Archive for May, 2015

Foam Rolling for Warm up and Recovery

foam roller

Warming Up

For many years our warm up activities have been scrutinized, researched and changed around.  In the 70s we had ballistic movements, in the 80s and early 90s we had static stretching, and since then we’ve generally gone down the ‘dynamic stretching’ or ‘joint mobility’ exercises track.  At a recent convention I attended some interesting research was highlighted in relation to both static and dynamic stretching as part of the warm up.  We already knew of the possibility of injury with static stretching prior to a workout (see my stretching blog), but now it seems dynamic stretching is, if not in the firing line, in the irrelevant category.  Research indicates (this is my blog so there’s no citation but if you email I’ll send it) that there is no difference in relation to injury whether or not I do a dynamic stretching warm up.

So if static stretching is out, and dynamic movements make no difference, what should we do?

Well it turns out that what most of us have been doing afterwards is better done before hand as well!  Foam rolling is researched to improve blood flow to the working muscles and works well as part of your warm up.  The rest of your warm up should consist of activities consistent with ‘warm up sets’ – that is – activities that replicate your activity at a reduced intensity.  Body weight activities such as air squats, push ups, lunges and the like are great, and if you are doing a weights session a warm up set is the best way to go.  Use 50-75% of the weight you plan to lift in your normal sets.  For really heavy weights or risky exercises such as barbell squats or deadlifts, a couple of warm up sets gradually increasing the weight is suggested.

foam roller2

Cooling Down

So we’ve included static stretches as part of the cool down for years.  And although there’s no longer any reason other than increases in flexibility to do them (they don’t really decrease DOMS), they are great to help you calm down after a hard workout.  Similarly foam rolling activities can do the same.  Ideally if you’ve got time at the end of your session, both would be great.  Static stretches first, then foam rolling should help your recovery.

General Maintenance

Even if you’re not working out, foam rolling can help.  Obviously a deep tissue massage is the best way to increase blood flow into working muscles, but you can’t have one every day.  But you can use the roller every day.  My suggestion is that you go through this recommended routine at least once a day.

Start with your quadriceps, move to your ITB, piriformis/gluteals, lower back, upper back, hamstrings, calves, lats and then your neck.  If you’re just starting out use a nice smooth roller –  that will cause you enough pain!  As you get used to the feeling and the muscles respond you will need something a little more aggressive.  A ‘rumble roller’ as above is the go.  Use the regular one first and then graduate to the extra firm model.

Here’s my video for you to watch and follow… enjoy!



Price increase… well a little one anyway!


Time for a Price Increase

Since I started the business as a part time venture in 2009 I have not had a price increase at all!  Obviously in those six years or so there has been a significant increase in occupancy and utility costs and the occasional tax bill (!) and as a result I have no real option but to increase my fees albeit a small net increase (see below)

The increase will not apply to multiple P.T. sessions per week or to full time students – these prices will remain the same but the new special conditions won’t apply to them as far as free sessions go.

How Much?

From July 1 2015, all services except multiple P.T. sessions and full time student bookings will increase by $10.  Did you know the recommended retail price for a 45 minute remedial massage treatment is $90?  If you go to endota spa etc you’ll pay $110!  The new price will be $70 for this service – still well below the normal price and from your feedback, well above the normal service level.  Plus with the new loyalty bonus there’ll be hardly any difference anyway.

Bonus Sessions

But if you’re a regular you’ll get a bonus!!!  Every tenth booking for a single booking will be free, so if you count your ten bookings the total cost will be just $30 more than now – that’s just a $3 increase per booking.   You won’t have to count (unless you want to check on me) or use a loyalty card – it will all be done automatically and I’ll let you know when your free one is coming.

You can combine P.T. and massage treatments, and if at least 50% of your massage treatments are extended massages your free one is too.  Whilst you can’t combine treatments with someone else to get your tenth free one, you can transfer your free one to someone else or have it as a gift certificate to give to anyone you please.

There are some other small changes to conditions, such as the free massage with multiple per week P.T. session being discontinued, and a new minimum fee for group P.T. participants for new groups from July 1.  The free P.T. sessions will now only apply to those signing up for multiple per week programs.

In Summary

From July 1 2015 all prices except multiple per week P.T. bookings and full time students will increase by $10.  Every 10th session will be free no matter what the sessions were.  The average total increase per session will be $3

My credit card provider has increased their pricing, and so I don’t have to pass the extra cost on, I’m changing providers from July 1.  This means that you’ll have to bring your credit card with you when you come as I can no longer store the numbers for future use (it’s probably safer too these days!)


Am I Eating Enough to Lose Fat?

These days the constant buzz of dietary advice given is generally directly related to the amount of money the writer can make from the advice.  As a result the advice is often contradictory, even within the same field, and usually is based upon flawed science.  There’s no point in asking a celebrity chef about weight loss – firstly there’s a conflict of interest there, and secondly he/she is not an expert in diet management unless some valid peer accepted tertiary studies in the area have been undertaken.  So don’t be misled.

The science behind losing weight exists.  Weight loss programs will work and the concepts are reasonably easy to explain, but because there’s no short cut to proper healthy weight loss many people will not like to hear it.

There are two ways to lose weight – one is not sustainable, and the other is hard work.

Skinny Fat Dieting

The formula for losing ‘weight on the scale’ is actually simple.  Eat between 1200-1500 calories for women (1500-1800 for men) every day, and undertake at least one hour of exercise in the 60-70% of maximum heart rate range.  You will be guaranteed to lose weight, but most of it will be muscle tissue and you will become what we call ‘skinny fat’.  80-90% of what you lose will be muscle, and 10-20% will be fat depending upon exercise intensity within the above range, and genetics.  This is the primary method used by television weight loss shows, and most commercial weight loss programs in search of quick ‘results’.  The science behind it relates to cortisol levels in the blood.  Cortisol in your system preserves body fat, and constantly starving your body of food whilst undertaking low intensity exercise increases cortisol.  Your body goes into ‘starvation mode’ and your metabolism slows down causing a stress reaction and a cortisol increase.  In this mode it is extremely hard to build muscle tissue.  In fact, your percentage of body fat will increase under this style of weight loss and although you will be smaller, you will be flabby.

We know this because of the recent improvements in measuring body composition.  We have previously used a range of methods for measuring body fat, but increasingly the DXA scan is being used.  This method is now more inexpensive and there are an increasing number of devices available in local areas.  It is well worth investigating this as a pre-program test if you are looking to become more healthy.  DXA scans in Australia and overseas indicate without exception that a low calorie diet with exercise in the ‘fat burning zone’ will never burn significant amounts of fat from your adipose tissue.  In situations of negative caloric balance your body will use either fat or muscle as fuel.  If you don’t use the muscle tissue vigorously it will use this first and conserve your adipose tissue (fat). For example a typical DXA scan will show that a 90kg person has a body composition of 30% (30kg) fat (your average 90kg sedentary person in 2015)and 60% (60kg)lean tissue.  If that person loses 10 kg using the above formula, on average, 8.5kg will be muscle and 1.5kg will be fat loss.  The person will weigh 80 kg, with body composition of 35% (28.5kg) fat and 55% lean tissue (45kg).  So the percentage fat will increase, not decrease, and health indicators such as cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure etc. are not likely to improve.  In fact visceral fat (in and around the body’s organs) will not change at all as it is the last fat to be lost as a rule.  The processing of muscle tissue as a source of energy is also difficult for kidney function and has been known in the past to cause kidney failure.

Skinny fat – thin appearance but high percentage fat vs muscle tissue

Sustaining Muscle Tissue

So if this doesn’t work in a sustainable way, then what is the formula?  Well… balance your diet, don’t starve yourself every day and work hard and sharply.  Attempt to reduce cortisol levels in your body by using some tactics proven to work scientifically.  You probably won’t lose significant weight quickly – in fact it may be very gradual – but maintaining muscle mass is more critical to good health as we get older and more important than what the scales tell you.

Lets quickly look at the exercise element.  As with all exercise, especially when you plan to work intensely, you should get a medical go ahead first.  Exercise will, by itself, not out run a bad diet.  Neither will you lose significant body fat quickly just by exercising without dietary considerations.  The purpose of exercise whilst trying to lose body fat is to sustain muscle tissue and increase EPOC.  Muscle tissue is important because it is a precursor for health.  Muscles, when used actively, pull on bones and make them stronger maintaining bone density, especially in older people and women over 32.  Muscle tissue requires more energy to sustain and therefore when increased through exercise increases your metabolic rate, using more calories just standing still. EPOC is excess post exercise oxygen consumption and refers to what occurs after intense exercise.  EPOC is an indicator that the body is recovering from hard effort.  Typically a weight training session where you have worked to failure in four or more exercises of 3-5 sets of 12-5 reps will increase EPOC for up to 14 hours.  That is – your metabolism is increased for this period of time and you are using calories without doing anything but breathing.  Interval training also increases EPOC for 3 or 4 hours afterwards.  So you need to do either or both of these things three times a week with at least one day in between.

2014-08-17 18.25.02

Weight Sessions

During your weight sessions you need to work to failure in your last set – failure caused by a ‘lactic burn’ or hydrogen ion build up.  The best way to do this is ensure the weight you use is hard enough for the last two reps to be very difficult for the earlier sets.  Typically, if you’re doing 3 sets of 8, reps 7 and 8 should be very hard in sets one and two, and maybe not possible in the last set.  This signals to your brain that you need this muscle tissue and increases testosterone to rebuild the minor damage you’ve just caused whilst building the muscle stronger for next time.  Increased testosterone reduces cortisol levels.  This is what we want because at low cortisol levels and higher testosterone levels, fat is targeted as the preferred source of energy whilst in caloric deficit.  Don’t worry ladies, you won’t grow huge muscles – you don’t have the capability for huge testosterone increases, just little ones that are sufficient for this purpose.

Interval Training

Interval training works in a similar way provided you do it properly.  You need to do your intervals such that at the end of the interval your heart rate is at least 90% of your maximum heart rate.  Maximum heart rate is very variable, and to be honest, the measures we normally use are not scientifically validated, but as an approximation, 220 minus your age then multiplied by 0.9 will give you the target heart rate for the end of the rep.  Again, you need to ‘feel the burn’ on every rep to indicate to your system that the muscles used are required for the above process to occur.  If you want to do interval training, my advice is to ask a fitness professional in relation to reps, intervals and recovery times.

interval training heart rate melissa

Melissa’s chart for 30 second intervals

The Dietary element

Diet is the most important element in weight loss, especially for fat loss and especially if you are trying to build muscle tissue.  To be accurate you need to measure things… calories in and out and morning heart rate levels to ensure you’re not overdoing things.  Again, the measurement of calories in and calories out is not a pure scientific thing given the individual variability of how we process food and use calories in exercise, however monitoring it seems to work for most people.  Caloric surplus and caloric deficit have to both be part of your plan.  If you are constantly in caloric deficit your metabolism will slow down, and if this is for a long period, it may never speed up to pre-deficit levels again.  The general formula is to be in caloric deficit no more that two days in a row.  On the third day you should be in caloric surplus starting with eating breakfast and ensuring a reasonably constant consumption of food during the day.  Bingeing on one meal to increase caloric consumption doesn’t work – whatever you eat should be consistent throughout the day.  I encourage my clients to only have four days during the week where they are in caloric deficit.  Eat for a surplus on the weekend and on Wednesday, and a deficit (you can use the 1200-1500 (1500-1800 for men) calories as a target) on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

What Should I Eat?

That’s a whole different matter and is very individual in relation to what your body needs.  Some people need grains and cereals, some don’t, others may not tolerate dairy or red meat very well, where others do.  The secret is to work out what you’re comfortable eating and what foods suit your body system.  Items which make you feel unwell or bloated should be avoided and foods which make you feel energized and well should be emphasized.  Seek the advice of a qualified health professional for specific details, but generally the trick is to eat as much unprocessed food as you can.  Stick to the outside of the supermarket and avoid buying things in packets.  Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and the like are generally best, and at all costs avoid sugary drinks.  Don’t worry about full fat milk (4-3%) it’s not the reason you would be overweight, and use olive oil or butter if you like the taste.  If you want bread as part of your diet ensure it is full grain style and not white processed.  There are plenty of reasons to minimize carbohydrate consumption but my advice is not to be over obsessed with that.  If you are exercising and counting intake vs output following the above rules moderate consumption can be a part of it.  There is some evidence around trying to build muscle whilst in caloric deficit which says that on those days a higher proportion of your food for the should be protein when compared with other days.

Meal from above

How do I Measure?

Technology has come a long was in this field, mostly for financial gain, but we can take advantage of it for ourselves.  All you need is a smart phone (which you already have I guess) and a brand name fitness tracker that will sync with your phone.  The trackers that have a an optical wrist pulse reader light will allocate calories used with your pulse rate in mind and should be more accurate at measuring output.  If you download the app MyFitnessPal you will be able to enter your current physical details and all of your food as you consume it.  It has all the Australian dietary items in the supermarket recorded, and if the item has a bar-code you can scan it in and allocate a portion of the item consumed.  Otherwise you can search manually for items and save them as favourites.  Your tracker app will be able to sync with MyFitnessPal and provided you have put all of your food in, an approximately accurate surplus / deficit figure will be automatically calculated.  Very convenient if only approximate.


About Cortisol

‘Cortisol is a steroid hormone, in the glucocorticoid class of hormones, and is produced in humans by the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex within the adrenal gland.[1] It is released in response to stress and low blood glucose.’   You can read more here.  Chronic cortisol production is a modern phenomenon and will interfere with fat loss, so you need to minimise its production.  Things which will increase it apart from the above (low caloric input, high aerobic exercise) are stress, anxiety, clinical depression, injury, illness, some drugs and lack of sleep.  Given that exercise will assist with all of those things to some extent, regular exercise at the levels suggested above will keep cortisol levels down.

You can also reduce cortisol levels by having a deep tissue massage!