How often should I train?

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Many people have asked, “How often should I train?” Now, this can be a hard question to answer as it is very dependent on your current fitness level, lifestyle and long-term fitness goals. That being said there are a few basic guidelines that can help you get started.

Once a week
Intense exercise at least once a week can help you maintain your current fitness level and set a foundation for increased fitness in the future. If it has been ten years since the last time you really exercised, adding just one session of exercise to your weekly schedule is often more than enough to get things moving.

Two to three times a week
To see consistent progress in your health and fitness you will need to exercise at least two to three times a week. Training less will make it hard to develop proficiency in technical movements, and if you have been paying attention in class you know it is all technical. Even seemingly simple movements such as the Push-Up, Squat, Punch or Tenkan (an evasive technique taught in Aikido) can be constantly tweaked and refined.

Four or more times a week
If you want results and you want them fast then you need to work for them. To see drastic changes in body composition in a short time (three to six months) you will need to participate in intense exercise at least four or more times a week. However exercising at this level can increase the risk of overuse injuries, so it is very important that you are complimenting your exercise regimen with good nutrition, sleep and a well-thought-out recovery program.

Recovery
There are many ways to aid your recovery after exercise. Some of the most important are: nutrition, sleep, stretching, and mindful relaxation.

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How often should I train?

The One Percent Change

one-percent-1Our life is like a heavy ocean liner; think the Titanic. We set a course quite early in our life and sail on it. Just as it was difficult to change the course of the Titanic quickly, so it is difficult to change the course of our life. If we are to avoid the proverbial iceberg in our life, we need to adjust our course early; the sooner the better.

The proverbial, unavoidable iceberg in our life is disease and aging. It is out there in front of us and mostly unknown. Will we age well? Will we avoid the big C? Diabetes? Heart disease? Alzheimer’s? Parkinson’s? The icebergs lurking in the water are many. We know they are out there. Some are lurking in our system due to genetic traits; some due to environmental factors.

In order to miss these icebergs, we need to make changes to the course of our life, but it is hard to do. It takes time to change course. This is where the 1% change comes into play.

A 1% change to the direction of a ship will not move it much off course at the beginning, but a few kilometres after the change is initiated, the ship will be at a substantially different place than it would have been if the change had not been made.

If we strive to make long-term and meaningful changes to our life, it is helpful to think in terms of 1% changes.

A simple example may be alcohol consumption. Most people enjoy a drink from time to time; some more than others. Reducing alcoholic consumption to zero is a huge change, but cutting one drink, or choosing to have one alcohol-free day, is a relatively small change that in the long-term will have a big effect.

Another good example  is the money saved by buying one less specialty coffee a day. An average latte or similar specialty drink at Starbucks or any other of the many coffee shops around, is about $4. This is not a big amount of money in the grand scheme of things, but 2 drinks a day, every day adds up to almost $3,000 a year. A small, “1 percent”, change of skipping one drink, twice a week would lead to a savings of over $400 over the year.

For sedentary people, becoming more active may seem like a huge change. Adding a small amount of activity, perhaps one exercise class a week, may lead to a huge change to the course of one’s life. Adding exercise to our life is one of the most significant changes one can make to affect the course of life. The quality of one’s diet and eliminating smoking are the other two most significant factors.

If you think your life needs a change of course, don’t think of making huge changes. Make small, 1 percent adjustments. Over time, these will significantly change where you end up.

The One Percent Change

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Communication.

communication

This week, I’ve been thinking about communication challenges.

My friend Brandon is a successful concept artist for the video gaming industry. In his off hours he works to create art that is detailed and technically innovative. He recently repositioned his career to  instructing, educating and motivating art students to improve their drawing skills & techniques.  Although the content that he teaches is very different from my work as a kettlebell instructor, a recent discussion revealed we share the same challenge as teachers & leaders: how to communicate with an individual to help them understand and achieve their goals.

I can snatch a 16kg kettlebell with excellent form, and Brandon can draw the human body beautifully in motion with correct proportions. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily make us great teachers. Teaching is about identifying the correct style of communication each student or client needs.

When I teach a class, I’m managing a team of (let’s say) 10 people. I need to communicate with 10 people who have 10 different world-views and 10 different learning styles.

Some of them thrive when I give clear & precise directions. With them, I work hard to use technical language without jargon. Each muscle group is referenced by name, and each movement is quantified. Other folks need praise and attention to feel motivated, to reach them I need to watch carefully to see where they are working hardest and encourage those efforts.

In my class, a lot of students learn by watching the demonstration first, then physically mimicking my movements. To reach them, I demonstrate each move multiple times while speaking the directions through the motions. We may put our weights aside for more complex sequence to learn the safest way to lift, bend and stretch. My friend Megan (editor of this article) learns by asking endless questions, which is often disruptive to the class but has been proven useful for shyer students. Some people are hesitant to speaking up; for those folks I engage in one-on-one conversations after or before class. They can also benefit from private classes, where we can take the time to focus directly on their limitations, strengths and understanding of new movements.

Every now and then I run into a student who is motivated by what I can only call parental disapproval. Somehow the only thing that reaches them seems to be looks of disappointment and my mom voice…

Hey.  Just about whatever works right?  If you’re a manager anywhere you know you must approach communication in this manner.  Or maybe that’s why 90% of your staff look at you like you have a fish bowl over your head.

Some folks need precise and clear direction for holding a proper plank:

  • Wrists, under elbows, under shoulders.
  • Pull your lats down.
  • Send your belly button to your spine and up.
  • Keep your glutes tight, tight, TIGHT!
  • Hips remain parallel to the floor.
  • Pull your knee caps to the ceiling to engage your quads.
  • Pull your calfs tight.
  • Flex your toes.
  • Stay there.

Others need a different approach.

“Have you seen the movie Full Metal Jacket?” I asked.

“Yes…..” Was the response followed with a nervous sideways glance.

“Today I’m Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and I just called you to attention for an inspection. How much tension do you need to keep your entire body under to keep from peeing out of fear?”

“ All of it.”

“ Perfect.”

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Communication.

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instrutor. Part 2. Section 35 – Food Follow Up.

Challenge – Marcia vs. the vegetables…
(Or: I had a plan. Then the plan changed.)

A while ago I came up with a plan for how to enjoy veggies and make ingesting them as inevitable and natural as brushing my teeth.

Friends – My written plan was glorious. The execution… may have left a little to be desired.

I learned a lot of useful information:

  • I really do enjoy red peppers.
  • Check that your fancy salt grinder isn’t faulty…
  • Overcooked omelettes are completely unappealing.
  • I really don’t know how to cook properly.

So, for all my fine talk about easing into vegetable-love, it turns out that I did the same thing as those of us who see an uncomfortable number on the scale and make a sudden (and drastic) life decision on the spot (like starting a 45 day colon detox, or signing up for 4 months of 5 am daily bootcamps). I didn’t have the right approach or education on how to change a lifetime habit. I was too fast out of the gate and tripped over my feet instead of starting with small, careful and achievable steps.

When I called out for help, a wonderful friend came to my house and showed up with support needed: bag of groceries, bottle of wine and an easy recipe that just so happened to include red peppers. I didn’t have to grocery shop, pick a recipe, or figure out why a cheese knife is different from a paring knife (that was an actual conversation). Instead of trying to do everything, I was able to focus on doing one thing correctly (two, if you count pouring wine).

Previously I wrote about small achievements in fitness. This scenario is on the same path in a different medium: a small achievement in the culinary arts.

The successes (and lessons) that came from the grand red pepper challenge were:

  1. Figure out what your plan A is. Decide how you will know if it is working (clear deliverables are the secret to any successful project).
  2. Be prepared to change plan A if it does not appear to be working.
  3. If it is definitely not working, step back from what just happened. Ask yourself:
    1. What happened? (salt grinder exploded all over my food)
    2. What failed? (the salt grinder’s mechanism, apparently)
    3. Make a plan to avoid it next time. (note to self: purchase new salt shaker without fancy grinding mechanisms)

These three steps take any situation from an accident to a ‘learning experience’. You are learning.

  1. Be a sponge. Soak up any education and lessons from your first kick at the can. If you don’t know the first thing about what you are doing, it’s hard to know where to pay attention, and what things are less important. Ask questions! Now you’re more prepared than you were before.

This all being said – I can now make a badass quesadilla. Check out the progress.

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Tomato, red peppers, green onions, salsa, fromage, chicken thighs, small burrito wraps.  And most importantly – wine.

 

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No fingers were lost in the making of this dish. No foodsafe rules being broken by having a glass of wine in the same proximity as the green onion.

 

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Yes. I need a roll of the paper towel in place of napkins when I eat.

Written with love by Marcia Lucas
Edited with vigor by Megan Chalmers

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instrutor. Part 2. Section 35 – Food Follow Up.

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Challenge – The Beach.

confessionals_03(Or: Summer is coming.  It is okay to love yourself.)

Summer is coming.  If you are like me, you likely have some painfully honest swimsuits in your bottom drawer ready and waiting to pounce on you like a spooked cat.  

Before you run off in panic to Whole Foods to purchase a 30-day raw diet cleanse, why not take a step back to breathe and assess the person looking back at you in the mirror.  You can do this fully clothed or in your swim suit.

We’ll start with the basics:

Are you standing up straight?

  • Check your hip placement – Hips over knees, knees over heels.
  • Roll your shoulders back to help work out the kinks from a long day at a desk.
  • Pull your belly button in and up to the back of your spine.
  • Breathe. (You have permission to briefly release your belly button while this happens)
  • Smile.

Who’s looking back at you?

If it’s a rockin’, can’t stop me now hottie: Fantastic! You keep doing what you’re doing.

If it’s someone who makes you feel uncomfortable, someone with flaws you dislike, or someone that doesn’t look the way you feel inside, please take a couple of minutes to think about what you’ve accomplished lately.

Are you able to hold a solid plank that you couldn’t do 6 months ago?  Have you recently increased your kettlebell size from 6kg to 8kg?  Did you realize last week you can keep your heels on the ground while in a squat?  What’s going on at work? Are you grinding hard to earn a promotion? Did you parallel park the car in front of your boss in one shot?  

It’s easy to dismiss both big and small accomplishments: when the hard work is over, it can be difficult to remember how much effort you had to put in. You may even have moved on to your next goal without even taking a minute to appreciate what you have just achieved!

We all have big goals, but each one of them must be broken down into many small, short term accomplishments to get there. It’s trite but true: a journey of a million miles must begin with a single step. And often step #1 feels a lot harder than step # 3, or #15, or #12,569. Think back to those moments  when you successfully jumped to the chin-up bar unassisted.  I remember a client’s face brightening up with surprise like a kid at Christmas.  That was a big deal for both of us; a moment to be savoured and remembered. It’s a memory to keep, even when it’s outshone by a new accomplishment.  Remembering your success might help you look at the person you are and the bikini or board shorts in a different way.

So, back to the mirror. You’ve taken a minute or two to savour your achievements; to appreciate the work that you’ve put into both your physical and mental self. Do you see someone physically different looking back at you?

Are you still looking in the mirror?  Standing straight? How about that smile — does it look a little more natural now?

Written with love by Marcia Lucas
Edited with vigor by Megan Chalmers

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Challenge – The Beach.