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4 things I changed my mind about last year.

January 22, 2013

I started this post at the start of this year, but then over the last two weeks life suddenly became extremely busy and stressful for me both physically and emotionally, with someone I was very close to passing away. So I had to put off this post and a few others that I’ve been working on.

But I am back on track now, getting back into my routine, and today I wanted to share with you 4 things that I changed my mind/opinion/attitude about, in 2012. These 4 things were pretty groundbreaking things for me personally. They changed who I am and (hopefully) made me a better person and health/fitness professional.

1. Being a fitness snob is not all its cracked up to be.

I used to think it was cool to be a “fitness snob”. I would roll my eyes at the gym whenever I saw anyone doing useless exercises. I would bag out all the ladies who would never do anything but spin around on the crosstrainer for an hour everyday, while I proudly lifted my heavy shit. I used to think that lifting heavy weights was the answer for everyone across the board, and that eating a meal with not enough protein was a crime.

Let’s face it, being a “snob” has become all the rage in the fitness world these days. I was well and deeply engrossed in it as well myself. But over the course of last year something must have clicked in my head. Maybe I can credit this shift in my attitude to maturing and gaining experience in the industry; or growing up and developing a bit more compassion. Or it could have just been the realisation that no one is perfect and no method is 100 % foolproof.

In any case, I’ve seen flaws in fitness gurus that I look up to and used to practically worship and that made me realise that everyone is human. Of course I am all for the relentless search of the truth and I despise the misinformation and fitness myths that are still so prevalent, but I no longer hate just for the sake of hating. I’ve started to make an effort to look for good in someone’s training method or style, their diet, their approach, whatever it is they are doing, or at least try to understand why they are doing something, rather than automatically hating on it or mocking it. It’s a philosophy that has definitely made me a lot better at what I do. I can temper my hardline approach with a good dose of compassion, I have been able to relate to people better, and it’s made me more well-rounded overall as a trainer.

Of course I still love to have a laugh and poke fun at all the craziness, the obsessions and the weird gadgets in this industry, but I think changing my attitude is what has made the biggest difference of all.  I’ve come to learn that not everyone is like me; not everyone has the same desires that I do, not everyone wants to train like I do, and for many people even just getting off their butts and moving a little bit is a big accomplishment in itself. Everyone is fighting their own battles, and a little bit of compassion, friendliness, and having a respectful, compassionate nature goes a long way in this day and age when everyone is striving to remain as righteous and snobbish as possible.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still hardcore; just less condescending. And while I used to think it was kind of “cool” to be a fitness snob I don’t anymore. At the end of the day, you don’t earn any respect being that way.

2. I am not a “special snowflake” when it comes to mobility/recovery work. I need to focus on it too or I won’t stay injury free for long.

The first few years of my exercising life I never did much mobility work or even gave a second thought to recovery work, or the way I move. I thought I moved pretty well. I thought I could train hard, lift heavy weights and do as much cardio as I wanted, without worrying about injuries. I thought I was just one of those “injury free” types.

I would make my clients stretch and mobilise I used to think other people needed to, but I always used to think I didn’t need it. Partly this was due to a lack of understanding of the human body and knowing about all the many different aspects of physical movement and fitness. Partly I was being stubborn and stupid.

Now that I have a deeper understanding about exercise and warm ups, I have taken far more notice of recovery and mobility work this year, both in myself and in other people. Looking around the gym I have seen technique getting worse and mobility reducing at an alarming rate. With more people sitting at desks, driving cars, and slouching over, human mobility and good posture is reducing all of the time.

And I am no exception. I realised if I wanted to stay injury free in the long-term and continue to perform to my maximum potential, I need to make my prehab and mobility work just as big a priority as I make my training.

In 2011 I took a pretty in depth course (Advanced postural analysis and applied exercise prescription), which opened up my eyes, and dare I say changed my life, and last year especially I started implementing a lot more mobility work and recovery work into my programs as well as my clients programs. Things like stretching overly tight muscles, fixing bad alignment and postural problems, working on stability and core strength, balancing strength in both sides of the body as well as the front and back.

The problem with the reduced mobility and/or faulty alignment and movement is that it hinders your ability to perform exercises correctly. Squats, cleans, lunges, overhead press, etc. all rely on proper movement and posture, but most of us don’t have everything working perfectly, whether it’s a lack of stability or mobility or a postural imbalance or faulty movement pattern. Having checked my own mobility I have realised I could do with more hamstring flexibility so I have been working on that.

And none of us are immune. Recovering properly from training, correcting faulty movement patterns, mobilising as needed and looking after your body in this way will make a huge difference in your performance, give you better results, and help you stay injury free.

The good news is in all of this, and what I also discovered this past year is that you can definitely enhance your body’s ability to recover faster and get even more training in!  A couple of ways I’ve found which have helped me immensely with my recovery are: feeding my body enough good food to support my training, drinking lots of water and loose leaf tea (mainly green and oolong tea), eating fruits and veggies that are high in antioxidants, getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, getting regular sunshine, doing yoga weekly and taking 5-10 minutes a day to relax and clear my mind while taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths.

I also add in things like Epsom salt baths, ice baths, contrast showers, deep tissue massages/ART, foam rolling, and anything else that gets as much blood pumping into my muscles as possible.  Doing these things have gone a long way in speeding up my body’s ability to recover, which means not having a problem being in top form for my next workout. Some people probably think some of these things are bit unnecessary, and they are probably not necessary to the same degree for everyone, but I personally notice a big difference when I slack on my recovery work, start eating junk food on a regular basis, stop doing my yoga and breathing exercises, or mobility work. My performance drops in a big way. It’s a very real thing. And I often do high volume training so I need all the help I can get.  Read more about my thoughts on recovery and over training here.

3. I don’t actually need to eat “endless” amounts of protein.

Eating lots of protein every day, drinking lots of protein shakes all day was one of the first “nutrition commandments” I learned when I started seriously training. I would chug protein shakes all day. Fast forward to 2012 and I started getting very sick of protein shakes; I realised they made me feel bloated if I drank too many and I also had a hard time getting them down.

Last year I did a few personal “experiments” on myself, and I realised that I feel so much better on a moderate protein diet (I generally stick to 1 gram per kg x 2.2 of bodyweight. On an average I get about 125-130 grams of protein a day, although sometimes I’ll just have 110-120). Along with that, I changed my diet to making sure I get most of my protein from whole food sources rather than whey protein. As long as I get over 100 grams a day from good whole sources I am pretty happy.

I don’t stress as much as I used to about getting insane amounts of protein in (for about 2 years I was trying to get up to 190 grams of protein a day, it would make me feel sick sometimes). I’m not as crazy either about my post workout meal happening right after I train. Sometimes I’ll wait a couple hours if I can’t get to food right away. And I haven’t died. I have not shriveled away, nor have I lost any muscle in the last year. To the contrary, I made a lot of strength gains last year and I have more muscle showing too.

I think for people who are trying to lose body fat, it’s better to err on the side of getting plenty of protein. But for me personally, I prefer quality whole proteins over quantity. I seem to perform better, look and feel better when I stick to a moderate protein intake.

4. How strong you are mentally affects how strong you are physically and your performance overall.

For years I used to scoff any sort of self-help, and while I still don’t like excessively cheesy motivational quotes or introspection, I have come to appreciate mental strength and I have learned more about it, and use it a bit more to my advantage.

Last year I competed in quite a lot of CrossFit comps, including competing in the Regionals, as well as competing in the Immortals teams event in Queensland. Having these experiences last year were one of the best things that could have happened to me. I learned more about the mental aspect of competing.

What you’re aiming to achieve starts in your head. You have to get past the self-doubt, and that is a BIG accomplishment in itself. You have to step up to the mark. You have to talk to yourself positively, get rid of the negatives thoughts in your head. When it’s feeling hard and you feel like quitting, you have to convince yourself to push that little bit harder, focus, stand tall, and just breathe. I used to lose control so easily when I was in the middle of a tough workout. I would lose it in my mind, let my anxiety take over, and then I wouldn’t be able to breathe. But last year, I learned so much more about pacing myself, controlling my breath, maintaining my form and not losing the plot in my mind. Of course experience is a big part of it. Technique and efficiency go hand in hand. Once you get more efficient with movement in general, everything becomes easier to cope with. But the mental aspect is equally as big a part of it.

Apart from my CrossFit competitions and learning to cope with competition, how to deal with the nerves, the butterflies in my stomach and the self-doubt, I also have to give some credit to my regular practice of bikram yoga last year. My yoga instructors are very big on becoming mentally strong and focused, resisting the urges to give in to distractions. They also stress the importance of stillness, your breath and your alignment. It’s not an easy practice by any means but it has instilled some good habits in me over the last year, which I’m grateful for.

I’ve said it so many times before but it’s so true. The mind will always try to get you to quit time and time again before your body even needs to stop. If you lose it in your mind, you are pretty much done.

I still have a long way to go of course, but for me building mental strength was a huge part of my continued progress last year, and I am a firm believer in the importance of training for mental strength just as much as you train for physical strength.

I wrote a bit more about building mental strength in this post:

So those are the 4 things I changed my mind or revised my stance on last year. What about you? Have you changed your mind or opinions last year in regards to any health and fitness related issues? I love to hear from you all!

Happy New Year 2013! Train hard and train smart. :)



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