Monday, 14 July 2014

Karen's DNA profile.

A few weeks ago, my wife, Karen was interested in having her DNA profile analysed as she starts to rebuild her body after having kids. So we got her tested and the results are in. I thought I would share them here so you have an understanding about where we are with advancements in health and fitness testing.

Before you get your results, it is advisable to have a think about what you think the results might show. They rarely show up something that you genuinely never knew or felt. Unless you are living a really unhealthy lifestyle. Here are what the we are testing for. 

  • Carbohydrate sensitivity - also know as the fat gene
  • Fat sensitivity
  • Detox ability
  • Caffeine sensitivity
  • Salt sensitivity
  • Lactose tolerance
  • Coeliac risk
There are a few others such as antioxidant needs, vitamin D and calcium, but I'll stick to topics above. 

Here is what Karen felt prior to her results. 

  • Used to live off carbs in her management consultancy days, but was fatter and unhealthy (her words not mine)
  • Tried low fat diets but left her feeling hungry and craving sweets
  • Craves dark green veggies
  • Gets the shakes if she has too much coffee
  • Her dad has high blood presssure which would put her at risk of hypertension from excess sodium
  • If she has too much dairy, it upsets her stomach
  • Whole wheat doest't agree with her. 
So here are Karen's test results. 

Karen has a low sensitivity to carbs, which means she can cope with them pretty well. You'll still put on weight if you are into a calorie surplus, regardless of how well you can cope with carbs, but carbs definitely aren't her enemy. 

Karen also has a low saturated fat sensitivity. Her body uses saturated fats for energy better than the average person or someone who has a high fat sensitivity. So a low calorie and low fat diet will not suit her and it is no surprise that she was hungry when she tried it. nearly 40% of her diet can made up of fats. 10% of these can come from saturated fats. So it is advisable that she adds some to her diet as saturated fats help absorb fat soluble vitamins and hormones. 

Karen has the deleted version of a gene responsible for detoxification. So it is advisable that she increase her dark green veggie intake to compensate. This would explain her craving for dark veggies. 

Karen's salt sensitivity is raised which puts her at risk of hypertension with a high sodium intake. As mentioned earlier, hypertension is in her family. We know this to be genetic so it's no surprise. However, risk doesn't mean the gene will be expressed. If you try to stay fit and healthy, you may not even get hypertension. 

Karen is one of the lucky people who actually gets a positive health benefit (lower cholesterol) from moderate intake of alcohol. Her body breaks down alcohol more slowly than me which means her body can cope better with the toxic element of alcohol. 

Karen has an intermediate ability to detoxify toxins such as carcinogens from food and smoke. It also helps with caffeine removal. So her body might struggle with more than 1 coffee per day. 

Karen has what is known as lactose persistence. She can cope well with dairy, but she might not cope as well in later years. Again, this is listening to your body. 

Lastly, she has a potential risk of coeliac disease. It still is only risk, but she does get digestive discomfort with whole wheat and spelt. At the moment she just avoids them, but at some point may want to get an antibody test to see if there is anything going on. 

There were a few vitamin and mineral recommendations which are more than she currently takes, but there was nothing that she didn't expect. So you might be asking what is the point of being told things you currently know?

Having the things you have always thought, written down in a report is incredibly powerful. Especially for compliance. I never advise Karen on anything to do with health and fitness and vice versa. Couples giving advice to one another on the whole doesn't work as your relationship gets in the way of any objectivity. However, as the test is objective, we were able to have a non judgemental discussion. She has since been making the tweaks to her diet. It helps that she is happy to. I don't need to mention lowering risk of heart attack or better protection from cancer etc. This is a report that stays with you for life and is what your body needs to function optimally. So I'm hopeful that people who often struggle to stick to a healthy diet, will be able to connect with how their body works. You'll not need to worry about inflammatory newspaper headlines because they might not apply to you. Also, you can redefine what the word 'healthy' means for you. Low fat might be healthy for you, but unhealthy for someone else. Quite often it's how the information is relayed to us, that makes us stand up and take notice. 

Later in the year, I'll post about Karen's exercise DNA test too. 

If you are interested in getting a better understanding of your body, please contact 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Are you set up to fail?

Have you ever had a conversation with people about getting into to shape, or getting fit? Of course you have. If you work in an office, I imagine these occur on a daily basis. Have you ever replied like this?

"I really want to get into shape so I need to get down to the gym."

The gym is a good place to get into shape and you can indeed get very fit. But I think we set up our health and fitness endeavours with the wrong mindset and going to the gym is a prime example. 

In reality, you may go to the gym 3-4 times per week during your motivated stage. However, the average gym attendance when I was working in the gym was 1.5 visits per month. For most people, motivation often wears off and they find themselves closer to the lower average gym attendance. Note that this is only gym attendance. It doesn't look at what people are doing in the gym. You could be doing a 10 minute workout followed by a croissant and a latte. So at best we are pinning 3-4 sessions per week, to undo the years of not being active. It might work for a short while, but you might find that it simply isn't enough to touch the sides. 

So there's no point joining the gym? No, that's not what I'm saying. Expecting it to make the big changes you want is what I am getting at. Also, I feel there are other areas of your life to consider which will dictate whether you are successful in your health and fitness goals. So I have written a list of questions you should maybe ask yourself, which will be a better predictor of whether you will succeed with your health and fitness goals. 

  • How likely are you to enter a fitness event or fun run?
  • How likely are you to get involved in a sport or competition?
  • How likely would you exercise with your kids for fun, rather than perceive it as a chore?
  • How likely would you book an activity holiday?
  • How likely is it that you would suggest exercising with your partner (keep it clean) for fun? 
  • How likely is it you would get back earlier from work to look after the kids so your partner can exercise? 
  • How likely would you call you friends up and arrange something active for you all to do?
  • How often do you go for a walk because you think it is a nice thing to do?
  • How likely would you pick a school for your kids because you like the amount of sports and activities on offer?
  • How likely would you try cooking something new, with fresh ingredients and find it fun, rather than a pain and a waste of time?
I would even suggest that doctors ask these questions instead of telling people to go the gym. 

The gym is about will power and discipline. It only lasts for a short period of time. That's why getting a trainer or getting involved in gym challenges or the social side will keep you hooked into the gym. However, what will make the big difference is how you value some of the questions I have posed above. If you aren't interested in your kids being active, there is a strong likelihood that you will not think it is important for you. Losing fat and getting fit are sold as something which are only for those who 'want it the most.' Progress is more like a leaky tap. Slow and stead always wins the race. Over time you see fantastic results. But to get them, you are going to need more things working in your life than 3 gym sessions per week. 

If you're up for playing along, pick a few from the list and see if you can make a start. Just see how comfortable you are with them. When you are comfortable with some of them, I guarantee your mind will be much better set up to succeed with your health and fitness goals. 


Monday, 16 June 2014

It's all in your genes.

The health and fitness industry normally trots along spurting out fads and hype to anyone that will listen. But every now and then, the industry makes a stratospheric jump in information that will genuinely be of benefit to everyone that listens. Cue: genetic testing.
Genetic testing is nothing new. We test for congenital diseases, DNA damage and we can see genetic differences in people (albeit less than 1% variation that separates you from me). In fact we are genetically similar to a banana! However, these variations are what determine whether we live life as a banana, or a human.Gene variation plays a big role in who we are and we now have the technology to determine how we work through our own individual genetic variations. I believe this is currently the most powerful tool in individual health and fitness customisation. If you know what directly affects your health, you can kiss the scaremongering headlines goodbye, for good.

How does your body cope with saturated fats, or carbohydrates? Do you have the fat gene? Does milk work for you?  All these things can now be tested to see if your DNA and your lifestyle are in harmony for optimum health.
This isn’t about being told you are ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Or being told that you need to stop drinking and live a virtuous life of mountain spring water and vegetables. I found it to be quite the opposite. I found it really empowering and quite cool to see how I work.So my genetic profile brought up some things which I already knew. Milk could be an issue, which it has been since I was a teenager. I don’t clear coffee from my system very well (hence my shakes after a strong coffee). I have a possible predisposition to hypertension, especially with excess sodium. My dad had high blood pressure, so this is pretty accurate. When completing a medical health questionnaire, people tend to be red flagged if there is a family history of high blood pressure. So it’s common sense that there must be a genetic element at play.What does it mean to you? Finding out your genetic profile will not tell you that you will live to 100 or you’ll get ill next week. It simply tells you how your body works and joins up the dots. It will tell you how genes are expressed or not in relation to managing risks for optimum health. It will once and for all confirm things that you’ve felt but couldn’t really explain. Finally, it will give you stepping stone to define for yourself how you want to be healthy.

The main test can tell from your DNA things like your body’s ability to process alcohol, toxins and gluten. You might find you have a high risk of certain chronic diseases but by tweaking your diet, based on this information you can minimise your risk. Put simply, the tests will enable you to supercharge your diet for your specific genetic makeup in order to live well and support your health.
This isn’t a patch test you can do at home or drop into the chemist for but then this is DNA testing which has only previously been available to elite level athletes and there are only a handful of professionals in the UK who can interpret your results. Fortunately I’m one of them.
If you’re interested, drop me a line. There’s no obligation.
I am however offering a £25 discount to the first eight people who get in touch and book in. I will go over your results myself and relay the findings via an on-line group.This will enable me to explain your report and help to create a programme going forward. Everyone will receive a meal plan, recipes and nutrition guide.The price for the first 8 people is £225.Please e-mail,


Monday, 28 April 2014

Eric Helms seminar London

Last week I attended a seminar put on by 'Shredded By Science' (Luke Johnson) and presented by Eric Helms (3DMJ). The title of the seminar was, 'Evidence Based Bodybuilding for the Natural Competitor.' Normally, this seminar wouldn't have registered on my radar, but Brad Schoenfeld (one of the world's top researchers into muscle hypertrophy) recommended listening to anything Eric Helms says. So with this endorsement, I booked the course without fully knowing what the content would be. I can honestly say that I was so glad I did as the content was of the highest quality.

Usually at PT courses, you can guarantee three things. People shoe-horned into tight tops. People come dressed ready to work out. Chicken and water bottles everywhere. However, there was a mix of people at this one. There were no grunting or derogatory put-downs to be heard. The attendees were all a really pleasant bunch of people who were prepared to soak up the info. Despite many men being in the doghouse due to the course being on Easter Sunday!

Eric is studying for his second Phd and is from a bodybuilding background. His team have worked with 100's of competitors and have helped many to become champion drug-free bodybuilders. He is one of the few people who have mixed the science with the practical application of bodybuilding. From the outset, what came across was a humble, light hearted approach to water down the testosterone that flows through our industry. Again, it is a unique quality in the fitness industry to have someone with as much knowledge and experience as him, yet to have a complete absence of ego. This allowed him to delve into some of the darker element of competitive bodybuilding such as eating disorders and staying sane throughout your career. The room was deafly quiet during this section and he said, "this is often the most uncomfortable part of the talk, but it needs saying." I'm glad he did and it made wonder whether we focus enough on the mental side of our client's health when prescribing diet and exercise.

Eric's goal for all his athletes is for them to be able to love what they do until they are in their 70's and for them to stay healthy. People are very quick to stamp the title, 'unhealthy', on things we don't understand, especially in bodybuidling. Quite often, with very little evidence to back up our position. I used to be one of these people. Eric astutely pointed out that bodybuilding does attract obsessive and very focused people, but if they aren't harming their health, it's not an issue. He backed this up with his take on how to balance a passion for bodybuilding with living a normal life.

As far as the physiology was concerned, there were some great protocols he suggested to follow. They would take you at least 6 months to follow. Also, like a true professional, he distanced himself from having a system or guru status and encouraged everyone to read all the associated references on all his information. This gave us three times the content we were expecting.

In summary, I will be looking out for more of Eric's seminars and I would encourage anyone else to do the same. Due to his commitments to studying, business and training, I doubt there will be many opportunities. I would also suggest to anyone considering competing in bodybuiliding, that look at his wesbite as they will find everything they need.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Can women do press ups?

" I can't do press ups."

It's something I hear from women, time and time again, during the many classes I've taught. I have had to spend time with all my female clients to master the press up as most have struggled with this. However, I never really understood why people thought this inability was a female trait. Evidence points towards an obvious strength difference between men and women. Hence the probable naming of 'girl/women's pressups'. This term concerns me as it goes against most scientific evidence which shows me that there is no reason why women can't do press ups. Let me elaborate. 

When you collect data in a scientific way, the quality of the research will come down to two things. The quality of the people you tested and how you interpret the results. Coming to the conclusion that women can't do press ups is often founded by observing women who can't do them. But when you look closer, you see that being female is not the reason. Many women can't do press ups, but it's not because they are women. It's merely a correlation. However, correlation does not imply causation. It's a bit like saying most criminals are right handed, so therefore you are more likely to be a criminal if you're right handed. It's a lazy way of thinking. 

The women I see who can't do press ups normally can't for the following reasons. 

  • They've not exercised their upper body for many years. 
  • They have poor shoulder blade function and therefore can't load their arms very well. 
  • They have poor neck stability. 
  • They can't stiffen their hips and engage the muscles around the trunk which adds more pressure to the arms and shoulders. 
  • They have a poor strength to weight ratio. Or a poor strength to height ratio.
  • They haven't practised them. 
  • They have never been taught how to do them. 
None of these are distinctly exclusive to females. In elite level sport, there is a negligible difference between men and women with regards to performance. However, it's more noticeable in untrained people as men most likely get closer their genetic potential in the gym environment, compared to women.

The clean and jerk which is considered one of the hardest lifts in weight lifting, the women's record is 143kg (63 kg bodyweight). Men at 62 kg is 182 kg. This is the biggest gap I have found between men and women with regards to strength. However, you have to train for at least 10 years to even be considered a good Olympic lifter. Most people aren't elite level and will therefore not notice this difference. I have personally witnessed women lift more than their male counterparts.

The main observation why women as a whole can't do them is down to culture. It's seen as un-femine for women to train. People make derogatory comments about women if they are muscular or weight train. It's considered a male endeavour. This is ever more evident as girls are falling out of sport as early as 3. At this age, girls aren't falling out of sport. Their parents aren't encouraging them to participate. Which again comes down to culture.

The amount of load on the arms is around 60% of your bodyweight. If you are overweight, it is natural that you will find them harder. 60% of  a lot weighs more than 60% of a little. Before the daggers come my way, let me point out two things. Firstly, most of the women who came to my classes said they were overweight. Secondly, 75% of the UK population are now overweight or obese.

So before we start throwing around sexist, lazy stereotypes, we need to acknowledge that we don't move well enough and haven't practised press ups enough to state that there is recognisable male/female difference.

Don't take my word for this. Check out this effort.

I've create a programme designed to get people (mainly women) to improve their press ups and bust this myth for good. If you are interested, read the next blog!

How many of these press ups can you do?

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Shoe me your feet

I was teaching a class the other day and I decided to go 'off piste'. I often do this if I feel I can show people something new. This wasn't always something my teachers liked at School! 

Everyone was positioned on one knee, as if they were about to perform a lunge. I then noticed that some people had their toes extended (toes curled up towards the shin) or neutral (toes pointed). I then asked those who didn't use their toes to attempt to curl them back so the toes were on the floor. Many really struggled. I decided that it would be a good point to explain a little about the toes and their importance in how the body works. 

The toes are designed to move in many ways which we restrict by wearing shoes or simple not moving very much. As we get older, you see people walking as if they are wearing a plaster cast on their feet. It's almost mummy like, as their feet shuffle towards their destination. One of the major contributors of this adapted gait is the inability to be able to flex and extend the toes. This then helps to propel and cushion the feet towards their destination. The lack of movement isn't an ageing issue. It's a lack of movement over a long period of time which has caused this. The actions of flexion and extending the toes, move the foot through positions which allow stiffness and suppleness of the foot and ankle joint. Alongside the ankle joint, this allows force (you + gravity) to be distributed to provide a cushioning for your joints when your foot hits the floor. The amount of force returned up through the ground can vary from two (walking) to ten (sprinting) times your body weight. If this force wasn't dissipated, it would most likely lead to serious injury to your knees, hips or pelvis. Then, when you push off (extend the toes) you are propelled forward. The muscles around the hip then bring the leg back around to strike the floor again. This is what is known as the gait cycle. 

What I like about teaching is you learn a lot about how people move on a daily basis. If someone can't use their toes very well in a class, chances are they will not use them as much when walking around. This stiffness was apparent in the stretch I tried to get the participants to do (see the pictures at the end). Some were quite amazed at how little movement they had. It can create all sorts of walking and running styles. Some good and some not so good. I don't want to make this post technical, but I do want to point out a few things. 

  • Keeping your feet locked up in your shoes all day is a really bad idea.
  • Force and loads from walking and running must go somewhere. If the foot and toes don't allow weight to be disspated, the loads will increase through the knees and hips. 
  • If your parents have bunions, I would advise you work on your toe flexibility, especially if your toes crowd or you have the beginnings of hammer toe. 
  • If you can't spread your toes or push up onto the balls of your feet without swinging forward, you've probably already started to decrease the function of your foot. 
  • Try the flexion, extension and spreading exercise to see if your toes are tight. 

If you have good knee flexibility, this should be comfortable. Don't attempt it if you don't. 

Make sure you do this under a soft surface. 

Try these two to see how your toes move. You should be able to hold each one comfortably for 10 seconds. Note that your bum comes down to your heels. It doesn't have to touch, but you need to make sure that your bum is the same distance from your heels in both exercises. 

I'll also put up an accompanying video to explain this further. 

Let's see your feet out! 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

How to get the most out of your gym.

If you read my last post, I mentioned about the current wave of offers to entice you to join the gym. Hopefully, I helped you to get some clarity as to whether joining the gym is the right thing for you to do. So if you are at the gym, here are a few pointers to help you in the right direction.

The body is great at adapting. It is what we are best at. With the correct level of stress and recovery, your body is quite remarkable at adapting to most things thrown at it. Where we suffer or don't hit goals is we don't use the correct amount of stress or we don't use the correct amount of recovery.

In this example, exercise is the main stressor. If you are a cardio person, the main stressor will be the length of your workout time and the intensity you work at. You want some stress, but unless you are training for an event which requires long distance work, you don't need to do cardio for an hour in the gym. If you perform a workout several times per week, the total time you spend in the gym can get shorter. If you run twice a week, you might want to do 20-40 mins. If you train more than this, I would suggest you do 10-20 mins of continuous work. You might be asking what do you do for the remainder? Weight's circuits, warming up and some trunk/core work would be best.

If pure weights are your thing, recovery is the key here. It's difficult to over exert yourself in a weights session as you're limited by how much you can lift. However, what you need to take into consideration is when you next train that muscle and how hard you train it. When I used to train at Crystal Palace with powerlifters and GB athletes, they trained 5+ days per week. However, they had lighter sessions as part of their programme. A concept alien to most guys in the gym. This only really applies if you train more than twice a week. Aim for a day off in between tough workouts. Some of my clients train twice a day so it is possible to train with weights many times in the week. However, you need to ensure that you don't do two mammoth sessions back to back. In fact, you will find that your lighter sessions help you get bigger and stronger. Particularly if you work on mobility and weaknesses. The hardest thing will be reining in our ego and not caring about others judging what you are lifting.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Don't think about joining a gym before you read this.

The Coach Chris blog is back with Fit School. I hope you had a nice break over the festive period. I'm going to be doing a series of blogs for those 'gym bunnies out there. So if you fit into this category, these are for you.

You will no doubt be seeing the various offers for gym membership. Perhaps you're thinking that 12 months for the price of 11 or 10 is actually quite appealing. Or the persuasive sales assistant shows you how 'at home' in the gym you will feel. Queue the Family Fortunes 'X' sound.

Here's the thing. Gyms are great for people who like the gym or are motivated to get a good return on investment by going 2-3 times per week. You also need to like exercise. The odds of this being you are pretty slim. When I worked at a gym, the average gym usage was 1.5 visits per month. I once told a story about a client who paid to join an exclusive health club. He went once and always referred to it as the most expensive swim of his life!

On a serious note though, all I care about is you getting a good return on for your hard earned cash, and that you enjoy whatever it is you do. Think long and hard about the deals offered to you. If you get offered a free month,  consider the fact that you will probably only use the gym for between 4-6 months. You basically get more time to not use the gym. In my teens, I went to the gym to hang out with my mates. Young boys go through a vein stage so we were trying to outdo each other in our workouts. The social element is crucial for you to make exercise a habit, so try to plug in to a community that is fit and active.

My final point is the reason why you are enticed to join in the first place. You possibly lack the motivation or the inspiration to get fit and healthy. Having a gym membership will not give you this. A gym will only give you a place to exercise, when you can be bothered. Then, when will power wears off, you're back to square one. Don't be in a rush to part with your cash unless you know it will tackle this issue. Classes or training for an event are a good way to tackle the lack of willpower.  I actually like the gym and think they are great places to train your body to move better. However, I hate people being hoodwinked into joining somewhere they don't like, and doing things they hate! If this is you or you know someone like this, tell them to not join a gym!!