Ideas, tips and suggestions to look after your health from personal trainer Rob Supria.
Ideas, tips and suggestions to look after your health from personal trainer Rob Supria.
There's plenty of articles and trainers who advocate training on an empty stomach for better fat loss results. Below, I've picked 3 online articles out for reference, although they can get quite technical.
Basically the theory is that after sleeping all night your body will have used up the majority of the stored glycogen and in the morning you'll be ready to start burning fat more quickly.
Some studies even suggest doing so may burn up to 20% more calories during your workout.
This sounds substantial but if we take a figure of 500 calories as being your target to burn during a workout, that's only an extra 100 calories burned for the inconvenience of skipping breakfast. Ultimately any weight loss programme will largely depend on calories consumed v calories expended so you'll need to consider the energy balance and also the effort it takes to burn those extra calories.
For reference 100 calories is a small to medium banana. So my first question would be this: are you more likely to get up and exercise before eating or cut out an extra 100 calories from your daily intake.
Another issue with fasted cardio is performance. If you're regularly performing fasted cardio you'll find it harder to build lean muscle and maintain athletic performance. For some people this is not a consideration but that's not something I personally am willing to sacrifice and therefore is not something I'd recommend.
My biggest issue with this practice however is a psychological/ behavioral one. The advertising and marketing sells this as burning fat more efficiently. When you're performing a workout that you believe will burn fat more efficiently you subconsciously give yourself more leeway in food choices. But, as we've seen above, the extra calories burned are minimal so this mindset is often counter productive. So I thought I'd give it a try to see how I felt during and after performing fasted cardio.
I always had the feeling that it wouldn't be a pleasant experience - training on empty. But to my surprise I didn't feel that I was lacking in energy and managed to complete the intervals I'd set myself.
I did feel really hungry throughout the workout and when I got back home I ate a larger breakfast than I would normally do.
I kept busy for the rest of the day but would say that I did feel hungrier than normal throughout the day and, having recorded what I ate, I did consume more calories than I usually would.
So my advice would be that the pitfalls of fasted cardio probably outweigh the benefits. If your main aim is weight loss there is no getting round the energy balance. You simply need to consistently eat less calories than you expend. And while fasted cardio could help get that extra 100 or so calories burned unless you maintain a tight control on your diet there is a chance that this will be outweighed by poor dietary choices afterwards.
Yours in health
I'll be sticking to running this week and considering something that often comes up, strength training.
I read something last year that said Mo Farah followed his strength training programme right up to within a month of his events. Here's Runners World detailing his average week.
So, while he does train a little harder than almost anyone else alive, seeing what he does provides some useful exercises that we can replicate. Most of those in the Runners World article are core exercises.
What I'll consider is lower body strength training. As a runner you will need to work on upper body strength and core strength but I'll stick to the legs this week.
I recommend strengthening three areas:
1 - Hamstrings
For your hamstrings there's a lot of exercises you could use but I'd recommend mastering the straight leg dead lift, if you can. Here's a video showing good form.
Get someone to watch you and focus on the "hip hinge". Your spine should stay in the same neutral curve throughout.
Apologies for using this video but, unfortunately, his videos are usually spot on with exercise form.
It can be complicated and if you're unable to do it properly I'd consider looking round for a gym that has some machines targeting the hamstrings. For example a leg curl machine.
2 - Glutes
There's one "go to" move that hits the glutes, the bridge. I'd recommend doing with with one leg. It can be difficult to get right though and can also be difficult to progress.
Here's a good video for progressing the movement.
The basic movement is simply lying on your back on the floor with your feet flat on the ground and knees at about a 90 degree bend. Then simply raise your bum off the floor, engaging your glutes and lengthening your spine. You should feel it in both your glutes and, to a lesser degree, your hamstrings.
3 - Shins
Finally I'd recommend strengthening the muscles running down the front of your lower leg. This will help prevent getting shin splints and can be done regularly.
The best way to strengthen them is by placing a towel on the floor and grabbing it with your toes. Then release and repeat until you can feel it working the front of your leg.
Another way to work this muscle is to simply place your foot flat on the ground and then raise your toes off the ground. You can this at your desk, during dinner, whenever!
That's not all for today as one question I often get is "how many repetitions should I perform". I think that people tend to miss the point with this. They focus on the number of repetitions not on how hard the workout was.
Conventional wisdom suggests 12-20 reps for endurance. So people do 20 and stop. Despite the fact they could have done 50 with that weight.
The point of strength training is to go to failure. IE the point that, with that weight, you couldn't do one more rep with correct form. If your last rep is too easy the weight is too light and you need to increase it.
For pure strength training, in the off season, I recommend your rep range should be 6-8. This will give the best return, as you'll be lifting heavier weights.
During running season I'd make it 12-20, so you'll be using lighter weights and bringing in some cardio as well!
Finally when you're weight training it's key to make a note of what you're lifting, so you'll know whether to increase or decrease next time round.
Next week I'll consider cycling and good core exercises to compliment being on the bike.
Yours in health
This weeks thoughts are about cadence and RPM ( Which are essentially the same thing). While some of you will already know what I'm talking about I am conscious that I have a mixed audience so here is a brief definition:
Cadence: This is the strides taken per minute by a runner;
RPM: Is simply revolutions per minute. And is used to measure the times the pedals (not wheels) turn one full circle on a bike.
For those who are musically minded, it is essentially like tempo or beats per minute.
These are often overlooked in amateur running and cycling but performance management coaches for elite athletes measure and manage them. Alongside stride length (for runners) and wattage (for cyclists).
This article will deal with two issues 1 - How to improve running cadence; and 2 - How cycling RPM impacts your cadence
1 - Improving cadence
There is some debate about how much cadence matters, as it does vary depending on your build. But I'm of the opinion that it is hugely important, as the more strides you take equates to less time touching the floor. And every time your foot touches the floor you will be meeting resistance and need effort to move forward. So think light and often. That's how you want to run. Not large bounding strides (which I can be guilty of).
In addition a slow cadence and long stride can result in over striding, heel striking and possibly injuries. So shorter quicker steps are generally better.
The elites over 5K (and above) have been measured and tend to run at or above 180 strides per minute. Therefore that's what we should all aim for. Even if we only get to 170 or 175 but previously were a lot slower it'll help you run faster for longer.
Some running watches can monitor this but you could simply count for a minute and average it out to see where you are at. Then stand still and try running or walking on the spot at the desired cadence to see what it feels like. This could even become part of your warm up.
If you start working on a quicker cadence this way you will tend to see benefits in your running. You'll become more efficient and lose less energy bouncing / moving upwards instead of forwards.
Drills to improve cadence
- Quick steps/ ladder drills -You could draw a line and step your feet back and forth over it as quick as you can. Or to make it interesting you could do some of these ladder drills;
- Sprinting / shorter distances;and
- Speed skipping (like a boxer or cross fitter)
2 - RPM on the bike for runners
When cycling the most efficient cyclists tend to have big powerful legs. This doesn't always translate to better running. So as a runner you need to be careful when you're on the bike.
We are aiming at 180 for cadence so I am of the opinion that when a runner is cycling this tempo should be matched in the RPM. So when you're on the bike the goal RPM will be 1/2 your cadence. So if you're looking to hit 180 then your RPM should be 90. If you're not managing this you're either on a hill or your gear is too big and you need to change down.
As a runner, when I'm cycling I always try to keep the RPM high so I'm not getting in to big gears which don't necessarily transfer to my running.
As always, any issues let me know.
For exercise where do I advise everyone to start?
Well it depends, two areas are generally lacking in most people, sometimes even elite athletes. And they are interlinked:
1 - Core strength, and not just sit ups but complete core strength. Static holds, rotational power and just generally holding yourself properly.
2 - Mobility. And this is often confused with flexbility.
You want controlled mobility, not too loose not too tight. Start with the most complex joints. The shoulder and the hips.
From what I've read over the years most injuries emanate from one of these joints.
Because they are ball and socket joints (remember biology?) and therefore without support from all the surrounding muscles, ligament, muscle and tendon injuries can occur.
Even broken bones in some extreme cases or at least dislocations. Rotator cuff tears, chronic bad backs, anterior cruciate ligament tears (think footballers).
And when that happens you'll need a physiotherapist or maybe even surgeon for your shoulders. Prehab before you need rehab is what I teach.
So you may be thinking what are the best core exercises and mobility training exercises.
For mobility Kelly Starett, one of the founders of crossfit is good. He does a mobility WOD (workout of the day) and his book is worth a read but unless you're under the stewardship of a good physio I wouldn't try most of the stufff he suggests on your own.
It's called Becoming a Supple Leopard and contains some deep tissue massage, which really shouldn't be done on your own, you may make a bad situation worse.
Also the title is bit faddy because the animal we are closest too is not a cat, despite what "cat ladies" think.
We're more like chimps. Strong backs and love rolling around and swinging off things, just watch children play. So I'd be advocating becoming a playful chimp if it was my book.
And for core stength. I say start at the beginning.
Lying down on your back. Learn to push your spine in to the floor from this position. This is difficult to get wrong and you'll feel your core being engaged. Planks are good but can be done incorrectly - shoulders in the wrong position, over arched back, neck crained upwards.
And the book I'd recommond on this: True to Form by Dr Eric Goodman. I've read it recently and I'd start with this because it's really easy to follow, short and has useful photos in it. You won't find it in the top 10 at Tesco as it doesn't promise getting in the shape of your life in 15 seconds or whatever they spout these days.
In the meantime here is a link to the lyrics of a rap song about Being Healthy (ignore the bit about ganga). More eloquent than I and better than 50 Cent. Not all rap is created equally.
Yours in health
Controlling the controllables, including your mind
This is sage advice in any walk of life and is often the reason people fail in their pursuit of health and fitness goals.
I intepret it as meaning controlling everything you can, from your own mind, actions, environment and who you choose to believe. Everything outside of your own sphere of influence falls under uncontrollable, so isn't worth worrying about. Likewise if you worry about something under your control, then do something about it. It's under your control.
This can, however, be harder in practice than on paper. Believing Dr So and So about the "latest research" (a phrase used in the media very often) with no consideration of how valid or reliable this research is. No consideration of where the doctorate is from.
Which leads to misinformation becoming fact.
Ben Goldacre's book Bad Science is great on explaning how to interregate acadamic literature and debunk myths. The fitness industry is crying out for someone to do something similar.
To illustrate the point there is a passage in a book I am currently reading, "The Idiot Brain" by Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist. He cites one study where two groups were given a meal.
The first group had a 300 calorie meal and were told it was 500 calories. The second group had a 500 calorie group and were told it was 300 calories. Both groups were monitored and it was noted when they next ate. It was the second group, who thought they had less calories who ate first.
This illustrates the importance of the information that you believe in. In any form of health and fitness you need to find something you believe in and persistently pursue it. Hitting your goals is more likely to be acheived if you do this.
Now I have not had the time to order a copy of this study, to read how it was performed. However it is unlikely to be a major study that counts as significant research. It is therefore better treated as anecdotal evidence.
However it hits home a point. Be careful of mininformation.
Water is life
I don't need to explain why we need water, as I assume everyone knows this. But not many people seem to drink enough. So how much should you drink?
Easy this one, you may think = 2 litres for all women, 2.5 litres for all men.
OK, 7 glasses a day then.
How much water you drink in a given day depends on a complex array of things. But there's a number of calculators on line to help. Here's one:
And then we get to the question of running, and marathon running. How much water should you drink during a long run or marathon.
Again most people just drink whatever they can be bothered to or wait until they feel dehyrdated, which is often too late. And dehyrdration does cause a reduction in athletic performance. ( http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/dehydration-and-its-effects-on-performance). The main reasons for this are as follows:
• Reduction in blood volume
• Decreased skin blood flow
• Decreased sweat rate
• Decreased heat dissipation
• Increased core temperature
• Increased rate of muscle glycogen use
So if you're looking to shave those seconds off at Park Run, lift more weight or concentrate better. Think water first. Being well hydrated is probably the first step you need to get right to reach your peak performance, in any sport.
There is a simple way of calculating what you'll need during a race, by calculating your sweat rate. This would also apply to any sport or athletic pursuit:
1 - Weigh yourself nude before a run/ exercise.
2 - Run/ exercise at race pace/ required intensity for one hour.
3 - Track your fluid intake during the run/ session. Measured in ounces.
4 - Record nude weight after the run/walk.
The difference between 1 and 4 is therefore the fluid you have lost through sweat during a run. At the pace you were going you'll therefore need to replace the water at this rate during your race in order to maintain peformance.
You'll also need to take account of lost electrolytes.
So you'll just get a powerade right. That's the easy option. I wouldn't suggest it. Energy drinks that profess to be more hydrating than water tend to be full of sugar as well. So I've found some handy tips on how to do it naturally. From one of my least favourite athlete's charity Livestrong. Have a read. It contains some really useful information.
For now that is all.
Yours in health
My goals and aims
I've set this up primarily as I think good fitness advice should be easily accesible and free to all. All of the information I disseminate is in the public domain anyway, it can just be quite difficult to find amongst the plethora of shiny, well marketed tosh and pseudo science. So I'll be providing links to free books, youtube channels and blogs that provide far more insight than I can.
It's primarily about getting back to basics and finding the useful information and providing you with the tools to do get fit at home, for free, forever. If you have the will power.
It's also about providing a more wide ranging community of likeminded people, rather than the divided and dogmatic fitness communities in Crossfit or Strength training for example.
I'll also point out who the leading experts are in each field I cover, in my opinion and why they can be trusted. That way you can consult their websites and fitness pages if you're unsure about anything someone says. If you want to add any trusted sources of information then e-mail me.
It'll involve consideration of a variety of topics, what's in the fitness news that week, videos, photographs and also some Q & A e-mails from other local professionals who I connect. Or any of you through local stories. So if your story/ experience is interesting send it over and I'll share it for information. If you're proud of your gains or the struggles you've overcome. Likewise if you wish to share an experience or contribute with a piece then send it over!
If you've got a business and want me to promote it on my website, twitter, instagram or facebook and it fits with my philosphy, I'll oblige.
And that's it.
Pretty simple, now what do I hope from you.
Nothing really. Check out my website, twitter, instagram and facebook if you want. That's where any offers will be. My first is for anyone who volunteers in any walk of life. Sports coach, litter picker, whatever. Because volunteers are the unsung heroes of this society.
If you disagree with me on anything, and I know I have former fitness professionals and highly knowledgeable amateur athletes reading, then I definitely want to hear from you.
I'm always open to discussion and happy to change my mind if what I believe to be correct is proven wrong. In that regard I see myself as a student of health and fitness. Hopefully a lifelong one!
Finally if you want to know about anything in particular e-mail me and I'll see what I can dig out. I've already had some suggestions of strength training for runners, what to eat before exercising and what's better yoga or pilates, so I'm working on those.
For now I wish you a good night and a week filled with healthy choices.