Wednesday, June 12, 2013

SHARPEN up your wellbeing! - Sleep

To help both mine, and my clients' progress towards feeling and looking better all the time - superhealth - there's a range of areas we'll develop:

Exercise, and

These are all under your control and dramatically influence your current and future health - how you look, feel and function! We use a more detailed system for each element but here’s a brief run down of the idea behind developing your own superhealth.


Want to burn fat, reduce blood pressure and stress, remember more, learn better, have more energy, control you appetite, live longer and feel more alert and alive? All you need to do is ... sleep! We live such complicated lives, and actually have such complicated metabolisms, that we need to get recuperative downtime each and every day. If we get too little, your mind, body and emotions can't restore fully day to day. 
The ideal sleep for adults is 7-8 hours a night. Sleep is one of the most valuable allies you have for amazing health, and is totally the easiest thing you can do to improve so many aspects of your health and wellbeing! It's not just about the quantity either - 8 hours of sleep interrupted by mobile phones, stress before bed or bright light can leave you feeling groggy and unrested. 
Some tips for getting enough quality shut-eye:
 * Treat your sleeping area like a sanctuary. This is where you go to recharge, so keep it free from clutter, lights and noise where possible. 
 * Close all blinds. 
 * If you get erratic noises at night (traffic, dogs howling etc) then try a white-noise generator like an air filter or radio tuned between stations. 
 * Opt out of mobiles, LED alarm clocks, TV standby switches that remain on, or anything else that will cast light into your room. At the least, turn any of these small sources of light around so that when lying down, you can't see them alight.
 * Mobiles are some of the worst sleep quality offenders. Turn it to airplane mode, or at the very least onto silent and have it face down. Whilst you might not physically wake up to it chiming, or the arrival of an email/facebook status update/random SMS, part of your mind will pay attention, meaning you will limit how deeply you sleep.
 * Checking news or emails before bed is a no-no too. Your last hour or so before bed should be all about pleasant reflection and relaxation! This will help your mind wind down too. Emails before bed can have an equivalent effect to caffeine.
 * Get into a bedtime ritual. It might be : chamomile tea - shower - brush teeth - get into pyjamas - read a book for 10 minutes in bed - beside lamp off.
Any process that you do regularly just before bed that helps you wind down, will let your body and mind know it's sleepy time. 
 * Likewise going to bed and rising at the same time each day will work wonders for your energy levels, sleep quality, hormone levels and stress. In fact, this is probably the most powerful recommendation I could make for sleeping your way towards superhealth

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Grab a Mate and Get Moving During Men's Health Week

Physical Activity Australia is challenging all Aussie men to take a good hard look at their lifestyle habits and make two small changes during Men's Health Week (10 - 16 June 2013).

Firstly, we want men to commit to doing 30 minutes of physical activity every day this week.

Physical Activity Australia CEO Fiona Bailey says, "It doesn't have to be strenuous physical activity, just some form of activity every day can make a big difference to your life. You can break it down into two 15-minute blocks, as long as you get your 30 minutes in."

Secondly, we want Aussie blokes to 'man up' and talk to their mates about their health and activity levels.

"Women love talking, but it's about time for men to experience the mental health benefits of a good chinwag with their mates," Ms Bailey says.

Did you know?
Men take their own lives at four times the rate of women - that's five men a day, on average.   

"Regular physical activity improves sleep quality, tolerance to stress, sense of happiness and reduces your risk of developing life-limiting conditions such as diabetes, stroke, cancer, heart disease and depression - and it can pay dividends quite quickly!" Ms Bailey says.

So go for a walk around the block or the park while the kids are at training, play golf, go for a swim or get some mates together for a bike ride or a casual game of footy.

"It's a great way to catch up with your mates and do something positive for your health at the same time," Ms Bailey says.

So go on, grab a mate and get moving!

Need someone to be active with? ActivityBuddies can help! is a new, FREE initiative of Physical Activity Australia which connects people to help them get motivated and be physically active. There are over 250 different types of physical activity options available, so there is something for everyone.

Physical Activity Australia is a national charity organisation established in 1982. We work with and support many charities and organisations all with the same aim of getting every Australian, every day, physically active.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Superhealth part II - the case for a new classification

Not just diet and exercise

We all know that to feel better and “be healthy” we should diet and exercise. Nag nag nag …
For one, I don’t particularly like the word “diet” as it brings up an idea that you should follow a particular list of things to eat at certain times to achieve certain things. In the quest for your ultimate levels of health, whether that encompasses losing weight, gaining muscle or just staying mentally fit – there is no one “diet”, only nutrition.

Additionally, things like adequate sleep; time for complete rest or relaxation that actually refreshes you (whether reading a book or in a park with friends having fun); and good general hygiene play as important a role in your overall health and wellbeing, as what you do for exercise. Your best health ever is not going to be found simply by hitting the treadmill 5 times a week for 30 minutes, whilst killing yourself slowly with too little sleep and too much stress.

“Health care” vs healthcare
Here’s where I draw a distinction : there’s an incredible amount you can do to care for your own health on a daily basis to stay close to superhealth, and not just “not sick”. All it takes is a little care, a little effort repeated regularly. You don’t have to sit back and let ill health creep up on you, forcing you to suddenly become dependant on the healthcare system, often at the worst possible time. A little prevention does go a long way.

Ageing, society and health care

The fun part of your own daily health care, is that you are in control. One of the issues facing the healthcare system is the increasing impact of an ageing population. “Health” is one of the biggest expenses of government. Our tax dollars already work hard so that we can enable those who are have dropped below a certain line into illness, high risk of illness, or conditions that need medical attention. As we age, we are more likely to need the healthcare system in some way or another. 

Then consider the proportion of people aged over 65 is expected to almost double in the next 40 years. It’s an alarming thought that our already overworked health system will continue to be called upon more and more. Where will the funding come from? 
I for one love living in a country where basic healthcare is free and assured. But why not maintain your optimum quality of life? Take ownership of your own health, empower yourself with the knowledge to live well, rather than rely on an overburdened system!

Thursday, May 30, 2013


The concept of "superhealth" is easy enough. Interchangeably referred to as wellness or sometimes fitness, it’s what exists at the peak of our own experience, a state far beyond just being “not sick.”

Take the spectrum of health, as we understand it in current medical terms. Illness - ranging from terminal, severe, mild, acute or chronic. You go to a doctor or specialist to be seen with a condition so that you can graduate back to an absence of illness. Anything beyond this simply doesn’t exist because you don’t need to visit a doctor or a hospital if there’s nothing wrong, right?

But what if there’s nothing particularly right?

Looking around, you'll notice that a good number of people aren't sick at any given time. But by golly, ask them about their energy, how they feel, what they feel they can do physically, and you'll get very different responses. If being not-sick was a universal diagnosis in medical terms, then we must be bounding out of bed with energy in the morning, powering through every day with reserve in our tanks, loving a regular exercise plan daily then getting into some vigourous night life before falling asleep instantly each night totally satisfied, ready to do it all again…
Staying active is one key to developing superhealth

Actually I think there’s a select few people on the planet at most who feel like that all the time!

There's an argument for the existence of a scale of health too, not just illness. Where you might feel amazing one day and ordinary the next. But what would it be worth to have amazing health and energy, day in day out? That kind of life I’d label superhealth – abundant energy and drive, the chance to live and experience life to its fullest.

The concept of health in our current system is great, don’t get me wrong. We need doctors and nurses and medicine and therapists of all kinds to help fight diseases and cure or care for the ill. We’ll all need healthcare in our lives. But it’s not the end of the story.

“Health care” vs healthcare

Here’s where I draw a distinction : there’s an incredible amount you can do to care for your own health on a daily basis to stay close to superhealth, and not just “not sick”. All it takes is a little care, a little effort repeated regularly. You don’t have to sit back and let ill health creep up on you, forcing you to one day become dependant on the healthcare system, often at the worst possible time. A little prevention does go a long way.

Next week I'll start to discuss a model I like to use when considering how best to affect a client's health, called "SHARPEN". It's a simple acronym for the elements that lead to your best potential body and mind. 

S - sleep
H - hygiene
A - awareness of your own body, genetics, and risk factors
R - relaxation
P - posture
E - exercise
N - nutrition

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Innovative Techniques to Reach your Fitness Goals

Why do YOU want to build muscle?

Muscle and strength building is part of a total lifestyle model that includes getting enough sleep, good diet, stretching and regular cardiovascular exercise. It’s not just about becoming the guy with the biggest muscles or becoming some steroid-pumped freak. Excellent health, fitness and body building are about making better lifestyle choices and we do this one choice at a time.

One of the ways that you can stay encouraged to continue this lifestyle is by going into it with the right motivation. Take a hard look at your current state of health and appearance.
Why do you want to build muscle?

You might get a different answer from every person you ask, but the primary reason people start exercise programs is that they simply want to look and feel better. Each of us eventually comes to that moment when we look in the mirror and decide we’re sick of being a Couch Potato and ready to do whatever it takes to change.

Visualisation has become an important tool that successful people use in all walks of life. Create an image of yourself in your own mind of what you want to achieve, and reinforce it regularly. Believe it or not, this technique really works and it can work for you whether you want to become supervisor of your department or lose 5kg.

For example, if you want to build enough strength to make climbing the 6 flights of stairs to your apartment easier, then create a mental image of yourself effortlessly reaching the final step. Keep a journal of your short-term and long-term goals and keep those right in front of your eyes every day.

Create a Realistic Timeline
If you set unrealistic goals, then all you will get is disappointment. Map out a doable exercise and eating plan. You may need to work up to your ultimate goals slowly, but as long as you’re moving in the right direction, then you’ll eventually reach your goal. Be sure to take some “Before” photos and measurements so you’ll know how you’re doing. A good timeline might be 12 weeks. Set a goal to train at least 2-3 times per week.

Get Others on Board
Having a work-out partner can be a great method of staying on track. You can keep each other motivated and honest about your progress. Sometimes we all need a little help from our friends.

Start Where You Are
Even if you can’t currently afford a gym membership or a personal trainer, start at home. Exercising at home costs nothing but time and this could become your fitness foundation. Later, if possible, add some equipment or a gym membership. Beginners can start with a 30-minute strengthening routine including a warm-up and cool down, 3 times a week.

Build Core and Stabiliser Strength
The plank exercise helps develop lower back and core strength. Doing shoulder rotations with either a light weight (e.g. a can or bottle) or resistance band, and hip rotations and hip side raises (abductions) can do amazing things for building strength and stability before attempting heavier weights.
The plank

Find or Create a Gym
The ideal home gym includes a basic array of equipment to effectively work any muscle group – a flat or incline bench, some adjustable dumbbells, a floor mat and possibly a chin-up bar and barbell set.

When you’re ready, then join a local gym. Working with a trainer can fast-track your fitness program. Some people are intimidated by gyms but after you go a few times, you’ll feel just like a veteran member. Look for a good, clean place that’s close to home or work.

Stay Up to Date on the New Techniques and Research
Fitness magazines and newsletters can keep you up to date, motivated and informed. Talk to friends who are also training. Sometimes the hardest thing about long-term exercise programs is simply staying motivated. A good friend or work-out buddy can ensure that you’ll get the encouragement you need to keep moving forward.

Check with Your Doctor
Before starting any exercise program, make sure to get clearance from your doctor or health professional. The information I share is only meant to be a guide and should not replace professional advice.

At Life Active, we believe that regardless of your age or health conditions, you can get fit and healthy. And we give you the tools to do the job. Our goal is to supply you with sound education, training and support. Life Active has become one of the most successful fitness and training firms in Surry Hills because our founder, Andrew Greig, lives what he believes. He simply has a knack for getting even the hard cases involved in turning their lives around. You can achieve a robust, healthy lifestyle and we’re here to help!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Take Advantage of Today’s Revolution in the Science of Strength and Fitness

The current revolution in health and fitness makes it easier than ever to get the most out of your work-out. A review of abdominal exercises recently published in Strength and Conditioning Journal (1) looked at the conflicting advice around crunches, sit ups, or avoiding any type of spinal flexion. They found the core and abdominal muscles are best worked, and spinal health improved, with a variety of exercises like planks and crunches in different planes; but not everyday, and not with high numbers of repetitions. The idea of extending out planks to well over 60 seconds at a time, or doing hundreds of situps, can place unusual loads on the spine. 

Whether you have time to get to the gym or not, it’s simple to find good, solid exercises that focus on your problem areas and produce great results. Exercising at home means you can work out on your own schedule. Make that determination to stay fit and conditioned in between gym visits. Below, I share some tips on how to do some of the most popular at-home exercises correctly, so you can get the most out of your exercise time.
Push up 

Push-ups - One of the best ways to build chest, shoulders and triceps, whilst developing core strength. The basic push-up can be made easier (knees on the ground) or harder (feet elevated).
Dips - Placing hands behind you on a bench or seat, legs extended out in front, slowly lower yourself until your upper arms are about parallel to the ground, then squeeze up to return to the start.

Bodyweight squat to thighs parallel
Squats - Keeping heels flat on the ground, push your bum backwards as you lower it to the ground – as if sitting on an imaginary chair, before squeezing it to return to a standing position. Great all round exercise for your thighs, bum, calves. Harder version: place hands behind your head while squatting down.
Lunges - Like a one-legged squat. Put one foot a big step forward from a standing position. Keeping your front heel firmly planted and front knee from going past your toes, lower your back knee slowly till it nearly touches the ground. Press through your front leg to lift the back knee up again to starting position.

Side plank - hold a straight line through the spine, hips and neck
for intervals of 10-15 seconds, repeated, on each side 
Crunches - Lie on your back on a padded surface, raising knees to a 45-degree bend and keep your heels flat on the ground. Extend your arms out directly by your sides. Aim to curl up slowly with your torso, so that you push your fingertips towards your feet a few centimeters, then slowly uncurl to repeat.
Chin-ups or pull-ups - These require a secure bar somewhere and may be very difficult to do when starting but stay at it to build up strong back, bicep and forearm muscles.

The science of sports, exercise and good nutrition work together to help you achieve optimal health in the shortest amount of time. Yes, it does take commitment, but the pay-off is massively rewarding. Working out and muscle building is all about making that decision to take a higher path than most others and this path requires a bit of sacrifice at times.

Though muscle building has gotten a bad rap with steroid abuse and body image concerns, it’s a healthy pursuit with big rewards, so long as you don’t take things to extreme.

(1) Strength & Conditioning Journal: August 2011 - Volume 33 - Issue 4 - pp 8-18

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pros and Cons of Muscle

Besides making a guy look great, muscles have some health benefits that you won’t often find discussed at the gym. Good muscle tone is essential to a healthy body because muscles are our main metabolic furnaces. This is where those excess fats and carbohydrates go to burn. That means your body not only looks great, you feel great as well, because things are working the way they were designed.

This means that having good quality muscle tone creates higher metabolism, more energy, and better overall hormone balance. But how do you get and maintain strong, healthy muscle tone in a day and age where most of us sit in front of a computer all day?

In just a hundred years, our entire society has gone from a rural agrarian community to a fast-paced city lifestyle. If you lived a hundred years ago, you would have been born on a farm where your dad would have expected you to start helping out by the age of 6 or 8 years old. Mornings begin early on a farm and your duties might include milking a cow, gathering eggs or walking behind a plow.

Boys grew into men at an early age and their bodies developed nicely from all those natural daily chores like baling hay and cleaning out the barn. Oh, for the good ole days! Today’s activities range from running up to your favorite fast-food joint for a burger to answering dozens of emails and posting to your Facebook account. There’s really no physical strength required unless you count lifting your full-pound cheeseburger to your mouth.

Good health, including muscle building, requires some concerted efforts and your gym is a great place to start. With the help of an experienced trainer, you can zero in on the areas that are most critical for you. Within a few short months, you can look in the mirror and like what you see. Your clothes start looking sharp on you. Your friends ask if you’ve been working out.

In spite of the information age and the mountain of technology available today, it still takes good old hard work to get your body in shape and keep it there. If there were a quick short cut, then somebody would have already discovered it and be a zillionaire. But the quest to achieve an excellent physique or a “hard body” is well worth your time and effort. The results can mean a longer and much more healthy lifestyle as well.

When your body is strong and healthy, it fights off disease better and functions at its highest levels. Today’s personal trainer has a much greater understanding of the science behind effective exercise and muscle building programs. So what are you waiting for? Get down to the gym and start building your confidence and self-esteem, along with some good-looking muscles.