Sleep...your secret weapon!

“Sleep is food for the brain, sleep is fuel for exercise”

Hi everyone, Donogh here from PFP. In this blog I’m going to discuss the importance of sleep and how you might be able to improve your sleep – your secret weapon!

Sleep can aid the body in growth and repair as cortisol, a known muscle eater is reduced during sleep. Sleep is the best time for growth and repair as testosterone and human growth hormone are at their peak. A reduction in sleep means a reduction in muscle building time. Long periods without sleep can increase stress to key organs and cause muscle soreness. Sleep has been shown to improve motor learning and reduce anxiety. Research has even shown that 8+ hours of sleep can reduce your risk of injury.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

 

So, what are the consequences of poor sleeping patterns?

•       Poor concentration, Poor Decision Making, Poor memory Recall

•       Mood Disturbance, Increased Anxiety, Depression,

•       Reduced Testosterone, Reduced Growth Hormone, Increased Cortisol, Reduced natural adrenal release

•       Increased risk of illness

•       Loss in Lean Tissue, Increase in Body Fat

•       Increase stress to key organs

Did you know that research has also shown that being awake constantly for 17 hours has the same effect as 0.05% blood alcohol levels! To avoid this effect, it is advised to try nap throughout the day if you have a long day. A 20 minute nap has been shown to enhance alertness, concentration and motor skills. Be careful not to nap too long though as naps between 45min and 90min may have you waking up groggy and disoriented.

What strategies can we implement to try sleep better?

  • Educate – Understand the importance sleep plays in your lifestyle
  • Routine – Determine your sleep requirements and meet them nightly, try go to bed around the same time every night
  • Environment – Create a dark, quiet, comfortable and a technology free bedroom. Avoid using your phone, tablet or laptop 1 hour prior to going to sleep. Activate the blue light filter on your phone/tablet. Or try out the blue light blocking glasses - available here
  • Periodize Sleep – Try creating times within busy days that you can have a nap
  • Nutrition – Stabilize blood sugar levels, restrict caffeine consumption after 3pm so your bodies melatonin production isn’t interrupted

Sleep is one of the most underappreciated part of our lifestyle but it can play a huge role in helping us reach our goals. Hopefully from this you can take away how important it is and try to improve it just a little.

As always, if you have any questions just pop in and ask one of us.

Talk to ye soon,

Donogh

Shoulders and T-spine Health

Opening up the shoulders and Thoracic spine

Hey everyone coach Ev here, following on from my previous blog, I said I would write a blog on how to free up the shoulders and thoracic spine.

Many of us have developed bad habits that have led to restrictions in our movement ability in our shoulders and t-spine. My experience of coaching has shown me that those who play hurling or rugby usually have greater shoulder and t-spine mobility in comparison to Gaelic footballers and soccer players. And those who sleep on their shoulders often have a huge imbalance in their shoulder mobility when both sides are compared. This could potentially lead to an injury over time which may vary from minor muscle strains to more severe disk issues etc. Almost all of the exercises below can be done at home and can hugely help in creating a little extra mobility.

T-spine

Side lying windmills

Get a foam roller and place this under your top knee whilst lying on your side. Bring your knee to 90° angle. Start by having your hands together with your arms straight. With your top hand, use your thumb like a pencil and draw around your body as you exhale. Keep your thumb in contact with the ground at all times. Your top shoulder will drop towards the ground during this process. Also keep your knee in contact with the foam roller throughout the movement. If you have never completed a movement like this before you may feel ‘popping’ or cracking in your t-spine and this is normal.

 

Bretzel

Whilst lying on your side, bring your knee to a 90° knee angle. With your top hand, grab your lower ankle and with your lower hand, grab your top knee, take a deep breath, on the exhale press your top shoulder back towards the ground. As with the side lying windmill, you may hear or feel a ‘popping’ sensation in the t-spine.

 

Quad t-spine rotation

Whilst in an all-fours ground position. Press your hips back and keep a neutral spine. Grab the back of your neck with one hand, fix your eyes to that elbow. As your externally roatate your arm outwards, keep your eyes on your elbow and maintain the neutral spine.  As with the 2 previous exercises, you may feel ‘popping’ in your t-spine if you have poor mobility.

 

Shoulders

Wall slides

Sit into a quarter/half squat against the wall, press your lower back into the wall. Place your hand and elbow in conatct with the wall, run your hands and elbows up and down the wall. This may be difficult if your mobility is very restricted. Throughout the movement keep your lower back in contact with the wall. A good cue for this is to keep ribs down.

 

Bench shoulder flex

For this you'll need a bench/chair and a dowel. Start with your knees dircetly beneath your hip, a dowel held by both hands behind your head/neck and your elbows at shoulder width on a bench. Take a deep breath, on the exhale press your hips back while keeping your elbows in contact with the bench.

 

Shoulder rotations/dislocations

For this exercise all you will need is a dowel/band/rope. Initially I would recommend for someone with poor molility to start wth as wide a grip as possible. Keeping your arms straight. Rotate over your head and backward. As you progress narrow your grip.

For those with severe lack of mobility I would recommend starting these execises at home on top of any training they may already be doing. 2-3 sets of 6+ reps is a decent rep and set range to start with. And remember, when it comes to mobilty and flexibility work, quality over quantity.

As always, if you have any questions, call in and ask or pop us a message here at PFP.

Thanks,

Ev Hennessy B. Sc

 

 

So you want to be more powerful...

Hi everyone, Donogh here again and this time I’m going to tell you how you can get more powerful without learning the Olympic lifts. What??? But how?? Just listen 😉

Olympic lifts are excellent for power output, research has shown us that. But from my experiences with teams, the time taken to teach the technique eats in to a lot of time where you can be getting faster or more powerful or doing curls 😊

When we train for power, what we are essentially looking for is big extension through the hips and glutes and explosive power right up from the ankles which we call triple extension. Improvements in power will come by moving weight very very fast.

These are 4 exercises that I recommend for power that are easy to do and come very close to Olympic lifts for power output.

1.       Loaded Squat Jump – The most similar exercise to an Olympic lift without the complications. I like to hold 2 dumbbells by my side weighing about 40% of my body weight. Get into a quarter squat and jump as high as possible. This exercise gets you into a similar triple extension as the Olympic lift but eliminates the catch. You still produce a lot of power and when landing correctly you receive force too which is crucial for contact sports. Very simple to do and I would recommend 3-4 reps, 3-4 sets with about 90 second rest between sets.

2.       Prowler Push – This exercise when done correctly can produce great amounts of force. You can do this exercise 2 ways, pushing off one leg at a time like a running motion or 2 legs at a time. Either way you will want to ensure that you push your legs back as far as you can to get into that triple extension. I personally like pushing off 2 legs explosively driving the prowler away from you and ending up lying face down on the floor in a push up position (just remember to put your hands out as you fall). I would recommend 50-60% of your body weight and about 10-15m of reps and 3-4 sets again with about 90 seconds rest.

3.       Hip Thrust – Research has suggested that hip thrusts can increase your vertical and horizontal jumps while decreasing your 10m and 20m sprint time. If that’s not a reason to be doing this exercise more than I don’t know what is. I would recommend working at around 70-75% of your 1 rep max and moving the bar as fast as possible getting into hip extension. Again 3-4 reps and 3-4 sets would work well with about 90 seconds rest.

4.       Kneeling Med Ball Wall Slam – This exercise works on upper and lower body. The key to making this exercise worth adding in to your power program is exploding through the hips as you throw the ball and again ending up lying face down on the ground. This will work on extension through the hips and power through the upper body. 4-5 reps and 3-4 sets with around 90 seconds rest will be enough.

So that’s 4 great exercises to add to your program to get more powerful which will lead to increases in your speed and in your jump. And who doesn’t want that?

Here at PFP we have a jump mat that can give an accurate measurement of jump height and speed gates that give an accurate measurement of speed. So why not call in and test yourself before trying these out and then re test after 4 weeks to see if they work.

As always, if you have any questions pop in and ask or leave a comment underneath.

Talk soon

Donogh

 

My top training and nutrition podcasts

As we head towards September, I know lots of you are renewing your health and fitness goals and getting remotivated after the summer months. One of the questions I've been asked loads is for some podcast recommendations - so today I'm going to go through a few of the podcasts I'd recommend, especially if you want to expand your nutriton and training knowledge.

1. Sigma Nutrition - https://sigmanutrition.com/

One of my go-to podcasts for evidence based info on all things health and lifting related. Hosted by leading Irish expert - Mr. Danny Lennon. 

2. The Strength Athlete - http://thestrengthathlete.com/

A powerlifting/strength based podcast for those who are interested. Great evidence based info on training, nutriton, technique and sports psychology. 

3. Precision Nutrition - http://www.precisionnutrition.com/

Covering a wide and intersting variety of topics, Precision Nutrition is a great podcast for expanding you nwoledge inrelation to nutrition, health and fitness. 

4. The Guru Performance - https://guruperformance.com/

Hosted by Laurent Bannock and featuring a wide variety of expert speakers on everything in sport and exercise science. Often delving into the latest science and research on a topic. 

Give any of these podcasts a listen and let me know how you get one. Also, if you've come across any podcast gems please let me know...I'm always looking to add more to my playlist.

Thanks,

Nigel

 

One size fits some...

Hey everyone, Donogh here again. In this blog, I’ll talk about the importance of an individualised program to reach your goals. One of the services provided here at PFP is an assessment through Functional Movement. Based on your results and your needs we then design a program.

Image via Google

Image via Google

The aim of this is to turn your weak links into less of a weak link while also focusing on the importance of turning your strong links into even stronger links, therefore it is important to have an individualised program. We are all different, two people may have the same goals but they will have completely different strengths and weaknesses. Through the assessment we also get a picture of your lifestyle and other factors that can affect your training such as work, nutrition and sleep. Again, no two people will be the same here.

I have worked a lot with various rugby teams and I have seen first-hand a one size fits all approach, in reality it’s a one size fits some. Through the assessment we can identify where you have issues in your mobility or stability while also checking previous injuries and then implementing corrective strategies individual to you. These strategies will make your movement better, reduce your risk of injury and give you a better chance of your program being a success.

My most used phrase as a coach is “it depends”, it always depends on something. “How do I get stronger?”. It depends on what you have done before, injury history or movement quality. “How do I get fitter?”. It depends on your body composition, nutrition or sleep quality.

Once we have a snap shot of your lifestyle, movement, strengths and weaknesses we can give a very good go at designing a program specific to you. Without knowing all of that, the program’s success will depend…

Hopefully that gives you an insight into the importance of individualised training and if you have any questions call in and have a chat with any members of staff here at PFP.

Donogh

Low calorie treats - my top 5!

Calories in versus calories out is the most important element when it comes to fat loss, everything else - macros, supplements, training, sleep etc. - comes after this. The bottom line is that if you eat excess calories (be it from veg, chicken, pizza, protein shakes or chocolate!) you will not lose body fat. Simple. 

So today I'm back with my own favourite low calorie treats - things that I eat that will fit in with my calories and taste great. If you're counting macros you can easily scan your treat into your tracker (e.g. MyFitnessPal) in the morning and that way you've accounted for it and you can make it fit in with your daily calories. If having a small treat everyday helps you stick to your calories/macros goals - then why not? You will still see results...so happy days!  

 

 

1. Curly Wurly

A favourite of mine coming in at only 115 calories. Especially good when they are kept in the fridge. You can easily fit this into your day if you fancy a chocolate treat at night. This definitely won't break the calorie bank. In fact, I've been known to fit 2 of these into my macros /calories on any given day. 

 

oppo ice cream.png

2. Oppo ice-cream

A recent discovery of mine - I found them in Supervalue on the Abbeyleix road in Portlaoise - and if you're an ice-cream lover then look no further. I bought the salted caramel flavour - it is 100% unreal! And I've heard good things about the other flavours too. For half a tub of the salted caramel ice-cream it was about 190 calories - compare that to something like Ben n' Jerrys or the likes. Calories wise, Oppo, are a great option to have in the freezer. 

 

 

3. Aldi Whirlz

Another ice-cream option - a bit of a pattern here! :) These come in at  49 calories each. 

4. Jelly

These jellies are only 10 calories each. Great on their own or paired with something like Glenisk yogurt. Really can help curb a sweet craving if you've no major calories left. 

 

5. Mini trifles 

These mini trifles can be just the thing to hit that sweet craving. At 145 calories, they are not too hard on the macro front either! A handy thing to have in the fridge for those days when you just need something sweet.

And there you have it..a few of my favourite low calorie treats. Any ones I left out? Send me on your recommendations if you've made any good discoveries.

Nigel

 

 

 

Lower back pain? 5 core exercises that may help!

Hi everyone, it’s Donogh here, I’m delighted to have recently joined the team at PFP as strength and conditioning coach.

At some point in your life you will most likely have suffered from lower back pain. I want to talk about my 5 go to exercises that helped me eliminate the lower back pain that I suffered from for quite a few months.

Before I get into it, I know low back pain can come from multiple sources but I also know the main source of low back pain is often from either a weak core or a poorly controlled core. I have a background in sports injuries and so have helped many people get over back pain, most of the time fixing the core helps.

I designed this core circuit for myself but have since given it to a lot of my clients and with proper technique it has reduced pain in every instance and eliminated it completely with a few. These 5 exercises cover every direction of movement and targets each of the main muscles of the core. The idea behind it is to learn how to switch on the core repeatedly and to teach the core not to allow movement in the trunk while other movements are occurring – this is called anti rotation. Anti-rotation for me is a crucial part of creating an efficient core. Whether you’re a footballer bracing for a challenge or a block layer shovelling cement, your back will not like the pressure of constant twisting. Learning how to control the core and getting it strong at limiting movement in the trunk will prevent back pain.

Everyone who is a member in PFP will know these exercises and those of you that aren’t a member (shame on you!) should know them too. There is nothing fancy to it but it’s about consistency and challenging all areas. Too often I see people training core either with poor technique (which can put added pressure on the low back) or not training the entire core.

The first thing everyone must know about the core is how to properly switch it on. If you can imagine having a beer can under your rib cage and trying to squash that can with your ribs, you will have switched on your core. Every core exercise should be done “squashing a beer can”.

The 5 exercises are done in a circuit for 3 sets with a 1 minute rest after all 5 are done.

The exercises are:

1.       Plank

2.       Side Plank

Everyone knows what a plank and side plank are but not everyone can perform them correctly. I would suggest videoing yourself doing it to provide visual feedback or to ask a qualified trainer how to do it. If you were to look at someone doing a plank they should be completely straight (like a plank). A lot of people do planks for long reps (60secs), what I suggest is more reps but shorter time (6x10sec with 1 sec between reps). You still get the 60 seconds of work on your core but instead of long shakey reps, you instead teach your body how to go from a relaxed state to an engaged state in the core. I have found this method helps more with low back pain because throughout the day we go from a relaxed state to needing our core (picking an object up).

Key Points for plank and side plank

·         Squash can

·         Body in straight line

·         10 seconds on 1 second off, 6 reps

 

3.       Deadbug – The deadbug is my favourite core exercise, it teaches core control while moving the limbs. This closely mimics running and if done properly can take a lot of pressure off the low back. It also teaches coordination between arms and legs which some can find challenging. To do this exercise correctly, lie on your back, drive the back flat into the floor, squash the beer can and allow no movement from the trunk for the entire exercise. With straight arms point your hands to the sky, bring your knees up towards your chest with your hip and knee angle at 90 degrees. I perform 20 reps per set, 5 dropping the right arm behind your head while dropping your right leg straight down to the ground. Repeat on your left. I then perform opposite hand to leg on each side. Each of these challenges the core in different ways and provide great stability.

Key Points

·         Back flat against ground, squash can

·         Arms pointed towards sky directly over shoulder

·         Knees directly over hips and knee angle at 90 degrees

·         5 reps with same sided movement and opposite side movement – 20 reps total

·         Avoid trunk movement

 

4.       Landmine Rotations – Another exercise that works on anti-rotation by preventing movement in the trunk while movement is occurring. With the bar either fixed in a landmine fitting or in the corner of the wall, pick up the bar and lock both arms straight out in front of you. Drop the bar to one side keeping your trunk steady in one position. The only movement should come from your arms and a little from your upper back. Your low back and hips should stay locked in the starting position. Repeat these 10 times on each side.

Key Points

·         Squash can

·         Movement from arms and upper back

·         10 reps

 

5.       Barbell Rollouts – These can be done band assisted or without the band depending on your ability. Again, squash the beer can while doing the exercise and roll out until your body is fully straight, then roll back to the start position. Rollouts, again, are providing movement while your core fights to stay stable.

Key Points

·         Starting from your knees with or without a band

·         Squash the can

·         Roll out until fully straight but without touching your body off the floor

·         Roll back to start position

·         10 reps

 

So, they are my 5 go to exercises for low back pain. Before doing this circuit, make sure you know how to do each exercise properly. Any questions don’t hesitate to come in and ask.

 

Donogh Flannery

 

How to get the most from your gym experience...

Hi everyone, Coach Ev here at PFP.

Whether you’re an athlete, fitness fanatic or new to the gym life, getting the most from your experience is vital in order to keep you motivated and help you achieve your goals.

So here are my recommendations to help you get the most from your experience.

1)      Research

Gyms are not one size fits all. There are many different gyms out there to cater for various needs. Finding the right gym for you is vital for your success. Choosing the right gym can seem like a difficult task. Do some research on them. Check out their website. Make an appointment to come in and chat with the staff about your goals. Some gyms cater specifically for weight training, fitness based classes, personal training, Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting, team conditioning or even pay as you go. (FYI - PFP Gym caters for all of the aforementioned!)  The gym you choose will determine the experience you have. And this really can be the difference between you achieving your goals and giving up. Talk to the staff and get the blunt facts! Find out what each place offers and what qualifications and experience the staff have. 

 

2)      Goals

Set yourself both long and short term goals. Make sure that your goals are SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and  time based. An example of poor goal setting is - 'I want to squat more', 'I want to be thin', 'I want to get fit' - none of these are SMART. How will you ever know if you have achieved your goal? You won't! Goals like these set the individual up for failure and they end up giving up. Good goal setting might sound like the following 'I want to squat 5kg more in 4 weeks time', 'I want to lose 10 lbs in 8 weeks' or 'I want to run 10km without stopping by the end of the year'. Be mindful of your goals. Think about what you really want to achieve. Be realistic. And reflect every so often to assess how you are progressing towards the goal. 

 

3)      Get yourself a diary

A great way to see real improvements is to get yourself a diary. Write in everything you eat and the times you eat at, your work schedule, training schedule and how your mood is from day to day. Yes, I know it’s quite a bit to keep track of, but you’ll clearly be able see if eating certain things impact your mood/ training/ work state. This will help to keep you motivated and it can help to determine any nutrition issues. Another benefit of a food diary is the accountability factor - seeing what you are eating in black and white can be an eye-opener for some people. The fact that you are recording everything that you eat means you are less likely to eat mindlessly throughout the day.  If writing down everything isn't your thing, there are plenty of apps that allow you to record food intake online.  

 

4)      Feedback

Don't be afraid to ask questions when training. A good coach will not only explain how to do something, but will also explain WHY you are doing it. Learn about different exercises and build your own knowledge.  From time to time, your coach may need to alter your program based on your physical capabilities. This is done to ensure that you are getting the most from your training. Be ready for your coach to correct your form - it's not a criticism! Good form is crucial to prevent injury and to make sure you are getting the most form your session. 

So, those are some of my tips when trying to get the most out of your gym experience. Any questions don’t be afraid call in and ask.

Ev Hennessy B.Sc

Personal trainer/ Strength and Conditioning Coach

 

Can exercise help you beat anxiety?

We all know how good working out is for our physical health, so let's start a conversation today about the benefits of working out for your mental health. 

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Exercise is underutilized as a method of managing and treating anxiety. It has no negative side-effects and it can be free, if you do it at home or outside.

Several studies have shown that there is a very powerful connection between exercise and anxiety. In fact, the coloration between both is so strong, that exercise on its own may be enough to drastically diminish the symptoms of anxiety. 

How can exercise do this?

1. Endorphins - the body releases endorphins when you exercise. These are your body's natural 'painkillers',  and in addition they play a massive role in regulating your mood and relaxing your mind. You know that 'feel good' feeling after a workout ? Yep! That's the endorphins. 

2. Sleep - exercise tires out the body and  can enable those who have anxiety to get a better night's sleep. A lack of sleep, or inability to sleep, makes the symptoms of anxiety worse. Exercise can release all of the excess energy in the body and mind - in fact, high intensity exercise has been shown to tire out the body and the mind simultaneously. 

3. Inactivity anxiety - a lack of exercise can lead to an excess of energy and this energy can be misplaced by the body, resulting in increased tension and stress. An increase in stress levels can exacerbate anxiety. This is very much linked with the above point on sleep. A lack activity can feed into a lack of sleep, and together both of these elements can accumulate and worsen the symptoms of anxiety. 

4. Healthy coping strategy- managing anxiety through exercise is a healthy coping strategy. Sometimes we turn to things like alcohol to manage anxiety. But the consumption of alcohol, as a coping strategy,  will usually have a negative impact on anxiety and will often lead to a worsening of symptoms. Exercise, on the other hand, is a positive means of dealing with anxiety with lots of additional benefits such as improved overall health. If you are in a gym or a group, such as a running group, the camaraderie and friendships can be an additional support in managing anxiety.

So that's it - a brief overview of how exercise can help to cope with and manage anxiety. In the long term, a regular exercise schedule can dramatically alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. If you, or someone you know, is suffering with anxiety, please do seek medial advice - medication is may sometimes be necessary, but exercise can, and should, compliment it.

As always, feel free to get in touch,

Nigel

If you need to talk to someone please phone one of the numbers below:

Aware (Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder & Anxiety)

www.aware.ie
Tel: 1800 80 48 48

National Suicide Helpline (Pieta House)
1800 247 247

Pieta House (Suicide & Self-harm)

www.pieta.ie
Tel: 01 623 5606

Grow (Mental Health support and Recovery)

www.grow.ie
Tel: 1890 474 474

IACP (Counselling & Psychotherapy)

www.iacp.ie
Tel: 01 230 3536

Shine (Supporting people effected by mental ill health)

www.shine.ie
Tel: 01 860 1620

Teenline Ireland Helpline

www.teenireland.ie
1800 833 634

For references and further info please see below :

Exercise for Mood and Anxiety, Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being, by Michael W. Otto, PhD, and Jasper A.J. Smits, PhD (Oxford University Press, 2011)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201506/sitting-all-day-increases-your-risk-anxiety

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201504/mindfulness-the-power-thinking-about-your-thinking

http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/treatment/exercising