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Alex Valentine Personal Training

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weightlifting

Is your FitBit LYING to you?

fitness-trackers.jpg
WTF???

Or more accurately, your “fitness tracker”? They’re all the rage, and come in so many brands, shapes, sizes, colours…you name it, they sell it! The purpose of them is to track your heart and activity rate, and give you feedback on how active you are, and ultimately give you the answer to the million dollar question…. how many calories you burn.

Sounds amazing right? Strap it on your wrist, hit the gym, and hey presto, you can calculate calories in versus calories out, down to the number of steps you take. For such a small device to give so much information is pretty darn incredible, but just how accurate is it?

A recent study by fancy pants Stamford University found that fitness trackers are amazingly accurate at calculating your heart rate, with as little error as just 2% (Apple Watch). Even the largest heart rate error margin was just 6%, which considering the device goes nowhere near your heart, it’s pretty accurate!

But when it comes to calorie counting, that’s where the margin of error gets a little scary. How accurate would you say a fitness tracker is at counting calories? Maybe 5% error? 10%?

No.

The smallest margin of error for counting calories, was 27%. YES, THE SMALLEST! (On FitBit Surge). You did not read that wrong. So if a fitness tracker says you have burned 2,000 calories that day, it could actually be as little as 1400 calories. The largest margin of error was 92% with the PulseOn. Again if it stated you’d burned 2,300 calories in a day, it could be as low as approximately 1,240 calories (read the full study here: http://www.mdpi.com/2075-4426/7/2/3 ).

Why is this important? We know that calories consumed versus calories burned are directly related to weight loss. If people eat more calories than the body burns, it results in weight gain. If people are in a moderate calorie deficit (are safely consuming less calories than their body needs), it will result in weight loss. The problem arises when the estimation of how many calories a body burns in a day is inaccurate. An overestimation will result in no weight loss at best, and weight gain in the worst case scenario. Conversely is the estimation is too low, it can result in drastic unsafe weight loss and possibly irreversible hormonal changes (like the 1200 calorie a day diet…don’t get me started on that crap!). The most accurate way to measure calories burned in a day is via an oxygen consumption machine to determine how much oxygen our body needs and calculate our calorie burn from that. Which is really easy because everyone has one of those, right?? OK so not everyone has these, so the next best thing is to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate. This is the number of calories your body burns at rest. The next step is to multiply this number by the amount of activity you do on a daily basis. You can use this handy link to work it out:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

Nothing is 100% accurate, but this calculation is the quickest and most accurate way we can work out how many calories your body needs, which is so important for weight loss. Often when I introduce people to this calculation, I will hear protests of, “but my FitBit says…..”, or, “I treated myself to a take away because my iWatch said I burned xxxx calories on my walk today”. It’s an easy trap to fall into, so make sure you do the calculation yourself so you know for sure.

Despite what you may think, I don’t hate fitness trackers. I even have one myself…..

img_3357
See?

But hang on I hear you say! You’ve just told me my fitness tracker is LYING, so why would you have one?? I guess it depends what you have one for. I use the heart rate monitor to track the peak heart rate zones I’m training in, so I can tailor the intensity of my workouts depending on what part of my Roller Derby season I’m in. But this function is useful for everyone, and with a maximum of 6% inaccuracy, it’s a good guideline of how hard you’re working in the gym. So if you feel like you’re smashing it, but your heart rate is still at 85, you know to crank it up a notch….. 😉

As always, if you’d like any help or advice on how to improve your training or give your nutrition a kick start, drop me an email at alexvalentinept@mail.com , or text me on 07875465275.

Olympic Lifting….what’s the big deal?

Oly floor colourful

We’ve all seen and heard about Olympic Lifting, but not many people are entirely sure what it is. Most people envision beefy looking men and women, usually from somewhere eastern European, grunting as they heave up buckling barbells, leaving powdered clouds of chalk behind. Either that or some moustauchioed dude in leopard print underpants doing something like this:

onearmmilitarypress

Both are accurate in a way, but modern Olympic Lifting is broadening its horizons, and is no longer only reserved for a few elite athletes. Or occasional circus strongmen!

Olympic Lifting has become more widespread recently due to a rise in it’s use in gym programs like CrossFit, and this has made learning the techniques more accessible to the everyday gym goer. Olympic Lifting involves heaving large amounts weight from the floor to over your head in one swift movement, or a series of movements. As you can probably tell, if performed incorrectly, it can cause injury, and can be quite dangerous. That’s why it’s important to find a fully trained coach, who can break down the moves for you, show you, and teach them to you from the ground up, in a safe and effective way.

The main Olympic Lifts are the Snatch:

Andrei_Rybakou snatch

And the clean and jerk:

Oly Lift Svetlana Podobedova_2012

There are loads of derivations of these moves, but for now we’ll keep it to these two main moves.

People ask me all the time why I do so much Olympic Lifting, surely I’m strong enough? Whilst the answer is yes, I am strong (I could always be stronger though!) Olympic Lifting is about so much more than strength. It’s about timing, speed, flexibility, power, core strength, precision, and more than anything, it has such amazing…..finesse. NOT something you would expect to be associated with heaving massive barbells about! When executed properly, an Olympic Lift has an astounding combination of power and poetry, it is almost a work of art. I spend so much time lifting because I want to perfect this art, and become more powerful in the sport I play. However strong you think you are, it will be nothing compared to the rock you will be carved from when you start Olympic Lifting.

Olympic Lifting is the ultimate in plyometrics (increasing central nervous system speed), and refines the muscle you have built to be fast and powerful. I have seen competitive bodybuilders unable to overhead squat an empty bar, purely from lacking the core strength, precision and power to perform the move. This is most likely a one off, but it just shows that big muscles are not always the most powerful. No point in driving a Ferrari if it’s got a Reliant Robin engine! Olympic Lifting can fit right into your workout, or can be performed once a week to ensure the body you are sculpting is strong as well as beautiful. Whether you’re a regular gym user who just wants to get stronger, a weekend warrior at football, netball, or rugby, a semi-pro athlete, or a professional sports person, Olympic Lifting can benefit almost everyone who wants to up their game. So the question is, when will you start Olympic Lifting?

Which comes first…. cardio or weights?

Ah, the age old question! You get to the gym, lace your trainers up, grab your water and your towel and head to the gym floor. But there’s so many machines….where do you start? Most people don’t have time to slog it out at the gym five days a week, and switch between upper, lower, and cardio, so how do you fit it all in, AND make sure you get the benefits of both?

Scientists used to think that it was all dependant on how tired you are; if you go for a 5K run first, you won’t be able to lift as much because of the lactic acid build up and general fatigue. But what about sports people who need to be fast, powerful and explosive, all at the same time?

Simple. It’s all down to enzymes. Research has shown that when completing exercise, either cardio or weight training, a protein called AMP Kinase is released. This protein determines whether a  workout session will be set to produce hypertrophy (bigger muscles) or increased cardiovascular function. Unfortunately, it can’t do both! Dependant on which activity is completed first, the sequence of cellular activation determines whether AMP Kinase is activated to produce bigger guns, or increased cardio function. But this means that you can’t do cardio and weights in the same day, right? True, if you’re training for a 10K or a bodybuilding competition. But most people kind of just want to look good and feel healthy. This isn’t to say there will no benefit whatsoever to you doing both on the same day, the effect just won;t be as substantial. So what’s the answer?

It’s easy to build in a small amount of cardio into every workout, just by putting it in your warm up. Ideally you should be aiming to get the blood pumping at an above average heart rate for a least 5 minutes before picking up anything heavy, and you can always finish your workout with a hardcore four minute High-Intensity Tabata style row (20 seconds all out rowing, followed by 10 seconds rest, and repeat seven more times, completed three times a week). Researchers at the McMaster University, Ontario, have found this to have a similar health benefits as people who do moderate exercise for up to an hour a day.

If you’re doing sport specific training, and want to be fast, strong, explosive, and be able to keep going for a whole match/game/bout, it’s best to warm up properly, then do weights and plyometrics on one day, and cardio on another. If there’s not enough time to split up your workouts in that way, a good bit of High Intensity Interval Training, like the Tabata round above, will definitely give your cardio system something to think about! For help, advice or training in weightlifting or Sports Specific training, feel free to drop me an email to hi@alexvalentinept.co.uk, or use our contact form.

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