The ultimate dad fit?

There’s a bit of silly about this Guardian article. A chap in the US is advocating using your baby as a weightlifting tool.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jun/27/baby-can-keep-dad-fit

I suppose it has some advantages as it is low cost and, as long as you feed your baby, has progressive resistance built in.

The weight is still pretty light though, unless you keep it up until they are much older. I guess the ‘ever shifting nature’ of the weight would make it harder though, just like a sandbag.

In seriousness this kind of thing is great for dads to be doing with their kids. It doesn’t have to be a workout though. We can just get on the floor, tumble and bond. 

Any thought of sets and reps are not required, but if it gets some dads more involved with their kids that can only be a good thing.
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Keeping active with an inactive job

Mark Sisson published an interesting post earlier this week called The Art of Work: Avoiding the Pitfalls of a Sedentary Job.

The central message was that although office work is unavoidable for a lot of us there are things we can do to negate some effects of our sedentary jobs. The main take aways for me were:

“Fifty years ago, over fifty percent of occupations included moderate physical exertion. Today that number has dropped to less than twenty percent.”

“In many ways we’ve engineered physical activity out of our lives, so we’ve got to find ways to put it back into our lives, like taking walks during breaks or having opportunities for activity that are more routine to our daily lives, not just going to the health club.”

“The idea of working out during the workday itself introduces a new angle and may be somewhat of a game changer.”

I’m a big advocate of grabbing little chunks of exercise throughout the day to break up the sitting. It makes me feel better, and on the occasions I don’t move from my desk for a few hours I feel sluggish afterwards. It’s highly unlikely my company will invest in walking workstations anytime soon (although it would be great) so I have to find another way. 

There are a ton of things you can do to bring some activity into your work day. I group them into three categories: subtle, more noticeable and being ‘that guy’. How far along you go depends you and the company you work for. I tend to hover between subtle and more noticeable.

Subtle

There are plenty of things you can do that are will only be slight adjustments to your current day. Your work colleagues won’t even notice what you’re up to.

  • No lift days – pretty self explanatory, start with one day a week where you only use the stairs and add from there
  • Go and see people instead of phoning or using email – combined with no lift days this can add a nice amount of extra movement to your day. The added bonus is you’ll probably have build work relationships as well.
  • Drink more water – I’ve written about this before. It’s good for you and means more trips to both the kitchen and the loo.
  • Don’t just sit, do toe & heels presses – push your toes into the ground as hard as you can, after a few seconds do the same with your heels, repeat. This can be done at your desk, you’re not moving much but it’ll increase blood flow to your legs.

More noticeable

These are more beneficial but will need you to find a bit of space to get your move on (i.e. an unused meeting room). The possibilities here are near endless. Aim to use exercises that are the reverse of what you do at your desk. For example, when sitting both your hips and upper body are in flexion, stuff at the front is getting tight and stuff at the back is getting sleepy – so do the opposite.

  • Quick & easy anti-flexion circuit – lunge stretch – 30 sec each side, one leg glute bridge – 30 sec each side, squat to overhead reach – 10 reps, some kind of thoracic extension (lying, off end of a table) – 30 sec
  • Finger extensions – get an thick elastic band, double it up if needed, wrap it round your fingers then open them as hard as you can. Do it for time or reps.
  • Do some joint mobility – focus on hips, shoulder and thoracic spine
  • Use a desk for bodyweight rows – these could also be added into a circuit with squats and glute bridges
  • Grease the groove with pistol squats – great for the legs and the GTG technique forces you to do it regularly. I’d avoid adding one arm push ups a la Naked Warrior, they gave me nasty pec/shoulder tightness when GTGing at work.

    Being ‘that guy’

    These are for the truly dedicated and need equipment.

    • Bands – use them for pull aparts, shoulder dislocates and other upper body loveliness
    • Dumbbells/kettlebells under your desk – grab mini workouts during the day
    • Set up a pull up bar at work (this would be amazing)

    These lists are far from exhaustive, experiment with you can fit into your day and enjoy. Most of the work I did in my recent squat experiment was done in small chunks during the day at work.

    Make sure you still get your work done though…….

       

        Fitness attributes – freedom from injury

        This is the next in the series on each attribute in my What do you need to do to be fit? post.

        An injury will mean you are not able to easily and effectively complete physical tasks.

        I injured my ankle earlier this year and needed crutches to walk. It took about a month to walk without them and another six weeks or so to run. Clearly during this time, although I was doing some training, I wasn’t fit for much.

        So, being injured is bad. Not only does it hurt, it also reduces your ability to do physical stuff (not fit) and may stop you training effectively (getting less fit).

        Getting injured in the gym prepping for a sport or just for fitness can be avoided if you listen to your body and don’t take stupid risks.

        You need to remember why you are there. Whether you are trying to get better at your sport or just be fit for life then taking risks and getting injured gets you further away from what you want not closer.

        I injured my ankle on a climbing wall. It was close to the end of the day and I was on a fairly difficult (for me) problem. As I got close to the top my grip felt a bit off and I had a feeling that I should just let this one go. I didn’t and two moves later I was flat on the deck with a knackered ankle.

        This is an example of me not listening to body and taking a stupid risk.

        Injuries in sports inevitable, whether you are competing against yourself self or others you will push to the edge to try and win. You also cannot control the actions of the other people playing. Injuries are bound to happen at some point. In the gym this isn’t the case as you have the control (assuming someone doesn’t drop a weight on your foot!).

        This isn’t to say you shouldn’t train hard, you absolutely should. You can train hard within your limits and those limits will expand. Consistently push the envelope and your body will likely punish you.

        Fitness attributes – freedom from illness

        This is the next in the series on each of attribute in my What do you need to do to be fit? post.

        I want to caveat this post by saying I have no medical training whatsoever and anything written below is the result of self experimentation. Although there are some basic principles we should all follow I would encourage you to experiment with your own lifestyle to see what works best for you – you might be able to get away with more than I can.

        The germ theory of illness is very simple: there is a germ that causes an illness – you come into contact with that germ – you get sick.

        As much as simple is good this doesn’t quite feel right. Do you ever notice when a bug is ‘doing the rounds’ a lot of people catch it but not everyone? There must be something else going on that means some people’s immune systems are doing a better job. Chris at Garage Gym Online has recently written a post about different theories on this topic.

        I don’t know how you would train your immune system to be stronger but there are certainly things you can do to not weaken it.

        Eat proper food
        There is a lot of stuff in shops masquerading as food that doesn’t really deserve that label. If it has a long list of sciencey sounding words in the ingredients you should probably steer clear.

        If you don’t understand the words, don’t eat the food. You can’t expect your body to fight off germs properly if it’s having to deal with that stuff.

        Avoid sugar
        This is really just an extension of the previous point. Sugar is pretty bad news and your body doesn’t like it.

        “But I like cake” I hear you say. Yeah, me too. Lucky for me my wife has a knack for making treats with a lot of the naughty taken out. Lucky for you she writes a recipe blog, you should check it out. (note I said a lot, not all – there’s still some naughty in there)

        Get some exercise, but not too much
        Exercise makes your body stronger and more resilient (good thing). Too much breaks it down, and leaves you exhausted (bad thing).

        Get enough sleep
        A good nights sleep makes you feel great and, if you are sick, sleep can be the best medicine.

        So, getting enough sleep has to help keep you well doesn’t it? It makes too much sense to not.

        Late night TV is rubbish anyway. Turn it off and go to bed with a good book instead ( or a good woman/man 😉 ). You’ll feel better for it.

        Avoid stress
        The things mentioned in previous points could be counted as stress but here I mean emotional stress. Avoiding it can be easier said than done as often stress seeks you out.

        Too much will wear you down, effect your sleep and ultimately your ability to fight germs. Fortunately exercise can help both relieve stress and provide a positive stimulus.

        Most importantly, chill out – it’s probably not that important in the big picture. If it is that important, then share it with someone that you love.

        I’ll be writing more on stress in a later post.

        Change your mindset – decide to not get ill
        Don’t worry, I’m not going to start writing about crystals and tarot but I do think the mind has more control over the body than perhaps we give credit.

        One change I have made over the last few years is deciding to not get ill. I’ve no science to back up whether it has had an effect and I have changed more things than just this, but I know I haven’t been ill much since.

        Wallowing in how sick you feel can make it worse. The opposite seems to work too.

        Try it, just refuse to get ill.

        Current workouts – June 2011

        My workouts tend to periodically cycle between more linear strength exercises and stuff that challenges the body from more angles (like KBs, clubs, some bodyweight stuff).

        I’ve been focused on linear strength exercises for a while and felt the need to do something different. Since writing my squat post I’ve been exploring Ido Portal’s site and the florieo work he has on there is really interesting. It’s a great combination of strength and skill work.

        I’m keeping it at a very basic, beginner level at the moment (it’s all I can do!) but am loving the movements. I’m also mixing in some ring/pulling work as it is quite heavy on pressing and also some running/KBs because I can do them outside in the sunshine (when there’s sunshine!).

        I’m using the same way of explaining the workouts as Ido. I think it makes them clearer. All sessions begin with some joint mobility, a wrist routine and Ido’s squat clinic.

        Monday – (loosely) based on Floreio 1
        A1: Wall handstand x 40-60sec
        A2: Ring row x 5-8
        B1: Slide to low bridge x 5
        B2: Rotations into arch using wall x 10
        C1: Ring routine (pulling)
        D1: Run (inc some jumps and sprints)
        3 rounds of A1-2, then 3 rounds of B1-2, then C1, then D1

        Wednesday – based on Floreio 1
        A1: QDR practice
        B1:Slide to low bridge x 5
        B2: Rotations into arch using wall x 10
        B3: QDR rotational push ups (beginner) x 10
        C1: Pull ups
        D1: KB timed sets – 24kg swing/jerk
        A1-2, then 3 rounds of B1-3, then C1, then D1

        Friday – based on Floreio 4
        A1: QDR practice
        B1: Gatherings (beginner)
        B2: Slide to low bridge
        B3: Rotations into arch using wall
        B4: QDR rotational push ups (beginner)
        C1: Role – 3 minutes
        A1, then B1-4 for 8,6,4,2 reps, then C1

        Fitness attributes – posture part 3

        This is the next in my series on each of the aspects in the What do you need to do to be fit? post and is the third part about posture, parts one & two can be found here & here.

        In the first two parts I talked about why posture is important, what good posture looks like and reviewed some of the great books I have used to work on my own posture. In this post I’ll look at three things you can do to help fix some of the more common postural issues.

        1) Wear minimal, flat shoes, go barefoot were possible
        This is the single most important thing you can do to help your posture. These crude stick men drawings show what a modest heel will do to the bodies angle. 

        Stick_men

        Obviously, people don’t walk around leaning forward like that. Your body changes it’s alignment to remain upright and this will make good posture difficult. If you try and fix your posture while still wearing heels you are unlikely to succeed.

        There are now companies that produce heel-less shoes with minimal soles that are suitable for work and the choice for casual wear is endless. It’s pretty easy to do, they might not be the height of fashion but so be it – this stuff’s more important in the long run.

        While you are at it you may as well go barefoot when ever you can. Shoes don’t get much more minimal than that.

        2) Straighten your back
        This is primarily for people with an upper back and shoulders that slump forward. If you work at a computer all day it’s likely to be you to some degree. There should still be an S curve in your spine, but probably a bit less than you have. Take a look in the mirror and make an honest assessment of where you’re at.

        There are likely to be two things going on: a tight chest and weak upper back.

        • Chest stretches – there are some good ones here. If you work at a desk it would be worth scattering these stretches throughout the day.
        • Upper back strengthening – the main muscles to focus on are the rhomboids and lower traps. They bring the shoulder blades back and down, which in turn will help create an upright upper body posture. Good exercises include band pull aparts, dumbbell bent over lateral rows and pull up/dip shrugs. Locust pose can also help.

        Additionally, Dr Barker’s book has a great exercise for promoting a straighter back that I’ve seen great benefit from, it’s worth a look.

        I would also recommend looking at Esther Gokhale’s stuff to learn how to hold yourself more upright when sitting and standing, if you’ve been practicing slumping for 20+ years you’ll probably need to practice upright a bit as well.

        3) Strengthen the glutes
        The glutes play a large role in good posture as they both stabilise the body when standing and also rotate the pelvis into its proper position. Unfortunately, they become weakened by excessive sitting and stop doing their job. At the same time the hip flexors at the front of the pelvis get tight, further inhibiting the glutes and also pulling the pelvis out of alignment.

        Again, there are two things to be doing:

        • Stretch hip flexorsthese ones from K Starr are great, a basic lunge stretch would be fine though. These can also be done throughout the day.
        • Strengthen the glutes – I think there are three stages to strengthening the glutes and increasing awareness of the muscle:
          1. In isolation – both glute bridges and hip thrusts will strengthen the glutes in isolation. The most important thing here is to really feel the muscle working to build awareness.
          2. Integrated in a gym setting – exercises like lunges, step ups and squats use the glutes in conjunction with the rest of the lower body. Remember how they felt in isolation and get them going in these exercises as well.
          3. Integrated in real life – the last stage is to use them in daily life. When standing give them a pinch to check they are working. Gokhale’s book has a great style of walking that engages them strongly. Also stairs are good, concentrate on extending the hip not the knee and you should feel exertion round the back rather than the quads

        Personally, I need to continue working on all of these aspects. I spend a lot of each day sitting and that won’t change any time soon, as a result I need to work to counteract this.

        That’s it for posture stuff….

        PS – if you have any postural issues that involved twisting of the torso, or something effecting one side more than the other – check out Pete Egoscue’s book.

        Fitness attributes – posture part 2

        This is the next in my series on each of the aspects in the What do you need to do to be fit? post and is the second part about posture, part one can be found here.

        In the part one I spoke about why posture is important, what good posture looks like and common postural problems. This post will look at three books that I have found useful in working on my own posture, I’ll give some detail on each of the author’s theories and the main points I took from each one.

        Eight steps to a pain free back – Esther Gokhale
        This is where it started for me. I hadn’t really given posture any thought before reading about the Gokhale Method on Mark Sisson’s blog.

        The book starts by explaining that aspects of modern life (primarily being cool to slouch and sitting in poorly designed chairs) have left many of us with terrible posture which often causes back pain. Gokhale gives examples of cultures where back pain is virtually unheard of and examines what is different about their posture. Unsurprisingly they are cultures that live very different lives to modern Westerners.

        Gokhale then offers eight methods to correct bad posture and live pain free in the modern world. They include techniques for sitting, lying, bending, standing and walking.

        My main plus points are:

        • An awareness of the position of my pelvis and what that means posturally.
        • The importance of hinging from the hips and using your glutes in movement.
        • The most comfortable lying position ever (seriously, it is amazing).
        • A great technique for involving the glutes more when walking.

        And the negatives:

        • I found it difficult to follow the techniques using the book – I think you really need a coach or partner to help.
        • It can be very easy to slip back into bad habits. You need to constantly be mindful of how you are holding yourself.

        Posture makes perfect – Dr Vic Barker
        I enjoyed this book, Dr Barker is a real character. He blames the poor posture seen today primarily on shoes with heels and a lack of activity (primarily sitting). They both stop the human body being used how evolution intended.

        The human body has evolved to be a pretty impressive structure that works very well. However, if you tamper with the way a structure is meant to be supported you create problems by pushing it out of allignment. If you put high heels on a skyscraper it would fall over, the human body compensates by adjusting posture to remain upright.

        This poor posture then causes: changes to appearance (looking overwieght when you are not), back pain, osteoarthiriitis, difficult childbirth, poor circulation and many other issues. The book explains in detail how bad posture causes problems in each case.

        Dr Barker has a long history of weight lifting and recommends specific exercises to treat each condition. His theory is that poor posture makes certain muscles weaker than others and chosing the right exercises will bring balance back to your muscles which in turm will restore good posture. He is also dogmatic about wearing flat shoes.

        Plus points:

        • The volume of knowledge covered. It’s a real education, but always easy to read.
        • Easy to implement – the exercises used in treatment can be added to a training regime pretty simply.
        • You don’t really need to be mindful of your posture. If you do the exercises and regain balance in your muscles your posture will improve naturally.

        Negatives:

        • Some of the exercise descriptions are a little basic. He recommends deadlifts and squats but doesn’t give much instruction on how to do them properly.
        • Dr Barker’s attitudes can be a bit old school. The content in this book is great but the easily offended should be prepared for some ‘fat person = jolly’ and ‘women = housework’ comments.

        The Egoscue Method of Health through Motion – Pete Esgocue
        This book starts in a familiar place – the human body has evolved to be a pretty impressive piece of machinery and it is breaking down because of misuse. According to Egoscue the main problem is lack of movement, our bodies are designed to move and many parts of modern life are specifically designed to limit movement i.e. siting in a car/walk, sitting at desk/manual labour, using a leaf blower/rake etc.

        Egoscue’s treatment is incredibly simple – move more. His method is made up of a range of stretches and exercises that are designed to reverse the stuctural problems created by lack of movement. He is also an advocate of flat shoes.

        After detailing the most common postures seen today (grouped into four ‘conditions’), the book contains a great section on self diagnosis allowing you to work out which ‘condition’ you have. There are then exercise regimes designed to treat each condition and bring you back to ideal posture.

        Positives

        • The self diagnosis section allows you to pinpoint the specific issues you have
        • The exercises are easy to follow and seem to work very quickly, I felt a difference in my hips after one session

        Negatives

        • To follow the exercise regimes from start to finish takes quite a long time, including the one designed to maintain good posture once it is achieved. They don’t really cover limit strength or cardio which would would leave gaps in your fitness if your exercise time was limted.

        These books have varying approaches but all with a similar theme – aspects of modern life are forcing our bodies out of their natural alignment. The result is poor posture and eventual pain.

        The next post will look at what you can do to help improve posture.