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!

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

Get off your chair. Why Movement can Create the Ultimate All Rounder.

 

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We are living in an age where the all rounder is the king. Gone are the days when you specialised in one thing-sports, jobs, and life. You need to be adaptable and ready to perform anything at any time.

Just have a look at the exercises we are now performing- Crossfit, obstacle course racing, hiking, Trail running, swimming, Olympic lifting, etc. You need to have a wide range of skills, have cardio vascular fitness, strength and power. Lean is in, huge bulky beefcakes are out! So how do we prepare the generalist for a ready state, a state of fitness readiness for what ever is thrown at you. Can you go for a 10 kilometre hike, a stand up paddle, a kayak, move furniture, chase your kids around at the park at the drop of a hat? How do we prepare people so they don’t get injured, have the foundation to learn new skills and perform all these activities that the all rounder needs. The answer is movement. We need to move more, be supple, get up out of the chair, stop sitting and start moving.

According to Dr. Kelly Starrett of mobilitywod.com, a physical therapy doctor, Crossfit box owner and one of the leaders in movement practices, we cannot sit in a chair in a mechanically good position. Our hips are neutral, our pelvic floor turns off, we lean forward, our breathing and diaphragm are compromised, head and neck move forward and spine is a in poor position. Everything shuts down! Starrett says we can sit in a good position on the floor as that is what our bodies are designed to do. We never take our hip to full range of motion any more. We sit down on the chair (hips at 90 degrees), getting up out of bed (90 degrees), sitting in the car, plane, bike (90 degrees), then we head to the gym and get on the elliptical machine or run on the treadmill. One great activity for this is the Caveman Squat (you can view the video here). This squat hold position puts our hips in full range on motion, increasing Anterior Tibialis (front muscles of the calf) flexibility and movement as well as increases the dorsiflexion of our ankles and this allows to move better. Taking our hips to end range of motion helps keep our hips stable.

Of course sometimes we have to sit- flying on a plane or driving in the car for example. But other than that we need to be in constant motion, always moving. Stand up desks at work or if possible walking treadmills. This make us move as well as helping us burn more calories and increase productivity. We can take frequent movement breaks- for every 30 minutes sitting get up and walk around for a few minutes, do a cavemen squat hold, some push ups, dips or dead hangs.

We know the answers, we just aren’t applying them!

We know the massive problem we have with childhood obesity. They are eating the wrong foods- too many processed foods with high amounts of sugars 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. 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 the fit, all rounders that are resilient and less likely to get injured. Kids with stand up desks at school burn 15-25% more calories per day! Kids are more engaged in a standing classroom and can interact better, increasing social skills and group work. It creates a discussion around movement being the norm and according to stand up kids, a get US based website highlighting the benefits of moving, it creates a “movement rich environment and as one researcher put it, physical activity is cognitive candy”.

Activities like Crossfit test our full physical capability running, full range of motion activities (kettlebells), mobility exercises and power and Olympic lifts. Crossfit is helping to create the all rounder who is ready for any activity walking, lifting, and helping a mate move house. Getting ready for life.

If you think about what are brains are designed or have evolved to do. It is designed to receive information then interpret that data to help us move through the environment to find food, shelter, water and to reproduce. You must be able to think to move through your environment and you must be able to move well through the environment to survive. We need a movement practice to help us be come good thinkers and problems solvers. We need to have a regime where we are constantly working on flexibility and movement exercises.

To become the ultimate all-rounder and have a ready state for anything we need to have all things in our life in order- nutrition, sleep, hydration, mechanics and MOVEMENT.

Going Primal

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So you’re thinking about going primal.

Here is a brief summary of how I can coach you to completely change your life for the better…

The answer to optimal health and gene expression can be found in evolution. Going Primal looks way back into our past to determine how millions of years of selection pressure and environment created the perfect recipe for human health, lifestyle and longevity. Our genes expect us to be fit, lean and healthy, because if you weren’t back in the day you would’ve been eaten by a sabre tooth tiger! We can do this by following the diet and lifestyle of our hunter gather ancestors. You can reprogram your genes to respond to the signals they are given based on what you eat, what activity you do or don’t do, your lifestyle and sleeping habits and sun exposure.

Using our knowledge of human evolution we know that body prefers burning fat over carbohydrates. The standard diet or conventional wisdom tells us that grain based, low fat diet created by processed, sugary carbohydrate is the best. This is completely false. Going Primal shifts you from your carb cycle, sugar dependant way of eating into a fat based, all day energy metabolism that has supported human survival for millions of years. Humans have use fat as our primary source of energy for years. By eating more healthy fats (saturated fats are not our enemy) we can program our genes to prefer using fat for energy, rather than carbohydrates and glucose. Current conventional wisdom suggests saturated fats and cholesterol are bad and are linked to heart disease. This statement is only true when linked to high amounts of processed carbs and sugars. A high fat, low carb diet has been proven to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress which in turn reduces heart disease and cancer risk.

Exercise is ineffective for weight management and 80% of our body composition success is determined by how you eat. By ditching grains, sugars and man made, poly unsaturated vegetable oils and fats will promote efficient reduction in excess body fat, increased energy levels, decreased levels of inflammation in the body and optimal function.

Maximal fitness can be achieved with a minimal time with high intensity workouts. Just like our hunter gather predecessors who would sprint to catch a meal or run from a predator, we can use shout bouts of high intensity sprint or cardio to reach maximal fitness gains. Enjoy more benefits in a fraction of the time with high intensity and less of the cardio preached by conventional sports wisdom.

So going primal entails eating plants and animals and avoiding sugars, grains and vegetable oils. It involves moving more frequently, rather than being sedentary, stuck at our desk being Primal means getting up moving around, taking the little opportunities throughout the day to move more. Our hunter gather ancestors showed us the way with regard eating as well as exercise. They performed short bouts of all out efforts to catch dinner or to run from a predator.  They covered large distances over an extended part of the day to hunt prey or to move camps. They also had to lift heavy things, to make shelter and to carry large wildebeest back to camp to cook and eat. This shows our genes and predisposed to sprint occasionally, lift heavy things and perform long slow endurance cardio as our preferred methods of exercise.