise, but when that process fails to deliver results we are left with either self loathing because we failed to eat less or exercise more, or denial that there is a problem at all. We end up back at square one, we feel like failures yet we fail to question if the model is accurate.

So why then does the calorie based model seem to work, at least on occasion or at least for some? Because it will when you become either neurotic or obsessive (i.e. when you create an anxiety about your weight) and use that chaotic energy to fuel a behavioural pattern towards achieving a desired weight loss goal. Problem is… when you ‘slip up’ even for an instant, when you ease up just slightly, when you loosen up the rules, fudge on the points or on the charts a teensy bit, it all falls apart.

Proof #1 that a calorie based model doesn’t work is that it is unsustainable. The closer you come to your target weight… the more compulsive, the more obsessive, the more excessive, the more neurotic you need to become in order to hold off whatever weight you lost.

Proof #2 that a calorie based model doesn’t work is that it is not scale-able: the process does not apply equally to the first 5% as it does to the last 5% towards the goal. The first 5% is relatively easy… do something different and the pounds fall off, but that ease doesn’t last long. Soon you have to restrict more and more calories, and you have to exercise harder and harder, longer and longer in order to see the gains that you made simply by getting off the couch a couple times.

We are marketed constantly that the calorie based model of weight loss is “the” model, especially since so called experts recite conclusions and data from research studies which all point in one direction (as if quantity of research trumps quality or real life applicability).

At some point, you have to lift your head up from blindly following the herd, look around, listen, and ask yourself… if everyone is doing the same thing, and if it isn’t working consistently for everyone, then either we are all doing it wrong (which advertising tries to convince us), or the model doesn’t work.

The model doesn’t work.

This is proven by the grim reality that our society is now 2/3rds overweight, obese, or morbidly obese, with juvenile obesity yet another epidemic in the making. If calorie in-calorie out worked, then we shouldn’t be becoming more overweight, more obese, more unhealthy… yet we are.  Either we are all stupid, or the model doesn’t work.  My vote is that the model doesn’t work, no matter how many Ph.Ds and their doctoral research state the opposite.

This post aims to provide another explanation for why we are becoming more and more overweight.

Adding to the electrical model (as described in post [1]), there is a mechanical model which provides another explanation as to why we pack and protect our vital organs using fat.  Best of all, the mechanical model does not conflict or contradict the electrical model in anyway, and can stand alongside the electrical model yielding multiple explanations for how and why we gain weight.

The physical/mechanical model to explain the use of fat by our body to protect our organs starts by reviewing the relationship between temperature and pressure. Gay-Lussac’s Law states the following:

That is, pressure and temperature are directly proportional to each other. As temperature decreases, pressure decreases, and as temperature increases, pressure increases (where k is a constant).

With this relationship in mind, lets return to the concept of the abdominal cylinder and piston as was both described and illustrated in the posts titled “Worst Innovation in Triathlon“. Below is the image of our abdominal cylinder: the diaphragm forms the top, the pelvic floor the bottom, and the abdominal walls and spine and ribs make up the sides.

Recall, that our vital organs (i.e. liver, kidneys, pancreas, bladder, stomach, intestines, uterus, spleen) are incompressible, meaning that under pressure they do not squeeze smaller.

Recall also, that our vital organs along with our breathing (provided it is diaphragmatic) move in a rhythmical pattern that can be referred to as the abdominal piston (see images below).

Click Image to Enlarge
Piston Gif Attribution: R. Castelnuovo

To review… when you inhale the piston head (vital organs) shifts down and when you exhale the piston head shifts up. This is proper use of your anatomy, this is proper and healthy breathing biomechanics.  The result of these healthy biomechanics is that you do not create excessive intra-abdominal pressure, you do not compress and stress your vital organs (e.g. stomach, pancreas, intestines, kidneys, liver, gallbladder, spleen, bladder, uterus, ovaries), you do not stress your pelvic floor, you do not pinch or compress blood vessels and nerves which travel through your abdomen. With healthy biomechanics – i.e. with proper use of your musculo-skeletal system – you do not lock, brace, make rigid any of the musculo-skeletal structures in your core. With healthy biomechanics you do not stop the abdominal piston from moving… not ever.

So what happens when you do stop the abdominal piston?

When you lock your abdominal piston, that is when Gay-Lussac’s Law comes into play…

When you lock the piston, you build pressure in your abdomen, and along with the pressure you build temperature.

Do you really think all your vital organs respond well to being ‘pressure cooked’?

Do we really need to wonder why our body starts to bubble wrap all our vital organs in a protective layer of insulating fat [fat insulates against cold, it equally insulates against heat and as in post [1], against electrical activity]. If we are constantly subjecting our vital organs to pressures and temperatures that are best left for making diamonds out of coal then why wonder why your body takes protective steps to ensure your survival?

We need to stop seeing fat as unhealthy, and start seeing the lifestyle that causes our body to create a protective layer of fat as what is truly unhealthy.

Layering ourselves up with fat is the byproduct of excessive intensity or duration in stress, or an individual who lacks the capacity and/or strategies to engage stress.  Either way… the issue is not fat, the issue is stress, or stress management.

If that wasn’t enough, do you really need to be shocked when you find out that you have developed food sensitivities, intolerances, blood sugar issues/symptoms of early diabetes, other digestion issues including diarrhea, constipation, or that your blood pressure is increasing, that your resting heart rate is anything close to resting, or that your kidneys, your liver, your reproductive organs are unable to operate when being ‘pressure cooked’ on a daily basis?

We lock our abdominal piston because we have too much stress in our lives, we take on too much stress, we fail to properly train to physically have the capacity to endure stress, we fail to properly study technique and strategy to have the wisdom to engage and manage stress, we fail to learn how to express ourselves honestly so when we are stressed instead of flowing and using healthy emotions to fuel us, we absorb, retain, repress and suppress toxic feelings.

The fact that we are still alive after repressing emotions, after subjecting our organs to temperature, pressure, to spikes in electrical activity is what should be surprising… not that we are overweight or obese. Becoming overweight or obese is simply millions of years of evolution programmed into us trying to keep us alive, trying to help us survive until the stressful period passes us.

As Ferris Bueller said… “life moves pretty fast, if you dont stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

I encourage you to slow down, take inventory of what is truly important to you, and evaluate whether you are on the path that you want to be on, today, for the rest of your life. If your path has taken you away from taking care of yourself, from health, then perhaps this is the moment to get back on it.

Worst Innovation in Triathlon [1]

Short cuts, short cuts, and more short cuts… unfortunately the sport of triathlon has become more of a sport of short cuts, then a sport recognizing proper training, proper skill, tactic, strategy and execution.

Instead of years building a base, nope… short cut… go straight to HIIT, to all-out efforts.

Instead of learning how to move with ease, with agility, balancing and coordinating the entire body, doing so effortlessly so as to maximize efficiency, nope… short cut… go straight to swimming, cycling and running at peak effort, peal power, max speed.

Instead of starting with entry level equipment, and learning to differentiate between gains made by training, and those available through equipment and technology, nope… short cut… go straight to top of the line equipment.

Well, the short cuts are finally starting to catch up with triathletes, and if the double pronged and/or cut out seat is not the worst short cut of them all, then I do not know what is.

The double pronged or cut out seat were created it seems for the sole purpose of solving the numbness and the pain experienced by those riding in a time trial [TT] or aero position on a triathlon bike.

To solve the problem of pelvic floor pain and numbness from an engineering perspective: eazy peezy, find the bones in the pelvis, support those bones, cut away everything else and boom… an evolution in seating! But did anyone stop to ask an health professional? Did anyone stop to ask if this problem is a problem that should be solved in this manner? No way, there are just too many triathletes and cyclists with painful pelvic floors, so stop talking and start selling a short cut that is sure to make millions.

But what if you are an athlete who has even the slightest interest in…

  • retaining urinary control in your later years (not becoming incontinent),
  • retaining the ability to have an erection without it being chemically induced,
  • not having a prolapse of the bladder, urethra, or rectum,
  • not having a prolapse of the uterus or vagina,
  • not experiencing pain during sex as a result of pelvic floor dysfunction,
  • not having to endure any form of treatment or surgery to repair a damaged pelvic floor,
  • not causing and then having to live with damage [that you did to your own pelvic floor] as a result of poor biomechanics and poor cycling technique, then I suggest…

(a) take your pelvic floor pain and numbness issues seriously. They indicate that something is wrong, so seek appropriate, trained, experienced assistance from a registered health professional to heal and recover fully, then

(b) take yourself to a coach who is knowledgeable in anatomy, biomechanics, and physiology, and is experienced in teaching and progressing athletes in cycling technique and take the time to actually learn how to ride with proper technique, and

(c) either get the appropriate bike for your skill level plus a bike fit or if your bike is suitable then get a bike fit with the technique focused coach present during the fitting, so that the fitting reflects your current level: your current flexibility, mobility, and current level of cycling technique and skill set.

Cycling is as technical as swimming, as running, as Olympic Lifting, as any sport. Coaches who do not know the technique of cycling, or don’t have the slightest clue how to teach technique… dumb-down the sport to their level of ignorance teaching that cycling is simply grinding or pounding out power readings.

If you truly are in sport to learn, to discover, to explore your potential, to regain health, to live an active lifestyle, to model healthy living for your family, then start at the beginning… start with technique.

Abdominal Anatomy and Biomechanics Basics

Here’s why and how poor biomechanics and poor cycling technique can lead to pelvic floor damage and eventually dysfunction.

The diaphragm (top black line) is your primary breathing muscle. The pelvic floor (bottom black line) is made up of a collection of muscles which create a concave shape mirroring the shape of the pelvis with a primary role of supporting the internal organs.

Anatomy of the Abdominal Cylinder

Click Image to Enlarge
Image Attribution: GilbertoASanchezA

Between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor are all your vital organs.  Your organs do not compress which means that in order for you to take a proper diaphragmatic inhalation, your organs have to shift downwards when your diaphragm contracts. When your diaphragm contracts it moves downwards expanding the thorax so as to expand the lungs causing air to rush in.

Click Image to Enlarge

When you relax your diaphragm, it recoils back to an ‘up’ position as shown in the image above. Meanwhile, your lungs compress, pushing air out of them, resulting in exhalation while your organs shift back into their ‘up’ position.  This up and down shifting can be called the abdominal piston (see gif image below). The abdominal piston and the breathing cycle are synchronous in an healthy individual. An healthy individual is healthy because they have a proper and healthy breathing pattern, and have proper neuro-muscular awareness, tone, and control of their all their abdominal muscles (including those of the pelvic floor).

An healthy individual is healthy because their abdominal piston moves smoothly, easily, effortlessly throughout its full range of motion.

Click Image to Enlarge
Piston Gif Attribution: R. Castelnuovo

To review… when you inhale the piston head (vital organs) shifts down and when you exhale the piston head shifts up. This is proper use of your anatomy, this is proper and healthy breathing biomechanics.  The result of these healthy biomechanics is that you do not create excessive intra-abdominal pressure, you do not compress and stress your vital organs (e.g. stomach, pancreas, intestines, kidneys, liver, gallbladder, spleen, bladder, uterus, ovaries), you do not stress your pelvic floor, you do not pinch or compress blood vessels and nerves which travel through your abdomen. With healthy biomechanics – i.e. with proper use of your musculo-skeletal system – you do not lock, brace, make rigid any of the musculo-skeletal structures in your core. With healthy biomechanics you do not stop the abdominal piston from moving… not ever.

What Happens When We Use Our Anatomy Incorrectly?

Click Image to Enlarge

We have conscious control over our diaphragm even though breathing to a large extent is controlled subconsciously.  We can allow our diaphragm to be used by our body as the primary breathing muscle, or we can use our diaphragm to do something that it was not designed to do… that is to act as an immobilizer of our lower thoracic and lumbar spines, and as a result an immobilizer of our abdominal piston.

Our body was designed to be dynamic: stable yet simultaneously mobile at all times; never fixed, immovable, or rigid. Elasticity – as in flexible movement – prevents injury. Rigid immobile structures bear load until load exceeds their tolerance and then the only option for those structures is to fail.

Fixed bridges do not bend, they either take the load or they fail and collapse under the load.

Your core is no different. When you brace and lock your core (i.e. your spine, back muscles, gluts, hamstrings, obliques, etc…), you stop the abdominal piston. When your core is locked, when the piston is stopped, your core structures can tolerate a small amount of load. Beyond that point, one or more structures will fail. Which one? The weakest link in the group fails and results in injury to one or starts of a cascading effect where more than one structure ends up strained, sprained, or worse, ruptured. In one person the injury may manifest as an inguinal hernia, in another its spasms in their back muscles and/or gluts, in another it results in a bulging lumbar disc placing pressure on the sciatic nerve. Injury with a locked core, injury with a stopped abdominal piston is not only predictable, it is inevitable.

When you lock your core, the first question is how long will be it before something gives?

The second question is how much damage will you cause to yourself as a result of locking your core?Third question is how extensive will the clean be, how long will it take to clean up the mess, then to heal, then to recover and then to start rebuilding?

Is this what you want? Is this what you signed up for from training, from starting an exercise program, from hiring a trainer or coach?

If all an athlete does is heal from an injury, or worse jumps back into training never retraining how to use their core, then re-injury is as certain as the initial injury. Once an athletes starts on a vicious cycle (aka negative training cycle or doom loop) then they are stuck alternating between being injured and not training or training but in pain, never fully healthy, never truly recovering, never truly rebuilt; that is until they take the time to properly retrain themselves.

Your core is not built or designed to function like a fixed bridge, its built like a suspension bridge with distinct support structures, and structures which have the capacity to move and are supposed to move resulting in a bridge that can bend, twist, adapting to extreme loads (e.g. as with high winds in the image below). Imagine if this suspension bridge was fixed, unable to swing, bend, move… then like the stone bridge or the wooden railroad bridge it would fail when stressed. Suspension bridges will fail at some point as well, but their failure point requires far more load, far more stress, far greater forces in order for that to happen.So, what kind of core do you have? What kind of core is your coach training you to have? Is your coach training you to lock and brace under stress, setting you up to inevitably fail; or is your coach training you to be dynamic, flexible, mobile, able to yield and prevail under extreme stress?

Think about it… competition is a form of extreme stress, business and life both can exert extreme loads and forces upon us, what are you training to do under stress? What is your coach or trainer teaching you do under stressful loads? Prevail or lock up and collapse?

If your children are enrolled in sport… what are their coaches training them to do? Are your children learning skills while practicing their sport which translate to competition, and more importantly into academia, into relationships, into life?  What are your children’s coaches training them to be able to do… prevail or lock up and collapse when stressed?

Attribution of Abdominal Anatomy image from Wikipedia:

  • Link:  https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Abdomen_Anatomy.jpg
  • Author:  GilbertoASanchezA
  • Image modifications: TheAthletesCloud.ca

Attribution of Piston gif from Wikipedia:

  • Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Piston.gif
  • Author: R. Castelnuovo
  • Image modifications: TheAthletesCloud.ca

Technique Training 103

To all aspiring age group and pro athlete,

If you truly want to explore, strive for, pursue, and discover your potential then quit HiiT (hi intensity interval training) and train the way consistent peak performers, the elite of the elite, the way repeat World Champions train… train technique.

The Island House Triathlon is a 3 day invitation only series of multi sport events held in Bermuda. It is where the best of the best square off against one another in head to head short distance elimination based competition.

If you do not finish in the top 10 after the day two of competition, then you go home early.

How do the best of the best race for 3 days? By focusing on technique. The only way to focus when racing, is to focus on technique. How do you become focused, mentally tough while racing? You train to develop sport specific technique, and then you train rehearsing setting your mind on executing exquisite technique to maintain the highest level of efficiency possible when stressed, when performing at your potential.

Richard Murray, 4th at Rio 2016 Olympic Triathlon, 1st at ITU World Duathlon Championships and The Island House Triathlon 2016 Overall Winner

“I know there will always be a moment where I will feel like I am getting tired or there is some pain involved there… but then I realize that moment will pass pretty soon and a lot of the time I just focus in on technique. Its always being in control of what you are doing.”

Helle Fredericksen 1st at Hy-Vee + Challenge Bahrain Triathlons 2014, and 7th at The Island House Triathlon 2016

“I try to focus on one thing at a time, I feel that when I am racing really hard if I can focus on something that is technique related I can get that pain away and not think about it.”

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian with a total of 28 medals, of which 23 are gold, with 8 gold medals won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

How did Michael Phelps win gold and set a new World Record at the 2008 Beijing OIympics with goggles filled with water?

He focused on technique. He knew his stroke counts, so he knew where he was in each length at all times, so he knew when the walls were coming up.

He didn’t panic, he didn’t choke, he had no reason too, because he focused on executing his trained race strategy with the specific technique which he had rehearsed over and over.

Athletes who train technique perform consistently, execute strategy effectively, race efficiently, thus end up standing constantly on the podium as gold medalists, as World Record holders, as World Champions.

Question is… what kind of athlete do you want to be?

An athlete who bangs their head against the wall in training and racing by focusing on hard HiiT workouts? An athlete whose strategy is to hope that inflicting upon themselves harder and harder workouts will somehow translate into skill, into capacity, into technique come race day? An athlete who spends more time injured, ill, recovering, in rehab, thus frustrated and disappointed when race seasons starts, and with their race results?

What about becoming an athlete who trains technique, who focuses on becoming better in every workout in some way.  An athlete who devotes themselves to studying their sport, to learning, experimenting, and then developing in themselves the skills, the abilities, and the capacity to execute competitive strategies at will and on demand. What about becoming an athlete whose confidence arises from the consistency, the deliberateness, the focus of their training, who looks forward with excitement to the race season, and their racing results?

Self Harm: End Game of Mindless Training

Gutierrez: “I have been hospitalized 11 times because of self-harm”

By Adam Baker from Houston / Moscow / Toulouse (travel a lot); cut by user:Tekstman – cut from Stand, CC BY 2.0

Iván Gutiérrez is a former pro cyclist, was the U23 World Time Trial Champion in 1999, a 3x Spanish Time Trial (TT) champion, a silver medalist at TT Worlds, rode on the UCI WorldTour Team Movistar (2011-2014), competed in all three of the Grand Tours, including 10 appearances at the Tour de France.

The story of Iván Gutiérrez is not an isolated one. The list of pro athletes sharing their struggles with physical and mental challenges is growing, and the pace of growth is accelerating. Once upon a time, the life of pro athletes was once portrayed as a glorified existence which alternated between fame and fortune; now, the true extent of the strain and the consequences of the strain are being revealed.

In a courageous interview, Gutierrez opens up sharing the challenges he encountered in his years as a pro athlete including how at the age of 35 “facing his decline as a pro”, “he attempted suicide for the first time.”

Click here to link to full article @cyclingnews.com

If you train in a manner where you have been taught to inflict self-harm (i.e. endless amounts of mindless HiiT) then what happens when you hit an impasse in training or racing performance? If mindless HiiT training is what got you to this point, if mindless HiiT training is the process you have been taught as the rungs in the ladder that you climb in search of your potential, then its no stretch of the imagination that when reaching for the next level of performance, you will do even more mindless HiiT training.

If you have been taught that progress is made by inflicting greater and greater amounts of harm to yourself with the goal being  to learn to “take the pain”, then to cause yourself the ultimate pain… to destroy your reputation, your identity by cheating, by doping or by committing suicide is nothing other than an extension of this line of thinking.**

What saddens and infuriates me is that the typical coach today believes that the entire goal of being a coach is to hurt people, to inflict as much pain as an athlete can tolerate, and then push them to ‘take’ more. What passes as coaching today is not coaching, its ignorant individuals suffering with unresolved pains who believe that teaching others to suffer and endure pain (instead of healing those underlying issues) is the foundation of health, healthy exercise, of training for sport, for performance, for life. These coaches inflict onto others, the pain they refuse to heal.

Its the equivalent of an alcoholic trying to solve their problems by wanting everyone else to become an alcoholic. Its a drug addict who believes that if everyone else just did their drug, then all life problems would disappear. Its an exercise addict who gets their fix from HiiT and believes that everyone else’s health issues would be solved if they just shut up, grew a pair, and sacrificed themselves in a HiiT session… just like them.

To harm yourself, especially in the belief of “no pain, no gain” is not an indication of health or wellness, but the opposite: of mental impairment.

The fact that we encourage people to harm themselves, creating narratives around it to make it acceptable, reveals our collective mental dysfuction.

To harm yourself is unhealthy. It is not what sport is about, its not what training or competing, or pursuing your potential is remotely about.

The media feeds this frenzy for agony, disappointment, suffering, even despair by focusing on and repeating images of pain, while streaming narratives which should be reserved for periods of great societal tragedy, for times of mourning, not to describe athletes striving for a finish line.

Despite there never being a time when we had more access to health clubs, training facilities, to coaches, trainers, even to pro athletes, or information on the subject… as a society we are the sickest we have ever been collectively. We are the most medicated, most diseased, most overweight, most diagnosed and treated population ever to exist. Many look healthy, but their combination of pills, HiiT and protein shake smoothie routines have resulted only in cosmetic health as they suffer in silence with their physical, mental, and emotional ailments.

Its time we stop the madness, re-evaluate how we are training, and consider that although our intent may be appropriate, our approach is anything but.

There are two predominant schools of thought on training:

  • MINDLESS HiiT / EXERCISE ADDICT: train hard, then harder, then harder still with the goal to force yourself to hold a particular pace, to endure the pain of holding that pace, where success is measured by how long you can “take the pain”. It starts backwards, by the athlete identifying a pace they want to hold, and then trying to hold that effort for longer and longer periods. To force themselves to achieve, these athletes are taught that the outcome is binary: “ER or PR”, as in either you set a personal record, or you end up in emergency room from trying… anything else is a cop-out, a failed attempt, evidence of a lack of drive or willpower, with this metric applied universally to training and racing, to life.
  • MINDFUL TRAINING: train smart, then smarter, then smarter still with the goal being to learn the fundamentals of movement, upon which sport specific technique is built, with all aspects of movement which inhibit flowing fluid movement trained individually by gaining flexibility, mobility, then agility, balance, and coordination. It starts at the beginning, from the skill level, capacity and knowledge level of the athlete today, and builds up. These athletes are taught that the outcome of any effort is always a lesson which points to what else can be improved so that the process continues, unfolding in a never ending progression of discovery.

Athletes who are shown from the start that performance in sport is based on developing the skill to move the most efficiently, maintaining the focus on technique and encouraged to enjoy the process, to have fun and play, are the ones who rise to the level of legendary status.

Each sport has its handful of legends (e.g. Bruce Lee, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Chrissie Wellington). The fact that there are so few, points to how few truly train smart, mindfully. It also reveals how many fail to rise to their potential because they were seduced by the belief that to truly succeed they need to train hard, really hard, no I mean taste blood in your mouth hard.

Learning how to wound yourself, over and over again, physically, mentally, and emotionally is not training. That we fail to connect the resulting pain and disappointment with the pain that we self inflict is a testament to how mindless exercise, training, racing, sport in general has become.

** Autobiographies of pro cyclists who admit to doping all follow an eerily consistent pattern… an athlete who was stoically opposed doping in their early career (e.g. David Millar, Team Garmin) are applauded by their team manager and team doctor. That is, until they start to have difficulty in delivering results. In a depressive low typically after a string of sub par competitions, where the athlete is unable to conceptualize “hurting” any more yet knows that more is needed in order to meet the expectations of the team… all of a sudden, the team which stood by the athlete’s opposition to performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) offers them a pill packaged and sold to the athlete as “help for them to recover”. In that moment the athlete bends, because to hurt any more without “help” is inconceivable to them.

When all you know is to hurt yourself, or when the joy that you initially found in sport is lost because the focus on results has become obsessive and hurting yourself to achieve those results is made acceptable by your coach, by your training partners… then PEDs, suicide… its all on the table because its just another form of hurting yourself.

When you have hurt yourself for so long that you are numb to it, then hurting yourself ultimately – as in where the consequences are career or life ending – do not register as irrational. They cannot impact one who has numbed themselves to the point that inflicting self harm has been normalized as “part of the job”.

On the other hand, read the autobiographies of those athletes who started, were trained, and remained in love with the sport because they were mindful of how they trained and raced and those are the athletes who in addition to enjoying consistent success in sport, are also able to transition to life after retiring from sport.

Mindful Training vs Exercise Addict

It is recommended that both posts titled “Simon Sinek: Understand the Game” are read prior to this post as the addictive nature of aspects of our nervous system is important to grasp so that you can appreciate the significance of how the industry markets exercise to us, and why.

In general, we are not encouraged to train towards a goal mindfully. We are not encouraged to evaluate our starting point: our cardiovascular and respiratory capacity, our flexibility, our mobility, our skill level.  We are not encouraged to establish proper baseline measures against which to assess progress, to assess improvement in any real aspect of health, or function; instead we are told to pick a goal, preferably an epic event, then follow a plan which will take us to the finish line.

We are encouraged to create an addiction to exercise, not for exercise to be added as a balanced aspect of life. We are encouraged to over-reach and over-train all in the pursuit of finish lines, participant medals, and t-shirts, as if any of those are measures of wellness, function or health. We are encouraged to participate in sport, as if its an experience no different than wine tasting… something you casually do on a weekend with friends which requires no development of ability, capacity, or skill.

This is how dumbed-down training for performance, for the pursuit of health, of peak physical and mental function has become.

Its been dumbed-down not for your benefit, not to make health more accessible, more available, but for the sake of corporate revenue and profit.

The major sports product and service companies, from footwear, to apparel, to event management and so-called sports nutrition (i.e. candy for adults) have diminished sport telling everyone and anyone that a 10k, a marathon, a triathlon, a grandfondo, any and all finish lines are just on the other side of acquiring all the right training equipment, outfits, technology and tracking devices, and of course, all the sports nutrition your two hands can carry to the check out.

Training… oh, don’t worry about training, all that it takes is a few weeks where you train at your limit (hopefully without a resulting injury or illness) learning to “take the pain”. There is no technical instructional, there is no learning of skills; instead mindless all out effort has been branded “training”. If you aren’t coughing up or peeing blood… you ain’t trainin’.

The industry makes it sound like anyone can participate in any sport, and if you are not, then the final attack in their strategy is emotionally manipulating us to believe that our lack of participation is due to a lack of willpower, a lack of discipline, or evidence of inadequacy as an human being that holds us back. The corollary being that we will no longer feel inadequate and all our life issues will disappear if we only sign up for their event, wear their gear, use their equipment.

Consider the recent announcement by World Champion and 2016 Rio Olympic gold medalist in the sport of triathlon Alistair Brownlee:

  • He announced that he will be training and competing in iron distance triathlons, moving up from the sprint and Olympic distance triathlons for the next two seasons. His goal is to qualify and compete at Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, but he believes that the two year time frame is likely too short of a time span to achieve that goal.

We are not talking about an athlete who is just starting out. This is an athlete who has been training since elementary school age, who has been competing at the highest level of sport for over a decade, and who has stood on the podium at Worlds, European Champs, and the Olympics, both as a Junior and Amateur athlete…

We are talking about an athlete who peaked for competing in Rio in an Olympic distance triathlon by putting in 35-40 hr training weeks, swimming 20-25km, biking 500-700km, and running 120km per week…

…and he doesn’t think two years is enough to prep properly for an Ironman triathlon.

Please stop there, re-read this point, and allow enough time for the significance of it to sink in.

How many who have spent the last decade or more sitting behind a desk and behind the wheel commuting 6-8+hrs a day, who have little background in formal training for sport, who have a ways to go to regain health let alone starting on fitness are sold that all it takes is a few months and you can… run a half or full marathon, race in a triathlon, or better yet complete an iron distance triathlon, or cycling grandfondo?

How many coaches are selling aspiring athletes that two years is more than enough time to prep for an Ironman? Really. Its not enough for Alistair Brownlee, two time Olympic gold medalist in the triathlon (London 2012 & Rio 2016), and four time ITU World Champion, but its more than enough time for everyone else? How exactly does that work?

How is it that pros who have decades of training under their belts, train as many hours per week that you work your job need years to prep while everyone else is packaged and sold that training and competing in sport is no different than packing a suit case and going for a cruise, or an overseas vacation? Just have the right luggage; that’s all it takes.

National & Olympic Swim Team Coach Paulus Wildeboer

The health and fitness industry are lying outright to you in order to monetize your fears, and turning profits to the tune of billions and billions of dollars in so doing. Meanwhile, you in an honest effort to become healthy have become addicted to excessive and insanely intense exercise at that, which after yielding some temporary positive results now leaves you jailed with unending aches, soreness, pain, injury, and illness. Plus, the all out efforts and subsequent days of discomfort add to a growing animosity towards the gym, fitness clubs, and the entire thought of training. It builds an inner turmoil fed by the guilt the industry sows to make it seem that if you don’t work out then you are inadequate because you obviously lack the willpower, desire, and ambition to drag yourself back out for another session of self inflicted harm.

So what do you have to do to keep it going?  We sign up for some extraordinary epic one of a kind event. An event that we pray will motivate us to continue to hurt ourselves day after day until we are healthy (or die trying).

The industry cares not whether you get healthy, all they want is to pry from you every penny you’ve got and once drained, drop you moving on to another whose fears of being overweight, obese, stricken by anyone of the lifestyle diseases (e.g. heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzhiemers, diabetes) or due to the desire to be identified as an athlete fall for their trap of “only 10weeks to look and feel your best”.

You have not been and you are not being encouraged to engage in mindful training.

Mindful training is where you regain flexibility, regain full function of all your joints, muscles, and with that mobility, leading to agility, balance, coordination, and dexterity. Mindful training naturally leads to an appropriate body weight, and retrains the mind to remain at peace, focused, and objective when stressed, and precludes getting injured or ill. Mindful training is not a destination, its a process.

Sport is about the beautiful movements that the human body is capable of creating, not mindless extreme effort.

The problem for industry is that mindful training cannot be sold in quantity. So the solution is to dumb-down training and competing in sport so that they can achieve sales quotas.

Mindful training comes from a caring, compassionate, knowledgeable and experienced coach and health professional, preferably done one on one, but doable in small groups.

Mindful training focuses on learning how to move, from which joint and muscle group to generate power, resulting in speed, endurance, and ease in movement. None of which can be done via Skype or by downloaded spreadsheet.

Mindful training does not depend on premium equipment, the latest technology, laboratory developed nutrition.  If it did, then why do Olympians arise from poverty? Hmm?

You have been encouraged to get addicted where your supplier and enabler is the health and fitness industry.

You want your health? Then break free from the mainstream definitions of exercise, of training, of competing, of nutrition, and especially of health.

Addicted living is not healthy living.

Find someone in your community who coaches healthy mindful training.

Those depending on HIIT (hi intensity interval training), bootcamps, Tabata, CrossFit or any other insanely intense and excessive form of exercise are selling short cuts to cosmetically change you to look healthy, they are not truly helping you to change to be healthy.

Find someone in your community who is teaching how to move, how to regain movement by acquiring skills in movement, and who will help you one on one figure out what is holding you back, what you need to do to get healthy, who are willing to walk with you each step of the way.

Find a sport or a performing art that speaks to you on a deeper level… it can be ballet, hip hop dance or jazz, or it can be any sport that you fancy. If its fun, if you are challenged by it, if you can commit to it, if it requires you to practice, to train, to learn, if you can start at an appropriate level and progress at your speed and skill, then its the right activity for you no matter what it is.

Why Do I Blog

After graduating from the UofT with a degree in Rehabilitation Medicine and having started to practice as a Registered Physiotherapist, I spent the next decade working with the elderly, specifically those residing in long term care facilities (aka nursing homes), and assisted living facilities (aka retirement homes/senior apartments).

I blog because… not once did I meet anyone living in any of these facilities who purposefully planned to end up requiring ANY level of assistance with their activities of daily living in the early or later years of being a senior.  No one planned to lose their drivers license, thus requiring help to get to appointments, to the bank, to get groceries; not to mention losing the independence and freedom of simply getting around.  No one planned to lose their flexibility, their strength, their endurance, becoming unable to keep up with the upkeep of their home, their yard. No one planned to lose their dexterity, their balance requiring help with their own upkeep. No one planned to have a fall that required surgery, total knee or hip replacement surgery that then decreased their level of function to the point that simple tasks were no longer simple.  No one planned to become overweight to the point that they became obese, impairing the function of their heart, their breathing, their other vital organs to the extent that it would require daily medical care. No one planned to end up with pain, nor believing that mild pains would become debilitating pain, that pain in one joint would lead to pains in other joints, that their pain would become unmanageable, that their pain would limit life.

Not one planned to end up in long term care or in assisted living, yet they all did.  In the vast majority of cases (i.e. 95+% of admissions) it wasn’t some rare or unknown disease that was impossible to prevent or foresee that was the cause of their admission, it was directly due their  lifestyle or its consequences.

Lifestyle Disease: dis-eases we cause ourselves, to ourselves as a direct result of our lifestyle choices, our daily decisions of how we live.

I blog because… everyone I met had one thing in common:  they all thought that they were healthy or living healthy in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.  They all thought that they were taking care of themselves, doing ‘enough’, making healthy choices in activity levels, their eating and drinking.

It doesn’t matter from what walk of life people came, I met people from all walks while working in care facilities: from former CEOs who were once titans in business, to legends of the music industry, to those who served in our Armed Forces, to business and health care professionals (even doctors and nurses despite all their knowledge), to those who lived simple.

I blog because… what people thought was healthy or was healthy ‘enough’… wasn’t.

If your definition of health today requires medications, ‘superfood’ smoothies, routine health or wellness appointments, intense sessions of exercise, dependence on braces, support and compression clothing, then compare your lifestyle to those living in care facilities:

  • Average # of meds taken by a long term care resident is 13.  This is not pills, this is medications prescribed, meaning that if 1 med is taken 3x per day, its counted as 1 med. How many are you poppin’ a day (e.g. anti-inflammatories, pain killers, blood pressure, sleep aides)? On your way to 13?
  • Average resident who is on blood thinners, who is at risk of clots, who has venous insufficency, and/or is bedridden wears compression stockings.  Yup, just like those marketed as “performance socks” to athletes, just like those worn by runners, CrossFitters, and triathletes.  Only difference being is that those in care facilities are usually white or beige, not funky neon pink. If you are healthy, truly health, would you really need to wear compression socks, especially while exercising?
  • Average resident has virtually every data point tracked… calorie intake, water input and output levels are compared, # of pills taken, their heart rate and blood pressure is taken on schedule, and when it is time to stand stand up, to walk, every step is counted to see if they took more than yesterday. Are you tracking your ‘health’ in the same way?
  • Average resident spends the predominant amount of time in their day sitting or lying in bed. Is that any different than your average day of sitting while you commute, sitting at your computer, sitting through teleconferences and meetings?
  • Average resident joins in to get some exercise by sitting in on a  wheelchair tai chi class, strength ‘n’ stretch class using weights or stretch cords, or takes a walk around the facility grounds.  Is that any different than your average amount of daily exercise?

Those who reside in care facilities are not healthy. If they were, they wouldn’t be living there.

If your lifestyle doesn’t come up significantly different than that of a resident in a care facility, then maybe you need to reconsider whether your lifestyle and choices are all that healthy.

Their health is being ‘managed’. Is that your goal? To be managed. To break even with your health? On the verge of pain, injury, burn out, break down or a disease, but good enough to keep it going another day? For what? Just to survive? What about thriving, not just surviving.

The average resident in long term care today had a better chance to have a healthy lifestyle in many cases when compared to your generation growing up.  When they were growing up…


  • Meals were typically made lovingly by mom at home, and were shared around the dining room table, along with family conversations about the days events. Meals were made from natural ‘real’ food, not pink slime, fillers, genetically engineered or fake factory foods.
  • Portion sizes were a 1/3 or a 1/4 of what is served today in restaurants and at home, and no one was starving as a result, few were overweight, and even fewer were obese.
  • Food products didn’t have to be enriched in order to make up for their deficient quality in vitamins and minerals, as fruits and vegetables were grown on nutrient rich soil, not barren wastelands that had to be sprayed and fertilized in order to yield.
  • Exercise did not have to be planned, because you walked or biked to and from school, and then right after dinner you ran back out to play, staying out late only racing home to desperately make it back before the street lights came on (so you didn’t break curfew).
  • Imagination was required to create games, to make up rules to figure out how to make this game of tag or capture the flag more challenging than the last.
  • Climbing trees and playing in the ravine didn’t require the principals permission, a game of soccer didn’t need a city permit.
  • Getting out of breathe was a normal part of play, never a concern over one’s well being. Falling down and scraping a knee wasn’t considered a medical emergency, you brushed it off and kept going because who wants to be out of the game?
  • The work day and its stress ended at 5pm, because there wasn’t technology to make it 24/7.
  • Dehydration was a non issue, no one carried around water let alone salt pills. If it so happened that you became hungry, you waited til meal time (as spoiling your dinner came with its own consequences). There was no snack time and again, few were overweight and even fewer were obese.

The average care facility resident grew up when being and living healthy was far easier, yet how many still ended up in a care facility?

Today I see age group athletes and masters athletes striving for health, exercising intensely, madly trying to burn calories, squeezing in fitness and performance into their life, as opposed to health being the priority. I see athletes straining to generate watts to improve a bike time, power to decrease swim or run splits, but few realize that they do not have the capacity nor conditioning to attempt such training, and what they are performing is not what is meant by healthy exercise. Hi Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is appropriate only if you have years and years of simple base training, only after you have transformed your physiology and psychology to handle the volume and intensity of training for competition. Completing any event, a 10k, a marathon, a triathlon, least of all an iron distance triathlon on next to no training is in no way any indication of health.

Today I see former National level athletes, athletes who went on scholarship to university, returning to sport as a masters athlete. Many return broken, having had to walk away from sport because they were pushed outside themselves to produce results, not for themselves, not on their timelines, but for others. They return hoping that they can once again find the joy that sport once brought them, but they struggle with inner conflicts, facing truths about dreams they did and did not accomplish, about their own met and unmet expectations, and those of others.

Today I see people doing loads and loads of stuff thinking that its all for their good, following the headlines of what food to eat, how much to exercise, what supplements to consume in order to be healthy, but the point is being missed.

Health doesn’t come from the outside in, you cannot buy it, you do not put it on like a pair of new kicks.  If you could, then how do you explain all those who I met that despite being abundant in financial wealth still ended up in a facility? There is no amount of financial wealth that can buy health, return you to being healthy.  We say… “if you don’t have your health, you have nothing”, yet we live believing that if we aren’t dead or at the hospital then we must be healthy.

Today I see people thinking that either they have their health because some aspect of their lifestyle has been sold to them as a ‘healthy lifestyle’ choice, or because they don’t think they need to worry about their health until later in life (e.g. youth will get them through), and if it so happens that something does happen… well, the assumption is that there will be time to get things right or that there will be a pill for whatever ails them.

Before I was hit by a car – while on a bike ride during 3rd year of university – I thought that life would go on for forever. You could not of convinced me that I was anything but invincible.

After I worked in care facilities I realized that everyone believes that life will go on for forever, convinced that they are immune, invincible, or that there would always be enough time to get things in order (ahead of any health problem arising too).

We may hope its true (that we are invincible or immune), but hoping is not a winning strategy: hoping for what is clearly not reality is delusional. To hope that a disease doesn’t take us down, hoping that what we are doing is enough, is gambling with our health and with our life.

I blog because…

I want to share that there is an alternative to hoping and to gambling.

I want to share the difference that I have found between those who do live healthy, stay and remain healthy, who continue to explore their peak potential, and experience peak performances across the spectrum of life.

I want to share that those who are health live differently, and how they live differently.  Those who are healthy work, exercise, eat and sleep just like everyone else, but how they do it is unlike anyone else; it is unequivocally different.

I want to share that what is packaged and sold to us on store shelves, in magazines, in pop-up ads online, and during commercial breaks is business. Business focused first and foremost on generating revenue and profit for shareholders. Whether their products or services are actually healthy, or yield health is secondary to quarterly sales.

I want to share that health is available to all, to anyone who wants to take their health into their own hands, to anyone willing to invest the time and effort and energy into themselves, into becoming healthy.

I want you to experience the difference in quality of life available to you. I am certain it will surpass anything you can imagine, as it has already surpassed anything I could have ever imagined.

Please visit the Blog Library for posts on topics ranging from biomechanics, on various aspects of training, on coaching, and for sport specific information.  Thank you for reading.

Skill Acquisition/Learning [5]

On the left is your brain when it has enough oxygen, like when you train aerobically.

On the right is your brain when it doesn’t have enough oxygen, like when you train anaerobically.

brain oxygenationGuess how much learning the brain on the right is capable of versus the brain on the left.

Exactly.  None.

When you are performing Hi Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), when you are in the red zone, when you exceed the capacity of your core muscles, when you can no longer breathe diaphragmatically, when you are working at a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) of at 8 or higher… you are training anaerobically.

RPE 2016-01How ‘smart’ do you think you are when your are training at this intensity, training HIIT?

Exactly. You aren’t. There isn’t enough oxygen available to the higher functioning/executive decision making parts of the brain for you to be smart (hence why any child diagnosed with attention deficits and/or learning impairments in either academic, athletic or performing art environments should have their breathing assessed).

How ‘smart’ do you think your decisions are when you are in such a state?

Exactly. They aren’t. How can they be when you aren’t thinking, when you are reacting, when you are in survival mode depending on flight-fight-freeze reflexes. Ever reflect back on a moment while training or competing and wonder to yourself what was going through your mind that made you… run a red light through an intersection, cross a road without checking twice, taking that double black diamond trail, doing that extra interval, that extra hill, that extra rep with extra weight? Now you know.

How ‘smart’ do you think you’re becoming at executing skills, at learning strategy, at refining awareness and performance evaluation, at coordinating patterns of movement to move with greater ease, with greater efficiency, with greater agility, balance, speed, strength, and with greater endurance?

Exactly. Not at all. You aren’t improving in any facet of the execution of sport specific technique in an anaerobic state.  You are resorting to hormonally induced surges of power to attempt to cause yourself to lift heavier weights, to run faster, to pedal harder, to last longer. And we call this… fitness? Fitness is not based on training the neuro-endocrine system to pump out more hormones while temporarily inducing a state of perceived stress. That’s blatant ignorance, all out stupidity, and not only is it unhealthy but it it risks causing cardiovascular accidents in the short term, and cardiovascular disease in the long term. If that’s our definition of fitness then we truly are walking around with blue brains (i.e. no oxygen reaching the brain).

HIIT is not training because you cannot and will not gain any skills, nor will you improve in the execution of any skill while performing HIIT.  HIIT is peaking for competition, that’s it. HIIT is last of the last bit of training, to push the needle just a bit into the red zone prior to competition. It is not a lifestyle, because it leads to lifestyle diseases.

If you want to improve in sport, its not about how much adrenalin you can force your adrenal glands to puke up mid workout by resorting to getting all psyched up, ramped up, or by how deep into beast mode you can go.

If you want to improve in sport, then its all about skill acquisition, and skill acquisition happens at low RPEs, at low intensity, where oxygen and blood are in abundant supply to the brain, muscles, all vital organs and when the conditions are non threatening ensuring that survival instincts are not triggered, when the athlete is able to oscillate between diffuse and focused mindsets, when learning, attempting, experimenting, and then evaluating, tuning, refining, and applying the lessons to be smarter are possible.

Smart training leads to a mentally nimble, physically flexible, and emotionally stable athlete who is able to evaluate moment by moment while training or competing all aspects of both their performance and that of their competitors leveraging all their skills simultaneously and consistently to deliver peak performance after peak performance. Smart training yields resilient, robust, dynamic, capable athletes who can translate their skill set from sport, to academics, to the arts, to business, leading a life that is as dynamic out of sport, as it is in sport.

Hard training leads to a hard body, hard muscles, a hard heart, hard arteries, hardened joints, a hard head, and an athlete who is hard fixed in their belief that every problem is a nail, and hitting those problems harder and harder with a hammer is the definition of training. In time, this athlete will suffer either a self inflicted injury, heart attack, stroke, breakdown, melt down or will simply blow up. Because of their hardness they are blind to see that they have done it to themselves, not because they are lacking in anything, but because they have hardened themselves to the point that they have become fragile, brittle, the exact opposite of what they wanted.

Skill Acquisition/Learning [4]

What psychological and physiological state does an athlete need to be in order to acquire new skills, train to develop and refine existing skills, and to perfect skills and strategies already in their arsenal?

A state of flux, of change, of flow between a diffuse (zoomed out/wide perspective) mindset and a focused (zoomed in/detailed perspective) is a given.  Being stuck in either extreme blinds both coach and athlete to only one set of possibilities, to only one possible outcome, negating that alternatives exist. The result of this uni-pole uni-dimensional training is that the athlete trains at what they believe is an extreme effort, at an intensity and volume which they believe no other competitor can match, only to be blindsided, blown away in competition.

The resulting negative feedback loop is that the athlete zooms in with even greater intensity believing it was a lack of focus, a lack of intensity, a lack of volume, yielding one result each and every time… kaboom! Injury. Burn out. Max out. A short swift end to what could have been a life long career of endless possibilities.

The result of being blown away and blind sided in competition should be the opposite: zoom out.  Zoom out until the entire spectrum of the athlete, from mental, emotional and physical health and well-being, to the inventory of skills and strategy of the athlete, to training and competition experience are seen at a distant, so that all gaps can be identified. When coach and athlete zoom in, the solution will never be seen, as coach and athlete are staring myopically at the same wall they have always stared at; staring onto a fraction of the entire spectrum of possible performance problems. Unable to engage in a diffuse state, coach and athlete defer back to ‘that which they know’, return to the training that they know, repeat that which they know, and surprise surprise end up surprised with predictable results in racing.

Insufficient progress over significant periods of time is the terminus of careers, athletic, academic, in the arts and in business. The unfortunate aspect is that the individual typically retires without ever experiencing their true peak potential, without ever experiencing a true peak performance.

Why is this so?

Hi Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is lauded in article after article as the path to winning, to success, to peak performance.  HIIT is labelled as the primary training pattern of Olympians, World Champions, of World Record holders. Although HIIT is required and is used in the final stages of training – Learning and Training to Win – it is training which occurs only at the highest of intensities in Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model and only after years and years and years of conditioning to build a base, and of skill and strategy training.

LTAD - TAC11Focused highly specialized training is a high risk proposition requiring significant training and supervision due to the risks of injury, burn out and max out. But common sense has been obliterated as the marketing mania surrounding HIIT touts only its positives, refusing to reveal its negatives.

FUNdamentals are portrayed as training for children, yet inflexible, overweight, unhealthy and unfit adults who have less agility, balance, and coordination then children, want to pretend that they are pros, believe that they can skip past basic training, and progress to advanced training… because, they are adults.

We want the end result so badly, we want to pretend so badly that we didn’t let ourselves go since our university or college days, that we aren’t 30, 50 or 100 lbs overweight, that we really don’t have an arrhythmia, high blood pressure, unrelenting stiffness and soreness, insomnia, are at hi risk for diabetes, a stroke, and suffer quietly with anxieties (often over health) or depression.

We want to believe that we are still who we were back in our 20s, that we are unwilling to consider for a moment, whether what we are believing actually makes any sense whatsoever. That our health is truly as we want to believe it is, that our true state is not one of health, of fitness, of dynamic vitality, but of of dis-ease.

How can you solve a problem which you refuse to acknowledge is a problem, pretending it doesn’t exist, as if pretending to be healthy is the solution and will make you healthy?  You can’t.

Consider that professional cyclists who compete at the international level in road races using top of the line time trial equipment have spent years and years and years training and in so doing developed the physiology and the psychology to actually be able to achieve and sustain an extreme aerodynamic position while being able to exert themselves at the intensity required for international competition.

Consider now that the anyone who walks into a bike shop today can acquire comparable equipment to what the pros ride in the Tour de France, on an Olympic velodrome, or the World Time Trial Championships.  So with little to no training, no flexibility, a 9-5 career with an additional 2 hrs commuting time, plus a family, kids to drive to/from soccer, karate, swimming, why wouldn’t you start training just like a seasoned pro, why wouldn’t you start with top of the line equipment, right?

That’s the equivalent of handing the keys to a Formula One race car to someone who just completed their learners permit test and hasn’t taken driving lessons.  Its insane! Its asking for an accident, its a disaster in the making needing only enough ego and speed to become reality.

If you want health, if you want wellness, if you want mental flexibility, emotional stability and a dynamic physical body, then the reality is that the majority of marketing information is skewed against you achieving these goals. The information is skewed purposefully so that you believe that if you buy the image of health, of wellness, then you are whatever it is you want.

The path doesn’t come via carbon fiber bike, sport nutrition products, the lightest racing flats, the largest swim paddles or by spending a week at an altitude camp. The path to health, to wellness, and fitness comes from years and years and years of diffuse lo-intensity (i.e unspecialized) training performed daily.  Training which transforms the body’s energy systems to power the body with insurmountable efficiency, which transforms the mind’s ability to flow between states of narrow focus and wide perspective, which transforms the response of the individual to that of quiet confidence despite incredible pressure, tension, and stress, which progresses through skills, drills and strategy training step by step by step until they are executed from a state of unknown unknowns, resulting in a state of bliss, of harmony, of flow.

But hey… who has time for that.  We want to be pro athletes today. So short cuts reign. With instant gratification and self abusive solutions all the rage, HIIT has taken the stage as the go-to solution prescribed by exercise physiologists, coaches, personal trainers, and athletes so hyped on buying their way to the top, or selling their souls for the top that any sense of grounding is gone.

Does anyone care that children, that amateur athletes, that novice age groupers are becoming injured, burnt out, max out and end up gaining weight, losing confidence, giving up on goals long before they approach their physiological and psychological peaks?

Does anyone care that athletes aspiring to be National Champions, Olympians, World Champions are being driven into the ground by ego driven coaches and as a result are being destroyed physically, mentally, and emotionally, quit sport hating what once was a joy, passion?

Does anyone care that masters athletes striving to be healthy are suffering from increased pain, increasing stiffness, soreness, heart attacks, TIAs and strokes, from worsening blood pressure, from injuries, burn out and max outs, only to end up in worse health than when they started?

Slow steady training to induce a relaxed fun non-threatening environment allowing for learning, for evaluation, for analysis, for testing and experimentation repeated year after year after year is the process to health, to fitness, and to performance.  There are no short cuts.