Tuesday Newsday – Leadership

Mark WilliamsFor Tuesday Newsday this week I’m going to continue along with the AFL theme given the media here (as always) is currently overwhelmed with AFL news, particularly with the topic at hand.

Late last week another coach bowed out.  Stuffing punched out of him, and kicked when on the canvas.  He was a coach who had achieved a lot and hopefully his memory wont be soured in the way his career ended at a club in which he had so much history.  It’s amazing how quickly the media and football community will turn on a coach as soon as they smell a hint of blood.  Circling until they have their kill.  Today it seems that the pack has turn onto its next victim.  Bomberland looks like their next hunting ground, and dare I say it we may have another media driven kill before the end of the year if things don’t settle down.

But do the media have to shoulder all of the blame?  Surely not.  But yes, they would certainly contribute.

However this is not the focus of this post.  I wanted to focus on leadership.  What makes a good leader.  What can make an athlete, at any level, in any sport, want to run through brick walls, put their body on the line and achieve greatness?

Great coaches make a huge difference to sporting performance.  We all know of stories where a change of coach in a sporting organization has resulted in greatness with little change in personal or staffing, besides the person at the helm.

So what does that mean?  Does it mean the new coach has the superior game plan?  A greater understanding of the game?  An ability to gee up their chargers in manner that is truly heart felt?  Or is it a little of all of these?

Athletes firstly must respect their coach.  They have to want to play for their leader, enjoy being around their team mates and the institution they are involved with.  This is all ultimately driven by the coach.  They are in charge and ultimately shoulder the blame when things aren’t going well.

Teams need to be committed to a common goal and respect the person pulling the strings, even if they don’t like them.  When a coach needs to win the respect of the players mid season they are up for a huge task.  This is why I think Matthew Primus is a fantastic choice at Port Adelaide.  Given he is a past club hero, respect is not one thing he needs to earn.

But respect is definitely not the only thing a coach needs to have to be successful at the helm.  Making people feel appreciated, reward for hard work, knowing what makes someone tick.  All of these are things that are required.

So what type of coaching gets the best out of you?  Ra Ra ranting and pump ups, or clinical tactical coaching?  I think is is a very individual thing but one thing is for sure, with out the hearts and minds of your athletes a coach is always going to be pushing uphill to get results out of their team.  This goes for sport, business and life.

What are some attributes of great leaders you have worked under in the past?

image credit: www.kick2kick.net



Lazy Sunday

Kicking off our Lazy Sunday series of ideas for a lovely Sunday afternoon packed full of activity and exercise is the brand new ice skating facility in The Docklands ‘Icehouse’

Icehouse has 2 olympic sized ice skating rinks so there is plenty of room for you to get your skates on carve up the ice. Skate sessions generally last for about 2 hours with numerous sessions through out the day. Be sure to check out the website below for all the timetable info.

Cost per session in around $20 including skate hire, but dont be afraid if you have never skated before you can get a 15 minute introductory lesson prior to the session for $5.

For more details click here to go to the Icehouse website

Image Credit: http://inkywrists.ie/category/news/



Functional Fitness Training

Functional Fitness TrainingIf you want to improve your lifestyle then you should be training to the principals of functional fitness. If you find it hard to cope with what’s required of you on a day to day basis you need to start training and do something about it.

If your in this category then Functional Fitness Training might be the answer.

The term functional fitness describes a process of training, not the end result.  It is relative to your specific needs.  For instance my needs as a 26 year old are very different to that of a 50 year old female.

It’s very easy to confuse functional fitness for your lifestyle with sport specific training. Yes, being in great physical condition is indirectly beneficial to most sporting endeavors, but each sport will have an intricate skills set that will need to be trained for or in other words you still need to integrate relevant training to improve your physical ability as well as rely on whatever natural talent you’re blessed with by genetics.  But remember, if your not an elite level footballer then your lifestyle does not perhaps require you to to have the physical attributes that come along with that profession.  However that said, can you ever be in too good a shape?  I doubt it.  Just make sure you first tick off the requirements of your professional and recreational pursuits first, then begin to take on the world!

Functional Fitness Training isn’t new.  It’s about taking things back to basics and stripping back the fads in the fitness industry today.  Functional Fitness is about the basics of human movement in its purest form.  It is about encouraging our bodies to move as effectively as when we would plow the fields every day and not sit hunched over a steering wheel on the way to work, at a desk all day at work and at the coffee table at night.

Functional fitness is about using all of your body at once.  This means the practical application of this type of training is endless.  Functional fitness is about teaching all of your muscles to work together rather than in isolation.

Here are some great guidelines to follow from the US based functional training expert Vern Gambetta.

Simple to Complex: Start simple, progressing to more complex exercises only after mastering the basic movements of each exercise.

Known to Unknown: The training environment should begin with controlled, low-neuromuscular-demand exercises and then proceed to less-controlled, more proprioceptively challenging environments.

Low Force to High Force: Train lower-force, more controlled movements until you can master those movements, then proceed to higher-force, ballistic movements.

Static to Dynamic: Start with exercises in a stationary stance, then as those movements are mastered, add more dynamic movements.

Lying to Sitting to Kneeling to Standing (Two legs) to Standing (One Leg): This essentially takes into account all the previous steps in the progression. Lying and sitting are very controlled and proprioceptively less challenging than going to standing and then standing on one leg.

Functional Fitness is designed to help you get the most out of your body. To help you become more efficient and enable  you to cope with the tasks of your day to day life much easier.

Functional Fitness is just as much about teaching your body to move effectively and efficiently as it is about improving performance.  There is no point working on the performance outcomes of an exercise until that exercise can be performed effectively and efficiently.  Take a 100 metre sprint time trial.  You would aim for the best time over a distance until you had learnt the most effective running technique, starting position, etc.  This way you will give your body the best potential of achieving the optimum result.

The concept is simple, just train your muscles to accelerate, slowdown and stabilize, to do this statically and dynamically, both fast and slow. Use compound (multi-joint) movements in various directions and at different speeds.

From elite athletes to seniors functional fitness is the best way for you to cope with the activities of your day to day lifestyle.

Before you should tackle this type of training you need to ask yourself a few things.  This is not to discount your self from this type of training, but possibly to add other elements into your training.  You need to know what your lacking, what you need to work on most.  So that the elements you are going to need to work on are worked on.

Posture and body alignment – Does your body align itself effectively.  Does your body sit the way it should?  Chances are all of us have somethings we need to work on here.  As we age small dysfunctions appear due to injury, our profession etc.  This doesn’t mean we should throw in the towel.  It means we should acknowledge this and add things to our training that will improve these imbalances and therefore improve our overall performance and condition.

Coordination – There is no point attempting to do a squat standing on a fit ball if you cannot first perform a normal squat correctly as your coordination wont allow it.  Once again, don’t give up, or revert to machine weight etc (as these don’t require coordination and balance).  Simply start slower and integrate exercises that will improve your balance and once again, improve your overall condition.

Flexibility – Can you touch your toes?  Ok that may not be entirely relevant but how are you going to improve your performance if you cannot work through the most advantageous range of movement for a specific joint.

Balance – If you want to get yourself into the positions that will require core stabilization you will need an element of balance.  Balance is also essential in your progression to more difficult exercises.

Core Strength – A strong core is the key to increased sporting performance.

So now that we know the elements that we need to work on, how can we progress fundamental exercises to be far more challenging for our balance or core? By moving from stable positions for exercises to unstable positions, we place more demand on our bodies and force the elements we are looking to improve to be challenged. Think of progressing from a deadlift as the balanced exercise, to say a single legged deadlift as the progression.
Progressions of exercises are limitless with some professional guidance. Single arm deadlift, Kettlebell deadlift there are many ways to make things tougher. And these progressions are in no way limited to just the deadlift.

So what does this all mean? Well, would you consider a seated machine chest press to have a high degree of transference to your day to day life or to a sport you’re involved in? Or would you be far better served with a staggered stance cable chest press? The standing chest press allows you to utilize the muscles of your core and rotate through a more natural plane of movement, where a seated machine chest press will not engage the same postural muscles and the transference to real life situations is diminished.  Like wise the functional exercises you choose as part of your training plan need to have an amount of transference.  Is there really any point besides the party trick aspect of being able to do a bicep curl whilst standing on a swiss ball? Unless you are a circus performer, this would have very limited transference to real world situations.

If an exercise machine requires you to be seated into a fixed position, or lying fixed on a bench to a position then it will not allow you to move through alternating planes of movements.  If you can not move through alternating planes of movement then it is unlikely you are working in a real world situation.

Bodybuilding training has developed extensively over the past 20 years and is extremely effective at building bulk and muscle but this size is rarely transferred into usable strength and increased athletic ability.  So if you are using this type of stimulus to increase your performance hopefully this post has encouraged you to rethink the way you are training.  However if you are using that type of training for aesthetics alone then don’t move over to functional fitness training.  Aesthetics are a result, but not the focus.  By integrating elements of core and balance training into your strength training sessions we can see a far greater improvement in your overall functioning and performance.

So, do you already train to the principles of functional fitness? What sort of benefits have you seen? What are the exercises that you have seen the greatest benefit from?  I would love to hear about your experiences.  Check back on this post often, as you can see it’s a long one, and it will be continually evolving!



Moderation in Moderation

Moderation in ModerationStarting, and continuing for that matter, on a healthy lifestyle plan can be tough.  Many people end up throwing in the towel as things get harder because they get bored with the monotony of there regime.

Remember always strive for balance in your life.  Balance your exercise with your rest and relaxation.  Balance your intake of fluids, ensure you are eating well.

And remember, everything in moderation and that includes moderation!

When you feel like having a blow out… Do it!  Just remember to get back on track with the very next meal, if not then, the next day.  Especially if you are feeling the effects of a hang over for example.  Get out for a walk at very least.

But remember always try to minimize the effects or size of your slip up.  A four day bender is not going to really do wonders for your waistline or fitness levels but a meal off once a week is something that can be accounted for.  Speak to a personal trainer about way you can minimize your blow outs, and hopefully be prepared better for times when you are at risk.



Tuesday Newsday: Caffeine in Sport

Tuesday is now Revolution Newsday.

We will bring you current news updates each week about what is happening at Revolution and right across the world of health, fitness and sport.

So… Waddaya wanna know?  We would love to hear suggestions or topics that you would like to gain a little information on.  However if like today there is something dominating the news that we think we can shed a little light on, your topic will take the back seat for a week.

Ok so, it was made public late yesterday that unfortunately once again Ben Cousins has been admitted to hospital with what appears to be an adverse reaction to a sleeping tablet.  First and foremost we hope he is on the mend (just heard a news update that he is leaving intensive care, so that’s great news).

The news services are reporting that after ingesting an amount of caffeine before or during the game on Sunday (in which I was heart broken due to my boys the Swannies getting beaten in the final 10 minutes of so!) followed by an amount of alcohol and then sleeping tablets.  These are the early reports and could change over the next few days, or hours or minutes, as more is made public.

After hearing and reading this in the news I thought I would write about caffeine and its use in sport.  The caffeine however is most probably not responsible for Ben’s admission to hospital in this case, but maybe through a combination effect with other substances it had contributed.

Make no mistake, caffeine is not just used to help awaken athletes prior to the game if they are feeling a little sluggish and don’t want there double shot espresso sloshing around in their guts as they run around for four quarters.  It’s used to increase their sporting performance.

Does that make it a performance enhancing drug that should be banned?  Who am I to make that call.  However it has been on the list on band substances previously with a certain dosage being outlawed.  Now it has been removed from that list.

So, why do footballers and other athletes use caffeine.

Caffeine has been proven to have a number of benefits for long duration, endurance events such as AFL football.

It can benefit an athlete in two ways depending on dosage and the intended result.

Firstly as everyone is aware caffeine has a stimulatory effect, meaning that the senses are aroused, reaction time is reduced and generally preparedness for action (sport) is increased.  Although I am reminded of the redbull add with the cartoon man on the beach and his “redbull can” standing to attention as the bikini topless girl is sun baking nude close by.  However that’s not the same type of action the caffeine in the redbull is intended to increase the performance of…

Secondly caffeine can help with your bodies ability to metabolize fuels whilst exercising.  This effect of caffeine is only relevant with long duration endurance events.  The body is able to use fat more efficiently as a fuel source with high dosages of caffeine so it can preserve its stores of carbohydrate for later on in the event.  As fatigue sets in and your competitors slow down you have more of your bodies preferential fuel source in reserve.  You are also able to slow your fuel consumption of carbohydrate as generally fat is not used as a dominate fuel source until much later on.

These results have been studied vigorously within the sport science world but are misinterpreted often by the general public wanting to emulate their sporting hero’s of whom they are told are consuming caffeine for increased at the elite level.

Caffeine has previously been a banned substance in many competitions but these regulations have generally been lifted.  As a result it has slowly become more and more popular with sports such as AFL and Rugby Union.  Some athletes report cramps and other side effects due to the use of caffeine as caffeine is a dehydrating agent.

Dosage for is very relative in terms of performance benefits.  I feel it is very dangerous for the wider public to see these athletes using a widely available substance like caffeine flippantly.  I have witnessed the trickle down effect first hand after a few years ago a number of news stories were release of footballers using ‘NoDoz’ tablets when playing.  Every local level weekend warrior had a few tablets stashed away in there mouth gaurd case the next weekend and for the rest of the season.

My summary… I dunno!  This is a tough one.  You can’t ban a substance like caffeine, but encouraging it’s wider use for sporting enhancement could possibly lead to some very dangerous side effects with younger users.

I would love to know your thoughts.



Do we need a Council for Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition in Australia?

Recently details were released from the US that President Obama is constructing a council dedicated to the integration of fitness, sport and nutrition in the American community.

There are obviously high hopes for the findings that this council will have and how more can be done to integrate more of the community into sport, fitness and good nutrition. The council is made up of personal trainers, Olympians, nutritionist and many other suitably qualified specialists.

I believe that we need to be placing a lot more emphasis on these issues at a government level here in Australia as well. With an election looming hopefully more initiatives surrounding community health will be looked at thoroughly and announcements of a similar nature will be made.

As a community we need to get kids involved in sport at a younger age and make it part of their lives for the long term. Getting these initiatives entrenched in our family routines and lifestyles is what we need to make the norm. The community as a whole will see the benefits.

I come from a family where it is part of the routine to head down to the local footy club on a Saturday. We are all not only involved in the activities of the afternoon but it is an opportunity for us to interact positively with other members of our local community.

It seems that this is a closed group here in Australia at the moment and we need to actively encourage many more Australian’s to get involved with sport and fitness in their local community.

I believe some of the initiatives such as the AFL Auskick program are great at encouraging local involvement and set up our children with many valuable skills for them to take into adulthood but we need more to be done across a board range of sports and age levels.

One of the focuses on the new US council will work in conjunction with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative working to tackle childhood obesity which is climbing tat a rapid rate here in Australia.

One of the big focus’s from the initiatives will be getting outdoors and active, something that has been taking second place here in Australia as we become professional spectators with many activities and our daily lives become more and more sedentary.

I would love to know your thought’s on these initiatives and if you think more needs to be done here in Australia to make a difference with our Fitness, Sport and Nutrition focus as a community.

What tools do you think you need to do this more effectively?

You can read up more on both of the initiatives below.