Why You’re So Exhausted, Maybe…

Hey,

You might be feeling exhausted because of a build-up of something called Allostatic Load which is basically the wear and tear your body experiences (inside, on a hormonal level) when it tries to deal with all those consistent daily stressors you experience, like paying the bills or your daily commute. Your body responds to, and removes these stressors like a thermostat responds to, and removes unwanted changes in temperature: If the temperature strays from the desired temperature, the thermostat kicks in to bring the unwanted temperature back to the desired temperature. The same thing happens in your body when you get stressed out. Your brain notices a change in its internal environment (created by the stressor) and corrects the change by releasing hormones. But, if you keep getting stressed out consistently, your body’s ability to control the amount and timing of the hormones released diminishes. This loss of hormonal control can cause you to not only feel stressed out constantly, but also destroys your body on the inside, because these hormones are good for short bursts, but if they stay in the bloodstream for a long time, they tear down your body. Literally. For example, Cortisol is a stress hormone released when you stress out. Cortisol is really helpful if you’re getting mugged, because it makes you super strong and alert, but if it runs around your blood stream too long, like when your stressed out about something for days, weeks, or months, it starts to breakdown a significant amount of muscle, and causes you to store fat, which is really bad for your health for many reasons beyond the scope of this article. My point is: when you’re constantly stressed, your brain may eventually start to malfunction, like a broken thermostat: the temperature in the house becomes undesirable, but no corrective temperature change occurs, so it just keeps getting worse. Until you fix the thermostat of course.

So how do you fix the thermostat (i.e. your brain)? I’m not a doctor, psychologist, or endocrinologist, so this is merely a suggestion: figure out the real cause of your chronic stress, then remove that stressor, slowly, over time. Because if you consistently lower your stress levels, your hormonal system may start releasing hormones at levels closer to normal, thus countering the ill-effects of allostatic load. Furthermore, consider this: If you try to remove the stressor(s) all at once, the removal process may be overwhelming and cause you more stress, because these–consistent– stressors are typically habits. Habits, overt or not, take a while to get rid of, so be patient. For example, if you find yourself staying up late watching Netflix and not sleeping enough (which, if done consistently will throw off your hormone levels, leading to an unhealthy build-up of Allostatic load and a broken brain thermostat) maybe try to figure out why you feel the need to stay up every night to watch Netflix. Is it to replace something that’s missing? Once you figure out the cause of the stress, set a goal to go to sleep 15 minutes sooner per day for a week until you’re asleep at a time that gets you at least 8 hours of sleep. Because lack of sleep is a major contributor to building up unhealthy allostatic load.

Also, another extremely easy and effective stress-reducer is meditation. Meditation allows your body to recover and reset itself after continuous stress has broken your thermostat. I highly recommend the free app called “Headspace”. I use it a lot and it works really well for not only reducing my stress levels immediately, but it has a lasting effect throughout the day and even into the next day, and if you keep meditating everyday, the stress-reducing effects only get better. And no I’m not getting paid by Headspace to say this. I just like the effectiveness of their app. If you don’t have a smart phone or don’t know how to use apps, you can use Headspace on your desktop computer at home as well.

So, the take home message is: Figure out what the true, root cause of your stress is, and remove it slowly by changing one small lifestyle habit at a time.

Exercise is also a supremely effective method for lowering your allostatic load. So, if you want to learn how to exercise with proper form and the lowest injury risk possible, just let me know. You can email me at coachskene@gmail.com or send me a message at facebook.com/coachskene or fill out the blanks below and click submit and your comment will be sent to my email.

Thanks,

Eric

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Why I Train People

“At one point I could barely get up and down the stairs.”

I train people because I know what it’s like to be unhealthy. From 2009-2012, I had several injuries and experienced daily pain. These injuries were caused by extreme inactivity while I was constantly studying and spending most of my day sitting during my time in University. At one point I could barely get up and down the stairs. My point in telling you this story is so you know that I understand what it’s like to not be able to accomplish even the simplest daily tasks without experiencing debilitating pain. I get it. But, I also know what it’s like to regain my ability to perform daily tasks. During my final year in Kinesiology, I finally went to a Physiotherapist and learned how my unhealthy lifestyle habits were destroying my health and physical abilities. I slowly eliminated these unhealthy lifestyle habits and my health and physical abilities gradually improved. I began exercising again and have since rebuilt my body and improved my mindset and now I can accomplish daily tasks, and then some, without a second thought.

“my unhealthy lifestyle habits were destroying my health and physical abilities”

After this experience of losing my health and physical abilities I developed a high level of empathy for those who feel they can’t live the lives they want because of poor health or because they can’t move that well. Losing my health and my ability to live the way I wanted to live is where my passion for helping others regain their fire for life came from. And that’s why I want to help you do what I did and feel the joy I felt when I regained my health, physical ability, and ultimately my fire for life! I want to help you regain that spark in your life, that twinkle in your eye, that boxer-like pep in your step!

“I want to help you regain that spark in your life, that twinkle in your eye, that boxer-like pep in your step”

Finally, this experience also helped shape my training philosophy: to reduce your injury risk in the gym during our workouts and also to teach you how to move well, so your injury risk outside the gym in everyday life or sport is as low as possible, so you can enjoy life.

Thanks for reading,

Eric

Spine Destroying Exercises

Why you should never do these core exercises again: sit-ups, side-bends, torso-twists, or arching backwards.

First things first, read this:

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of information provided by Prepare Strength & Conditioning.  Never rely on information provided by  Coach Skene and Synergy Wellness and Performance in place of seeking professional medical advice.

Coach Skene and Synergy Wellness and Performance is not responsible or liable for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information, services or products that you obtain through  Coach Skene and Synergy Wellness and Performance.  You are encouraged to consult with your doctor with regard to and information provided by  Coach Skene and Synergy Wellness and Performance.  After reading articles, posts, watching videos, seeing pictures, or reading other content from this website, you are encouraged to review the information carefully with your professional healthcare provider.

Ok, now back to the article…

sit-ups, side-bends, torso-twists, or arching backward through the spine, eventually lead to low back injury

The most recent scientific research on low-back injuries states that performing sit-ups, side-bends, torso-twists, or arching backward through the spine, eventually leads to low back injury if you perform these movements too repetitively, with too much weight, or hold those positions for a prolonged period of time. These motions, when performed as mentioned above, destroy the disc-shaped soft tissues (known as Intervertebral Discs as seen in Figure 1. below) between the bones of your spine.

intervertebral disc pic
Figure 1. Side view of spinal anatomy. The Vertebral bodies are the bones of the spine. The Intervertebral Discs are the jelly doughnuts. Adapted from http://bit.ly/1OTeWM2

Think of these disc-shaped soft tissues as jelly doughnuts. What would happen to a jelly doughnut if you gently pressed on one side, several times? It would develop a bulge on the side opposite the side you’re pushing on and eventually, the jelly would burst out that bulge. This is the same thing that happens to the disc-shaped soft-tissues between the bones of your spine during, for example, sit-ups. During a sit-up, you bend towards the front of the body, which makes the bones of the spine squish the front-side of the soft tissue discs (jelly doughnuts) between the spinal bones. With enough reps of sit-ups over time, those soft tissues will develop a bulge in the side opposite the squish (in the case of the sit-up, the bulge will develop on the rearward side of the disc) because of the repetitive squishing of the front side of the jelly doughnut-like discs during the sit-ups. This bulge is called a “bulging disc”. Pain may still be absent with a bulging disc, so you may keep doing sit-ups, and unknowingly, continue damaging your spine.

bulging disc
Figure 2. Bulging disc. Notice the bulging of the disc on the rearward side (right side in this picture) of the disc. Adapted from http://bit.ly/1T1OP4e

So, with more sit-ups comes more squishing of the front-side of the disc and in turn, bulging of the backside of the disc, which can eventually make the backside of the disc pop, causing the fluid within to leak out (each disc is–ironically–filled with fluid, just like a jelly doughnut). This popping is called a “herniated disc” (see Figure 3 below).

Herniated Disc
Figure 3. Herniated Disc. Noticed the fluid popping out the rearward side of the disc. Adapted from http://bit.ly/1T1OP4e

Now, with the disc herniated, pain is inevitable, if not immediate, because the jelly oozes out of the herniated disc onto the nearby spinal nerves causing them to malfunction. Spinal nerves control feeling, make things move, and make internal organs function. Think of the spinal nerves as the plug to your computer, if the plug is damaged, your computer will not function well, or not at all. So, when you damage the spinal nerves, the pain or health problems you experience, depend on which spinal nerves are affected, because each nerve controls a bodily function. For example, one of the most commonly damaged spinal nerves (especially with sit-ups) is the Sciatic nerve, located in the low-back. Damage to the Sciatic nerve leads to the ever so common numbness and tingling down the legs–the dreaded Sciatica—because the Sciatic nerves control the bodily function of muscle contraction in the legs. Sciatic pain is very debilitating and difficult to fix, and even with surgery, the pain may persist for a lifetime.

Now this doesn’t mean you should walk around like a robot all day never moving your spine. Just don’t bend, twist, side-bend, or arch backward through the spine too frequently throughout the day, or hold these positions for a prolonged period of time, or perform these motions while holding something very heavy. For example, avoid picking weeds from your lawn, as this requires a significant amount of repetitive spinal bending. Avoid getting on your hands and knees and scrubbing the floor, as this requires you to hold a bent spine for a prolonged period of time. And finally, avoid lifting objects you know are too heavy for you, such as a heavy tire or bag of ice-melting salt, as this requires spinal bending while lifting an overwhelmingly heavy load.

Unfortunately, often times, the response I get after providing the above information is: “well it doesn’t hurt when I do sit-ups so I’m going to keep doing them” or “how are you supposed to strengthen your abs then”? Or, “I really feel it in my abs when I do sit-ups”. My response is first; your low back may not hurt now from sit-ups, side-bends etc. but the damage caused by those movements occurs slowly, over time. So, one day the pain will start and never go away completely. Instead try planks, side-planks, bird-dogs, or dead-bugs for starters. All of these exercises keep the spine in “neutral” which is keeping the spine the same shape as if you were just standing in your normal posture. This neutral position is safe because it doesn’t squish the soft tissue jelly doughnuts in the spine, which is of paramount importance when trying to avoid spinal injuries.

your low back may not hurt now from sit-ups, side-bends etc. but the damage caused by those movements occurs slowly, over time. So, one day the pain will start and never go away completely.

So, the take-home-message of this post is: stop doing sit-ups, side bends, torso-twists, and arching backward through the spine as exercises, because these motions damage the spine and eventually lead to low back pain and a crappy life–a life where you can’t do what you want to do, because you’re in constant debilitating pain! Stick to planks, side-planks, bird-dogs, and dead bugs. Ditch the sit-ups, side-bends, twists, and backward arching exercises.

So, the take-home-message of this post is: stop doing sit-ups, side bends, torso-twists, and arching backward through the spine as exercises, because these motions damage the spine and eventually lead to low back pain and a crappy life

For more info on this topic or to find out more about  Coach Skene and Synergy Wellness and Performance personal training services, message me on my facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/coachskene or facebook.com/Synergy-Wellness-and-Performance or send me an email at coachskene@gmail.com. Book your free personal training assessment today!

References

“Low Back Disorders, Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation” 2nd Edition, By Dr. Stuart McGill.

Adequate Sleep Helps You Lose Fat

How Sleep Effects Fat Loss:

DISCLAIMER
I am not a doctor or registered dietician.  The information I provide is based on my personal experience as a Personal Trainer and my studies of Kinesiology and Nutrition.  Any recommendations I make about strength and conditioning, nutrition, supplements or lifestyle should be discussed between you and your doctor before practicing such advice.

Now, back to the article…

Getting adequate sleep (at least 8 hours or more) helps you lose fat by reducing your need and desire to eat carbohydrate-rich foods (e.g. bread, cereals, food bars, pancakes, pastries, grains, fruits) when you wake up ( , , and Vthis, 2005).  More Specifically, getting adequate sleep helps control your hunger (your body’s actual need for food) and your appetite (your mental desire for food) by causing your body to produce normal amounts of the hormones that control hunger and appetite, for carbs in particular (Sizer, Whitney, & Piche, 2009; Spiegel et al., 2005). Not all carb-rich foods are bad for you, but the point of this article is that lack of sleep increases the likelihood that you will over-consume carb-rich foods upon waking and throughout the day, which if done consistently, is bad for you, the reasons for this are explained below (Spiegel et al., 2005).

So, how does avoiding over-consumption of carb-rich foods help you lose fat? Because your body uses carbs as energy to a far greater extent than fat, if you consume too many carbs, because your body converts carbs into energy much faster than it can convert fat into energy. So, if you give your body more than enough carbs, like when you carb-binge on a huge bowl of sugary cereal, several pieces of toast, and a pop-tart after inadequate sleep, your body will burn less fat for energy than it would if you didn’t just give it a huge pile of carbs to feast on.

When you carb-binge on a huge bowl of sugary cereal, several pieces of toast, and a pop-tart after inadequate sleep, your body will burn less fat for energy than it would if you didn’t just give it a huge pile of carbs to feast on.

The Other Problem Caused By Carb-Binging:

If you carb-binge consistently (i.e. daily or several times per week for a long enough period of time) you also put yourself at risk for developing Type II Diabetes by screwing up the way your cells respond to the hormone Insulin. Insulin controls your blood sugar levels. Consistently high blood sugar levels, over time, leads to the development of Type II Diabetes.

Real-Life Solution:

Change your lifestyle habits so you can sleep enough. Start small–go to bed 30 minutes earlier every other day. After this earlier bedtime becomes a consistent part of your bedtime ritual, then start going to bed another 30 minutes sooner (now your sleeping an extra hour! See how you’re slowly improving!?). Keep this up and soon you’ll be sleeping enough, so when you wake up, you won’t crave fat-trapping sugar.

Change your lifestyle habits so you can sleep enough.

Final Tip:

Before you eat again today and in the future–pause–and ask yourself: will this food or the way I’m eating keep me healthy 10 years from now or will it give me diseases and illness 10 years from now? Because your lifestyle habits–the little, seemingly insignificant things you do consistently, create your health, not the things you do once in a while.

The little, seemingly insignificant things you do consistently, create your health, not the things you do once in a while.

In terms of maintaining optimal health, please, think 10 years ahead.

Want to learn more fat loss and healthy living strategies? Come try out a free 30-minute sample workout Thursday July 2 at 5:15 pm, Monday July 6 at 5:15 pm, or Thursday, July 9 at 5:15 pm. These sample workouts will allow you to see what my upcoming small group training class–“The Fundamentals of Fat loss”–will be like. The class officially starts Monday, July 13 and will run for 6 weeks on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:15 pm.

Remember, think 10 years ahead.

Eric

For more info on this topic or to find out more about Prepare Strength and Conditioning personal training services, message me on my facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/preparestrength or send me an email at ericskene@gmail.com. Book your free personal training assessment today!

References

Sizer, F., Whitney, E., & Piche, L.A. (2009). Glossary. In F. Sizer, E. Whitney, & L.A. Piche (Eds.), Nutrition Concepts and Controversies (pp. GL-2, GL-9). Toronto, Ontario: Nelson Education

, K., , , R.,  , E., & Sleep loss: a novel risk factor for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.  Journal of Applied Physiology, 95 (2), 2008-2019.