Welcome to ‘The Art of Movement’ - my weekly newsletter!
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This newsletter is not just an opportunity for me to touch base with my dear patrons and show my gratitude for your monthly support, but also to offer you a 5 minute, easily-digestible read around the world of health, fitness and exercise. Here I will troubleshoot many common difficulties my clients experience, offer practical, actionable solutions for you to put to work in your life immediately, and of course provide my weekly motivation in the form of a favourite quote, and a takeaway lesson from it.
Please send me your feedback, questions and curiosity regarding the newsletter via the messaging tool on my Patreon page!
NO CIRCUITS: Tuesday 20th September
For the rest of this year, I wanted to use my newsletter to summarise some important principles of training which I thought could help the average person understand training and exercises better. These are concepts we need to take into consideration when identifying the best way to put our next foot forward in pursuit of our exercise goals.
Edition 34 - Training Principles 5: Leave Your Session Feeling BETTER Than Before
The hardest thing about getting into the habit of training consistently is that exercising can be difficult! Depending on the volume and intensity of a given exercise, it can very easily become gruelling, uncomfortable, and leave you wondering how you are going to keep showing up. It’s not always a fun experience to go through, especially if you are a beginner. However, your body needs to go through these experiences in order for you to get stronger and fitter over time. Strength and endurance training is also one of the most effective ways to improve your health, fitness, sleep quality and mood (check out my latest Patreon episode on sleep); However, not everyone enjoys training, let alone finds it enjoyable enough to continue doing it on a regular basis. It can be taxing both mentally and physically, which is why many people quit after their first few sessions.
My next training principle in the series is here to help you break down your barriers to success, by ensuring that you leave your session feeling better than you did at the start. Here are some tips that will help you with that:
It’s important to plan your training session so that you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve out of it. This will give you a clear picture of what it should look like and will help you stay motivated as you watch yourself progress through it. Lack of a clear workout plan can often lead to meaningless reps, additional sets and exercises, and unnecessarily long workouts, which can sap your motivation and also leave you wondering whether you’ve done the right thing with your session. Meanwhile, absolutely nailing the plan you had written down will give you a huge sense of achievement, progress and the knowledge that even though you aren’t necessarily exhausted, you have given your body the correct dose of what it needs.
Rein it in
Despite what we may be led to believe, you do not need to go to extremes with your training and dedicate yourself to long, intense sessions every day. Keeping it short and simple is the way forward, and ironically people probably find this more difficult than going hell for leather in the gym. Remember that the media (who for the most-part don’t actually know anything about physiology) have conditioned us to believe that a ‘good’ workout, is the one which leaves us in a sweaty, broken, aching mess. But you’ll be delighted to know it doesn’t have to be this way, and you’ll actually be doing yourself a favour by reining it in and reserving very specific moments for your most intense efforts. Modern sports science research is now increasingly showing us that the effects of hypertrophy (muscle growth) decrease the more sets and repetitions we do past a certain point - so it is not a case of ‘the more reps you do, the fitter/stronger you get’ - as illustrated here by Chris Beardsley.
Another useful summarization of this is shown below (don’t feel like you need to dissect all the sciency stuff!) - the research shows the exercises at the start of the session benefit from the most hypertrophy and the least central nervous system fatigue.
All you need to take away from this research is that in many instances when we are trying to get stronger - less can be more. Go big and brief, then take long rests. Focus on your most important exercises at the start of the workout (following warm up and mobility of course), then get a few more supplementary exercises done afterwards in moderation. If you are doing cardio, keep it mostly slow and easy at 3-4 out of 10, then punctuate your week with some 8-9 out of 10 (again, very briefly). Too many people are making the mistake of working constantly at 7-8 out of 10 and trust me, it’s way too hard to do forever - which is why people stop.
Eat well before and after your session
Depending on what kind of training you are doing, it will be beneficial for you to eat before and after your sessions. This helps you not only work better during your sessions (lifting heavier, for more repetitions), but also recover from your workouts faster and more efficiently. It can also help prevent you from feelings of low energy and fatigue during your sessions. For example, having a small portion of carbohydrates before your session will help you avoid going into a state of glycogen depletion, which can lead to fatigue, dizziness, and decreased mental capacity. I’ve lost count of the number of training sessions I’ve had a client looking like they are about to faint on me, before I run to fetch them a banana to force feed them, and we have ‘the chat’ about how many hours it’s been since they last ate - it is almost always a lesson learned the hard way. Next, having a snack containing protein and carbohydrates in the 30-60 minutes after a workout is also a no-brainer. Protein accelerates your muscle rebuilding process, while the carbohydrates help your body replace lost glycogen stores (carbohydrates are your primary source of energy for your muscles).
Applying these tips will help you get to a place with your training sessions where you are able to get to the gym (the hard part) without fear and impending doom, work through your routine in an orderly fashion without killing yourself, learning about your strengths and weaknesses along the way, and coming out of the gym feeling like:
The workout wasn’t too long and arduous
The hard stuff was brief
It didn’t send you over the cliff edge
You’re comfortable with doing it all again in a day or two
“Work smarter, not harder” ― Unknown
Movement of the Week: Prone Back Extension
3 x 12 reps
A simple yet effective way to improve your core strength and stability, as well as reduce incidents of lower back pain. Back extensions simply require you to lay on your stomach on the floor, with your arms in a W shape, and raise your arms, chest, and thighs off the ground (simultaneously and gently). The erector spinae (lower back) muscle will contract as you go into this raised position, and you only need to hold for 1 second at the top, before coming back down to a resting position on the floor again, repeat for 12 reps, then rest for 30-60 secs.
That’s all for this week! Please spread the word about my Patreon channel so more people can enjoy the videos and newsletters!