Category: Fitness

How A Training Journal Saved My Neck

Ok, so the title may be a little misleading in the hopes of getting your attention, but there is an element of accuracy to it and a great sentiment behind it. So let me explain…

During my professional rugby career, I was required to train hard and often. My weekdays were mainly spent doing speed work on the track, strength training in the gym, or skill work on the field.

It was the norm that we used training diaries or journals to log the results of the activities prescribed by our Athletic Trainer, especially from our weight training program.

I found using a diary both helpful and a hindrance, and my commitment to writing down my performance after each exercise was inconsistent. While it was handy having previous scores written down as a reminder of where I was and a what to improve upon, I didn’t always remember to keep track, or on some occasions bring my diary to the gym at all!

The obvious benefits of using a training diary became apparent to me when I broke my neck playing rugby. After a successful surgery, I faced a long, hard road to recovery, and little did I know that the humble training diary would become my best friend during this difficult period.

keeping-a-training-journal_02

Stepping Stones

When the fusion of my fractured C4/C5 vertebrae was strong enough, it was time to embark on my neck rehabilitation. I suffered extensive nerve damage to my right arm also, which now resembled that of a 6 year old child due to the muscle atrophy which had occurred.

Despite the risks and my new infantile physique, I was determined to play rugby again. At 32 years old however, I knew that I would have to cross my ‘t’s and dot my ‘i’s if I was to return to the field while I was still young enough to perform.

So I made myself a training diary, which included a “Goals” section in the back of the book, and the first thing I wrote in the diary was my long term goal – “MAKE STARTING TEAM FOR FIRST GAME OF NEXT SEASON”. That gave me 9 months.

I would then set a series of shorter range goals as stepping stones to the Long term goal. This was important not only as an indicator of whether I was on the right track, but makes the long term goal seem less overwhelming. If you’re climbing a mountain, it can be too daunting and discouraging to keep looking at the summit, so setting your sights on each base camp will seem more achievable and hence more motivating.

looking-up-at-the-mountain

Keeping your discipline

When trains become derailed it can have disastrous consequences. This was my mindset when it came to sticking to my rehab program. The programs that my neck specialist and Strength and Conditioning Coach gave me were the train tracks which were laid down for me, and my training diary would ensure that I stayed on the tracks, otherwise my life was in danger if I attempted to take the field again with an under-strengthened neck, shoulder and arm.

This sentiment helped me remain disciplined and focused. Disciplined to remember my diary. Disciplined to stick to my program and write down my scores. Disciplined to review my performance and assess the achievement of my short term goals.

When you write down your performance in a training diary, you now become accountable to yourself, and the numbers don’t lie. The great US Olympic track sprinter Michael Johnson says in his book Slaying The Dragon that he ensures he doesn’t “blur the edges” of his training program. If it says do 10 reps, you must do 10 reps, not 9.

michael-johnson-victory

Listen to your body through your diary

Just as it is important to be strict and work hard to achieve your goals, it is equally important to be aware of any signs of overtraining, and take measures to prevent any illness or injury as a result.

Your training diary can provide valuable information about any plateaus in performances, which are prime indicators that overtraining may be occurring, in which case a reassessment of the training program may be necessary.

In my training diary, I also include a scale of how I am feeling before and after training, and be sure to make a comment of things like muscle soreness, lack of energy, quality of sleep etc. which can all be valuable indicators that I need to back off.

overtraining-in-fitness-800x534-1160x665

What kind of diary?

Your diary can be as simple or elaborate, as large or small as you want. A simple blank notebook is better than nothing. I recommend however using a diary that has a clearly set out format making it easier to write down info and clearer to read and compare when you review sessions.

Some people don’t mind having a large and bulky all-in-one folder with compartments in which programs and other information can be kept. Others prefer a more discreet pocket sized version which more easily transported and less obnoxious. Bear in mind though that these can easily be misplaced, so I tend to go for something in the middle.

To ensure that I get in and out of the gym in a timely fashion, I like to fill in as much of the session as possible in my diary before the workout, especially if I am transferring info from a separate training program.

There are some good training diary apps out there too which obviously negate the need for pen which is desirable. I recommend JEFIT Workout and Fitlist apps.

However, I like to keep it old school with a paper booklet and pen for a few reasons, but mainly to limit the use of my phone and temptation to be distracted by apps, texts and emails which can deter the quality of my workout. So unless you’re a doctor on call or an Instagram influencer, leave the phone in the car and grab your training journal and pen to optimize the quality of your session.  Where can you find a good diary you ask? You can order the very diary I used for my neck injury rehab and still use myself and give to my clients today. Just click the link below to order.

diary example for blog post

Your New Year Checklist For Dominating 2017

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, here’s a checklist of the 11 top things to do right now to help ensure you make the most of 2017, and set you up for a future of success and YOGness.

  1. Download a time management app

For most of us, many hours went to waste in 2016 due to poor time management. As our lives get busier and more distractions emerge around us, we develop an even greater propensity to procrastinate or misspend our precious time.

Having an organizer that can help you plan and complete your daily “to do” list is a valuable productivity tool.

There are many apps out there for this purpose, but I like to use the Wunderlist app which allows you to set tasks and sub tasks within projects and sorts them into a daily or even weekly to do list while sending you reminder notifications.

wunderlist-eg

2. Buy a large water bottle

There is no doubt about the necessity of water for survival, so it should be no surprise either that there are countless benefits of water to our health, function and even maintaining a youthful appearance. After all, we are comprised of up to 80% water.

The minimum recommended intake of H2O for adult males is 2.7 liters, and we normally get 20% of that through food. It can be difficult to remember to drink the other 80% we need, so investing in a large stainless steel or glass bottle to carry with you everywhere is my recommendation.

Treat yourself to a 40oz stainless steel bottle from Mobot, which also doubles as a foam roller, and aim to drink two full bottles per day to meet your minimum requirement.

If you want to take your health to the next level, then invest in an alkalizing water filter. Our friends at Life Ionizer will sort you right out.

mbot-thumb

3. Buy a group fitness membership

I know, the fitness kick from January 1st vibe is so cliché, but no harm in playing along. Problem is, so many people buy new gym memberships, or commit to finally using the one they already have, then inevitably end up just donating money monthly to their respective fitness boxes as soon as February rolls around as life becomes hectic again.

This is partly why I recommend a group fitness membership instead. Your motivation is likely to remain higher in an environment where other people are contributing to the overall energy and a good trainer is keeping you honest while sweating safely. The social aspect and sense of community in group sessions is also likely to keep you wanting to come back for more.

I recommend places like Training Mate, Soul Cycle or even sign up for a team in a semi-competitive sports league like mixed flag football or ultimate Frisbee. This way, you’re not just letting yourself down, you’re also letting down others by choosing to stay home overdosing on ESPN instead of lacing up the trainers for the real deal.

training-mate-01-600x450

4. Block out 1 weekend per month for a road trip

I am speaking mostly for Angelenos, but the vast majority of major cities around the world have great weekend or day trip destinations within a few hours drive, or at the most, a 60 minute flight.

Getting away from the rat race is important not only for achieving balance, but also enriching our character, and it need not be any more than loading up the car with a tent and surfboards, or hiking shoes and a picnic basket.

If taking a domestic flight from LAX is a bit steep, then a road trip to any of California’s great National Parks such as The Sequoias, Big Bear, or Joshua Tree should be high priority.

Don’t feel like driving? Take the train down to San Diego for an overnighter, or maybe just to San Clemente for a Sunday Funday.

cali-road-trip-1

5. Prepare for Yoga and meditation

This may seem like two checklist items, but these go hand in hand. If you’re not convinced about the benefits of yoga for your daily life, refer to our article about Yoga for YOGs HERE.

In L.A.,  yoga studios are as prolific as plastic surgery, but if I had to choose, Yoga Works normally provides a great experience for all levels in several locations, and there are often good deals on Groupon to help give you the extra push to sign up.

While Yoga helps quieten our minds and center our energy, it isn’t enough to rely on as your sole dose of meditation. Seeking more meditation practice will help you dominate 2017 and execute all aspects of your life at a high frequency.

Guided meditation sources are popping up everywhere, and the Headspace app is leading the charge. Start with just 5 mins per day and build up to as long as you’re comfortable with.

headspace-cartoon

6. Simplify your HQ

Over time, we accumulate lots of stuff, especially over a whole year if we don’t de-clutter regularly. When we have more stuff, we have more stuff to manage which can be overwhelming and stressful. Start with your home. Clear your bedroom of objects you simply don’t need to free up some space. For inspiration, watch “Minimalism” on Netflix immediately. If you have a home office, aim for a completely object and paper free desk. Downsize your wardrobe by donating any clothes to Goodwill that you haven’t worn in a year. Watch the documentary “The True Cost” for extra motivation.

You can also spring clean your phone by deleting contacts, unused apps and social media followers or “friends” . Go through these lists and unfriend/unfollow anybody you don’t know well or doesn’t have a positive influence on your life. You’ll be surprised how liberating this can be.

cluttered-desk

7. Create a “live life to the fullest” reminder

I shared my most recent and powerful “life’s short” trigger in our last article How I really feel about turning 40. It could be a quote that you frame and hang in your bathroom where you’ll see it first thing every morning, or even make it your smart phone wall paper. By constantly reminding yourself that you have one chance at this life, and time is ticking away ever so quickly, it will hopefully allow you to eradicate your fear based thoughts and go out to chase your dreams.

carpe-wrist

8. Get rid of your TV

I know this may sound a little extreme, but your television set is often the source of many non-redeemable hours of life disappearing into a black hole of waste. The way I look at it, ridding yourself of your TV is similar to taking junk food out of your fridge. If it’s not there, you won’t eat it. I prefer to have a Netflix account on my laptop, which is similar to having a corner store where you can still buy junk food, but you’ll only make the trip if you can be bothered or have something you really want to eat.

Don’t get me wrong, a little entertainment media is a good way to help us switch off our brains after a stressful day or provide some much needed laughs. Just try to be disciplined and avoid binge watching consecutive seasons of popular fictional shows for hours on end, and make an effort to balance it out with uplifting and educational documentaries.

no-more-tv

  1. Buy an Audible account

Read more books this year. And if you’re like me, whose only time to read is bedtime which normally lasts 5 minutes before falling asleep, then audiobooks are for you. Audiobooks can be handy when stuck in traffic on the way to work, cooking your evening meal, or even working out at the gym.

For a reasonable monthly fee of $15, an Audible account offers discounts and 1 credit for any purchase per month, which can accumulate up to 6 credits at any time.

audiobook-headphones

10. Put a nutrition plan in place

We all say we’re going to eat healthier this year, but how many of us even devise a plan, let alone stick to it?

Improving our nutrition will also require some education on better food choices and also meal preparation. It’s a constant, fulfilling practice. For education, there are many great documentaries out there such as Food Matters, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and Sugar Coated to put you on the right path.

Too busy to prepare and cook your own healthy meals? Meal delivery services can be an excellent way to ensure you’re putting the right stuff in your body to suit your lifestyle.

I like Fresh n’ Lean which delivers pre-cooked, vacuum packaged goodies using organic, vegan ingredients that you can simply heat up on the stove. Stack.com also has a useful list of meal services for you athletes out there.

The best way to put you on the right nutrition path however is consult a reputable nutrition specialist. If you’re in Los Angeles, Clinical Nutritionist Dr. Bruce Fulford with prescribe the right diet according to your metabolic type.

fresh-n-lean

11.  Create a work vs play diary

Did 2016 seem like all work while your friends were all out doing cool, fun stuff? Or was last year fairly unproductive overall due to your social FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)?

The work:play ratio can be difficult to manage, especially if you have kids or you’re trying to get that business off the ground. It can also be challenging staying totally present when engaged in either of the two, for fear of the other one suffering.

So it can be useful to not only schedule your leisure time, but evaluate it at the end of the day. Simply keep a diary where you rate your work productivity and quality of social activities and the reason for the rating. You will soon see whether the time is being misused. Setting goals for your work and play time will then give you more control over your quality of life.

play-vs-work-balance

 

Okay there you have it, well done for sticking it out up to this point, this tells me you’re keen for a good start to a big year. This checklist could have gone on, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. You should have a great basis here to use the month of January to get your shit together to start 2017 on the right foot, and maintain these good habits throughout the year and beyond.

Now go get ‘em Tiger!!

 

M

 

 

 

Saving Lives Through Facial Hair

I lost my grandfather to prostate cancer. I was 18 years old at the time. When you’re 18 you believe you’ll live forever. Common worries of a healthy 18 year old include passing a driver’s license test,who they’re taking to the prom and which college they’ll get into. Being diagnosed with cancer is generally not on the list.

Seeing how much physical and emotional pain my Gramps suffered during his final weeks have forever haunted me. And now that I am well beyond my teenage years, my “it will never happen to me attitude” is increasingly waning, especially after learning that 5 -10% of prostate cancer diagnoses are hereditary.

So in an effort to keep the big “C” at bay, I do my utmost to choose sound lifestyle habits, fueled by a career in Health and Fitness, and also do my part to promote and contribute to organizations that are leading the way in funding research and practices for the treatment of prostate cancer.

One such organization at the top of my list is The Movember Foundation.

What started as a fun idea to bring the moustache back into fashion and raise money doing so by two mates (Travis Garone and Luke Slattery) in Australia, has now turned into a global phenomenon raising USD $710 million and funding 1,200 men’s health projects since it’s humble beginnings.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-12-31-55-pm

A constant concern of mine with charities is whether the donation money actually reaches its intended area of need. The great thing about the Movember Foundation is that they address these and similar concerns of its donors and claim to have ultimate control over the funding of the projects they invest in.

I urge you to play your part this Movember. If you are follicularly challenged of the upper lip, then participate in one of the many great Movember events on the calendar for the rest of the month or even host your own event.

movember-poster-copy

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, look no further than the event I’m hosting through my company Rugby Method, which involves an outdoor bootcamp style group fitness session, followed by a tackle bag challenge for a chance to win some great prizes, while getting some aggression out and reversing the regret of eating/drinking so much over Thanksgiving.

Former Rugby Star Turns From Blob to YOG

I had a smile like a split watermelon when I saw my old rugby team mate make a major life changing decision, and shed the weight that basically made him famous.

Matt Dunning try vs Argentina

I played with Matt Dunning at the NSW Waratahs from 2000-2002 (that’s me swimming in the number 13 jersey above) and he was certainly an anomaly. Despite his 125kg (275lbs) robust, yet slightly Mr Stay Puft type frame, he was one of the quickest, most skillful players in the forward pack.

Mr. Stay Puft

Not only was he a great player, but he was an entertainer. Nicknamed “Tucky” after Friar Tuck from Robin Hood, he was more like a cartoon character than a rugby player and he soon became a crowd favorite with his lovable personality and unlikely rugby playing ability. It was as if his body shape defined him and certainly set him apart from the rest, particularly in the eyes of the fans and media.

Matt Dunning wallaby training

Yet since retiring due to a career ending injury, his super-sized physique no longer served him the way it did during his Professional Rugby days. Furthermore, he was no longer carrying the same kind of muscle thanks to the lack of a rigorous daily training schedule in his heyday.

And now at 35, the commencement of his YOG years, he decided enough was enough.  Perhaps the YOG blog inspired him, perhaps not, but I’m sure it secretly did…either way, he found the strength to embark on a personal journey of self improvement and life enhancement. He decided to become the YOG he was destined to be.

Watch the following video and see his amazing transformation for yourself.

I asked Matt for some more information on how he achieved this amazing feat. His diet initially consisted of a combination of low calorie meal replacement drinks, meat and veg, and 4 cleanse days a month.

Matt Dunning diet

Matt admitted that he wasn’t always able to stick to the caloric guidelines, but a big part of his weight loss was the 4 cleanse days, as they “get rid of impurities and toxins from our bodies. We store fat to protect ourselves from these so getting rid of them allows us to shed more fat.”

He still maintains the 4 cleanse days, although he has increased his calorie intake to between 2000 and 2500 per day.

He said one of the hardest thing to do was giving up his beloved Diet Coke for the first 4 months. However when I asked if he gave up the booze he said “mate I drank like a fish for the first 5 months! Haven’t drunk for last 3 months. I’d already lost 36kgs of 41kgs when I gave the booze a break.”

He also said despite wanting to quit coffee, he still drinks it because he “enjoys the social side too much”.

matt dunning skinny

Matt at day 180 

This goes to show that a balance can be achieved between making sacrifices to achieve your weight loss goals, yet still enjoying yourself and the guilty pleasures in life.

Obviously his metamorphosis would not have been possible without exercise. Being an ex-pro athlete meant that Matt could devise himself a program which he knew would work for him and also have the ability to execute with proper form and discipline.

What’s surprising is that he didn’t start his training program until about the halfway mark, which looked something like the following:

dunning training program

So as you can see, this wasn’t a flash in the pan Hollywood quick fix regime, nor was it a socially crippling, soul crushing strictathon. Matt Dunning is essentially still Matt Dunning…just with a new wardrobe and cheekbones.

M

 

 

YOG’s legs

Have you noticed that the equipment in your gym for training legs is quite often free to use? Meanwhile, the bench presses and dumbbell rack in front of the mirror is like a metal concert mosh pit…

Well YOGs don’t skip legs day.  And there’s no need to dread working on the lower body either. A typical body building routine involves building and ‘sculpting’ the legs using machines and squat racks.

However, in the following short video, I show you how you can work the legs in a more functional way, engaging important core muscles, through power and balance based exercises. This will help all you YOGs dominate your every day work and recreational activities, rather than just trying to look buff in a pair of shorts (which it will).

Including exercises with a Bosu ball will challenge our balance and keep things interesting, which heightens our motivation. The addition of plyometrics works the stretch-shortening cycle and trains us for activities and sports which require speed, power and agility.

Feel free to comment with any questions or need more details about the workout. Enjoy!

M

 

 

Can you say ‘YOG’ with an ‘A’?

Following up from our post on preventive wellness, I thought it would be a good idea to delve into one of the most effective methods of relieving pain, preventing injuries and maintaining physical and mental health…YOGA.

Even though yoga has been around for thousands of years, it has recently grown rapidly in popularity. In LA especially, it seems people never leave home without their keys, iPhone and Yoga mat. Lululemon yoga gear is everywhere, even on people that don’t do Yoga.

Celebrity Yoga collage

But while the many aspiring film stars of LA practice yoga to tap into their Chi, it’s also a great way for a YOG (not to be confused with Yogi) to stay on top of his game and provide some balance for the mind, body and spirit.

Health Benefits

Having poured over recent studies and articles on yoga, and also experiencing it for myself, the number of health benefits are staggering. I’ve narrowed it down to 7 so you can spend less time reading and more time in ‘Downward Dog’.

1.  Strength & Flexibility

The kind of strength which is developed during a yoga class is much more functional and consistent with our every day activities than just lifting weights. Using only your bodyweight and gravity, yoga encourages a more total body strength workout which also engages core muscles and stabilizers around joints, helping us to prevent onset of chronic pain issues and also acute injuries.

indian yogi 1947

As you build strength, you’ll also improve your flexibility and posture. This means that it’s important to mix yoga in with your weekly training schedule, particularly if you hit the weights often as this can often lead to muscle imbalances and tightness, leaving you prone to injury.

2.  Lower stress levels

YOGs tend to live jam-packed lives, and are always on the go. The calming nature of yoga together with the meditative element helps our mind achieve a peaceful state by slowing down the mental fluctuations of anger, fear, frustration, regret and desire which all cause stress. And we all know what stress can do to us, if not, READ THIS for an example.

businessman beach yoga

3.  Better Sleep

A study from Harvard found that subjects with insomnia were able to improve the quality of their sleep with just 8 weeks of yoga. Another study showed that the sleep quality and well being of cancer patients dramatically improved after completing a short weekly program of Tibetan yoga.

YOG man down

4.  Pain Relief

Trade in those prescription drugs for some ample doses of yoga. Several studies show that Asana combined with meditation reduced pain in people with arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain and other chronic conditions.

back pain

5. Boost Sexual Performance

I’m not just referring to the effect on arousal levels being surrounded by hot, sweaty women performing suggestive body positions (you’re not supposed to be looking around the room). Studies have found that 12 weeks of yoga can improve sexual desire, confidence, orgasm and performance in both men and women. This can be attributed to increased blood flow to the genitals, strengthened pelvic floor (core) muscles and also the control of the mind and breath.

Bed Feet

6. Enhance your mood

Not only do some of the poses force you into powerful, confident body positions, yoga produces a positive chemical change also.

One study showed that consistent yoga practice increased Serotonin levels and deceased levels of cortisol improving depression. More dramatic left-sided brain activity by meditators has also been found to correlate with greater levels of happiness and strengthened immune systems.

be happy

7. Improve brain function

To maintain his level of success, the YOG needs his noggin firing on all cylinders. Practicing yoga helps you focus on the present, making you less distracted with your constant looping thoughts about past and future worries. Recent studies have also shown enhanced coordination, memory, reaction time and even IQ through Yoga.

brain yoga

Different Yoga Styles

There are so many different styles of yoga out there from Ancient Indian methods to Westernized boot camp style adaptations. The following common styles should cater to all of the YOG’s needs:

Ashtanga

Based on ancient teachings, this is a rigorous style of yoga which follows a set sequence of postures and links every movement to a breath. Be prepared for a physically demanding session. YogaWorks has a number of locations around LA offering many different styles of yoga including Ashtanga. Great for beginners.

http://www.yogaworks.com/

Power Yoga

Referred to by many as “gym yoga”, this is a fitness-based approach to the Vinyasa-style yoga. It is also similar to the intensity and flow of Ashtanga yoga, without the repetitiveness as no two classes are the same. If you want a work out while improving your strength and flexibility without the routine this is your vibe.

Bryan Kest Power Yoga in Santa Monica will kick your ass, particularly if Bryan himself drops by to run the class, which is pay by donation too…

http://www.poweryoga.com/

Bikram

Around 30 years ago, Bikram Choudury developed a school where yoga classes were held in artificially heated rooms.

A great option to work on flexibility, but take a couple of towels and plenty of water with you because you’ll sweat like Joseph Fritzl on MTV cribs as you’re taken through a set series of 26 postures in 105°F (40.6°C). A good option to rid yourself of toxins from boozing the night before.

The good people at Bikram Yoga in Marina Del Rey will get you in shape fast and normally have great introductory offers if you’re not quite sure and want to try it out.

http://bikramyogamarina.com/

So there you have it, now you should be ready to add an ‘I’ onto ‘YOG’. For all you LA YOGs, stay tuned for our post featuring  some of the million places to do yoga in YOGtown.

Namaste dudes,

M

Chrome Dumbbell Rack

Fitness with a Twist

Stay tuned for some great fitness tips, including improvising when you’re on the go, on vacation, or when you just need a break from the gym and want to try something different. Of course, I’ll still show you how to get value out of that gym membership you bought in January and rarely use.

I’ll be combining my background as a Professional Athlete and Qualified Personal Trainer to bring you a lot of cool stuff you may not have seen or tried before.

photo (6) copy

Don’t be put off by the occasional infusion of humor either. Just because I don’t take myself too seriously,  the opposite applies when it comes to your health and fitness, and I actually know what I’m talking about!

M

 

 

 

Welcome Yoggers!

Stay tuned – the YOGs are coming in 2014 to bring you laughs and inspiration from Los Angeles, arguably the YOG capital of the world…

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén