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Be A 24-Hour Athlete

Be A 24-Hour Athlete

Want to know one of the greatest secrets to being stronger, swifter and fitter? Hint: it’s not about lifting more, running faster or adding extra workouts! One way to becoming fitter is to apply the science of recovery.

The healing and repair process is as important, if not more important, than the actual exercise or training you do. To improve your endurance, increase your muscle mass, and even build a better brain, you need time to rest and recover. Your body will adapt faster, you’ll have fewer injuries and you’ll be healthier. 

Here are my four steps to getting the most out of your workouts – after your workouts

Step 1: Active Recovery 

Warm down slowly and properly to clear your body of waste products that accumulate when you exercise. Help your muscles out by taking 5-15 minutes of active recovery. During active recovery your muscles shouldn’t be burning, but you shouldn’t be completely resting. You could cycle, walk fast or run slowly.

Step 2: Rehydrate

Rehydrate with water. If you’ve been working out for longer than 90 minutes or in hot, humid conditions, you can add some carbohydrates and electrolytes to your drink. But most of all, focus on water. You need a lot of it to properly heal and grow.

Step 3: Refuel

It’s time to get nutrients back into your system. I believe that post-workout nutrition should improve your overall health, hence my objection to chocolate milk. Stick to the healthy foods we have already discussed. If your workout is more aerobic, try a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. If you’re doing strength training or higher-intensity intervals, eat closer to a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein.

Step 4: Regenerate

The most important part of building your endurance, increasing your muscle mass, building stronger bones, creating new blood vessels and more blood, and even building a stronger brain is to allow your body time and the rest that it needs to recover, regenerate and rebuild. The better you recover and regenerate, the better your body will adapt, the fewer injuries you'll have and the healthier you'll become.

Here are some basic regeneration times to hold in mind: for light workouts, 8-12 hours is enough. Strength or interval workouts normally require about 48 hours. Long endurance sessions require about 24-48 hours. Pure speed and sprint training sessions take 48-72 hours to recover from. 

Today's Power Up: Practice the 4 Steps

1. Finish your workouts with 5-15 minutes of light cardio.

2. Then have a drink of clear, cold water.

3. Follow that with a healthy snack.

4. And finally - get some sleep!

You'll feel better and your performance will improve exponentially!

Build Your Speed

Build Your Speed

If you are exercising regularly and have established your basic fitness level, interval training is a way for you to develop your endurance and your strength capacity. 

Interval training refers to varying the pace of your workout session from easy right through to a maximal effort. A combination of slow/fast paces engages both your aerobic energy system for endurance and anaerobic energy systems for power and speed. 

Here’s how intervals work:

You engage in a series of short exercise blocks (from 10 seconds up to a few minutes long) separated by a rest or low-intensity period. For example, 45 seconds at 65-80% effort (huffing and puffing!) followed by 45 seconds at 50% effort (taking it easy!) repeated a number of times. 

As your fitness improves, you can lengthen the higher exertion times, adjust the easy times, or adjust the total duration of the interval training set (easy plus hard). Always make sure you warm up properly before doing your interval set.

Interval training might sound complicated at first, but you’re probably already doing some form of interval training in gym class or on a school team. For example, short burst of high intensity is exactly what happens when you play team sports such as soccer, hockey, or basketball. If you’re already participating in these types of sports you’re already doing interval training! However adding additional interval training on the side will improve your fitness for your game. 

Remember that you have to go fast to get fast! With this approach, you’ll get faster by mixing going faster with going more slowly than usual.

Today's POWER-UP

The best part about interval training is you can mix up the workout each time you do it so it never gets boring. Try playing around with your interval sets to make it more stimulating both physically and mentally. 

Build Your Strength

Build Your Strength

When you do strength training you are engaging different energy systems and muscle fibres than you use when you’re doing aerobic training. This type of exercise is more intense and requires that we create more force with our muscles than what we need to do when we’re doing light to moderate intensity aerobic activity. Just think of the difference between hiking in the woods vs. carrying heavy bags of groceries. One requires a little bit of energy over a long time (hiking) and the other requires a lot of force over a short period of time (carrying). Both are critical for health and performance.

We have 2 main kinds of muscle fibres: type 1 which are aerobic endurance fibres that we use to do light activity and type 2 fibres that we use for activities that require strength and speed. By engaging your type 2 muscle fibres, you are working the full spectrum of your muscle fibres. This develops your total muscle strength and prepares your body for situations when you have to pick up the pace – like the final kick when the finish line comes into sight, or sprinting for a bus. New research also shows that higher intensity training can be powerfully beneficial for your brain.

Strength training is also great if you want to improve your body composition and lose fat. Muscle tissue burns fat most easily. If you can increase your muscle mass, you will have more metabolically active tissue that will burn fat as fuel, even at rest. Remember that when you are strength training, you may gain some weight, even though you are losing fat. Your focus needs to be on body composition, not the number on the scale. So keep in mind that this kind of weight gain is healthy for you.

Worried that you are going to get big and bulky if you lift weights? Don’t be. The reality is that unless you make a decision to get into bodybuilding, you will find that lifting weights for strength simply improves your body composition, helps you feel better and slows the aging process—all without developing big, bulky muscles.

It is critical to maintain proper form when you’re doing strength training. Get some help to learn the right exercises for you and how to build a training program. See a Registered Kinesiologist, or certified strength and conditioning specialist. A good standard to look for is someone with a degree in kinesiology who is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS).

Today's POWER-UP: Muscular Meditation

Muscular meditation is any activity where you move in a repetitive, rhythmic pattern. Examples include walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, rowing and paddling.

We’re looking for any type of exercise where your muscles are contracting in a consistent pattern over a period of time. This form of movement helps to put the brain in a state where it can relax and your mind can wander.

If you do this regularly, it can be very powerful for stress reduction, as well as for decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Build Your Flexibility

Build Your Flexibility

Stretching (also known as building flexibility and mobility) is an incredibly important element of overall fitness that is often overlooked by teens. Regular stretching decreases muscle tension, reduces pain and improves range of motion. When activities like sitting in class all day decrease your flexibility, stretching matters a lot.

The most important message about stretching is to create a consistent routine. Whether you attend yoga class with a friend, stretch while hanging out with your teammates or even stretch at night while watching your favourite show, try to aim for a minimum of 15 minutes per day.

But what kind of stretches should you do?

There are two major categories of stretches: static and dynamic. Static is the name for traditional stretches where you put a muscle on stretch and hold it for a period of time. Dynamic activation is the name for any motion that extends your muscles while moving, like swinging your legs or arms before a workout.

Before you exercise, dynamic activation is the preferred approach. Dynamic activation causes signals to be sent from your brain to your muscles and increases range of motion, blood flow and muscle temperature.

Static stretching is best done when you are cooling down or when you're just stretching to relax. It helps to align your muscle fibres and reduces tension. So do this type of stretching after exercise or after a long day to relax your muscles and nerves and to de-stress.

If you are new to stretching, make sure you get some expert advice so that you have good form and understand the basic guidelines. For example, you should never bounce during a static stretch and should hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds. Also, make sure you warm up prior to dynamic stretching. See the cardio warm-up for examples of dynamic stretches you can do before your workout and this stretching routine for static stretches you should do post-workout.

Today's POWER-UP: Try Yoga

Of course, no conversation about mobility and flexibility is complete without a comment about yoga. From stress reduction to various forms of emotional release, yoga has side effects that will improve your fitness and help you live the vital and healthy life you crave.

If you have never tried yoga, see if you can fit in a class somewhere to experience what it is all about. The physical benefits of yoga techniques are immense because they promote improved flexibility and have been tested during a three-thousand- year process of trial and error.

Anyone will benefit from attending yoga classes – even if it can only happen once a week. I prefer flow Ashtanga yoga classes but try a few out and see what works for you.

Build Your Fitness

Build Your Fitness

The potential for improvement in our lives by moving more is great. Simply standing up changes that way your body uses energy, circulates blood, and also how you think! Exercise can improve concentration, learning, focus and memory and can even prevent and treat mental illnesses. But taking advantage of this will require a paradigm shift. We need to incorporate movement into our daily lives. Here a key to making that happen - build your fitness.

The foundation of health and performance is your aerobic system. The aerobic system is the system that uses oxygen to create energy that fuels most of the activities in your life, from walking to running to playing music to writing a test, or to solving a math problem in your mind. Low to moderate physical activity is the key to building up your aerobic system and unlocking all the related benefits.

Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, hiking and other activities will build up your cardiovascular system (heart, lungs, blood, blood vessels) and the aerobic energy pathway inside your muscles. All of these activities and other similar forms of exercise like yoga or even household chores will all help to develop your cardiovascular fitness and endurance. These activities enhance the transport system your body uses to get oxygen from the environment to the muscle cells where it is used to create energy. When you put stress on your muscles, heart and lungs by pushing them through activities like walking, jogging, running, swimming, or cycling for periods of time that are longer than they are used to, you stimulate adaptation in the system and make it more efficient.

Today's POWER-UP: What type of exercise is best for your brain?

THERE ARE THREE MAIN TYPES OF EXERCISE. AEROBIC EXERCISE LIKE RUNNING, HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING LIKE SPINNING, AND RESISTANCE TRAINING LIKE LIFTING WEIGHTS.

RESEARCHERS IN FINLAND LOOKED AT THE IMPACT OF EXERCISE ON THE BRAINS OF RATS. THEY FOUND THAT 6-8 WEEKS OF AEROBIC EXERCISE LED TO THE GROWTH OF NEW NEURONS IN THE HIPPOCAMPUS (A PART OF THE BRAIN ASSOCIATED WITH LEARNING AND MEMORY).

HIGH INTENSITY TRAINING HAD A SMALL, NON-SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THE BRAIN AND RESISTANCE TRAINING DID NOT CHANGE NEURAL STRUCTURES IN THE HIPPOCAMPUS.

SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOU? IF YOU WANT TO OPTIMIZE YOUR BRAIN AND KEEP IT HEALTHY YOU SHOULD WALK, JOG, SWIM, OR HIKE REGULARLY!

Move More to Learn Better

Move More to Learn Better

There has been some fascinating research that shows that your brains function better after you have activated it with exercise. Dr. Art Kramer’s lab showed that children who did aerobic exercise for 20 minutes before writing math tests improved their scores and that the children who did exercise regularly had different brain structures than those that were less active. The regions of the brain that had larger volumes in the exercise group were related to attention control, cognitive control and response resolution. These are all centres of the brain that help in maintaining attention and the ability to coordinate actions and thoughts crisply.

Another study by Dr. Josie Booth from Dundee University of 5000 children in the UK found that 15 minutes of exercise improved performance in math by about a quarter of a grade and that the increments in performance continued right up to 60 minutes, meaning that by doing a 60 minutes of activity it is possible to boost academic performance by a full grade (i.e. from a B to an A).

So if you’re a student looking to biohack your way to better grades, then you need to do some exercise before your mental task to supercharge your brain and improve your performance. If you do the exercise regularly you’ll change your brain to make it better at doing cognitive tasks. Imagine that you can do better at calculus without actually doing more calculus homework! I wish I would have known that in Grade 12…

Today's POWER-UP: Move strategically

EXERCISE PRIMES THE BRAIN FOR MENTAL PERFORMANCE. IF YOU HAVE AN IMPORTANT THINKING-RELATED TASK TO DO DURING THE DAY – FOR EXAMPLE, A PRESENTATION OR AN EXAM – TRY TO TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO DO SOME LIGHT EXERCISE BEFORE THE EVENT.

GO FOR A WALK BEFORE YOU PRESENT. DO A FEW FLIGHTS OF STAIRS BEFORE THAT EXAM. IF YOU NEED TO SOLVE A PROBLEM BLOCK OFF SOME TIME TO GET FOCUSED AND MAKE SURE THAT YOU WALK, STRETCH, OR LIFT SOME WEIGHTS IN THE HOUR BEFORE YOU SETTLE IN TO WORK ON THE CHALLENGE.

Move More to be More Creative

Move More to be More Creative

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking” - Friedrich Nietzsche

There are examples of the world’s most creative people activating themselves before doing mental tasks using exercise. Charles Dickens was rumoured to have walked for 30 miles a day. Bob Marley is one of the best musicians ever, and he did some very interesting things to supercharge his creativity and performance. Before playing concerts Bob and his band the Wailers would play soccer in the stadium where they were to play. Before recording sessions, they would go down to the beach to play soccer then go for a swim before going into the studio. They found that if they played at soccer before playing music they played better and were more creative. I highly recommend watching the documentary ‘Marley’ if you’re interested in Bob’s amazing, inspirational life.

When I read Steve Jobs’ biography I noticed that Steve conducted his meetings while walking around the Apple campus. His biographer noted that if Steve took people for a walk that they would be more creative, have better energy and that they were able to think better.

Turns out Steve Jobs’ instinct to improve his and others thinking by getting some activity is backed up by the research. Scientists at Stanford University found that walking boosts creative inspiration and that creative output can be increased by an average of 60% while walking.  You can do this as well. As little as 15 minutes of exercise improves mental performance, so add this to your day before important tasks that you have to do. If you can start your day with a workout, you’ll prime your brain for excellence and start the process of remodelling the areas of your brain that will help you to think more clearly.

As little as 15 minutes of exercise improves mental performance. See if you can take 15–20 minutes for some light exercise in the hour before a big event like a test, exam, music performance, or debate. This exercise will increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain and improve your mental performance. 

It might seem like you’re taking too much time away from the task but the physiological science says that you’ll perform better and get healthier at the same time.

The key is to make exercise part of your daily routine. Not only for your body – but for your mind as well.

Today's POWER-UP: Add 1% more activity to your day

IF YOU DO SHORT BOUTS OF ACTIVITY THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY, YOU CAN SPRINKLE EXERCISE INTO YOUR ROUTINE AND SUPERCHARGE YOUR HEALTH AND PERFORMANCE. REMEMBER, IT’S ALL ABOUT BEING 1% BETTER AND LEARNING FROM THE EXTREMES OF HUMAN HEALTH AND PERFORMANCE.

1% OF YOUR DAY IS 15 MINUTES. ADD 15 MINUTES OF ACTIVITY TO YOUR DAY. GO FOR A 15 MINUTE WALK DURING LUNCH BREAK OR AFTER DINNER, HIT THE GYM FOR 15 MINUTES OF WEIGHTS.

Welcome to Move More!

Welcome to Move More!

“What if there was one prescription that could prevent and treat dozens of diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity? Would you prescribe it to your patients? Certainly.” – Dr. Robert Sallis, Exercise is Medicine Advisory Board Chairman

A new drug has been discovered with such broad ranging powers that it may end up being the cure for all human disease. Early reports suggest that it can be used to prevent and treat almost every chronic disease faced by humans. The list of benefits of taking this drug are truly amazing:

This drug has been shown to;

·      lower your risk of certain types of cancer by 24-50%,

·      prevent and treat cardiovascular disease,

·      reverse type 2 diabetes,

·      reduce the number of cold and flu infections that you get by 75%,

·      prevent osteoporosis,

·      alleviate depression and anxiety,

·      prevent Alzheimer’s disease

·      improve memory, learning, problem solving and concentration,

·      make you happier.

There is only one catch to this drug. You have to take it almost every day for the rest of your life. You have to be consistent. If you do that you’re guaranteed to get the benefits. Have you figured it out yet? This “drug” is exercise. It does all of the above and much, much, more. Are you in?

But, once again the world is faced with a grand challenge – the inactivity epidemic.

You may not know that sitting is an independent risk factor for chronic illnesses, including cancer. Basically, the more sedentary you are, the sicker you will probably get. Getting a chronic disease may seem pretty far off into the distance for you, but the decisions you make at this age affect the adult you become.

But we often have to sit during the day, during our commutes or at school. So what’s one to do?

We need to move more – and move more consistently.

Short bouts of activity throughout your day can supercharge your health and performance. Fifteen minutes of exercise – like a short walk – can increase your ability to concentrate and problem solve. 

Here’s what else is great about moving more: you strengthen your immune system, which works to fight off viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. It’s like chemical and biological warfare inside the body. When the system works well, we fight off invaders and stay healthy. When the system is ineffective, we get sick.

Research shows that people who exercise at a moderate level consistently get sick the least. So build in some exercise to your routine every day. If you're thinking that you don't have time, remember that by taking a little time up front, you'll be avoiding days and days of illness down the road. If you think that you don't have time to exercise, the reality is that you can't afford not to. 

Remember, it’s all about being 1% better and learning from the extremes of human health and performance. Fortunately, the idea that exercise is medicine is exploding around the world. Researchers and clinicians are now discovering powerful links between movement and health.

We’re going to spend some time together exploring these links. If you didn't already fill out the health, wellbeing, and performance audit, please take five minutes to fill out this physical activity questionnaire. We can then give you specific recommendations on how to improve your daily physical activity habits.

Today's POWER-UP: Follow the 20 / 20 rule

For every 20 minutes of sitting, stand and stretch for 20 seconds – and, if you take public transportation to school, stand up instead of sitting down. Just find ways of sprinkling movement in throughout your day.

Dive Deeper

Here's a short 3 min video I did for TSN on how running helps keep you healthy. Check it out!