0 comments on “Making Kids into Champions”

Making Kids into Champions

In previous posts, I have talked about getting kids out into nature and ways to help our kids become primal, remove screen time and develop into awesome humans. You can read that here, Helping kids behave better, concentrate harder and become Primal, and helping children develop a love of sport, movement and fitness. Today’s post continues the Primal Kids theme exploring the developmental benefits of physically active kids.

Children, even newborns, should be given every opportunity to move without physical restriction. Training to become an athlete starts in infancy and continues throughout life as children become involved with a variety of activities. Unfortunately this process of development most of the time does not go how nature intended. With the prevalence of screens, Ipads, phones, computer games, and on demand TV we are intentionally, or maybe unintentionally, discouraging children from becoming great athletes. This is especially detrimental when paired with the abundance of junk food available, not just the takeaway variety, but also any processed food containing sugar, grains or vegetable oils.

Instead we should be making room for play and roaming, letting children crawl, run, climb and jump to their heart’s content. (Making sure that it’s safe, of course!) According to Dr Phil Maffetone, a highly respected doctor, coach of endurance athletes and primal guru, a wide variety of physical movements are vital to the neuromuscular progress and necessities for the brain, with early physical activity ultimately making the child better at math, science, music, coordination and having better social skills.

While great health and fitness during childhood may lead to great athletic performance later in life, a key reason for a child’s fitness being so important, according to Maffetone in his 2015 book, the Endurance Handbook, is because “fitness is widely regarded as a powerful marker of current and future cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and mental health”.  What this means is, the more fitness and all round play a child engages in early in their life, the better their health, muscle and bone development, and social skills will be.

There is obviously a difference between how adults train and how children train. Children need a wide range of activities and movements. As they grow through the first decade of their life, natural development and interest will lead to participation in a variety of sports and activities. I think this is healthy for their development in fitness and as athletes. Having children try a wide variety of activities such as swimming, riding bikes, gymnastics, coordinated ball sports, running, climbing and playing on the various apparatus at playgrounds will help develop a great, functional athlete. There is always time for a child to learn and take up specific sports once they have a good grasp of co-ordination, movement through various planes and balance. All sports need these fundamentals and getting kids to stick to a specific sport or sports may be making them too one dimensional.

According to Dr. Maffetone there are two important factors when it comes to children transitioning into good adolescent athletes. These are:

  • Cross Training: From birth until about 20 years of age the body undergoes dramatic changes. Physical activity plays a huge part in this development. The more variety of movement the better the development. This he attributes to muscle and bone growth, hormone balance, immune function and brain maturation. At certain ages selected sports activities may be of more interest, such as riding bikes, swimming, running, soccer. But variety and cross training continues to be important.
  • Active Fun:  This one is pretty simple – the process of having fun whilst being active. Encouraging play, climbing, and movement. This may be the most important guideline for kids!

While I think team sports have their place for children, I don’t think we as parents need to be pushing them so hard to be great athletes at an early age. With natural love of movement, coordination and balance, kids will inevitably gravitate to sports they like. Some children develop at faster rates than others so we really can’t predict who will ultimately be a great athlete from how they are at 4, 6, 8, 10 maybe even 12 years of age. Pushing kids into training and sports may seem helpful but if the child is not on board this could be more of a hindrance and they may develop a dislike of activity.

Like Dr Maffetone says, having active fun may be the most important guideline for the development of the athletic child!

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3 More Things a Primal Athlete Does to be “Fit for Life”

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During our period of no defined race goals and just getting back into exercising I thought I would touch on the next three important areas we should focus on to make you a good all-round athlete that can perform any given activity at any given time when called upon That might be an intense Crossfit session, a long run or even a swim. Last week I discussed the first three key concepts to focus on. These where Get Strong, Exercise Long and Run easy. The next big three are Sprint, mobility and rest. If you look at the Primal Blueprint, the 10 must do Laws developed by Mark Sisson to become “Primal” you will notice my to do list is very similar. From an evolutionary stand point it makes sense that we follow, as close as we can in this modern life, the things that helps us evolve into the people we are today. It makes sense to get stronger, to eat good, healthy unprocessed foods like meats, vegetables and fruit and it makes sense to perform long slow endurance activities. It also makes sense to sprint once in a while, to be agile and mobile to avoid predators. It also makes sense that we get adequate rest and recovery so we are able to perform these tasks again and again.

#4 Sprint

Once every week, try and perform a high intensity sprint workout. This could be as simple as 5-10 all out sprints over 50-100 metres. It could be up a hill, on sand dunes, at the beach or around a 400m track. Even repeated, intense intervals on a bike. These short bursts of intense activity increase the level of human growth hormone and testosterone. These adaptive hormones are released to improve the body so that if this kind of intensity is needed again in the future the body is better adapted and ready to perform.

#5 Mobility

This isn’t so much a Primal Blueprint law, but it would be on my list of must do’s for a modern athlete. Being able to perform when called upon relies on the fact that you are fit and able to do the activity required of you. If you are injured, imbalanced or inflexible you might not be able to perform to the best of your ability, you might be in pain or may even injury yourself due to being muscularly imbalanced. This is the reason why I believe it is imperative to perform corrective exercises, foam rolling and strengthening exercises 2-3 times per week.

#6 Rest and Recover

The body needs time to rest, recover and adapt from the hard workout or exercise in able to perform better the next time it is called upon to perform that task. Exercise in itself is a stress on the body. It creates (good) inflammation and oxidative stress that the body must then heal itself to become better. The problem is if we keep piling up hard, intense workout after hard intense workout the body becomes too stressed and overwhelmed by the oxidation that exercise becomes detrimental. That is why I like to prescribe no more than 4 workouts per week (in periods of no defined race goals or the “off season”) so it gives your body a day or two to recover. Performing exercises like Stand Up Paddle Boarding or long hikes are a good way to “actively recover” by doing something that is less intense but still gets the body moving at much lower heart rate intensity. Recovery doesn’t mean doing nothing. In fact that is much worse. Keep active, move around but just keep that intensity down!

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3 Things a Primal Athlete Does to be “Fit for Life”

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What happens when you train hard for months with a race goal in mind, you get there perform well and then… what do you do after the event? Keep training hard, no worries? Or are you like most folks… do you lose motivation, stop training, have a few weeks off and then really struggle to get back into it.
This led me to think what is your motivation in the off season or with no race goal in mind.
Without having a race or specific goal in mind I keep motivated by the idea that if friends rang up and said lets go for a hike, a mountain bike ride, for a swim, a surf, to the gym to lift weights or a run I would be able to keep up, would I have enough fitness to finish the activity and not be too sore the next day!
This also made me think about what makes a good all round athlete. I have discussed it before about being a good “life all rounder” and what things we need to do to be able to be a good all round fit human that could do any activity at the drop of a hat. Sometimes with no specific goal or race to work towards, trying to get back the fitness you had is hard. It is hard to find the motivation to get out there and exercise. What are the things we should do to be a fit, healthy all round everyday athlete?
So three things I try and do are…

#1 Get stronger

This one is a no-brainer: stronger athletes are faster, less likely to get injured, and bounce back from hard runs or exercise quicker than those who don’t do any strength exercises. One of the Primal Blueprint Laws outlined by Mark Sisson is to be more like our primal hunter gatherer ancestors and to Lift Heavy Things.

This is great in theory, but how exactly do you get stronger? What exercises are best? When should you do them?

The three strength routines I do each serve a purpose and each one is athlete-specific and should make you stronger and faster.

The MSP (maximum sustained power) is a power/stamina workout for endurance athletes. It is designed to avoid muscle fatigue on the back end of long exercise. It builds strength in all the areas that athletes need, like the hips, glutes, abs, and lower back.

The Runner Specific Workout is a more challenging strength workout that focuses on hip and glute strength. These muscles are critical for injury prevention and speed, power and endurance during your runs (or any activity).

The Upper Body Strength Workout is specifically designed to increase the strength that you will need during your Spartan Races like grip strength, upper body strength, and the ability to carry odd loads. It helps functional fitness and strength and has a cross over into life in general. It should make you more mobile, injury free, more resilient and be able to carry out daily task with seemingly less effort. Exercises include the bench press, the deadlift, squats, presses and carries.

#2 Exercise Long-Endurance 

Most athletes need more endurance. If you take that simple concept to heart, you WILL run faster.

See, too many runners think they have to run faster to race faster. But most of the problem is not being able to maintain a fast pace – and that’s a problem of endurance.

And the long run is one of the best ways to develop that endurance. On your long runs aim to run 5-7 kilometres longer than your next longest runs of the week.

Even if you’re not training for a race, it helps to run one long run per week that’s about 20-30% of your weekly mileage. Keep working at it and focus on very gradual increases in distance every 1-2 weeks. This concept can be used for developed endurance for life in general and being able to run, swim, bike, hike etc when called upon and can be used for any endurance exercise.

#3 Run EASY!

As you are aware my training philosophy is in alignment with the Primal Endurance principle of making your easy days really easy, and your hard days harder.

Polarizing your training this way helps you gain more fitness on hard days while boosting recovery on easy days.

Not sure what “easy” really means? Just follow the “3 C’s” of easy running. Easy runs should be:

  • Comfortable
  • Controlled
  • Conversational

Prioritizing recovery and mobility on easy days will help you run even faster during more challenging workouts – and ultimately, your races.

These three strategies can help you cut your injury risk, gain more endurance, run a lot faster and be ready for any type of exercise when its needed.

I could add #4 Sprint, #5 Work on Your Mobility and #6 Rest and Recover to the things good all round athletes do but we might talk about those next week…
An example of a non specific race training week for me might look like this
1x Long Endurance Run of an hour plus.
1x Strength (Running specific, MSP or Resistance workout)
1x Easy Run or Sprint- less than 45 minutes
1x Body Weight Workout- 5 Rounds for time of…
  • Wide Push Ups (chest) 8

    Mountain climbers (abs) 20 each leg

    Side lunges (Legs) 6 each side

    Plank (abs) 30 sec

    Burpees (Full body) 8

    Air squats (Legs) 

    Bench Dips (arms) 15

    Rest 2 min

1 comment on “5 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain”

5 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

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What can we do to avoid gaining holiday weight? Heed these 5 tips…

  1. Don’t over indulge– makes a lot of sense, right? Studies have shown that overeating on several days throughout the holiday season is unlikely to makes us fat, however, overeating and over indulging more than a couple of days throughout the season and continuing to eat that way well after the holidays might help us put on some pounds!
  2. Avoid Alcohol… tough to do but, as stated in my previous blog post about gaining weight over the holidays, the body sees alcohol as a toxin and acts swiftly to remove it from the body, which preferentilizes the burning of alcohol as energy of carbs, fats and protein. If you are going to drink, at let’s face it most of us are, try eating a protein source first as it has an appetite suppressing effect or avoid drinking alcohol when eating food. The old “eating is cheating” adage is right!
  3. Go for a walk straight after a meal: this study found that “There is a belief that walking just after a meal causes fatigue, stomach ache, and other types of discomfort. However, the author and one volunteer participant had no such negative reactions, and found that walking just after a meal was more effective for weight loss than waiting one hour after eating before walking. For people who do not experience abdominal pain, fatigue, or other discomfort when walking just after a meal, walking at a brisk speed for 30 minutes as soon as possible just after lunch and dinner leads to more weight loss than does walking for 30 minutes beginning one hour after a meal has been consumed.”
  4. Walking whilst fasting helps to improve biomarkers for cardio vascular disease. Try going for a walk in a fasted state. For several days during the holidays try skipping breakfast and try walking in the morning instead of eating breakfast. This will help to increase the effect of adaptive hormones and increase the rate of fat burning. It will also reduce the total caloric intake for the day, which helps to counter act the over eating from days previous (possibly a good one to do following Christmas or Boxing Day).
  5. Fill your plate with Protein (meat) rather than carbohydrates- excess carbohydrates are easily sent to storage. Protein can support fat loss, notably by suppressing appetite and boosting thermogenesis.

Getting out and being festive is what the Christmas season is all about. Seeing family and enjoying the company of others makes for a great time of year. It can, for some people, be a time of over eating and over indulging on alcohol. However, if you follow the advice of everything in moderation, then you should be fine. Top that off with avoiding combining eating and drinking alcohol at the same time, going for a walk after a meal, filling up with protein and fasting you should avoid gaining excess pounds.

0 comments on “Reducing Childhood Obesity”

Reducing Childhood Obesity

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We know the answer we just aren’t applying it!

Movement is the answer. This is a little carryover from my recent blog about movement and how that can help create a resilient, injury free all rounder who is ready of any thing that life throws at them be it in sports, fitness, work or home life for you kids.

Get kids standing to reduce Childhood obesity?

Childhood obesity is and is going to continue to be a massive problem for us as a society. According to the Australian Government via the Australian Institute of Health and welfare, 1 in 4 Australian children aged between 2-17 were overweight or obese in 2014-15.

We know NOW the massive problem we have with childhood obesity. They are eating the wrong foods-too many processed foods with high amounts of sugar, grains and industrial oils. They aren’t moving or exercising enough and spend too much time on technologies like ipads, phones and too much screen time. Stand up desks in schools will help kids keep in constant motion by standing, moving and changing feet position. Being a former high school teacher, I recognise that kids cannot learn in the old sit still and shut up model we have been running for decades. Times have changed, get kids standing up at their desks. Kids with ADD cannot actually learn whilst concreted to a sitting desk. They need to move to keep their brain active, they think better and behave better this way. Stand up desks allow kids to interact and develop social skills. They are actually a better way for people and kids to write, it improves neatness and handwriting skills. Studies have shown that kids sit for about 4 and half hours a day. Think about it, we sit to eat breakfast, sit in the car or bus on the way to school, sit all day in the classroom, come home, sit to eat dinner, sit to watch television, ipad or computer. We know the answer- get kids standing up and moving to help create fit, all-rounder that are resilient and less likely to get injured. Obese kids with stand up desks at school burn 25-35% more calories per day! Kids are more engaged in a standing classroom and can interact better, increasing social skills and group work. In the very least it creates a discussion around movement being the norm and according to Stand Up Kids, a great US based website highlighting the benefits of movement in the early years, it creates a “movement rich environment and as one researcher put it, physical activity is cognitive candy”. In other words it helps their brain function as well as their physical and motor skills. Other benefits to stand up desks in classrooms include:

  • Reduces disease, orthopedic dysfunction and impedes children’s ability to learn.
  • Obese kids burn up to 35% more calories per day.
  • Classroom management is easier for teachers
  • If kids are given the opportunity to move through the day they will take it.
  • When students move more, their education improves.
  • Kids are happier when they are not restricted in a chair.
  • Behaviour improves with active learning and kids have more creativity.
  • Students can shift their bodies and change position when they need to stay focused.
  • Standing prevents the body’s tissue adaptation to static positions-short hip flexors and hamstrings, rounded shoulders and back positions), it doesn’t erode the child’s physiology like sitting does.
  • Standing maintains the integrity of the complex motor skills required for optimal physical function.
  • Reducing sedentary time reduces cell aging which means kids will live longer and be healthier.

According to the Stand Up kids website moving more is the key to better cognition and learning. This next part comes straight form their website, I couldn’t say it better myself…

“Sitting still has been our dominant model for learning in schools. For decades, the educational and scientific communities seemed to believe that thinking was thinking and movement was movement, and each was as separate as could be. We were wrong.

Research definitively shows that movement and learning are connected –

In order for children to learn, they need to be able to move.

Students who are engaged in daily physical education programs consistently show not just superior motor fitness, but better academic performance and a better attitude toward school than their students who do not participate in daily P.E.

MOVEMENT IS KEY

In September 2014, the journal Paediatrics published research that found kids who took part in a regular physical activity program showed important enhancement of cognitive performance and brain function. The findings “demonstrate a causal effect of a physical program on executive control, and provide support for physical activity for improving childhood cognition and brain health.”

Physical activity is clearly a high, high-yield investment for all kids, but especially those attentive or hyperactive, maximizing the utility of time spent in class. The improvements in this case came in executive control, which consists of inhibition (resisting distraction, maintaining focus), working memory, and cognitive flexibility (switching between tasks).

Another study found that a 12-week exercise program improved math and reading test scores in all kids, but especially in those with signs of ADHD.

There are many reasons kids aren’t moving enough any more:

  1. THE LOSS OF PHYSICAL EDUCATION

PE has been cut or dramatically decreased in most American schools. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommendation of at least 60 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Today, however, only 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools, and 2 percent of high schools provide daily physical education.

In Los Angeles, physical education class sizes rose to 80 students in some cases, making effective teaching nearly impossible. Only 31 percent of California students passed a statewide physical fitness test last year, in part because of budget cuts wiped out physical education programs. In a 2011 survey released by the California State PTA, 75 percent of California PTA members said their children’s PE or sports programs were cut or reduced dramatically.

  1. KIDS DON’T WALK TO SCHOOL

Among students living within 1 mile of school, the percentage of walkers fell from 90% to 31% between 1969 and 2001.

According to the CDC, only 13% of children walk to school today compared with 66% in 1970.

  1. INCREASE IN SEDENTARY ACTIVITIES

A groundbreaking study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that children between ages 8-18 are spending, on average, 7.5 hours/day in front of a screen SITTING, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Combine that with the time sitting at school (between 4-6 hours/day), driving to school, sitting at meals, and doing homework at kids are spending 10-14 hours/day or 75% of their waking hours in sedentary positions.

In 1980, there were 81,000,000 TVs in American households. Today, there are 324,000,000 TVs. At the same time the number of TVs has tripled, the number of obese children and adolescents has also tripled.”

I for one will be championing for more physical education time in schools, get kids moving more, out in nature and getting stand up desks! Get these kids active and moving from an early age and we will reduce a myriad of health issues in the future!