This post will deal with any frequently asked questions I get from my nutrition clients – I always look for these before they attend my talks. While it may not all be specifically in the area of nutrition, I cover other topics relevant to body composition so my clients have a clear view of what needs to be done.
If there is anything you would like added feel free to mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is BMI (Body Mass Index) A Useful Measurement?
It depends on the situation. BMI does have it’s limitations in that it only uses weight and height to form a score.
Muscle mass or levels of body fat are not accounted for, therefore someone who is tall and muscular can fall into a ‘obese’ score zone.
You’ll see the blue circles labelled 1 and 2, this is where I explained some of the limitations of BMI to the client using my own body weight as an example.
The plus side of BMI is that it’s a cheap, easy way to assess a client and can be used universally.
An example of where I would use it as a useful measure is visually assessing a client. If the client presents as looking overweight and is carrying weight around their mid-line I would take their measurements, calculate BMI and record waist circumference (WC).
30 + obese, 35+ obese level II, 40+ obese III.
Female risk factor – 35 inches/88cm +
Male risk factor – 40 inches/102cm +
BMI and WC is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, morbidity and mortality (WHO 2011). Abdominal obesity is the pre-disposing risk factor to CVD, so if you’re carrying a lot of fat around your mid-line and your BMI scores poorly evidence points toward you shortening your life span.
Attached is some data from a client who signed up to the Academy in August 2017 in conjuction with my nutrition group.
You can see the individual in question shifted from a 30+ score which landed him in the ‘obese’ zone, all the way out to 26 which places him in the ‘overweight’ zone (he is on the border of reaching the ‘healthy weight’ zone). Almost 11 inches was lost off the waist measurement.
This change happened over the course of 6 months and potentially has had a huge impact on health and longevity.
It’s great having the score to show someone in the first place that ‘hey, this is a wake up call’. It’s a very valuable thing to be able to then show the progress made and explain the positive impact on health.
This is an example of where BMI and WC are useful tools.
Blood markers are obviously a huge indicator of health, so this is obviously something that should be monitored always with your GP, especially if there is any history of medical conditions in the family.
There are other factors like the distribution of adipose tissue (body fat) which come into play (it is possible to have healthy blood markers and to be healthy with more evenly distributed high levels of body fat), like I said at the start it depends on the situation…but this one example of where it came in very useful.
If you’re interested in a previous article I wrote on abdominal obesity and the implications for health click here – http://strongbodystrongmind.ie/abdominal-obesity-the-negative-impact-on-health
Are Eggs Bad For You?
This question crops up now and then as many people have the long held belief that ‘too many eggs are bad for you’. To start with, too much of anything is bad for you.
The real underlying question here is ‘will eating eggs negatively affect my cholesterol levels, thus negatively effecting my health?’.
Firstly, let’s look at cholesterol and it’s function;
The body produces a certain amount of cholesterol and it can be taken in through diet also.
‘Cholesterol is a fat-like substance present in all our cells which is shuttled throughout the body by two kinds of carriers low-density lipoproteins (LDL, often called the “bad cholesterol”) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL, often called the “good cholesterol”)’. (*)
Higher levels of LDL raise your odds of heart disease as it can contribute to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
On the other hand, HDL is thought to counteract the affects of LDL so higher levels of HDL is preferable.
Where does this come in to play with eggs?
The egg white is mostly water and protein, while the yolk is mostly made of fatty acids, cholesterol, and fat-soluble nutrients. Because of this the yolk is more calorie dense than the egg white.
You may have heard ‘don’t eat the yolk, it’s bad for cholesterol’. That statement is incorrect for a healthy individual.
There has been plenty of research done across the area of dietary cholesterol intake and it’s association with LDL/HDL levels. It has mostly been done to measure an intake of up to 6 eggs per day, so this only relevant to that amount;
- ‘Existing epidemiological data have clearly demonstrated that dietary cholesterol is NOT correlated with increased risk for CHD….the recommendations limiting dietary cholesterol should be reconsidered’. (1)
- On average, the LDL:HDL ratio change per 100 mg/day change in dietary cholesterol is from 2.60 to 2.61, which would be predicted to have little effect on heart disease risk. These data help explain the epidemiological studies showing that dietary cholesterol is NOT related to coronary heart disease incidence or mortality across or within populations. (2)
- Eggs for breakfast versus oats for breakfast – 400 mg/day of dietary cholesterol did not negatively impact blood lipids.(3)
‘In healthy people, eggs have never been directly associated with an increase in cardiovascular risk — such an increase was merely assumed from an increase in circulating cholesterol’ (4).
If you’re healthy, you eat eggs and enjoy them – stick with it. There is no proof to show that this dietary cholesterol intake negatively affects overall cholesterol balance. LDL may increase slightly, but it is matched by HDL increase which keeps everything in check.
The only caveat from a weight management point of view is that they are relatively calorie dense, therefore if someone is looking to lose weight and I have them in a deficit and they want 4-5 eggs per day, it might be tough to manage things.
I hope this has helped clear up the old myth that ‘eggs are bad for your health/heart’. It’s not the eggs that do it, it’s a cluster of other poor lifestyle choices.
How Many Calories Do I Burn In A Gym Session?
If I had one euro for every time I got asked this question I could retire now. A big back garden and lots of dogs!
But in fairness it is a legitimate question when you’re trying to lose weight – once people have been told that they need to manage their energy balance day to day, they tend to get caught up on stuff like this.
When I work with a client, I work out their daily energy intake, and more broadly energy intake across the length of the week.
Exercise is factored in to this equation.
It would take a big change in the amount of training someone is doing for this to change, and a big enough change does NOT generally happen with general pop clients.
If anything, they struggle to meet the amount of exercise we had agreed on in the first place.
It’s important this point is understood, energy balance IS NOT an in/out system, it’s not black and white.
To give you a real life example – Mary/John goes and does a spinning class, their activity band says they burned 300 calories. The client thinks this has ‘earned’ them 300 calories to put into the system. ‘I burned 300 calories (it’s probably incorrect for a start) so that means I get to eat something nice and/or drink wine’.
A staggering amount of people are under the impression that this is how the whole thing works.
It’s really tricky as well because you hear of classes being advertised where you will ‘burn 1,200 calories’. Or a trainer who hasn’t really got a clue (this is prevalent) so ball parks anywhere from 500-1,000 calories when asked by somebody.
Basically, people get given horrible information. Here’s something more realistic;
You don’t burn as many calories as you think exercising.
The unfortunate irony is, generally, the fitter the person, the more calories burned.
On the other hand, the person who really needs to finds it hard.
If somebody is starting out with exercise, the perceived exertion of the activity may be high – ‘oh my god that was so hard, I must have burned 1 million calories’ – but the fact is it was hard because the person is so unfit.
The lack of ability to do work means they didn’t expend a whole lot of energy. This shouldn’t put anyone off, every journey has to start somewhere – you’ll build this up over time. But I do believe a journey should be a well planned, well informed process, otherwise you’re just pushing water up a hill.
The answer then is train twice a day or twice as hard right?
If you train yourself into the ground then the rest of your day suffers. You’ll end up sedentary in all the hours outside of the training because you’ll be wiped out.
You need to be intelligent about how you implement a training plan, your nutrition, and your activity outside training.
Let’s move on to the actual devices…
Wrist strap monitors (Fitbits etc.) are good for step counts, but they suck for accurately measuring heart rate, and in turn, calories.
Chest straps are far more accurate, BUT most heart rate measuring devices are inaccurate to some degree when measuring calories**.
That doesn’t mean you can’t work out someone’s day to day energy intake, you just shouldn’t be trying to do it by adding every readout your monitor gives you and saying ‘this is exactly how much energy I expended’.
(**They calculate calories burned using data such as weight, age, height etc. and a formula in conjunction with heart rate (by that reasoning you would get really fit watching a scary movie), but it’s not a perfect system.)
I have used a heart rate monitor (watch and chest strap) for the past few years. I mainly use it to track my steps per day, and sometimes to make sure I’m in certain heart rate zones when I train.
This has helped me understand about how different levels of intensity should feel, and has given me a much better understanding of conditioning.
I know what the different workouts should feel like, their duration, and the correct recovery times.
If you’re gonna prescribe it, you better have done it!
Also, I’m a nerd. I like charts and data.
Very specific training is more applicable to athletes and high performers (most people just need to get moving in any way), but I can still apply it to my clients and in my own training.
I DO NOT use my heart rate monitor to track calories.
At the same time, I do keep an eye on the calories because, well, fitness is my career, and there is not one aspect of it that doesn’t interest me. And I need to know some kind of estimate for when questions like this come along.
I know from observation over time of my own data that my own sessions generally run from 500-800 calories. This would include lifting AND conditioning, generally lasting up to around 90 minutes.
60 minute sessions rarely peak over 500.
The key for weight loss is to NOT put 800 calories or more back in just because I trained and my watch told me so (as per my amazing diagram).
It’s a very simple drawing, but it should make things click for anyone unsure. Yes, you may burn fat doing your ‘HIIT fat torching’ class, but if for the rest of the day you’re putting MORE calories back in then the net affect is weight gain!
I have observed clients showing anything from 220-400 calories burned depending on the fitness level of the individual and the programming of the session that day.
A lot of this comes from wrist strap devices, which have been shown to be very INACCURATE.
Somebody starting out probably doesn’t even get to 220, and you burn a certain amount of calories per hour ANYWAY. Normal functions to stay alive cost energy.
So, how many calories do you burn in a gym session? It’s hard to pinpoint, there are lots of variables and realistically it doesn’t really matter unless you’re looking after all the rest.
I have heard people say ‘I only burned 280 today, it was 320 yesterday’. You are FAR better served worrying about the following;
Concentrate on managing your energy input (calories) day to day, exercise 3-5 times a week if possible. Give it your all when do and don’t forget to enjoy it. Get 10,000 steps per day i.e don’t sit on your arse watching T.V. Be consistent over a sustained period of time.
320 or 280? This is irrelevant. Look after everything else first, then when you get to an amazing level of body composition and you somehow want to squeeze more progress out of it we’ll look at tiny details like that.
If you are being guided by a good coach everything will look after itself, and progress will be made without worrying about calories burned in a single session.
I have my own nutrition coach – everybody needs accountability, TRUST ME on this – and one thing I always remember him telling me was ‘Philly, if you want to look your very best you better be busy EVERY day’.
People miss that point. Don’t worry about 320 versus 280, worry about the other 23 hours in the day.
Are you sitting on your couch worrying and thinking about minute details, or are you out and about kicking ass every day? Training, steps, food, water, everything?
This is the stuff that matters.
Body Fat Testing As A Measuring Tool.
This is my opinion on it, but I know it is shared by some very smart people in the industry as well.
The more clients I deal with, the more I realise how much I dislike using this method of measurement.
How do your clothes fit? How do you feel? How do you look in the mirror? There’s a ton of other stuff that is just more important.
One thing I have noticed, and I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere before but I know it’s an issue – some people’s skin is an absolute nightmare for caliper use.
You just can’t get an accurate measure because of it, and it ends up as a guess.
Also, I could measure someone and it might say they are 12% body fat, but it could be a disproportionate measurement in that they might be lean everywhere, but still hold fat on their stomach.
All the other sites have low readings, but they still hold a reasonable amount of fat on their stomach (you can change this for the other sites, I’ve seen people have stubborn fat in many different places).
The client will probably Google image 12% and see a picture of some model perfectly proportioned at 12%….and then there’s the margin of error to take into account…the client may be 14%…and like I said – out of proportion.
In the client’s head they are thinking ‘Philly is wrong’.
No I’m not.
These tests are inaccurate, they may have skin not suitable for it, and they may not be this perfectly balanced 12% (or 14%).
I’m not saying I NEVER take a client’s body fat. Like a lot of things, it comes down to context and the situation with each individual clients.
I just very, very rarely use it.
People get bogged down with wanting retests after unrealistic time scales (in which they HAVE NOT stuck to the plan), but the reality of things is ‘just keep your shit together for 6 months and you’ll change….NO DOUBT’.
My best advice would be to take a photo every 4-6 weeks, monitor how you feel, keep an eye on how your clothes fit…there’s several other more important (in my opinion) ways of measuring things as you go.
Should You Buy An Activity Tracker?
Honestly, for me this is a no-brainer.
If you’re looking to increase your activity level – which you need to do if you want to manage your weight – then an activity tracker is the perfect thing to have.
You’ll very quickly learn whether you need to improve your day to day activity to reach those 10,000 steps I’m prescribing. It’s great for keeping people accountable, and it beats using a phone as it can be stressful having to constantly have your phone at hand to make sure it records everything.
What should you buy? A fitbit, a heart rate monitor, an Apple watch?
Whatever suits your budget and needs.
I use a heart rate monitor for training purposes so I bought one which counts steps as well.
1. It shows up how close (or not!) I am to my daily activity target, it’s great to have a constant reminder to move.
2. I just use the step counter on this screen, it’s really handy to check throughout the day (the previous screen takes in to account exercise as well).
3. It helps me stay in the zone I need to be in when I do my conditioning, I get a ton of great feedback from it.
4. If I ever forget who I am – it’s got my back!
If you only want to monitor your steps, get one that only does that.
As far as cost goes – what price do you put on your health? Mine wasn’t cheap, but it’s an investment in my health so I felt completely at ease spending the money on it.
I deal with dozens of clients and not once have I seen the purchase of an activity tracker be a negative thing.
If you feel like you move around a lot already you might not need one. Other than that, take the plunge – you won’t regret it.
Sometimes people do ask ‘are they accurate?’. I don’t care if 10,000 steps is 5.0 miles or 5.1. What I’m looking for is the client to be close to 10k and not 1k – that’s the important part.
Remember though, this is just one piece of the bigger puzzle of managing your weight.
Why Your Weight Fluctuates Day To Day, And Even Hour To Hour.
(Sustainable, meaningful) Weight loss is hard. Weight loss is not linear.
This is verrrrrry important… success is a combination of determination from the client, support from their peers AND me, and last but not least – EDUCATING AND EMPOWERING THE CLIENT SO THEY DO NOT NEED TO RELY ON ME FOREVER.
Weight Watchers is shit. I’m not a fan of any system that gives you very little information to work it, weighs you in weekly, gives you grief if you haven’t lost weight, all the while charging you a weekly/monthly fee.
Weight Loss in a nutshell.
If you consistently stay in a calorie deficit the potential is there for weight loss.
It may not show up initially, things can take time to mobilise.
It can be masked for various reasons, but eventually you reap the rewards.
If you know that day to day your weight fluctuates it makes things easier psychologically (it’s HARD, trust me I know), along with knowing all the other ‘whys’ behind dieting phases.
My clients weigh themselves first thing in the morning after they have used the toilet. This is the scale weight they record.
Your weight fluctuates during the day because;
- Once you start taking food on…food weighs something, so naturally you’ll get slightly heavier.
- Once you start taking fluid on…fluid weighs something, so naturally you’ll get slightly heavier.
- When you take on carbohydrate some of it gets stored in muscle tissue as glycogen. I use the analogy that muscle tissue is like having mini fuel tanks all over your body. Whether the tank is half full or full has an effect on how much you weigh.
- Water retention is a bigger issue for female clients, especially due to the affect of the menstrual cycle.
- Stress can also cause water retention. I know I’m going to be stressed if I’m going to be weighed and someone will give me shit over not losing weight.
If you are given the right plan, support, and knowledge you will lose weight.
Not all of my clients weigh themselves daily, but the ones that do are told to look for averages across weeks.
I’ve seen weight fluctuations of up to 2 kilos ADDED to scale weight day to day in my own weight loss phase. I know why it happened, my clients know why it happened, and it meant very little in relation to the bigger picture.
Why I Prescribe 10,000 Steps Daily.
***UPDATE*** – Everything still counts, just replace the step counter app with a watch or fitbit.
Any of my nutrition clients will tell you that one of the first things I get them to do is download a step counter on their phone.
Before I go into any of this, you need to realise I am of the opinion that if you want to look and feel your best, you cannot sit around all day.
It doesn’t matter if it’s by choice – binging on Netflix (I’m not saying it can’t be done the odd time), or not by choice – maybe your job is sitting at a desk during work hours.
If you want to be lean, you have to be active OUTSIDE of your designated weekly exercise. If you don’t want to lose weight and keep it off, watch all the Netflix you want.
To me it’s irrelevant if the step counter apps are 100% accurate or not (people always ask this), if you’re getting up around 10,000 steps per day you’re active. It doesn’t matter if that’s 5 miles or 5.1 miles.
What matters is you’re not 1,000 steps a day, which is the equivalent of someone who works at a desk and then doesn’t do much around that.
The step counter shows up if your general activity level needs work. This doesn’t mean you have to go hiking every day like the chaps in the very dramatic featured picture.
Just moving around more during the day all adds up, it doesn’t have to be ‘put x amount of time aside every day to walk 5 miles’.
I’ve never had a client dislike the act of moving around more. They generally are quite surprised by the whole process, and are grateful that a light has been shone on their inactivity.
Here’s what I think the benefits are;
- Increasing this type of activity increases overall daily calorie burn in a subtle way.
- It’s good for head space.
- People who move around more are generally at least a little bit more mobile than those who do not.
- Exposure to fresh air and sunlight usually increases, this is a good thing.
- Clients will usually go walking in scenic places when they can, sometimes not just local. This is as important as any of the rest of it to me. Not everybody is interested in exercise, but this usually rubs off on friends and family. I try my best to promote an active lifestyle.
- It’s another good habit in the ‘healthy living/lean habit cluster’*.
*I think that good habits cluster together, as do bad habits.
The person who gets their 10,000 steps in, eats a balanced diet toward their goal, gets enough sleep, keeps stress down, exercises, meets their hydration goal is more likely to look and feel great.
The person who sits around mostly, doesn’t have a plan with nutrition and has limited knowledge of it, sleeps 5 hours a night, is stressed, doesn’t exercise and barely drinks a glass of water per day…in my experience they don’t usually look or feel great about themselves.
I hope this quick outline of why I prescribe 10,000 steps helps you understand that an active lifestyle is conducive to you reaching your goals.
Measuring Progress – Look Beyond The Number On The Scales.
There are a ton of variables you can use to measure your progress when training hard and trying to lose fat. It’s important to be aware of all of this, because fat loss is discontinuous, and so many factors affect scale weight it’s not smart to rely on it as your only progress measure.
Remember – the scales IS great for making sure things are going the right way when it comes to fat loss in the long run, but lots of other things matter.
Here’s a look at some other variables you should keep in mind.
- Take a picture on day one/check the mirror along the way.
I always advise my clients to take a picture on day 1 of their journey. Often times you’ll be making a ton of progress, but it won’t be showing up on the scales (I do explain the reasons why to all of my clients).
You see yourself every day, so it can be hard to notice change…but trust me, eventually you’ll start to notice what’s happening, and it’s a VERY rewarding feeling. A person can have a completely different body composition at the same scale weight – your level of muscle mass compared to fat mass makes all the difference.
- Energy levels and mental clarity.
Once you start fuelling your body, getting enough sleep, hydrating properly, getting plenty of fresh air and being pro-active about your health you’ll feel sharper. I know I would have had a large amount of ‘brain fog’ before I started looking after myself properly. It’s something I hear a lot from my clients, and it has been very apparent to me personally.
Again, due to different factors the weight on the scale isn’t necessarily showing up lost inches. If you are consistent, results will come…you may just need a new wardrobe!
I always say ‘good habits cluster together’. If you’re living a healthy lifestyle, eating well and exercising your sleep quality will improve. Less time being sedentary, less time eating foods that aren’t conducive to healthy living. This is something I note from all of my clients who stick to the plan, and don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep…it will improve your quality of life and feed in to everything else.
You meet new people, and these people are chasing a common goal. Sharing in success and knowing you have support makes such a huge difference to chasing down those goals. One of the most satisfying aspects of the nutrition talks in the gym was bringing people together, there were dozens of clients who trained under the same roof but hadn’t necessarily interacted… now they do.
Life is all about your day to day interactions, it helps if these interactions are great ones.
- Work capacity, seen and unseen.
Keep tabs on how you’re performing in the gym. I always recommend to record weights/rounds/scores etc. so you can see your progress over time. The unseen element of improving work capacity is maybe you get the same number of rounds you did 6 months ago, but your heart rate is at a lower level the whole way through the workout.
This became apparent to me as I use a heart rate monitor when I train. I’m not saying everyone needs one – but just remember there is progress being made, it just may not be apparent to you.
This is from personal experience. I would have had problems with spots/acne when I was younger, this continued all the way up until the point at which I started to look after my health and nutrition a lot more.
Anyone who has ever had skin problems knows how big of a deal this is.
- Improvement of an old injury.
This is more to do with the training element of things, but again it’s just to be aware of such things. Try and note all the positive things that are happening on your journey. We have seen plenty of clients come through the doors at the Academy and vastly improve a previous injury.
- Everyday tasks become easier.
This is one of the most satisfying things to hear as a coach – ‘I’m not as out of breath going up the stairs/I was able to clear out the attic’ etc.
- I am performing better at my sport.
Not everything is about weight loss or weight gain, some clients want to perform better. The ability to improve performance at your sport is a huge deal.
I try and take the guess work out of managing weight. It can be tricky as progress isn’t linear, but once you know WHY you’re doing what you’re doing, you should feel a sense of confidence because you have taken control.
Once things start coming together and physical changes occur, it’s a great feeling knowing that you’ve worked your ass off and look better.
Change takes time, and it’s usually quite subtle – but doing the work means good things inevitably happen…you just might not be aware of it.
Keep all of this stuff in mind the next time you stand on the scales and think you haven’t made any progress.
What Supplements Should I Take?
***Update – Click here for my recommended supplement stack – http://strongbodystrongmind.ie/supplements
(*I’m not going to deal with protein supplementation here – that will have it’s own post. The answers are pretty much the same to what you’re about to read though.)
Supplementation is HIGHLY contextual in that ‘if someone is deficient in something and supplementation is a high priority’, then it’s pretty important.
Instead of spending money on supplements you probably don’t need, I would always advise my clients to go get a blood test done with their GP. This way they can identify if there are any deficiencies, and they can get advice from a medical professional on what to do.
I’m approaching this from the angle that ‘it would appear the client is in good health’, and that the goal is weight/fat loss.
From a fat loss point of view – supplementation plays such a small role in any success, yet most people think it’s a huge factor because, quite simply, supplement companies love making money.
There is no 5 minute fix, there is no tablet or pill that can replace long term and consistent hard work.
Here are some questions which need to be answered first;
- Do you eat a well balanced diet within the calorie/macronutrient boundaries of your goals?
- Do you get 8 hours sleep?
- Are your stress levels high?
- Do you drink enough water?
- Do you get 10,000 steps in daily? (in other words ‘are you active?’, or do you sit on your arse all day?)
- Do you exercise regularly?
Let’s get a handle on all of this before we talk about supplementation.
What I will offer up is some advice on what I do myself;
- I take Vitamin C daily because I feel like it helps keep colds at bay. Maybe I don’t get as many as years past because of my healthier lifestyle as a whole…but I don’t care, I take it anyway!
- Vitamin D – because it’s Ireland and I do spend a decent amount of time indoors with work.
- A good Multivitamin – I would like to think I have a varied, healthy diet…this is to hopefully fill any small gaps which need to be filled.
It may seem like I haven’t really given much in this post – but that’s the point, you can make most of your progress (again, context) with enough sleep, the right diet, less stress, enough exercise and fresh air/sunlight.
There is no secret supplement that counteracts you NOT having the above sorted.
For my own education on any specific considerations per individual clients, I refer to the amazing ‘Supplement Goals Reference Guide’ purchased from Examine.com. They are the #1 source of unbiased supplement analysis out there.
The site is almost overwhelming with the amount of content it contains.
As an aside to this post – check out the following article, it’ll provide some really useful information busting nutrition myths;
How Do I Stay On Track On Holiday?
This is something I would discuss with each individual client, as there are plenty of variables that matter. My advice generally is ‘go enjoy yourself’, but it all depends on what the client wants to do.
This is how I approach things;
- I eat 4-5 meals per day on a normal day. When I go on holiday, I know that each meal is going to have more calories, so I make the adjustment to 3-4. I try and balance things out.
- I make sure each of those 3-4 meals has a sizeable portion of protein, it’s the first thing on the plate.
- I drink plenty of water. My goal is 2.5-3 litres daily, so if I’m away it’s usually 3 litres as a baseline.
- It’s great to relax by the pool, but I do stay active as well and try get plenty of walking in…it’s always easier because of the weather.
- I usually train while I’m away anyway, I’ll always check before and find a gym I can go to.
- I probably drink alcohol once or twice a year, if even at all. If a client wants to go away and have a few drinks every night I don’t discourage it. You’re going to be back on track as soon as you get home if I’m your coach.
Holidays are meant to be enjoyed, you can definitely do this and not go overboard.
Realistically, I don’t have anyone who wants to go away and go completely mad anyway. I’ve had plenty of clients go on holiday and come back either the same weight or slightly down.
People are dealing with so much stress day to day – I think if you can apply guidelines similar to the above, this along with the added relief of stress results in you having a great time and NOT coming home with a big change in weight.
Running – A Physiotherapist’s Perspective
I spoke to local Physio Rob McCabe and asked him for his opinion on running. Rob has extensive experience dealing with a wide range of clients, including those who predominantly run.
Rob has a Masters in Physiotherapy, a Bsc. in Sports Science and Health, a Masters in Sports Physiotherapy and a Post-graduate Diploma in Orthopaedic Medicine.
Here’s what he had to say…
‘The running revolution continues in Ireland with record number of entries in the Dublin City Marathon last year. People typically take it up for various reasons;
- Weight loss.
- They have retired from team sport.
- Mental health reasons.
- To get outdoors – it’s free (until you get so hooked you’re signing up to an event every second weekend as well as experimenting with runners striving for that perfect technique).
But with the uptake of any new activity comes an increased risk of sustaining an injury. Unfortunately for those who start running any gym routine they may have once had tends to get neglected.
But what if that strength training was to (i) improve your performance, and (ii) decrease your risks of injury?
The typical running related injuries I see in clinic are due to muscle imbalances, i.e. somewhere along the kinetic chain is demonstrating signs of instability which is causing adaptations elsewhere overloading a certain structure. The same concept can be applied to most overuse injuries.
When it comes to running injuries knee pain is often associated with poor hip stability. Strength training (specific for runners) can help address these issues,and like mentioned earlier actually improve performance by making the runner more efficient in their movement patterns.
Evidence suggests that 2 strength sessions should be added per week for anyone serious about their running or avoiding getting injured. It prepares the body for the demands of that chosen sport, much like any specific training programme should do. I might add that addressing mobility issues can also help in achieving better running form.
A perfect example is the inability with many runners to extend the hip back due to restrictions around the hip joint itself and the hip flexor muscle.
The important thing is that you enjoy doing whatever your chosen activity is. If it is running you love, run, but be advised that strength training will keep you running better, faster and for longer.’
Some really valuable input from Rob, thank you for taking the time to put this together.
It seems pretty clear – if you want longevity when it comes to running the logical step seems to be to include some relevant strength training in to your programme.
How Much Running Should I Do?
I’m sure someone will disagree with me on this, I have no problem with that. What I’m going to outline is based off my experience, so it’s purely anecdotal evidence. Also note that this applies to general pop. clients – if someone plays sports and running is involved, clearly they need to have running in their training programme.
This is something I come across quite a lot with clients who come to the gym. The main scenarios are;
- They used to run and want to try something different.
- They want to add in some weight training to become more durable for their running.
- They used to run but are sick of getting injured.
The more years running the person has under their belt, the more it is the latter of the three.
For me, the pros of running are;
- It takes minimal equipment and cost.
- It’s great to get people moving initially, especially anyone who is daunted by the thoughts of going to a gym.
- It is amazing for head space, running clears the mind. It does for me because I suck at it, so I’m generally focusing on that fact instead of any other of life’s problems.
- Fresh air and sunlight. We all need more fresh air and sunlight (wear sunscreen).
The cons of running are;
- It is harsh on the joints, especially longer distances over years of running.
- It’s not good for body composition past a certain point. If you’ve fat to drop, running can help create the calorie deficit to promote this loss. Once you get to a certain point, if you want to look good naked running will provide very little progress. If you want to add slabs of lean muscle, running won’t cut it!
‘I want nice arms’. Well, your arms don’t make contact with anything on all those 10k’s you do, so I’m not sure how you’re meant to get nice arms*.
*Lift weights, do direct arm work.
- It’s Ireland, it rains a lot. You don’t need to be depending on the weather, on your friend, on whatever to train. The less ‘get out clauses’, the better.
- Running can be very one paced. I’ve had plenty of clients who on arrival state ‘I’m fairly fit yeah, I run a lot’. The specificity of training – you get good at what you practice, and generally people just have this ‘one pace’ they do their runs at. The same intensity applies every time, but because it’s over an extended period of time the individual thinks it makes them fit across all domains.
Then, when I ask them to do something at a higher intensity than they’re used to… ‘wham’ – game over.
My closing thoughts are;
If someone loves running, I would never tell them to stop.
I do think everybody should have the ability to do a 5k when spontaneously asked.
The HUGE problem I see is that people have absolutely no warm-up, cool down and post-run stretching protocol. A typical run looks like ‘pull up in the car, jump out, do a few leg swings, run 10k, hop in the car and drive home’. And people wonder why they move TERRIBLY when they come in to us, and why the injuries they sustain start stacking up.
There is plenty of running spread across the programming in the Academy, especially in the summer months. It definitely should be included in any well balanced training programme, but I think people approach it all the wrong way in terms of pre and post-run.
There are situations where the frequency of runs need to be on the low end of things, and sometimes even taken out for a period of time. It all depends on the client and their situation/goal.