Motivation and how it is effected by seasonality

Motivation and how it is effected by seasonality

With summer over, autumn upon us and winter in our sights how does the change of season affect us as human beings? There are claims our brains are affected by seasonality such as huffingtonpost.com article How Different Seasons Affect The Way Your Brain Works, but does this relate to motivation?

Is SAD the only affect on motivation?

With exception of the New Year boost that is apparent from every gym around the world (from my limited view anyway) it seems it just might. There are plenty of articles about SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, where the shorter the days impact someone’s mood. Just check out the NHS page on SAD where the look at what it is, what the symptoms are and how we may treat it. It is without a doubt that it is a “Thing” and with a change of mood is a change in motivation.

Seasonality Affective Disorder on motivation

Avoid the Extremes…

In relation to your training days summer is by far the best time to get motivated, right? I’m not so sure myself. I am wondering if it is actually Spring and Autumn that are the best times of year to get motivated. After all, we aren’t battling the elements of extreme heat or extreme cold.

With winter giving short days and cold months you can see why it becomes that bit more difficult to have the “get up and go”. Summer on the other hand has the longest of days but with it comes the heat. On top of that there is the holidays and the temptation to join friends and family in social outings. This isn’t conducive to a prime time to motivate. Whereas Spring and Autumn days have a decent amount of sunlight. We have also not quite overcome by the buzz of summer or wound down in the dark months of winter.

…or embrace the challenge!

So, in relation to training and getting the most motivated it’s the less extreme months that allow us to start anew or push harder to reach goals. After all, the elements are in our favour. But Truesapiens enjoy the challenge, check out our “Be Truesapien” page. A run in minus temperatures is like waving a cookie in-front of a Sesame Street character; it just has to be done. It is a defiance of modern day living, its self-proof we can still brave the elements but most of all it’s exhilarating.

Keep it moving Truesapiens

It isn’t easy though when the cold gets bitter or it has been sweltering hot. I myself have fallen foul to the temptations of the temperature controlled gyms. Fact is perfect conditions allow perfection in performance which is great. Just like the invention of light makes us able to work and play at nights. With that said though, if we do not challenge our environment then why challenge ourselves. I’m a big fan of functional fitness but what is the point if I cannot test how I function the extremes!

The only thing I must stress is BE CAREFUL! Mother nature has no mercy and the likes of heat exhaustion or hypothermia is not something we should ignore. So gear up, fuel up and hydrate. Winter is coming and this may be when many may see motivation waver, but this is where TrueSapien’s can thrive!

Winter running

Injury sucks

Injury sucks

Injury sucks! They stop us from achieving our long term and short-term goals and at times, depending on severity, can completely disable our ability to do anything. Severe or mild, they often stress us out due to this inability to progress and / or move as desired. On top of that there is the crippling pain or annoying niggle that stresses us out even more. Well, they do me so I re-iterate; injury sucks…big time.

Injury is a stress…in many ways

That’s the rant over, now what can I do personally to ensure the impact is as little as possible and recovery is as swift as possible?! Well, I have recently had some niggles, some annoying and some pretty high impacting injuries. Regardless what they were, they all played some part to change how I go about my training and my daily routine. Repairing them is actually the easy part, or rather the easy to follow part: listen to the doctor/physio, treat at home with proven treatments (massage, ice / heat treatment etc…) and keep food & drink healthy to help the body promote repair.

As identified though injuries come with stress, and I have found a few things that help me keep focused and stress free. First and foremost, beyond all else, is I kept exercising. At my worst I was housebound for a while and struggled to sit up let alone move around the house. Any form of exercise seemed out of reach but that was short-sighted and the internet, here to the rescue again, had plenty of ideas to help.

Do something!

Using the mentality of yoga to focus on what we can do and to respect what we can’t, Kino Yoga review this with Healing injuries with yoga article, I sought out what was in my ability. When it was a niggle I used yoga to strengthen, something more then yoga helped free up the area of concern and at my worst yoga gave me something to do, even if it was some neck and wrist movements. It provided structure and helped develop patience and focus; a bonus quality of the practice.

The time I had free, rather than the time I was incapable (trying positivity), got me thinking about what I am missing in my training. Mens Health’s recent article Are you breathing properly? hits the nail on the head “it’s surprising how little we think about how we breathe”. It’s back on the agenda, as well as trying out apps like BreathGuru and Calm I also did a few breathing exercises such as those recommended by Dr Weil and they do not disappoint. Breathing is important and most of us, regardless of injury, can do this. It kept me training and kept me focused.

Its not all bad

Another though to mention was to embrace the downtime. With some injuries it is a a balancing act between pain and a drug fuelled mind from pain killers and it is easy to sleep (a lot) and just wait and moan away days (I’ve done this). But I am still here, I’m frustrated because I can’t do what I want to do now…but I know I will at some point. Patience! That’s what I needed to tell myself. Watch those documentaries, contact those friends and sleep if I need to…its part of the recovery process. Point I made to myself was this is indeed a process, I’m not waiting, I’m progressing and every hour that passes is progress. I keep hydrated, keep entertained and keep a smile on my face…the latter may be the hardest part but like Elbert Hubbard said “If you suffer, thank God! It is a sure sign that you are alive.”

Re-focus

Treating the mind isn’t as straight forward as treating the body, the mind is after all way more complex. They are however very connected! It is the inability to use the body that affects the mind. We can’t do what we want and that itself is debilitating and demotivational. Doing what we can will not only help with the stress induced from injury but can also be highly enlightening and even improve our outlook and improve what we once thought was a cast iron training routine.

Being injured does suck but can give us a new perspective, it’s an opportunity to reboot and change what we do for the better as it enforces some form of downtime. Focusing on what we can do is a way of dealing with it and possibly helps us venture into new grounds.

Thanks to https://quotefancy.com for the imagery.

The link(s) between Sugar & Sweeteners

The link(s) between Sugar & Sweeteners

Sugar is bad for you! That’s the top news of many blogs and dieticians and “wanna be slim” enthusiasts – The Guardian has a whole section devoted to stories related to sugar and it’s effect on the population. There’s no argument here, it is indeed bad for us due to the number of products that pile it in – check out the BBC story How much sugar is hiding in your food?.

Sugars

The temptation of sugar

With sugar being almost impossible to avoid unless you are a home cook fanatic it’ll be there in some degree in nearly every meal, snack and drink. NHS looks at how sugar in our diet effects our health? and Healthline’s blog post on 11 reason why too much sugar is bad for you and everything from social sites to next door neighbours daughter is now an expert on it and like Time magazines article Sugar is definitely toxic it is definitely the number one villain in the world of food and drink.

Some say the sweetest things

The world of marketing has been listening and diet drinks, sugar free sweets, low sugar meals, 50% less sugar sauces etc… etc… is quickly becoming prominent in our stores. So it’s bad for you right? So, this must be good! Remember though, they must sweeten it somehow and what they use is aptly named sweeteners. The NHS educate us again on the truth about sweeteners and fitness magazine take us through the most popular sweeteners on Get Sweetener Savvy and it doesn’t take long to realise that they aren’t a miracle cure to the devil that is sugar. Which leaves us, and Thrillist.com asking which is worse: artificial sweeteners or sugar?.

Artificial Sweeteners

So the shift moves back to negative about sweeteners with articles like those from the BBC asking are sweeteners really bad for you? and Harvard reviewing artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost? when the whole reason we moved to them was to get away from sugar. So, may be the answer is we just eat too much?! Most of the advice comes down to one word “moderation”, and as we have found out todays society lacks that control in both ourselves and the companies that produce the food. Sugar is bad for us but instead of a solution we found a workaround which is also bad for us!

You are the answer

As much as we contribute to a society it is our own individual problem. Control what you eat, and others may follow…if they don’t at least you won’t be a victim to the sugar wars. As previously specified there is loads of advice out there from experts like the SugarScience website who breaks it down with How Much is Too Much? to blogs from chefs like Jamie Oliver who takes a look with a similarly titled How much sugar is too much? post.

In conclusion, be wary of what you eat as it is us who abuse it that makes it bad. Stick to natural unrefined where possible, choose a diet that isn’t focused on sweetness and stay away from fast food. You don’t have to be a health fanatic, you just need to be health conscious.

And another thing…

So we are the problem. We love it, it’s generally a natural ingredient and carbohydrates is our first source of energy. Sugar for those who work out at the right time can do wonders, just check out the Greatist blog post The one time it’s totally OK to eat a lot of sugar for some advice. Fact is everyone is different and on top of that we have different goals.

Workout On The Run

Workout On The Run

The challenge to maintain a workout routine isn’t easy. Our 9 till 5 work day is getting ever extended, and for some is a thing of the past. Working hours are longer, shifts disrupt routine and for me; travelling for work really messes with my plans. Travelling, although often seen as glamorous (and it is not without its plus points) does mean you leave your loved ones behind, your favourite evening rituals at home and your exercise regime out the window. For the former two there is not much I can do…and for that matter neither is there much I can do about my fitness routine in regard to there being a routine, but there is stuff we can do to keep up fitness levels or at least stop me from getting stale.

Workout while moving

When I travel I don’t travel light, I travel equipped. For my carry-on bag I load the backpack with power devices, my laptop, books, notepads, toiletries, power adaptors etc… The point is I keep it heavily equipped so one I am ready for a heap of delays if necessary and two its weight training. I go to the gym and do shoulder press, farmers walk, weighted lunges and the likes and have always tried to focus on being fit for purpose…well, here is my purpose; day to day life.

I try to use day to day life to further enhance my fitness to push me further to my goals. Every day I take the stairs, I walk the long way around, I park at the edge of the car park to get that extra bit of farmers walk training with the weekly shopping bags. Point is life is full of opportunities to improve, if only we avoid what we have built as humans (lifts, escalators and other short cutting devices) and use what mother nature built.

Workout on the run - take the stairs

Home workout in the Hotel

Travelling around on trains, planes and automobiles can mean a lot of travelling on foot too. This gives me plenty of opportunities to do all the above and with heavy bags in hand. Even better, a whole day or days can go by without being able to hit the gym or go out for a run so skipping those travellators to journey down seemingly endless airport terminals acts as a great replacement and is all in a day’s work!

These tips, however, just take the edge off. I generally do look for a gym in the destination around or in my hotel but time isn’t always kind and gyms can be closed, ill fitted or just stuck for time when I have 45 minutes to meet my boss in the lobby for evening meal. I have found the best solution is hotel room workouts. They truly are brilliant and to be honest, are now a part of my routine at home. The apps and online videos available are free, effective, quick, require little space and generally no equipment and all I need to do is follow the leader!

Online resources

Whether travelling, low on income, a gym-o-phoebe or just stuck for time or inspiration then check out some of these resources for high quality, result driven workout routines for anyone from beginner through to advanced:

  • Yoga With Tim – a wide variety of YouTube videos (235 at time of writing) as well as a Patreon option, Tim Senesi has 30 day runs and yoga routines to fine tune or rehabilitate and push you to your limits or pick any single video from a few minutes through to full 90 minute routines
  • Millionaire Hoy – a massive array of videos (911 at time of writing) for all levels of fitness Millionaire Hoy will boost your abilities whoever you are and whatever your goals. All this for free or subscribe to his Patreon page for a complete well-rounded program that puts gym PT’s to shame.
  • MadBarz App – Mad Barz has been around for years and primarily focused on calisthenics it is far more rounded that it ever has been. The app is slick, has no equipment options and great community and metrics to keep track of your progress.

Work the core without the bore.

Don’t be confined!

Core workouts can be a bit boring or confined. OK, you might be one of those people who love the core burnout (I also fit that particular bill) but the movements in many a core workout are limited to floor exercise or lateral movements that focus puerly on the “core” with a seemingly limitless different type of crunches. The problem with this is that your core works hard all day long but most of that time is not lying down and movements are complex and composite. So if we want to explore the core and really improve its functionality then we should be working it in many different ways so it is developed to meet your personal needs.

What is the core?

First of all what is the core? Well, it isn’t just your abdominals – they are the set of muscles that are often mistaken for being core but the abdominals are just part of the story. The core is range of internal muscles such as the transverse abdominals, multifidus, diaphragm, pelvic floor, amongst others that are used to help stabilize and help transfer power as well as being a major factor in nearly every movemnt and posture we do.

How to work your core?

This bit is easy to say but not so easy to practice – just think about it! Literally just think about using your core during your exercise routine to improve its functionality. You can still add in a few isolation exercises making sure you hit the forward / backward folds (e.g. crunches and torso raises), the side bends (e.g. oblique crunches) and twisting (e.g. russian twists)  as well as static holds (e.g. the plank), but let your routine focus more on core. Deadlifts, push ups, pull ups, kicking, jumping, crawling, bench pressing; reagrdless of your exercise make the core a focus for controlling the movement and you’ll improve your performance in your chosen field as your core becomes stronger and more dynamic.

A tip to maintain core control is using the same muscles you use to stop yourself from urinating, just lightly contract them instead. The hips should pulled up and forwad, the belly button pulled in to the spine, the lower ribs pulled down into the your front pockets and the shoulder blades weigh heavy down the back. Don’t tense though, suybtle and comfortable is the key!

Why bother?

You might want to be the best you can be in your chosen activity, or you may want to decrease your chances of injury, it could be you are fixing ailments such as bad backs or you may want a six pack to show off. All these goals neeed a lot of work to attain them but one thing is for sure; your core is essential to reach these heights.

Conclusion

Let’s not ditch the crunches but it is possible to work the core harder by focusing on the role your core has to play in your workout or sport. It doesn’t stop there either, your core is used all the time even when you are standing up and sitting down. So keep the core tight, maintain good posture and you’ll be less prone to injury, ailments and have increased performance!

THE GAUNTLET Pull Up Challenge

So the Gauntlet has been thrown down from a fellow TrueSapien. My challenge is to complete 20 consecutive pull ups. Considering I have only ever really been able to max out at 10-12 per set at this exercise means that it is a considerable challenge, effectively doubling my current capability, one that will require pushing myself in order to achieve. This is an excellent challenge for me as functional bodyweight exercises and calisthenics align to my main interests of martial arts and triathlon.

As with most exercise or fitness related challenges the first step is to set the baseline and see how many I can currently achieve. This is effectively a specific fitness test which can then be repeated to determine improvement and ultimately success.
Next stage is to set a timescale that’s both realistic but not too lengthy. I decided on 6 weeks, commencing on May 4th which gives me a deadline of June 15th.
Next is to determine the best way to increase my muscular endurance to achieve the required reps. As pull ups are an exercise I can currently do its not necessary to progress  to that exercise from easier variations such as assisted pull ups or suspended pull ups. If I were unable to complete pull ups then there is a wealth of information out there on progression exercises. My plan of attack will be to repeat my max number of reps every day. By Max I mean stopping short (1 rep) of failure as this may take too long to recover from than the 24 hrs. I will perform 3 sets of my max with a 2 min rest period between sets.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress, I’m planning weekly updates!

Vegetarian diet. The step to Plant Power!

I’ve always believed that spur of the moment lifestyle decisions are often the ones that are most reliable, in tune with our inner self and less likely influenced by someone else’s agenda or that of the masses (the sheep factor). So when, three weeks before Christmas, I decided to eliminate meat intake from my diet and become vegetarian, I wasn’t at all daunted by the annual turkey and pigs in blankets festive binge period looming large on the horizon.

Why the change?

I didn’t go into it feeling like I was going to be denying myself anything. I had recently watched a short video on global livestock farming practices which had set my mind to work. I won’t divulge any information  from it as I don’t believe I am in a position to preach on the subject (I’ve spent over 40 years eating meat compared to 4 weeks not!) but it brought the subject from the area of my mind filed ‘taken for granted’ into an area more open for debate.

So how has it gone?

Someone asked me yesterday this very question and on reflection I have to say I have only missed eating meat on one occasion. Yes you’ve guessed it, Christmas dinner.
This fact alone suggests that it has been quite plain sailing. I do the majority of my own and my families cooking and have found it relatively straightforward to replace my meat with fish or extra vegetables rather than going down the route of meat substitutes like Quorn. I’m still cooking meat for my family.

How do I feel?

I was warned that I could feel weak or lethargic adopting a vegetarian diet. Far from it. I have stepped my sport training up over the period (swimming, cycling and running) and if anything have found myself more energised than ever. I also feel less bloated after meals.
There is a wealth of information now available to those looking at alternative diets,  for the health benefits or ethical beliefs, whether that includes meat or not. It’s not necessary to go down the full Vegetarian or Vegan route either, as I still eat fish and eggs my diet is currently that termed Pescatarian.
This change to my diet has certainly pushed me to broaden my intake of a wider variety of fruit, vegetables, pulses and nuts which can only be a good thing even if I decide to start eating meat again (although I have no intention of this at this point in time!)
My advice is to try alternative nutrition programmes and see if they work for you. Listen to your body and your gut instinct, the only way you’ll know is by trying.

Get Your Bike Set-Up Right!

Professional Bike Fitter Dan, of Midland Bike Bit discusses the importance of setting a bike up correctly, injuries and ailments it can otherwise cause and tell tale signs that your current bike set-up may need adjustment.

“As a bike fitter, I see a slightly ‘skewed’ cross section of cyclists that come to visit the studio – at least 75% of the clients that visit are suffering to some degree when they ride their bikes. We hear about all kinds of aches, pains, niggles and quirks during our pre-fit interviews that are causing you to feel uncomfortable on your bike.”

If you are experiencing serious discomfort on the bike that seems to only occur when you ride, then chances are something is not right with your positioning. When talking about pain it may be acute discomfort in a specific area, or a chronic ache / niggle that builds over time. It is a common misconception that riding a road racing bike means putting up with a sore neck or numb hands – these are signs that that bike position isn’t right. Below are the most common issues we come across;

1. Back Pain
This is the number one bike fit related complaint we hear in the studio, and I would say as many as 1 in 3 riders suffer from it (although we do see a slightly ‘skewed’ cross-section of the cycling population). Anything from a slightly sore lower back after a longer ride, through to acute pains that force the rider off the bike – we have heard it all! The static nature of a road bike position is prone to cause problems if your bike is not set up correctly – being hunched over for long periods of time requires either a reasonable amount of flexibility and functionality to maintain, or some work off the bike in the form of stretching and core strengthening.
One-sided pain is also very common. This is usually the result of rider asymmetry, such as a leg length discrepancy or a difference in flexibility between the left and right sides of the body. If left uncorrected these issues will not usually disappear on their own (unless you do a lot of work off the bike) and must be dealt with so as not to cause problems in the future.

2. Knee Pain
This can be the most debilitating bike fit issue of all. If you have ever suffered from knee pain you will know what I am talking about, and when it does happen there is no getting away from it due to the repetitive nature of the pedal stroke. The causes of knee pain vary so much from one rider to the next, that it can be very hard to find the exact root cause of the problem. Usually the location of the pain in relation to the knee joint can give an indication as to possible solutions – for example a pain down the outside of the knee is often related to the iliotibial band (ITB) being stressed, and common causes for this are incorrect cleat rotation, too much saddle setback, a saddle that is too high etc etc….. But it is not always this simple to diagnose. There are more often lots of layers of compensation resulting from a problem somewhere else which finally result in knee pain. I read about a bike fitter who had a client that was suffering from knee pain, and after months of trial and error they found that the cause of the pain was misalignment of the lower jaw – the tiny compensations resulting from asymmetrical jaw alignment eventually caused the knee to hurt! Fair play to them for spotting that one….!

3. Numb Hands / Tired Arms
Numbness in the hands is usually the result of having too much weight on the front of the bike. Correct weight distribution is key to a good bike fit, and anyone that has been in for a session here will know that one of the things I focus on during the fit is ensuring that the upper body is largely un-weighted, and that there is not too much tension in the arms. Not only will this reduce pressure on the hands, it will also make you more efficient at higher intensities as you are not supporting your torso weight on the handlebars!

4. Saddle Soreness
Some riders will get lucky and find that their perfect saddle is the one that came on their bike. Other riders may not be so fortunate. The best way to find a saddle that is right for you is to try a few, and use the one that feels most comfortable and supportive. Some fit systems measure sitbone width to determine saddle selection – this does provide a good starting point but there is no guarantee that the saddle you then choose based on this will feel right. At our studio we stock a rang of Fizik and Prologo saddles which are available to test out and take away for a few rides to see whether it feels right after a few miles on the road.

5. Neck Ache
I tend to find that most riders suffer from a bit of upper back / neck ache especially on longer rides, however for a number of you this problem is more than just a bit of a pain in the neck (ahem..), it can get to the point where even on shorter rides the pain is causing you to stop riding and stretch out your neck muscles. The most common cause is the handlebar position – too low / too far away will cause you to crane your neck in an effort to look up the road, giving you that ‘chin forward’ posture that results in discomfort.

If you want further information or have specific questions you may need answering please use our forum.