Hitting it Hard in Training

With a physical practice, really, there are two main things that we need to get right:

1. How we train (strength, mobility, sets, reps, frequency... etc)

2. How we recover (everything else in life... adaption!)

We've written about recovery strategies, nutrition etc in the past and also about training strategies.

However, here we cover a few key points to remember with your training to make sure you are getting the results that you want!

Here are a few tips that we've found helpful:

  1. Find the "pro." Look, they don't need to be an actual professional (although it helps), but they need to be good and have expereince. They need to have shown up strongly in the area you want to improve in. They may or may not be "qualified" in the usual channels. This might be your coach, another member at the gym, a friend. Someone who you can get somewhat close to.
  2. Look for the "context." Yes find out about the "program," but also look at their recovery strategies and nutrition
  3. Avoid "super-sympathetic" - this is when ALL of your training sessions have hyped up music, you need to go all out and go until exhaustion. You wake up with anxiety about the workout. There are some circuit classes just like this. In simple terms, if you had found the pro above, you'd see they don't do this. The nervous system can't recover well from these types of repeated efforts. Repeated exposure will cause anxiety, stagnation, injury and plateaus. We are looking for the long term game here.
  4. Eat to win. A lot of people are skipping meals, especially before training in the morning. This is a case of "just because you can do it, doesn't mean it is optimal in the long term." For the long game, we want to down-regulate the nervous system quickly and recover. Food helps. More food often helps more.
  5. Use caffeine. If it works for you, use it. Caffeine is well known to help training (and event) performance. Just please, eat first.
  6. Calculate your effort and adjust accordingly. Ask the coach: "So what should this feel like? How hard should this feel?" Do they expect an all out effort? Or should you be more reserved. Use your top end effort sparingly.
  7. Find out how to get better behind the scenes. Mobility work or recovery walks for example, will help you when it comes to hitting it hard again in training.

While showing up is the most important thing, there are a lot of other factors that can help you excel.

Have something else that has worked for you? Let us know what it is!

john marsh
Fostering Quality with Feedback

With exercise and nutrition, one of the biggest hurdles people seem to hit is finding and maintaining quality.

Quality food, quality coaches, teachers or environments, quality in their own practice...

When you set out, there are online guru's, everybody has a voice, which is great, but can also make it difficult. Furthermore, it's often the loudest that are heard the most. There is advice going every which-way.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of garbage. I don't mean that a lot of the stuff out there is of no use, but it's just of less use than other options and we only have so much time and resources.

However, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you are on a path that serves you and that you get where you want to be and get the most out of your available time.

Let's take a look at a training or movement practice for example:

1. Make an observation of where you are at - what attributes would you like to work on? Strength? Health? Mobility? Fitness? Do these align with the coach or facility you are looking at?

2. Conduct research - do the people running the show reflect that which is advertised? Do they have skin in the game? Do they walk the walk? Do they have experience?

3. Form a hypothesis - If your training is going to serve you in the longer run (be sustainable), it should feel good in the short term as well. Is the pace sustainable? Do you feel improvements in your target areas early on?

4. Test hypothesis - Stick it out! Commit to your key days per week and work with the coach. This will make sure the experiment is valid!

5. Record data - keep a training log. Record strength, how you feel, mobility results etc. This will keep you focused on actual results.

6. Draw a conclusion - Is the training working for you? Are you moving better? Are you getting stronger, more mobile? Is it fun?

7. Peer review - Come back to the coach, a friend, a colleague, or someone outside your circle. Share some of your thoughts, your results - are they on track? Are you getting where you want to go? Do you need to make an adjustment. This takes you back to the first step.

We are all about getting results. A big part of this is recognising what isn't working for you, making a new hypothesis and adjusting, then showing up.

Whether it's your nutrition or training strategy, using a feedback loop and asking yourself a few simple questions can really help to get results faster!

 

john marsh
The Road With No End

We change habits, start on a new journey towards strength, better movement, better health. A new road.

We see others on the journey as well, so it makes sense to ask the question: "When?"

When will the results come, when will I change, when will it get easier? How long will this take?

Nobody knows. What we do know is, if you expect a timeframe, or have a cutoff date, then you need to look deeper.

Are you giving yourself a cutoff time? Is this a temporary effort? What happens when you "get there?" Do you stop?

By having a "when," in a way, we take away from the simple task of turning up and doing the work, of sticking to the program and enjoying the process.

Instead of a future time, really we just align our efforts with the general direction we want to head, then enjoy the journey, with some awesome results along the way.

This is the only way that it can become a way of life, which is ironically the only way the result can ever truly come and last.

john marsh
The Urgency To Start
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Usually, the training journey rewards patience,

But, there is a valuable place for urgency. 

This is at the start.

Those who start today or who have urgency to begin. Urgency to heal their body, figure out their nutrition or build functionality in their training. It doesn't matter if it's a Monday, Friday, Thanks-giving, New Years or their birthday, they're good to go.

Then there are those who start after the holidays, after a work trip, or "once things calm down." They tend to have a lot of logistical questions, calendar conflicts and re-schedules.

Time and time again, the first group illustrates better long term results. They know that once they have chosen, then starting is what counts. After that, they are playing the game

They can then focus on cementing the habit, getting through early hurdles and enjoying the experiences (both fun and challenging) that are part of the journey

The one thing that is clear though, is that you need to be on the journey to get the results

Start today.

john marsh
Habitualising Movement
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To become a coach in the exercise industry, usually we are pretty passionate about what we do. 

To exercise or "move" regularly (daily) isn't something that we think about. For me, this has been the case for my whole life.

However for many, the story is different. If you are getting back into it, then movement is not yet habitualised.

There is a huge upside to habitualising your training (or quality food...) They trickle over into other areas of your life because they are such an integral part of who we are as humans.

Once it is habit, movement comes easily. We welcome it each day, just like waking up, or going to sleep. It's then no longer a task or chore.

So, how do we habitualise it so that it becomes literally natural to move more?

  1. At the beginning, establish the "que" and "extrinsic reward.*" The que can be a location, a time of day, or a group of people. This is why training in a small group environment at a regular time each day is so effective. The extrinsic reward is something you enjoy. A nice meal out after you have completed a few days in a row, a new pair of training shoes at the end of a month. Something you value. Eventually, this reward isn't needed as it becomes intrinsic (just "feels good"). It will NOT be intrinsic at the start.**
  2. Keep a log. Write down your sessions, what you did, how you felt. Make some notes. This helps you to visually see what you have done, to cement that you have dedicated that time to your movement practice each day. You get to "tick the day off" so to speak.
  3. Occasionally let it go. At the beginning, the will power required will build some mounting pressure. Don't train every single day. Rather, accept that the habit will form better if you regularly have a rest, and literally don't worry about it at all. For example, every third day or so at the start you might completely rest, or sleep in. You can do whatever you want on this day.
  4. Make sure the movement practice is compatible and sustainable. This is huge. The type of training I see a lot of people do (been there) literally is not sustainable and even if you DID have the will power to do it for a long period (I did), then the body can easily break down (mine did). Focus on strength development, mobility or learning new movement patterns. 

*This concept comes from "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg

**The gap between intrinsic and extrinsic is huge and where communication breaks down between a lot of coaches and clients. Prior to the habit forming, there is a completely different program being run, which needs a completely different set of conditions.

 

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john marsh
Lessons From Pumping Iron
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Last night we watched the classic Pumping Iron - a documentary-ish movie based around the "golden era" of bodybuilding, in the 1970's.

The case that I presented to my wife Ruby for choosing this on Netflix was that Arnold Schwarzenegger knew how to get things done. He had travelled to a foreign country and absolutely succeeded in many different (and arguably unrelated) fields.

So, I wanted to watch the film for entertainment, but also to see what we noticed in him when he was at the height of his career.

I knew that he would have traits that would apply to anyone today who is chasing a goal, whether it be in the gym or with a new business.

Anyway, here are 5 things I noticed straight away:

1. The champion was genuinely calm. Many of the other guys were often heated up, whether it was during a hard set of weights, or otherwise. It felt like Arnie knew his process and then was relaxed about it, which allowed him to continue without as much stress.

2. The gym was a place to train. There were a few shots of Golds Gym - it was easy to notice there were no phones or TV screens, little, if any music and lots of basic equipment. Instagram and Facebook were not even a blip on the radar yet and not one of the people in there would have imagined that doing a Snap Chat after a workout could be a thing. They were there for gains.

3. They helped each other. Inside the gym, they were spotting each other on sets, encouraging each other. Outside of the gym, they would help each other with strategies or tactics on the stage. 

4. Arnold had a process. When he went on stage, he executed without too much strain and followed his routine. It screamed confidence.

5. Arnie had fun. He seemed generally more relaxed and laughed more. He seemed to enjoy his photoshoots, interviews and training. It seemed although he was a focused champion, he really was there for a good time.

Overall, a great vid that's probably worth watching!

john marsh
RECOVERY - HOW TO REST LIKE A CHAMP FOR MAXIMUM GAINS
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If there’s one thing we know how to do in the cities, it’s hustle.

It’s get work done - and even try to hustle when we aren’t getting anything done.

Everyone is professional at “busy."

When I look at training, I see a reflection of this same exact dynamic.

Getting the training done? No problems. 4, 5, even 6 days a week is no problems for a lot of people, once they get the ball rolling.

Now, what about the other side of the coin?

The recovery?

Unfortunately, our ability to “do more” usually doesn’t serve us here. In fact, it’s the opposite.

While float tanks, salt rooms, cryotherapy chambers and sauna’s are booming, my argument is that the base of the recovery pyramid is not being met for a lot of people.

So, what do we do?

Here are 6 ways to boost recovery, for free, that are way under-done.

The interesting question is, can you clear your busy schedule enough to actually do some of them?

  • Sleep. This is free. It is massively restorative. Look for 8+ hours per night. Nap if you can every few days. Too busy? I thought so. Clear the schedule to make this a target.
  • Eat more. After training, it’s trendy to go get a coffee and have something that approximates a thin-air sandwich. Please. Be abundant. Your body needs a balanced meal, with carbs, protein and some fat. We can go into the details at another time, but for now I’m simply calling out the low calibre “post workout” meal attempts. This is a time to down-regulate the stress response post training. Don’t waste it.
  • Meditate. For me, one of the interesting physical aspects of bringing meditation into my life almost 10 years ago was becoming very familiar with the state of the nervous system. To regularly experience a deep parasympathetic (relaxed) state, highlights when the sympathetic state is dominant and when you need to chill. A stressed state will eat your gains up pronto.
  • Know you’ve had enough. FOMO seems to be a big part in people avoiding quality rest. Recognise this and take measures to distance yourself from your attachment to training when you need rest. This means you get to enjoy the other areas of your life and finally unwind, so that you’re ready to tackle it again soon.
  • Listen to your body. Becoming familiar with your body will let you start to really dial this stuff in. Breathing rates, temperature and pulse, skin, sleep.. these are all clues as to what is going on and your total level of stress
  • Actively reduce other stressors. A stress is a stress. When you have a day off training and the focus is recovery, avoid stressing the body further through under-eating, over-working, under-sleeping or too much stimulation.

Of course, there is a huge amount of individuality that goes into this stuff. But overall these are the common threads I’ve seen through working with hundreds of individuals.

Got questions? Hit me up and we can organise a free call to chat through your training and recovery practices.

john marsh
INCREASE MUSCLE MASS AFTER 30 WITH THESE 14 STEPS
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The body is an amazing thing.

We can train for movement capacity, strength, longevity...

Yet when we think of “training" there’s also that X-Factor.

We want the body to “look” good. We want lean muscle mass.

Why? Well, lean muscle mass has not only has been linked to longevity, but also means “potential” - it’s a sign of abundance, which is a concept I love

In fact, I strongly believe that the type of training we do wouldn’t actually be that popular if..

It didn’t bring results to the physique.

There are some who deny this, saying training for aesthetics is a fools errand. I say, let’s train for movement and health… and get aesthetics too.

So, here we are, the other side of 30, and wondering how the hell do I actually do that? There’s so much info out there.

If it was as easy as an 8 week challenge, a single strength program, adding some supplements or skipping meals, hell, we’d all just be doing that..

Like many before you though, you’ve realised it’s not quite so simple to get solid, long term results

It's a lifestyle, a lot of factors need to be in alignment.

Once you are in the working force, have a job, maybe a family... there are some “tricks” now

In reality, these tricks are just some simple habits for health, which most people call “hacks” now...

But, they’ve been around for decades.

You see, you need to consider these “tricks” because in one sense, you’re at a disadvantage. 

We have hormonal shifts and lifestyle factors that are usually in play now, which weren’t there when you were 22..

The good thing is though, you’re smarter now. Back then, you didn’t know what the hell you were doing anyway so the opportunity probably passed you by

Now you know how to create solid habits.. create change.

So, here are 14 tips I learned to put on about 8-10kg of lean muscle 

  1. Slow down your training
  2. Don’t over-emphasise the HIIT - you need time under tension 
  3. Drop the morning jog
  4. Resistance train (bodyweight and/or external load) - compound movements, at least twice per week
  5. Choose time under tension
  6. Don’t rush
  7. Avoid crappy reps for the sake of the weight on the bar or the movement, but also add load or stimulus when needed!
  8. Increase your range of motion in strength movements
  9. Train mobility
  10. Eat more food
  11. Eat even more food*
  12. Don’t cut out major macro-nutrients (like all fats, proteins, or carbs)
  13. Sleep 8-10 hours out of every 24 hours. If not yet, make this a goal (hint, you often sleep how you eat - if sleep is poor, diet is likely off)
  14. Learn to read your nervous system and how to cultivate a parasympathetic state, this promotes healing and growth. Meditation, yoga, relaxation work.. Essential.

*This needs to be quality food and of course total amount depends on a lot of factors for the individual. Ramp it up slowly. For many of you though, it's more than you're currently eating..

These tips will set you up for success!

john marsh
Train Like a Pro
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Recently I committed to reading a book a week. 

A couple weeks in, so far, so good..

Anyway, last week was one called “The War of Art.” - Steven Pressfield

Pressfield discusses the “overcoming of resistance” - i.e. how to unlock your inner creative forces. Or really, how to tackle any task or venture where you might normally get stuck. It’s a short, enjoyable read.

There’s one part in particular that has resonated with me for many areas, including with training. 

Pressfield talks about the difference between Pro’s and Amateur’s in their work. 

Pro’s take it seriously, they are in it for the long haul. Interestingly, they aren’t as attached. 

Amateurs on the other hand are overly identified with their craft, they are rushed and impatient.

Note, there might be no actual difference in “ability” - someone can be just starting out, but be training with a Pro mindset already. Someone could be years into their journey and still train like an Amateur.

Also, we need to pass through the stage of the Amateur in one field at least, in order to turn Pro. This could happen when we are young, in our professional field as an adult, or some other time..

Having trained alongside both professional and amateur athletes, I’ve seen a lot of both!

So, how do we know which we are? We know we want to get results and the Pro gets results.. so..

If we find we are the Amateur, how do we become the pro?

There is one extract in this book that has stuck with me. In it, we learn that perhaps the amateur is simply too enthusiastic. Could this be all there is to it?

Let’s take a look:

The Pro is Patient

"Resistance outwits the amateur with the oldest trick in the book: It uses his own enthusiasm against him.

Resistance gets us to plunge into a project with an overambitious and unrealistic timetable for its completion. 

It knows we can’t sustain that level of intensity.

We will hit the wall. We will crash."

Very often, people come in to the gym with a date - say a wedding that they want to “lean out for.” Or, perhaps they want to a certain movement pronto, like pull-ups or a ring muscle up.

The want it Now. They are very much playing a short game.

Meet the amateur - It’s not a bad position to be - hey, the amateur is getting on the court, and we need to pass through this stage.

BUT, when you place them alongside the pro, you can start to see some differences.

The Pro on the other hand, approaches their health and training as a journey. 

They understand that the trick is in starting to learn and follow a process. When the body leans out, great! When the sexy movements come to them such as the muscle up, they welcome them! 

But they understand that this isn’t the end and the following of the process is what is important. When they do get the muscle up, they turn up the next day just as before and keep working.

"The professional, on the other hand, understands delayed gratification. He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare.

… The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the starts time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work."

The amateur trains seven days per week, early on, no matter what.

The Pro sets up a sustainable movement and training practice around her life.

The amateur races through each workout, glossing over the warmups, looking to get to the main course as quickly as possible

The amateur’s primary focus is on numbers and time, and how quickly they can get a particular movement.

The Pro gives as much attention to the warmup as the workout

The amateur focuses on intensity to satisfy a cortisol addiction

The Pro goes into this zone occasionally, but their main focus is on consistency and quality, even if it’s the most basic progression

The Pro understands that patience is what will win the game. It’s not just what movement you can do, it’s also the quality of the movement

The amateur just goes to the gym to “balance” out their life, hoping to hit goals

The Pro aligns other lifestyle factors with their journey where possible to improve sleep, nutrition, stress and posture

"The professional steels himself at the start of a project, reminding himself it is the Iditarod, not the sixty-yard dash.

He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul.

He sustains himself with the knowledge that if he can just keep those huskies mushing, sooner or later the sled will pull in to Nome."

The training journey is fun and rewarding, but it takes time. Whether you are looking to correct imbalances or injuries, or learn new movements,

It doesn’t matter, as the patience required is the same.

The Amateur wants it done now (or, usually in an 8-12 week "shred challenge" it seems)

The Pro already understands there is no end-date.

The Amateur goes from one 12 week challenge to another, changes or blends programs together to try to get results faster..

The Pro settles in for the journey, has an insatiable desire to learn.

The amateur hits a hurdle, a minor injury, a work deadline.. and stops

The Pro already understands these things are part of the process and are factored in

 

The Pro reaps the rewards, despite not expecting them and not getting too hung up on them.

The Amateur blames hurdles, lack of time, or others for not getting their results quickly enough. 

In reality though, the main difference is simply patience.

john marsh
Top Three Exercises for Leg Strength and Performance

Want to build stronger legs? Bring on external loading.

While bodyweight strength exercises are king for developing upper body strength across a functional, big range of motion, with the legs you can’t go past barbell compound lifts. There are several reasons for this, but one is that there is a lot of residual strength already in the legs. For a lot of us, we walk on them daily, they are already conditioned to hold our bodyweight. So, even if we were to do a lot of bodyweight strength movements with the legs, we still would get far better results with loaded exercises.

We also know that developing strong legs is key for functionality, performance and even longevity - being mobile and strong when we are older allows us to move freely for example. So, what are the best exercises for developing strong and functional legs?

While an individual definitely can have specific requirements, here are three of our favourite exercises for building leg strength. Furthermore, we are able to modify these main movements where needed to suit most individuals.

 

Squats

A key movement pattern. There are many options for leg strength, but there are reasons why the squat is often called the king of lifts. It is simple, brutally effective and has phenomenal carry over to other areas of strength and movement.

There are a ton of different variations with the squat, but the back squat is simple, effective and all-inclusive. Glute, quads, calves, core and even back, this is truly a full-body exercise that deserves a place in your program.

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Deadlifts

The famous hip-hinge pattern.

Pick the weight up off the floor and put it back down. Simple, powerful. The deadlift pattern comes in alongside the squat - in fact, many would even say it is preferable. The lift recruits almost every single muscle in the body when done right. It requires great tension, timing, sequencing and intent. These lifts will help you develop a strong posterior chain (think glutes, hamstrings, back) as well as help to boost full body strength. We’ve often seen a correlation between strong a strong deadlift and other pulling strengths such as the pullup.

There are many variations with the deadlift, but even in it’s simplest form, the conventional deadlift has a huge return on investment.

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Split Squat

The Split Squat is what’s called a “uni-lateral” movement. It is a lunge pattern.

Long story short, these help to correct imbalances, strengthen the body, improve mobility (when done right) and build strength through a full range of motion.

The split squat looks similar to the lunge from the un-trained eye, but has a subtle difference - you stay in the split position until you finish the entire set on that side. These can be done with just body-weight, or with external loading (dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, sand-bags.. anything!). 

We can again modify the movement with changing not just loading, but body position or the height of either foot. With this one, keep the front foot flat on the ground.

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A Few Tips

These lower body lifts will take you a LONG way in your search for strength.

They’ll assist in movement, body composition, mobility, jumping, sprinting and more. However, they need to be done correctly. This doesn’t mean that they look the same for everybody, but simply means we want to make sure we are getting what we want out of the lift, that it is executed well, and that the body is prepared for the movement.

One common phrases you’ll hear us say is “range of motion.”  In simple terms, this means we are looking to develop a nice, deep squat pattern, or a deep split-squat for example.

This would mean that we create a great range of motion of the hip, knee and ankle joint.

Take it slow - explore these patterns fully. Try un-weighted first, then slowly progress. Of course, as usual we need to make sure we are hitting the mobility and prep-work for the entire body to make sure we are set up for success with these lifts (and all strength training!)

 

What’s your favourite lower body lift? LET US KNOW!

 

How to Tackle the Mobility Monster

Yep, so, you’re tight...

You’re trainer tells you, your yoga teacher consoles you.. but hell, you know it in your bones as you wake up in pain or simple move like mud. You're back even knows it..

I’ve been there. I remember in my triathlon days going to a yoga class and walking in with fear. 

I was that guy who needed 3 bolsters, a strap, a couple of blankets and sometimes a chair in order to get into positions.

So, I know how you feel. It isn’t life threatening, but it sucks. It nags at you. Especially since you’re kind of strong and the mobility just lets you down.

Can you ignore it any longer? Maybe you can try for a bit..

I couldn’t. After an injury got me, I finally decided to really tackle this mobility beast.

So, here I’m going to list a couple of things that I think are critical..

Critical to getting over that hurdle where it shifts from a chore to something more manageable.

But first, let’s get a few misconceptions out of the way

  • Mobility work is for any age. There is no “too old” to start. We all start at the beginning and work with smart progressions.
  • You don’t need intense yoga (unless you want to enjoy yoga for all that is yoga - a whole other discussion!)
  • We aren’t talking just flexible or floppy. We are talking healthy range of motion with end range strength, as well as building resilience in the bod.
  • Athletes - most of you don’t need a “strength and conditioning” program to perform better, you need to move better. This stuff is for you.

Alright, let’s go. I’m going to keep this nice and short:

  1. Simplicity and consistency. Find someone who knows posture and movement. We work with static and dynamic postural assessment, with a focus on the fascial system.   Basically, you want to make sure you are starting in the right direction! Once you have a couple of key areas to address - say your “forward fold” for example, it get’s a lot easier. We can then identify some mobility exercises that you can start with. You’ll need to be consistent. For many, this means multiple times per week you need to create time (just a little!) to do your work.
  2. Gym time isn’t enough! We do mobility work all the freakin time in the gym. In each session, plus some specific classes. BUT, if you are tight as a drum, you’re going to need to do some extra work. This means open gym, or going through your routine at home. Once you accept that your body is the way it is from how you’ve lived your life over the past 2-5 DECADES, you can understand it’s going to take some effort. Accept this, then it’s clear sky from here
  3. The answer isn’t what you already know. If what you knew and did worked, you would be moving like a cat. A lot of the mobility techniques that we use are different to what many are used to. Sometimes loaded, dynamic or even ballistic, there are some VERY effective mobility training methods that come from the world of martial arts, gymnastics and other areas. 
  4. Yes, I said Mobility TRAINING. To feel better, move better and perform at the level you know you can, you need to think about training mobility just like you might think about training your strength. If you are wound up to begin with, then you won’t have a chance if you don’t prioritise it pretty high. Without mobility, there is no movement (or at least a decreased range of motion) and therefore decreased strength potential and decreased performance.
  5. It’s all the little things. When you start to look at the body as a very connected, fascial system, then you can understand the importance of looking at it as a whole. We mobilise wrists, hands, feet, toes, calves, hips, spine.. We want healthy range of motion in all aspects of the body
Here was 3-4 weeks of work for Justin, a cyclist/runner/all around bad-ass. He's improved his forward fold, his bridge (extension) and everything in between. The answer? Simple exercises, but he's consistent as!

Here was 3-4 weeks of work for Justin, a cyclist/runner/all around bad-ass. He's improved his forward fold, his bridge (extension) and everything in between. The answer? Simple exercises, but he's consistent as!

So, what does it look like?

While it’s always individualised, I can say that I see the best results when people (and myself) address mobility in some way most days. This can often be 15-30 minutes each day, but each of those minutes is intentional. You can also get a lot of mobility work in passively - how and where you choose to sit (or not), some quick mobility work at lunch time, or arriving a little early to fit it in before your training.

It might also be a weekly longer mobility session. This usually allows us to see some great results in just a few weeks.

For higher level mobility targets (front/middle splits, higher level spinal extension etc), you then need to start thinking in months rather than weeks.

So yes, it can take a while. Is it worth it? Of course!


Want to find out more about how to boost your mobility for sport or life? Hit us up for a chat and we can see how to get started!

Chunky Chilli Con Carne

We've passed the shortest day of the year, but the slow cooker is still cranking and we're enjoying lots of warming, nourishing and delicious Winter meals.

These one-pot wonders are also the perfect way to prepare lots of quality food ahead of time for your lunches and mid-week dinners.  This recipe is delicious on it’s own or paired with some roasted potato or rice. The cacao gives this version a deep chocolaty flavour and interesting twist.

Be sure to use a high quality meat - we always look for grass-fed, happy animals and like to find out about where they come from. Grass-fed meat is higher in Omega-3 (important anti-inflammatory fat) and we love knowing that the animals are healthy and fed a natural diet, just like we strive to eat ourselves. 

Ingredients:

  • 1kg grass-fed beef steak, diced (chuck or stew meat)
  • 500g grass-fed beef mince
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 ½ tbsp ground cumin
  • 2–3 tbsp beef tallow or ghee
  • 2 white onions, diced
  • 4 (28g) garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 x 400g cans diced plum tomatoes
  • 3 large tbsp tomato paste
  • 4–5 tbsp hot sauce (find one with no sugar or preservatives) - optional
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper (adjust for different heats)
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Fresh coriander and/or diced red onion to serve

 

  1. In a large mixing bowl coat the diced beef and mince with oregano and ground cumin.
  2. In a large cast iron pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the meat and stir for 2 minutes until browned almost all over.
  3. Add the diced onions and garlic and stir for another 3 minutes or so until the onion is clear and fragrant.
  4. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, chilli sauce, cayenne pepper and raw cacao powder. Adjust the amount of chilli to suit your preference.
  5. Reduce to a simmer. There should be just enough liquid to cover the meat, but if it’s looking dry, add some more tomato paste or a little water).
  6. Simmer on low for 3–5 hours until the beef chunks start to break down. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt if needed.
  7. Serve warm, topped with fresh coriander and diced red onion.

 

What to learn more about what you should be eating to get the results you want? What we put in our mouths has a HUGE impact on body composition, overall health, sleep and illness. Get in touch or call us on 0413 949 535 to find out about our integrated approach to movement and health here at Workshop.

Workshop Gym
Balancing Work and Health Priorities

Let’s be honest, you are living in a rush

It seems impossible to balance work, family… life, with training and health priorities

You are working hard to build a career, it's going great

You eat healthy where possible… train a few times per week

BUT, 

You know you are still out of balance because your body, your energy, your mood tells you something is off

Some days you feel inspired to train and eat well

But then other days you think - “Why bother?”

It feels like you need to exercise everyday and if you don’t, something is wrong!

Look, I get it. I have been there before

Working through the night watching european financial markets

Owning two different business started on a shoe-string budget

*Hoping* they grew, while maintaining a marriage and still looking at health

I’ve been in this balance with endurance sports, strength sports and now a focus on movement

The thing is, I’ve learned a few things from my own experience as well as working with literally hundreds of people on their health journey over the years. There are still many lessons ahead no doubt, But...

This is what I see over and over again:

 

1. Diet - You’ve “eliminated” yourself into a deficit.

You feel tired, lethargic with regular food.  You aren’t eating enough food. Sure, it’s “clean” "meat and veggies," but your body isn’t responding, and is still holding weight. So you wouldn’t dare eat more

Which is exactly what we might need 

This means you need caffeine to get out the door and get rolling - your immunity also drops every once in a while as the body is often in a stressed state

The thing is, I went through this exactly... and I still get stuck in it. Probably a 4-5 year period where I simply wasn’t eating ENOUGH food. Sometimes I forget to eat, or just don't consume enough - it really creates havoc on the system from a health perspective.

Now, with the amount of crap out there on “diet," I largely avoid the topic. BUT, 

when I simply focused on getting MORE non-inflammatory proteins, quality saturated fats, fruits and roots, my energy jumped through the roof

I was even able to kick the caffeine habit at the same time, overnight

For me, it was a case of simplifying food, worry less about the different types "superfoods," or which kale is better than the other, and more about getting ENOUGH food and not eliminating everything under the sun, as you hope to finally start to feel better

 

2. Training - How much do I need to train?

I’ve trained 25-30 hours per week (tip - ROI for Ironman training is very low)

I’ve trained 4 hours per week

I’ve learned a bit in between

Training intensity needs to be monitored if you are looking to lean out

Body composition is a question of Health. So, if our nutrition, breathing, sleep and stress are out of line

Then we don’t have the energy production to deal with intense training

I currently train 3-4 sessions per week (in which I train hard for an hour) then do mobility work 5 days per week as well. I walk 60-90mins daily and don't sit.

I focus on moving in some capacity, dialy

Two days completely off, with just walking or light stretching. 

The thing is, there is no “right” amount to train - but, for health, from what I see and have experienced, it’s not that most people need to train MORE at all, 

It’s that they need to MOVE more on the other days and possibly adjust their training

From a health/body comp perspective, 3-4 days per week is plenty of training

But you need to move every day - maybe walk to work, walk to the shops, walk home.

Stretch. Mobility really is a non-negotiable if you want to improve in this game

Make sure the TYPE of training you do is aligned with health.

To be honest, I have never felt better, leaner and stronger than now with a focus on movement training, bodyweight strength and mobility

The arrival here was simply a process of elimination - going deep into endurance and strength sports, finding out what worked and what doesn't

For health.

 

3. Stress - If your stress is high and breathing is off, address this first!

Nutrition, work, relationships, training, environmental factors… 

They all contribute to stress. The thing is, if your stress levels are high

If you aren’t sleeping well

If your breathing patterns are off

Then your training won’t help anything. 

Conversely, you can have a perfect diet and still be stressed out of your mind!

For me, I tune into the breath the most. When it's fast or the mechanics are off and I'm breathing incorrectly, I make pretty swift changes to whats going on environmentally to try and get things wound down again

Here’s the thing - use sleep, heart rate, immunity (how many times did you get sick this year??) as a gauge on your stress levels

If you are out of balance, take a look at your life as a whole and make some changes before you ramp up training or try a new diet again

 

So, if you are stuck feeling like you need to exercise MORE to shift the weight and get healthy

If you are feeling like it’s impossible to balance work/life and health priorities

Then reassess what you are ACTUALLY doing with your food, training and your stress levels. If it's not working, what can you learn or change to restore balance to your system??

 

For me, it was a shift away from endurance training, away from high frequency, heavy olympic lifting into movement training - bodyweight strength, mobility... some leg strength with barbells..

Continuously developing a meditation practice over the last 8 years. Nothing crazy, just creating the space for it

Backing off where need be rather than way too late

Maintaining high volume “movement” and walking despite less actual "training"

Eating more food, prioritising sleep

And I’m still learning constantly!

The question is can you implement change after your body/mind or immunity is giving you a signal?

 

If you are feeling stuck with health or body comp and are willing to look deeper at this alongside your training, contact us now and we’ll set up a chat

john marsh
5 Weight-Loss Hacks For Faster Results
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Struggling to get into the groove with your fat loss?

With the overwhelming word of health advice out there, you might be stuck with information-overload, and we get it.

From our own personal experience with dietary self-experimentation and after working with many clients to help them drop body fat, build lean muscle and find a healthier lifestyle groove, we know that things need to make sense, take little time and last for the long haul. 

Here are a few key hacks that deliver:

1.  Eat more roughage. Roughage and fibre, particularly from seasonal plant-based foods will not only keep you fuller for longer, but will also promote better digestion and excretion of wastes and toxins. Plant based foods are loaded with nutrients and phytochemicals that are needed for good health and help to manage body weight. We love our organic veggie box delivery – a great way to experiment with new vegetables and ensure that you work your way through the whole box each week! Go for lots of different colours, textures and a mix of cooked and raw.

2. Make smart drink swaps. Drinking your food can be one of the fastest ways to add unnecessary sugar and energy that can make it hard to shift weight. Swap sugary drinks like soft drinks (no diet drinks either!), fruit juices and some coffee and teas with naturally infused waters, herbal teas and bone broth (see below). Drinks like kombucha can be an awesome way to boost gut health and a perfect stand-in for the after work glass of wine. See if you can ditch alcohol for a few months, or at least set yourself some boundaries and remove mid-week drinking. This can be the perfect catalyst for dropping body fat, particularly around the belly.

3. Boost your broth. If you’re not yet on the broth bandwagon, you should be. Bone broth is a nutrient-dense elixir of health and also the perfect answer for maintenance of healthy weight. Rather than reaching for another coffee, sugary snack or chocolaty afternoon pick-up, a warming mug of broth with a dash of sea salt, miso or handful of chopped veggies will leave you feeling satisfied, while also boosting gut health, immune function and energy. Check out John’s bad-ass bone broth recipe here.

4. Explore your blood sugar. When we eat high carbohydrate or sugary foods on their own, the amount of sugar in our blood increases and we have to recruit our incredible hormonal system to counteract this spike. If we do this too often, this excess energy is stored as fat. Watch out for sugary snacks, lollies, muesli bars, slices and excessive fruit – especially on an empty stomach. When you wake up first thing in the morning, you’re in a fasted state with low blood sugar. Try to break the fast with a high protein and healthy fat meal instead of a sugar hit. Try eggs with leafy greens and avocado. We don’t advocate a super low carb diet, but we have experienced that sugar and carbohydrates in excess amounts will stop any fat loss in its tracks.

5. Find what works for you. Unfortunately, loosing body fat isn’t as easy as following a cookie cutter meal plan. We all have different energy requirements, different tolerances, different likes and dislikes. We also have a bunch of different symptoms, from low energy to poor immune function to digestive concerns. Want to find out what works? Get yourself a diary and start recording! Observe your food intake and most importantly, your behaviour. Notice how stress impacts your food choices and your sleep. Notice if you’ve trained yourself with a “treat” response when you’re not feeling well or if you’re tired. Recording and journaling can be an amazing way to start observing and changing your relationship with food for a sustainable and long-lasting approach to your weight loss.

Not sure where to start? We’re constantly harping on about nutrition, lifestyle and training to our members here at Workshop. Get in touch so we can find out about your goals and help you to get on track!

Workshop Gym
My Bad-Ass Bone Broth

We are big on power proteins! These are high protein, often high saturated fat foods, which are low in tryptophan and high in nutrients such as lysine. The awesome thing, is a lot of these are easy to make.

Power proteins include eggs, shellfish, broth and a few others.

I get a lot of questions on the broth, so I thought I'd post my latest recipe.

I'm no master of "flavour." Most of you will be able to spice this up with your own flavouring or spices and create something special. If you do, please share.

BUT I'm AM about the thickness (collagen) of the broth. To me, when it's cold, you basically want to have to spoon in out of the jar to then heat up.  This is what makes the broth Bad-Ass. Basically, broth this thick isn't really sold commercially - it takes longer to cook, takes more resources and also consumers usually want something runny and easy to deal with.

Not me though, I'm after quality, gains and nutrient density!

The thickness of the broth comes from bones (I prefer beef) with high marrow content, coupled with a looong cook time.

We are talking 15 hours plus.

If in doubt, cook longer or add more bones with marrow/joints.

Here it is, my Bad-Ass Broth:

Slow cook for 15hrs on low (depends on slow cooker) the following:

- One Big beef marrow bone ("canoe cut" from free range butcher - they'll know). Get them to pre-cut it for you so that it fits into the slow cooker. These big bones are usually for oversized dogs, so they might be surprised you want to make broth with it. We need these though, to get the marrow.
- Some beef chuck bones (these have some meat on them, but also lot of collagen)
- 1-2 carrots chopped
- Celery
- Salt
- Pepper
- Kombu seaweed
- 1 x onion and garlic
- Big splash apple cider vinegar
- Ginger and garlic

I just cook that up overnight, then let cool then decant into jars.

This gives me about 5 full jars (I have a 4-5L slow cooker I think).

This should cool and seperate with the fat on the top (white) and then a highly gelatinous broth below that. When you re-heat it, either dilute with some boiling water straight into the cup, OR heat in a small pot. 

Personally, I don't use a microwave.

To make it more Bad-Ass:
The big twists that you can get into to make it really bad-ass broth are:
- Pre-"roast" the marrow bones in oven until light brown before putting in slow cooker. This makes the broth darker in colour
- Add offal such as small chopped liver
- Add spices (Cayenne)
- Use the veggies and chuck meat that comes out of it for brekkie with eggs or lunch (they are full of nutrients from the broth)
- Make sure to scoop the marrow from canoe cut bones out and either enjoy on its own or put into the broth jars, before chucking the used bones etc out.


Broth is great for breakfast, a snack or to add to veggies when you stir-fry them. It promostes healthy skin and hair growth, muscle/tissue repair and also gut health. It turns out that almost all of our body is made up of collagen in different forms - so broth is super powerful!

To be honest, we've had broth going the last three months straight and it definitely will continue through the winter!

Nutrition: 5 Simple "Tips"
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Nutrition.. Almost something I dread talking about, as there are so many opinions, often with so little experiential knowledge or physiological background.

There are many diets and plans (such as paleo, ketogenic, intermittent fasting and beyond) that gain and lose popularity all the time. Although it sounds boring, to be honest we actually find the best approach is still a balanced routine that is suited to your body’s needs.

Since 2008 I've been (often extremely) experimenting or "bio-hacking" nutritional strategies. Back then I tried everything from 16-8 fasting, 6/1 fasting, carb back-loading, keto, paleo, etc etc. Anyway, in recent years I've become a lot less polarised and have found so much more joy, health (and yep, body comp improvements) with a middle ground approach.

At Workshop, we believe in a sustainable and simple approach to food. Of course, there are individual considerations for every person, but there are also some pretty key concepts that make sense, a few of which we've touched on below.

Eat real food. Not packaged, not processed. Real food.

Can you identify the food source? Do you know how the product has been made and what from? Real food doesn't need a food label or detailed description and real food isn't saturated with chemicals. Hit up your local Farmer's market, organise an organic veggie box, or at least just visit the "outside" of the supermarket. 

Start with veggies (and enjoy fruit!)

You've heard this a million times, but vegetables really are the bees knees. Not only will vegetables help to reduce inflammation, provide more roughage and fibre to help clean out your digestion and help prevent disease, they will keep you satisfied and provide a range of nutrients to help with the millions of chemical processes that take place in your body every day - including those related to energy production and metabolism! Aim for a veggie base with every meal and try to pack in lots of different types from starchy to leafy greens, crunchy, raw and cooked. 

Eat power proteins. 

These are nutrient dense powerhouses, and are all packaged up with goodness such as saturated fats and bone-building minerals. These include: eggs, bone broth, shellfish. Add these to your regular happy, free range meats to create more diversity in your diet. 

Eat seasonally

As part of improving our connection to the natural world around us, seasonality is important! Not only does buying seasonal support your local community, but it also prevents the waste of resources and energy associated with shipping food across the world. Seasonal foods tend to be cheaper, healthier looking and more available. Notice where your food is coming from! Most supermarkets now will tell you where a product is from. If your garlic has come all the way from Mexico and your kiwifruit from Italy, skip these options for a local alternative. The more local the better! Can you grow some of your own food in your back yard or on the window sill?

Drink (quality) water

Just like many of our food sources, water has also been tampered with. If possible, get your hands on some filtered water that has had all the chlorine, fluoride and other chemicals removed. This can be achieved through the right water filtration system. We have one at the gym - let us know if you have any questions about it! Drink when you are thirsty, and make sure that you get enough during the day. Drink water around main meals so that you don't dilute your stomach acid in the process and hinder digestion.

Finally, eat regularly. Yes, this is going against the fads of fasting that is trending right now. Yes, we know you "don't even think about food" if you are currently fasting. We've been there. But, what we are finding is we believe there may be a stress-response involved with regular, long term and repeated glycogen depletion (yes this goes for keto too). Our current approach is eating at regular periods throughout the day, to regulate blood sugar levels and feel great.


How do you feel about your nutrition?

We are passionate about providing an integrated approach to training and health here at Workshop, and part of that service is our one-on-one nutrition and lifestyle consultations and coaching programs.

We work with a number of members to help them stay accountable and on track when it comes to finding a sustainable diet and removing all the overwhelm and confusion associated with the world of nutrition. Want more info? Get in touch here.

Workshop Gym
Supercharge Your Pull-Ups and Upper Body Strength

It's no secret that we love bodyweight training for upper body strength.

The pull-up is one of the core exercises in this area, which builds great upper back strength and pulling power, allowing us to move into other more advanced exercises...

BUT, we'll get to those later

For now, we are looking at a bar or ring pull-up or chin-up. We are using these terms interchangeably (yes, we know, it's a grip thing..) Anyway, let's get stuck in

The pull-up can be a tricky one to master at the start. Basically, there's a lot of confusion and a general instant gratification approach can derail a lot of athletes

So, we decided to create a quick video to help out. Check it out (main take-aways below)

The main points here we suggest you remember when you are starting your pull-up journey are:

- Have patience - slow down the process and really focus on what you are doing

- Ensure you are hitting full range of motion. Use static holds, negatives and a spotter to acheive this

- Make sure you track your progress, so that you increase the stimulus regularly (e.g weekly)

Basically, this stuff is encapsulated in our general approach to training - quality movement, then progressions, while having a ton of fun.

If you'd like to find out how we can elevate your training to a level you didn't think possible, hit us up below!

john marsh
SLEEP: The Cheat Sheet

Are you working hard to perform, but hitting a plateau?

Do you wake up not feeling refreshed?

One of the biggest limitations for many high-achieving individuals  is a lack of high quality sleep. Not only does sleep enable us to recharge our batteries, it’s a time when we give the body an opportunity to rest, repair and reset

Without high quality sleep, it is impossible to achieve big goals and move efficiently through your hefty to-do list!

Sleep will assist with growth and maintenance of lean muscle mass (important for changing the shape of our bodies) and will also help to reduce cortisol – a stress hormone that can contribute to body fat storage, particularly around the midsection.

Instead of getting stuck in the cycle of training more and eating less, try aiming for hours of sleep per night and notice the impact that this can have on your health goals

Here are some tips to improving your sleep quality, duration and enjoyment

  • Reduce your intake of caffeine, particularly after midday. If you struggle to sleep or have pre-existing anxiety, irritability or hormonal imbalances, consider removing caffeine completely.
  • Reduce the vino. You may think that a cheeky nightcap leaves you feeling drowsy and helps to send you to sleep. Alcohol can make us fall asleep more quickly, but it reduces the quality of our sleep. Drinking alcohol reduces the amount of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, our dreamy, deep and restorative state.
  • Get to sleep by 10:30pm. This usually means in bed by around 10. If this is difficult for you, try setting yourself a sleep alarm to alert you to when it’s time to start getting ready for sleep.
  • Use blackout curtains. Minimising environmental light pollution (particularly if you live in a densely populated area) can really help to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and your sleep quality. This includes covering any lights or distractions such as alarm clocks.
  • Cut the Wi-Fi.  Although most of us are surrounded by Wi-Fi networks, it won’t hurt to turn off your router at the switch. This applies to all excessive power outlets, switches, and electronics.
  • Do not expose yourself to bright lights, TV screens, computers, tablets and smartphones after dark. This practice will spike your stress hormone, cortisol, keeping you from drifting off.
  • Move! Exercise will help promote blood-flow and help sleep. However, for some, high intensity exercise and interval training can in fact impair sleep. If you find it difficult to fall asleep after training, limit your harder sessions to earlier in the day and stick to more gentle activities like strength training, walking and yoga in the afternoons and evening.
  • Hone your evening routine. Develop healthy evening habits by creating your very own behaviour pattern. Whether it’s a magnesium salt and lavender bath, phone curfews, herbal tea or essential oils, our environment can be very powerful when it comes to building habits and training the behaviour we want.

If you struggle to get 7-8 hours sleep per night, make sure that you are incorporating some extra “rest time” into your day

Meditation, yoga, offline time and short naps can help to reduce stress levels and encourage the hormonal responses associated with sleep and rest.

If you’d like to chat to us more about how to get some more Z’s, contact us now!