Here are 5 factors influencing your fitness that you possibly hadn't considered (but should).
Whether you are following an online program, an "off the rail"package, you're a gym rat or budding coach, when you take into account these 5 key points, you can expect to see improvements in both your health and performance. Now who wouldn't want that?
So lets get in to it.
Biological V Chronological Age
Have you ever noticed how some people don't seem to age, that they can out perform someone half their age in the gym or their sport? Or what about the person who seems to have aged beyond their years - I'm sure you can think of someone like this.
Your biological age is often a better indicator of your ability to perform, than your chronological age. Even with genetic testing and blood tests It is often difficult to pin point, but here are some indicators of a person's biological age,
The key here is to modify your training appropriately. Recovery is king, remember your long term adaptations are made in your recovery. Make this your priority. Plus make ensure that you are getting the right frequency and volume of training for your needs.
This has actually got nothing to do with your age as such, and more to do with how many years, or months of quality training that you have under your belt.
If your training age is older, it is likely that you have a considerable base to build on, and can participate in more specialised training sooner than someone who has not had as many years experience.
For someone with a lower training age, their intrinsic adaptations, as well as their motor skills will not be as well developed as those who have many quality of years under the bar, miles on the road, hours in the gym, or games on the court.
If you are someone with a higher chronological age with a low training age (think the mature lifter who has taken to the gym later in life for whatever reason) then you will want to spend some time building a good base with varied training, that provides a challenge both physically and skill based, before moving on to something more specialised.
Your training history will influence your capacity to adapt to your current training program. (Illness and injury not withstanding) Someone who has gone through a considerable amount of base level training before, is likely to have developed fitness levels that are able to tolerate high training loads, compared to someone who has not got as an extensive training history, but this is not always the case.
If the volume of training, in your training history went beyond the tipping point it can make you more suscpetible to injury when the new training volume is applied.
So when you go into a program take into account not only your training history, but map it against your injury history too.
This one is pretty obvious. Whether you are injured, have a short term or chronic illness - be it a physical or a mental one - all these things will impact
Not only that, but it is also true that all of the above can, or may impact your condition. So when undertaking training, especially "off the rail" programs you'll want to factor these things in and adapt the training appropriately.
This is where the help of a Coach and / or a trained medical professional is important; especially if you are unsure of how to adjust the program..
Stress And Recovery Rate
Your body's ability to adapt to the demands imposed on it and improve in performance, is directly related to your stress and your recovery rate.
Believe it or not, not all stress is bad. Training itself is a form of stressor.
The problem occurs when we shift from eustress (beneficial stress) to distress (dysfunctional stress). There are many factors that can swing the balance to distress. Here are but a few
This list is long but not exhaustive. To get optimal health or performance, you will want to adjust your training according to your stressors that you have in your life. Sometimes a reduction in training load is warranted, or even frequency.
Consider these 5 factors more like a valuable assessment tool, rather than a definitive guide. If you do, you can expect to see an improvement in both your health and performance.
Before we jump in, you have a really interesting job Virginia, can you tell us a little bit more about it?
I work for a think tank that specialises in security, defence and foreign policy. There I run a research programme on Conflict, Security and Development.
I've always had an interest in those issues so I enrolled on a degree in War Studies, and then an MA in Intelligence and Strategic Studies. I was lucky enough to be offered internships with relevant organisations following by studies. I then progressed through the ranks.
What has been the most fascinating part of your career so far?
I love my job, especially as it is very varied both in terms of the issues and regions I get to work on and the different responsibilities I have, which range from research and writing to delivering briefings to policy-makers; from speaking at conferences and with the media to managing a team.
But above all I love conducting research on the ground, seeing first hand the impact of insecurity, talking to local civilians as well as local military, police, government officials, NGOs and anyone who can help me get a better understanding of local dynamics whether with regard to drug trafficking patterns, jihadist recruitment, urban secuity, etc....
What would you say is the most challenging thing about your job, and how do you deal with it?
At the moment my biggest challenge is staying on top of everything. I'm a pretty well organised person but my responsibilities have recently expanded and there are several projects and initiatives that require my attention. I have to prioritise and regularly revise my list of priorities. Sadly there are items on that list that keep on being pushed further down.
I know that your health is important to you, what part does keeping fit play in your life?
It plays an enormous part. My physical fitness is key to my mental fitness and overall wellbeing. Exercising regularly and eating well are part of my daily routine and make me feel energised and more content with life.
A lot of people simply say that they don't have time, but you've seemed to make it work - how do you fit training and healthy eating into your lifestyle?
(1) planning, e.g. I call hotels ahead of business trips to find out what gym equipment they have and I then plan accordingly; and I cook in batches on Sundays so meal prep is super quick during the week.
(2) getting into a routine where exercise has clear slots in your weekly diary. Once that has become your way of living it will actually feel strange NOT to exercise.
"I feel better and it makes me happy to see improvements...
Is there anything that you've have to give up to make these changes? If so, what?
Occasionally I had to skip after-work drinks because I had planned to workout or go to a yoga class that night. But it wasn't a big deal for me. The workout was more important. Other than that, it goes back to planning: if I know I have an evening event to attend I will schedule to workout before going to the office in the morning.
What have you gained, or in what way has staying fit made your life that much more better?
I feel better and it makes me happy to see improvements such as greater muscle definition or better performance at the gym. But I also have a greater awareness about food, where it comes from, how is produced, etc. I am more environmentally conscious and I think this is extremely important.
You recently complete The Project 12 Programme, what made you decide to take part in it, and what about it appealed to you?
I wanted help in order to train and eat in a smarter way. I had been a vegetarian for nearly a year when I started Project 12 and I wanted to make sure I had some solid foundations.
Also, at that time I was going through a difficult emotional phase and being on the programme helped me feel in control of my life as it gave me more structure. The two things that made it appealing to me were the tailored-made nature of the programme and the fact that I knew and trusted coach Cj.
Knowing what you know now about the programme, what one thing would you do differently?
It wasn't until quite late in the programme that I stopped stressing out and thinking that if I got a meal not quite right or if I missed a workout all progress made up until that point would vanish.
Obviously that mindset was unhelpful and resulted in me feeling guilty. So I wouldn't want to replicate that. Yet, it is probably thanks to what I've experienced in the course of the programme, including my slightly obsessive behaviour, that made me realise that was not a healthy mindset and I needed to rethink my relationship with food.
How did the programme benefit you? And was there anything that came up for you that you were not expecting?
Beside from the visible changes in my body the programme was beneficial in so far that helped me improve my relationship with food and most things related to body image.
I used to weight myself daily, sometimes twice a day. I now stopped keeping track of my weight and rely on measurements and pictures to track progress instead. In other words I no longer obsess about the number on the scale. And this is just one example of the positive psychological impact of the programme. This in itself is something I had not expected and by which I was pleasantly surprised!
Virginia is the author of two books, Drugs, Insecurity and Failed States, Boko Haram: Nigeria's Islamist Insurgency, and edited the collection, Organised Crime and Illicit Trade.
A lot of us struggle to make change stick. Myself included.
Now, it's real easy to get frustrated, get all up in your feels and throw the towel in. Trying to convince ourselves that,
Or something along those lines. But it still niggles at you, gnawing at the back of your mind, so you try again, only to repeat the same mistakes, make a little progress, then fall spectacularly off the wagon.
Sound familiar? Well I want you to consider this..
This is what is supposed to happen. Seriously. I remember once listening to a internationally respected Coach talk about two critical factors that drive behaviour. These two factors are pleasure and pain.
If what you want to achieve causes more pain (emotional or physical) than where you are already, then we subconsciously choose the option that is less painful.
If the situation that you are in is more painful than what you want to achieve, then you will take action.
If both situations are painful, we choose the one that is least painful, and if both situations provide pleasure, we gravitate towards the one that gives more bliss. Make sense?
But here's the thing, at some point the painful situation we are in (which provided the momentum for change) requires bigger action, and more inner work to gain, or continue this momentum.
Action requires movement, movement causes friction, friction causes pain.
So now, when you are at a new set point in your journey and need to get to that next level, we see the pain ahead and not the pleasure of the achievement that we want.
Our new found habits that were getting us results to begin with, dwindle and fizzle out. We lose momentum and come to a stop. All because we forgot to ask ourselves these 4 Crazy Questions.
4 Crazy Questions
As a Precision Nutrition Coach, this is a tool I highly recommend, and an approach that I take with Nutrition Coaching clients. But it also works great for fitness, and any other realm of goal setting too. Here's how it works...
Often when we set a goal, we make a plan and get so caught up in taking action and focusing on our "WHY", that we neglect to possibly think the reason that we haven't made change stick is because, believe it or not, we get some sort of pay-off from the current situation.
I know, mind blown right?
So ask yourself...
Q1) What is good about NOT changing?
What is working for me right now? What are the benefits of me staying the same?
Q2)What would be BAD about changing?
If I changed, what might I have to give up or lose? How would my regular routine be disrupted?
Q3)What might be GOOD about changing?
If I changed, how would that be helpful or beneficial? What new opportunities or possibilities could open up for me?
Q4)What might be BAD about NOT changing?
If I didn't change, what bad things could happen? If I keep going the way I am going, what might things look like in the future - say 5 - 10 years from now?
When I first do this exercise with the men and women I coach, they often initially find it challenging. This is perfectly normal (I still find it challenging when I do it myself!). Yet once they get into it, they find it remarkably useful.
The freedom to express and verbalise some of the things that they may have not been willing to admit to themselves, or just were not plain aware of (we all have blind spots) somehow gives them a sense of freedom and lifts a weight off their shoulders.
This new found energy often gives them the inspiration they need to continue the momentum once they fall off the wagon, or have come to a stop. This energy, when combined with action, is what enables them to break through their plateau and climb to that next level.
One small step at a time.
Try it. It could just work for you too.
You do realise that BMI is a statistical tool and not a diagnostic one right?
According to the NHS report, Statistics on Obesity Physical Activity and Diet 2018, 26% of adults are classified as obese. When you look at the split between men and women that numbers get even more interesting, a higher percentage of women than men are obese (26% for men, 27% for women) but a higher percentage of men are classified as overweight than women (40% for men versus 30% for women).
So what does this tell us?
Considering the UK is sixth in the world obesity rankings (with the United States topping the charts) the situation has given rise to some controversial headlines, with national newspapers such as The Independent and The Guardian dedicating significant space for the discussion, but could it be that we've got the question of obesity completely wrong, or at least looking at it from a skewed perspective?
The 2018 NHS report holds the key, and on further examination (rather than just sound bites from news reels and click bait headlines) could it be the very way in which the conversation around obesity, and creating strategies to deal with it, be a part of the problem?
Consider the opening statistic I gave you from the NHS report, 26% of adults are now classified as obese, when you take into account that is a 15% increase since 1993 it sounds like a lot.
If that continues exponentially then we are certainly heading for an obesity epidemic, just like the experts predict. Yet you'd be missing one important fact also stated in that report, obesity levels in adults have been similar since 2010. No drastic increase, in fact it's stabilising.
Now lets look at admissions to hospital. For admissions into hospital where obesity is the primary diagnosis there is an 8% increase since the 2015/16 report, with 3 out of 4 admissions being women. When it comes to hospital admissions where obesity is a secondary admission there was again another increase, this time of 18% (women accounted for 2 out of 3 admissions). Here's where it gets fascinating.
Barbiatric surgery is often used to facilitate weight loss (though it is often used for other health conditions) It includes stomach stapling, gastric bypass, gastric band maintenance and sleeve gastrectomy ( ). Barbiatric surgery is used for for people with a BMI of over 40, or those with a BMI of 30 - 40 and secondary diagnosis such as type 2 diabetes, or heart conditions.
There NHS has seen an increase in this type of surgery too, in fact a 5% increase than in 2015/2016. Yet the report clearly states that this is still a 23% decrease when at it's peak in 2010/2011.
So now lets talk about medication for a moment.
"401 thousand items were prescribed for the treatment of obesity in primary care in 2017. That is 10% less than in 2016 and continues a downward trend since a peak of 1.45 million in 2009.
In real terms, the Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) to the NHS in 2017 the cost was 6.9m GBP, which has fallen from 9.9m GBP in 2009 and 51.6 million in 2007.
That's a 87% decrease in cost - so either the NHS was paying
an exorbitant amount for prescriptions or all of a sudden a lot of obese people suddenly
Now consider that since 2001, death rates from heart disease and stroke have halved for both men and women in the UK, yet the rate of obesity in adults have remained at similar levels since 2010, you can see that something doesn't quite add up.
Are we turning now to less radical non-clinical interventions?
That could very well be. But what does the report tell us? 39% of adults were actively using a weight management aid - with the second highest being gym and exercise. Diet clubs, NHS services and local weight management programmes were at the bottom of the list. There is clearly room for improvement here.
Obesity is now "disease of the poor" and experts warn it's because healthy food is too expensive
That was an actual headline from the UK tabloid newspaper, The Daily Mirror. This belief was also propagated by celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver, who was quoted as saying that,
"Obese poor think in a different gear.
No, for real. That's apparently a legit quote. If you want to continue to feed the stereotype of fat people being, stupid, lazy, ignorant, poor and incapable of helping themselves, this would be a great way to do it.
Lets dehumanise obese people, and slap them in one big box so that that we don't have to deal with the complex reality of the situation. Here's the thing, the NHS report doesn't exactly support this view of obesity being related to class - not when it comes to adults anyway.
The report highlighted that with adults obesity and area deprivation varied between women, but not so with men.
What does this look like? 38% of women were obese in deprived areas compared to 20% in less deprived and affluent areas. But when it came to the men, regardless of deprived area or class status the prevalence of obesity levels remained pretty consistent at around 25 - 29%.
So what does this potentially tell us about obesity in adults? That income level is not defining, and other factors such as gender come in to play.
Poor people being fat, lazy and incapable and "wired differently" is an easy narrative trap to fall in to. But that doesn't make it right, and doesn't make it ok.
So how did we get to this? Well, when the NHS report looked at the levels of childhood obesity is noted that childhood obesity had fallen in reception year, but increased in for Year 6 since 2009/10. They then mapped this across to deprived and less deprived areas and found that the higher prevalence was in deprived areas.
This is something that needs to be addressed. But I strongly believe educating on food that is readily accessible and how to make better food choices that are within your budget, without having to resort to snorting wheatgrass and pissing prana energy is key.
Not only that, but we need to take a 360 degree approach. I wonder ow many people have had a traumatic life event, such as a death, abuse, fleeing from war or relationship breakdown and felt their life fall apart at the seems, with their self care spiralling out of control.
Simply telling them that,
"You need to eat less calories. That's why you are fat - and get more active ya lazy bastard"
Isn't going to be the most effective strategy, nor the smartest one.
Plus, what experts not working in the trenches often fail to realise is that there is a false belief that your diet needs to be perfect. Not so.
Most people already know that they aren't going to be perfect - so why try? Or if they do, it is an "all or nothing" approach, and when they fall off the wagon, they resort to eating habits that impair their health.
Your diet doesn't need to be perfect. You just need to remember that your nutrition exists on a continuum
Worst option ---------->Better Option-------------> Best Option
Do what you can, with what you have, and start where you are. If it's not simple it's not sustainable.
So what's my point? I'm not one hundred percent sure. I'm just here to clear up some myths and provide perspective.