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Another Dimension

There are plenty of ways to mix things up in the weight room to keep it interesting. Whether it be altering rep and set ranges, the amount of resistance, the tempo, or the rest intervals. One often overlooked component of resistance training I can say I am becoming a bigger and bigger fan of is the dimension of exercise. When talking strength and resistance training the common names that surface are the squatting, lunging, deadlifting, and pressing. I cannot argue with the fact that they are extremely effective and I do use them regularly but I can say that I have stepped outside the box a little with some of the fundamentals. If there is one thing that has changed my outlook on resistance training is that movement is universal and even minor changes in positioning can provide an endless list of outcomes. 

This new outlook on lifting has provided shown some great results for both myself as well as the people that I work with for a number of reasons.

 

  • Lengthens and contracts muscles at multiple angles
  • Improves mobility of the ankle, hip, and thoracic spine
  • Improves overall stability while the body is in motion
  • Improves overall body awareness
  • Applying different joint angles can be made more specific in order to restore muscle balance for an individual
  • Brings a different stress to the body which leads to a different response.

While the list can be limitless, here are some of my favorites that I have been using.

 

Shoulder Press With Rotation

Great way to combine lateral hip mobility and core stability while the body is in motion. It also allows you to press at a different angle.

Side Lunge

Another great way of changing angles of a fundamental movement to mobilize the hip, lengthen the adductors on the trailing leg, enforce an upright posture, as well as bring movement through the t spine.

Deadlift

Brings length to the back and lateral lines of the planted leg, mobilizes the hip, torso, and t spine.

These have been my big three when it comes to adding multiple angles to some of the most fundamental patterns of lifting for people who are ready for them. Keep in mind that these three exercises are only three of a potentially infinite list of variations that can be put into a workout program if you are able to have an open mind as well as an appreciation for the fundamentals.

Any questions or feedback, feel free to hit me back at jeff.aker@thechangelink.com

Move Improve,

Jeff

Feb 23, 2012
My favorite uses of a Bosu.....really?

If there is anything I can say about the Bosu is that it has to be the most praised and put down piece of equipment I have encountered. It was not long ago that it was being praised as a revolutionary functional piece of equipment. However, over the past few years I have seen the integrity of the term functional training as well as its poster child the Bosu take a lot of heat. I can say that I have been on both ends of the argument and have now found myself somewhere in the middle. If there is anything that I have learned being in the fitness industry is to have an open mind and to not veer too far off in either direction on any topic whether it be completely shutting down an idea or following it like a cult member. The Bosu to me has made its way back into that down the middle category as I have implemented a few exercises with it and can say that I do enjoy them. 

 

I also wanted to state for the record that I came up with the idea to write about this by getting razzed by a few colleagues as I was carrying a Bosu over to a group that I was training earlier today. All in good fun.

 

Bosu Hip Pattern

 

I cannot say I have an official name for this one. Although it may look like a crunch or a sit up, the intention behind it is far different as you take a look at the hip. I have learned to love what the ball can do for trying to combat a common problem. For a lot of people that I work with, the ability to master tilting of the hips is a major priority. This to me is absolutely essential to make the most of any of the bigger lifts. What I also like about it is that you have the capability to make the most of a lot of core activation as well. As mentioned I do not like treating this as a crunch or sit up. But the ability to apply pressure onto the ball and slowly ease off on that pressure as you make your way down will rock your torso without any excessive lumbar flexion.

 

Knee Raise

 

Another favorite of mine for a number of reasons. 

 

  • The strength and stability required for the planted leg as well as the torso.
  • The glute and low back activation that occurs with the completed extension of the moving hip.
  • The shoulder and torso stability required during the movement. 
  • Put a solid effort in on either side and tell me your heart rate is not elevated.
  • The ability to pattern balanced front and back line strength

 

Reverse Low Back Extension

I have come to love the reverse hyper as a great way to cue hip hinging and strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, low, and mid back. It is a great way to mix it up with your traditional low back extension. However, not everyone has the luxury of having the GHD bench in their facility so this is a great alternative to it. 

 

If you were to tell me to write a positive article about Bosu Balls even a year ago, I would politely say no thanks. Fortunately I have become a little more open minded as these movements have proven to be pretty effective for a number of people I work with when it comes to establishing movement patterns and developing some more dynamic strength and stability. 

Feb 17, 2012
Put Your Rack Into It

 

Strengthening of the low and mid back has become a very common topic and I am seeing more and more creative ways to hit it. One component of mid back strength that I have really become fascinated in is the ability to pattern the use of this new found mid back strength in to some of the bigger lifts. In particular the deadlift. Whether you are a coach or a very observant fan of the iron, I am sure you have seen somebody lift the barbell off of the ground and something just looks different. There is that odd curve in the mid back just as the plates leave the ground. While I rarely look at a bit of a thoracic curve as a hazard, I do look at it as a hurdle in the strength potential of an awesome movement like the deadlift. The rack pull has become my savior when it comes to making the most of your mid back in the deadlift. 

The Set Up
I find it tough to dictate a universal set up so I often play with the position based on postural capability. I like to find a position deep enough to allow a healthy range, but high enough to ensure proper extension and engagement of the mid back. Depending on the individual this could be anywhere from the midline of the shin to just above the knee. For hand and foot positions this can be set very similar to your standard deadlift positions whether it is conventional or sumo. 

The Lift
With the lift itself, I usually see it go one of two ways. It is either a well calculated way of lifting, or the shorter range provides an opportunity to stack the barbell and move some weight around. I am guilty of both but if I was to pick and choose I would go with the calculated version regardless of the fun that can be had with plan b. If there is anything I recommend with this lift is to put thought into your action. Take the time to position yourself so that chest is tall, your mid back is firing, and your glutes and hamstrings are cooking before you even get the bar off of the rack. My favorite cues once again are the ability to drive your thumb forward into the bar to help in the retraction and external rotation of the shoulder. I also love driving the feet into the floor to ensure the activation of the back lines of the body. Instead of ripping the bar off of the rack, do your best to keep that set position of the shoulder. Once again you are trying to strengthen and stabilize the mid back, not pull it forward so if it means lightening the weight and compromising your status as the biggest bad-ass in the weight room. The lift finishes at the hip to ensure proper engagement of the glutes as well as stability of the torso. This will also set you up for a proper way down as the shift of the hip will keep everything in check as you make your way down. Depending on your intentions your tempo on the way down can be altered. For general strength, I cannot argue with taking a bit of time on the way down as your eccentric part of the movement has the potential to unlock a lot of strength and stability for the low/mid back region.

Fortunately, my coach Chad likes them as well so he was kind enough to film one of our workouts. When talking tempos this is a prime example as we are using a pause in the midpoint to put a greater emphasis on the low and mid back. 

Feb 15, 2012
If It Came Down To One

 

I have been asked recently about reading the "4 Hour Body" as it has become a popular book within the gym. I haven't had the chance to truly sink my teeth into it but I did get a chance to breeze through it. I was quite pleased to see some input from Gray Cook as I am a huge fan of what he does. Not that I want to ruin the book but the Turkish Get Up was his go to exercise if there was only one exercise that he was allowed to do for the rest of his life. I was not always a fan of the movement, but as dug deeper into some of Gray's information I began to open up to it. I began to practice it myself and began to implement bits and pieces of it in my programming. I am now sold on it as this movement covers a lot of ground when it comes to resistance training.

 

 

1. Shoulder Strength and Stability

While pressing, raising, and pulling are commonly associated with strengthening of the shoulder, the set overhead position is often underestimated when it comes to strengthening the shoulder. When the shoulder is appropriately set, the muscles of the rotator cuff get to do what they are meant to do and that is provide a foundation of stability for the shoulder.

 

2. Rotation and Stability of the Torso

The movement associated with the Get Up requires an element of rotation throughout in order to successfully complete a repetition. With that being said, rotating with a kettlebell, barbell, or dumbbell requires a lot of stability in the torso to keep it all in check.

 

3. Unilateral Strength of the Legs

The lunge pattern involved in both standing up and making your way down also provides a healthy challenge for the legs. In particular with weight in the overhead position. When it comes to having one exercise left on this earth, the ability to have some one legged work is a big asset.

 

4. It Requires Some Undivided Attention

If there is anything I can say about this exercise is that it does not give you a chance to check yourself out in the mirror or turn on your favorite track on your iPod. There is a lot going on in this movement so there is not much going on except for the task at hand. It is amazing the progressions that I see with this movement as it puts people into a situation that requires almost all of your attention.

 

5. Versatility

I know that we are talking as if this is the only exercise left on earth but I am amazed at what this exercise can do to benefit a lot of different methodologies of training. I have found that combination of mobility, stability, coordination, and awareness has made the Turkish Get Up a unique and effective way to cover a lot of ground when it comes to complementing a lot of different methods of resistance training.

 

I was a skeptic in the beginning however I can now say I am a believer. This is a tough question to answer as I do have a lot of favorites. With the Get Up I cannot argue with its capabilities as it gives you a bit of everything. While it may look as if it is something bizarre, to feel it and understand it will give you a completely different outlook of the exercise and will give you some great bang for your buck.

Feb 13, 2012
Move Forward By Moving In Reverse

Strength Development By Reversing The Common Habit Of Sitting

Jeff Aker CSCS

A common topic that I catch myself discussing is the effect that chronic sitting can have on the body. Being in the gym I often catch myself discussing how it affects results.  I love resistance training and love the idea that more and more people are gravitating toward it, but I believe that chronic sitting can pose a major roadblock in your results. Strength to me has a number of characteristics:

  • Ankle, hip, and shoulder mobility               
  • A strong posture
  • Core strength and stability
  • Flexibility and soft tissue quality
  • Neurological awareness
  • Posterior chain strength (hamstrings, glutes, low and mid back)

Sitting has the capability of taking the steam out of each and every one of these characteristics. While it has become a necessary part of the electronic workforce, I believe that strength training has a greater need to cater to this as well. This picture paints that statement beautifully. For some of you, you may be able to point out some of the characteristics above and contrast them from this photo. However, you do not have to be an expert in exercise to look and this and know that it isn't pretty. I believe that any weight training program has room for the squats, deadlifts, presses, and pulls. However, I have noticed myself putting more and more attention toward some prerequisites to the big movements in order to restore the true potential that they have. My approach to this has been quite simple. Discover exercises meant to complement the characteristics listed above by reversing the position challenges of our 21st century workhorse in the above photo. These exercises have been some of my favorites.

Glute Bridge On Bench

This is a favorite of mine. The intent with the glute bridge is to extend the hip as well as restore function of the glutes. Challenge your range of motion in the extension of the movement and it will rock your glutes. Focus on a hinging motion with the hip and get into the habit of applying force to the ground with your feet as the increased contact will allow for more engagement from the hips.

Kneeling High To Low Pull

There is a lot going on with this movement if you let it happen. Start by planting your feet in the floor and standing tall in the kneeling position. As you increase the extension in the hips your hamstrings and glutes will be forced to turn on. The same can be said for your core as well as the mid back through the rowing motion. Focus on a big squeeze of the mid back in the midpoint of each repetition. A great bang for your buck exercise.

Decline Reverse Sit-Up

I have not used sit-ups in quite some time as I have jumped on the band wagon of the reverse sit-up. For the office warriors looking to build a rock solid core, this is a great one. The reason being that too much lumbar flexion is an extreme side effect of excessive sitting and I look at the general sit-up as stoking the fire. This has been my favorite alternative as it allows for a flat back and when done right will rock your core. Start the movement by pushing your low back into the bench and letting the air our of your lungs. This should turn the core on and then you can start moving upward. Once again putting focus on the hinging of the hip will allow the core to do its job. Maintain that pressure on the bench as your feet start coming back down as the downward motion of this movement will really challenge the core. Allow a brief rest to breathe when the feet touch back down. 

Foot Elevated Good Morning

This is a sneaky one. What I love about it is its ability to lengthen the calves and hamstrings. Where it really gets interesting is maintaining your posture with this movement. Try to focus on keeping your chest tall and keeping your shoulder blades back and your low and mid back will be forced to turn on. 

These exercises have been a staple in my programming for a lot of different levels of fitness that I have worked with and I have seen a lot of success by integrating them into some of the more conventional strength training programs. If you are looking to improve the way that you lift I suggest that you try them out as they really do hit the reverse button what sitting can do to your body's lifting capability.

Feb 11, 2012
Adrenal Fatigue Q & A With Dr. Natasha Iyer
Understanding Adrenal Fatigue
Jeff Aker CSCS
 
As a trainer, I am often looked at as a catalyst for change for a lot of people. For people looking to look and feel better, the gym is often the first place that comes to mind to achieve the desired result. Where proper nutrition and exercise are commonly known as the pillars to success when it comes to looking and feeling better, it is now becoming more apparent that we cannot ignore the significance of our hormone balance when it comes to our overall performance.
 
A stress related condition that is becoming more and more mainstream is adrenal fatigue. Your adrenal gland is your defence mechanism when it comes to regulating function of your body. However, chronic or repeated stresses can often provide too much of a challenge for your adrenals to keep up.
 
I have been fortunate enough to be able to work with an expert on the topic. Dr. Natasha Iyer is a medical doctor as well as the owner of Better 4 Life. Better 4 Life is a Calgary wellness clinic where treating illness is done with a natural approach. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions on the subject.  Her website is linked below and is packed with information on adrenal fatigue as well as a number of other services that she provides to improve your quality of life.
 
 
JA. What is your definition of adrenal fatigue?
 
DNI. Adrenal fatigue needs to be clarified:
This is not a medically recognised diagnosis. However, as a Medical Doctor, I believe this exists and a more accurate term would be 'adrenal disregulation'. In simple terms, almost abnormal but not yet abnormal. Further to this statement; one could make the case for the adrenal gland being in a state of 'hypo-function' and produces less than normal; but not yet abnormal amounts of hormones that are necessary for optimal quality of life.
 
JA.  What are the most common causes of adrenal fatigue that you encounter with your patients?
 
DNI
·         Good stress or bad stress.
·         Inadequate nutrient repletion during stressful times
·         Inadequate nutrient repletion with regalar exercise of moderate to high intensity
·         Traumatic events
 
JA. What are some of the most common symptoms that you see?
 
DNI
 Physical:
 
  •         Fatigue, difficulty feeling rested despite adequate sleep.
  •         Low endurance and poor exercise tolerance (harder to recover from exercise or feel energized from it.
  •       Afternoon 'slumps' and maybe a second wind later at night.
  •        Sleep disturbances

 

 
Mental:
 
  •      Overwhelmed/ cope less well with stress
  •       Low motivation-ambition
  •       Low sex drive
  • ·    Cravings for caffeine/ sugar/salt

 

 
JA.  What are the effects on an individual's body composition, energy levels, quality of life?
 
DNI. In adrenal hypo-function, a classic situation is stubborn body fat regardless of diet and exercise.       You often have to work harder and consider it so unfair that other people see results without trying as hard as you. High stress affects the thyroid-cortisol-insulin hormonal triad. Whether you are in the gym working up a sweat for 60 minutes a day or meeting a deadline for work; your body's hormonal cascades are affected the same way. Higher cortisol raises your blood sugar; and insulin stores sugar as fat. To rectify, it requires a “re-setting” of your metabolism; changing the way your body responds to stress and enhancing the hormonal impact on energy and metabolism.
Energy: Cortisol is the hormone that sustains life. It gives you energy and mental clarity. It needs to be in good balance; not too high and not too low. Your body should change the amount according to what you are going through in a day. When you have adrenal deregulation, you may put out too much or less than what you need when you are under stress.
 
Quality of life:
Because of the mental and physical effects, adrenal fatiguers often avoid activities due to their need for more rest (often need to nap on weekends or sleep in); or they have lower drive and ambition. Their ability to enjoy things is diminished. Quality of life is impacted. Sex drive is a big one, and this is a no-brainer about how quality of life is affected!!!
 
JA.  What are some supplements available to provide relief to this condition?
 
DNI. Vital nutrients are important. Often, adrenal fatiguers have poor digestion and absorption. Choose a high quality nutritional repletion program; free of fillers and additives. Vitamin B's, C, A and Eastern herbs like Ginseng; Rhodiola and Holy Basil are common. Choice of herbs depends if you have hypo-or hyperadrenalism.
 
Email clientservices@better4life.ca for a questionnaire that will help you determine what the best program is for you; and for medical dosing.
 
 
JA. What are some lifestyle choices that people can make to regulate this condition?
 
DNI. Manage stress! Choose wisely what you take on.
Some things are unavoidable; so remember that when you say 'yes' to one thing; you need to say 'no' to another! Meditation and yoga are 2 of my absolute favourite recommendations.
 
For me personally, stress is something that I have definitely become more mindful of. Being in the fitness industry requires some long hours as well as a lot of physical and mental output and I now know that being able to manage stress and find a healthy balance is what is going to allow me to do what I love for a long time to come. If you are experiencing any signs of adrenal fatigue I highly recommend using the information above and taking action with it. When it comes to exercise, I am a firm believer in what it can do to help reduce stress, but making the right decisions with your exercise will determine your outcome. Do not be afraid to alter your intensity if necessary as exercise is a physiological stress. Sometimes the high intensities may have to be substituted by some yoga or lower intensity movement. For any fitness pros out there, I recommend learning to read the people that you are working with. The ability to read the people that you are working with and adjust your exercise plans according to their circumstances will make the experience much more productive and enjoyable.
Feb 8, 2012
Cuing of the Feet and Hands During Closed Chain Exercise
Common Ground. Effective Cuing of the Feet and Hands During Lower and Upper Body Closed Chain Exercise.
Jeff Aker, CSCS
 
 
It was not long ago that I was in my university days of working out when the weight room was restricted to purely physique. It was about being jacked and that was about it and looking back at it, my idea of getting jacked was not exactly reasonable. My workouts consisted of lots of bench press, arms, delts, and the occasional hangover leg day.  That leg day consisted mostly of some half assed squats, calf raises, and eventually more arms. While I do see where isolation exercise has its place, I eventually began to learn the significance of the big movements as I began to integrate them. I became hooked on the feeling that you get when hitting a big squat or deadlift. It is a rush, you feel like you are unstoppable. More importantly, they work. Getting stronger and building muscle all of a sudden became more and more realistic and to this day, I stay true to the faithful multi joint movements both for myself as well as the people that I work with.
 
I have become a huge fan of Thomas Myers over the past few years. His book Anatomy Trains really had me re-think the way that I think about cuing closed chain movement and a few of these applications have worked extremely well in adding efficiency to these exercises both for myself as well as the people that I work with.
 
Closed Chain Exercise- Movement performed where either the hands or the feet are fixed and not
                                        moving.
 
 
Deadlift
 
When cuing the deadlift, the feet and the hands play a role in the way we get the bar off of the ground. One common occurrence that I see with the deadlift is the inability to properly engage the mid back. What I enjoy cuing for this is to drive your thumb forward on the bar and using the rest of your hand to push the bar back creating a sensation of trying to bend the barbell. This allows the shoulder to retract and gives the mid back a greater sense of engagement.  Combining this with applying as much force on the ground with your feet as possible. Combining the two allows the hamstrings, glutes, as well as the low and mid back to work in harmony to make the lift much more productive
 
Back Squat
 
Your big toe will be the key stabilizer and your mid foot and heel providing the majority of the force to the ground. The initial movement of the hip will allow you to find your appropriate foot placement. While standing back up, the idea of spreading the floor outward with your feet will allow a far greater response from the movers responsible for standing you back up.
 
Lunge
 
With the lunge your front foot will be the primary mover. My favorite cue is to push the floor forward with that front foot while maintaining enough ground force on the back foot to force you back up as opposed to having you end up on your ass. Depending on the intention of the lunge, the amount of activation on your quads can be determined by the amount of force put on the ball of your foot. The activation of your glutes and hamstrings can be determined by the amount of force coming from the heel. I also believe that appropriate placement of the hands will also have an effect on the way that we execute a lunge with weight placed in our hands as an evenly placed grip will make way for activation of the posterior chain.
 
Good Morning
 
Good mornings to me provide the most evenly distributed foot placement because of the movement being evenly split between sitting back and leaning forward. A strong emphasis on using the mid foot and a proper hinge of the hip will assist your low back into extension. What I like to cue on the way back up is the ability to put enough force from the foot into the ground to get the sensation of the glute and hamstring going to work before the way back up even starts.
 
Push Up
 
My take on a push up is that it is as much of a scapular stabilizing exercise as it is an exercise to activate your anterior chain. Just like any closed chain compound lower body movement starting at the hip, the shoulder will be responsible to initiate any closed chain upper body movement. In order to stabilize the scapula, retraction and external rotation will be the key influence on how well this is done. An ideal approach to cuing the push up would applying rotational force to the floor. To begin the decent, use your right hand to attempt to turn the floor clockwise and counterclockwise with the left hand. Retraction of the shoulder blades will follow and then your posterior chain is prepped for your push up.
 
Chins
 
The chin up is a movement for the upper body comparable to what a squat would be for the lower. It recruits numerous joints as well as forces your upper body to work as a whole to successfully perform it. Once again, this movement is initiated at the shoulder by way of retraction and external rotation of the shoulder, as well as extension of the thoracic spine. By turning on the hands, you will be able to provide the building blocks to engaging the shoulder to do this. Similar to the deadlift you are looking for a bend in the bar. This time you are pulling the thumb toward you and the baby finger away from you with the intention of bending the bar away from you. While doing this you will be preparing your shoulders for retraction and external rotation leading to extension in your mid back.
 
Considerations
 
This takes a bit of thinking so taking the time to play with some reduced resistance will help you in feeling what should be felt. I am a big believer in mobility work and what it can do to assist the way that you can activate. The mobility of your ankles, hips, and shoulders in particular will play a big role in your ability to strike your foot to the ground, hinge your hips, engage your shoulders, as well as determine how well you can grip a bar.
Feb 7, 2012
Some Food For Thought
Some Food For Thought
Jeff Aker, CSCS
 
While my background and passion is exercise, I have had a great opportunity to reflect on as well as develop my education on nutrition as The ChangeLink Project came together. Since becoming a trainer, nutrition has always been a subject that I have been mindful of for both assisting clients, as well as for my own benefit. While my interest in exercise goes way back, I do feel that my appreciation for nutrition is still relatively new. For me, it started for my own superficial reasons. Like a lot of gym rats in their late teens and early twenties, eating was for getting big or getting lean. It has definitely evolved over the past few years as it is a common subject shared and discussed with friends and colleagues. It has only recently occurred to me how substantial food really does define our existence. The fascination with it started for me as the awareness of the epidemic of obesity that we are facing in the present day. As the understanding of why this was occurring developed it opened up a few different cans of worms. Food to me now raises a large number of conversation pieces.
 
-The dietary changes that have occurred over the past number of decades.
-The industrialization and monetization of our food supply.
-The effects of industrialized farming on the health of ourselves as well as our planet.
-Food as medicine.
-The medical implications of obesity and malnutrition.
-Food and our performance.                                             
-Economic implications of preventable disease.
-Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
-Organic vs. conventional.
-Supplementation
-Pharmaceuticals
-Legislation
-EDUCATION
 
It really has developed into an overwhelming subject but for all of the right reasons as the awareness of proper nutrition becomes a greater commodity and the call to action is becoming more and more mainstream. Education to me has been the biggest contributor to that list as it has been the biggest contributor to the consciousness of what I put into my body, as well as the biggest eye opener to what we eat. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have parents who were a little more mindful of healthy eating. While there was plenty of opportunity to enjoy what kids enjoyed, they were always pretty straight edge when it came to food. Going through school it was something that was really not relevant to developing. While we would learn about food guides the food that resonates with me going through school was vending machines, pizza, candy, and whatever could come from a freezer and be deep fried and ready to eat within minutes. While I was active and put some thought into nutrition I can say with confidence that my eating was far from perfect. At the time I didn’t know any better. Looking back at it now the common question that comes up is “What was I thinking?” While I feel lucky being able to recognize the implications of what we put into our bodies, the epidemic that we are facing tells me that this recognition has been overlooked. Especially going through the educational system and evolving into adulthood. I look at nutrition as a pretty vital component of what we become as people being left to discover on our own as other priorities make their way to the top of the to do list.
 
A person who I have grown to appreciate in this learning process has been Jamie Oliver. I was surfing through some TED Talks one day (which I highly recommend checking out) and came across his talk from 2010. He had won a TED award for his work with his Food Revolution and his food education campaigns. In his speech he laid out just how significant food really is as diet related disease is the number one killer in The United States today and is becoming an ever increasing epidemic in other modern nations. Diet related disease is costing the American healthcare system $150 billion and is set to double to $300 billion in ten years. He also highlights how this can be significantly changed for the better by providing the knowledge and appreciation of applying proper nutrition, within the family and within the educational system.
 
 
While I feel there is still a lot to learn when it comes to nutrition, but I now look at food as the most profound factor in our output physically and mentally. It influences our performance athletically and academically, in the boardroom and in the bedroom, and ultimately plays the greatest role in our survival and the quality of it. While I do not formally prescribe particular foods in particular quantities, I know that my role professionally is becoming more integrated with nutrition and rightfully so. What I do prescribe is taking the time to become more mindful of what you are putting into your body. Educate yourself and put it to use. If you have kids, start them young as it will have profound effects on their development.
 
It is becoming more apparent that the habits that we have developed over the past few decades have not been working and the errors are proving to be pretty catastrophic. Fortunately, education has made us aware of this and if we embrace it, education and preparation will be the biggest weapon in making things right.
Feb 2, 2012
Exercise Enlightenment

Exercise Enlightenment and Your Ticket to Attaining It - Jeff Aker, CSCS

Enlightenment- Achieving clarity of perception, reason, and knowledge.

While there may not be an abundance of the typical fitness terminology in the definition above, I cannot help but believe that for the true exercise success stories, they are products of enlightenment.  For these people, it goes well beyond a physical transformation. The changes they have made are associated with an increased base of knowledge and understanding. From this acquired knowledge comes a greater purpose, and from a greater purpose comes a call to action. For the enlightened, there is little hesitation when it comes to walking into the gym for a workout and little justification for taking the easy route. They know what they need to do and they go out and do it.

For those of us looking to get fitter, faster, leaner and stronger an initial resentment is usually replaced by a quiet admiration of the enlightened for their appearance, their fitness, and their hard work and dedication. While these are very admirable characteristics, is it strictly hard work and dedication that got them there? For the enlightened, it is not so much about the grind and the willpower. It is about getting started, learning as you go, and enjoying the ride. THEY ARE IN THE ZONE.

I have been fortunate enough to be inspired by a lot of these people over the past number of years as well as to see enlightenment progress over time. As I see it more and more, I become increasingly partial to clarity and not so much the exercise methods, systems and effort in and out of the gym. While the effort is essential, it is enlightenment that will bring the desire and drive necessary in order to make a change for the long term.

Author Garrett Kramer had a line in his book “Stillpower” that really hit me when it comes to this topic.

“True change isn’t wilful. It’s so fluent and intuitive that we don’t even realize it happened.”

For the enlightened it is not the destination. It is the ride.

For those of you who are looking to get to that standard, here some ideas to get you there.

Get Started

If you are currently not using the gym, or are doing it sporadically the best advice that I can give would be to just get in there and do something. It may not be especially structured, but doing something is far better than doing nothing.  Just like any other success story, there will be times of confusion and a reflection of things that would have been done differently. The trick is that you are doing something and consistency will be your biggest weapon.

Assess Yourself

Whether improving your wellbeing is something new on your radar or it is something that is a part of your current agenda, I cannot stress enough the importance of assessment. An effective assessment will allow you to ask the more in depth questions that often get overlooked as well as bring you the clarity necessary to understand the key components of success when it comes to following a more proactive lifestyle. To reiterate Martyn’s  video on the importance of understanding your current level of fitness, I also believe that a professional assessment is arguably the biggest factor in your long term success. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SwU4gSKmSs&feature=related

Go As You Learn and Learn As You Go

An assessment can give you the answers you need when it comes to understanding where you are. For some of us, this may lead you to a whole new set of questions, the most common one being, “so how do I do this?” Unfortunately this question is often the first step to failure for many. In order to know how, we all need instruction. Every day we read instructions, take directions, and acquire new knowledge professionally and personally. Exercise is no different. It requires an evolving understanding to keep it consistent and more importantly, keep it productive. I like to think of it like this. How is your mindset on your first day at a new job? It’s usual to be nervous, eager to learn the correct procedures and practices and to blend into the new environment as soon as possible. The same can be said of achieving a lifestyle change. The reason I like the idea of going as you learn and learning as you go is that it allows for education and repetition. When it comes to going, start with a task that can test you but not put you over the edge. Stick to movement and intensities that you feel comfortable with. When it comes to learning, seek a resource you can relate to and educate yourself in a way that can work in harmony with your physical capabilities.

Understand the technique

I often hear technique being described as practicing proper form. Not taking away from proper form but I cannot help but look at technique as something a little more dimensional than good form. An appreciation of the technique is to be able to put your complete undivided attention into what you are doing in the gym. The ability to establish the technique means understanding and feeling the result of your efforts. If long term goals appear to be off in the distance, keep in mind that your body will be telling you a lot along the way. Whether it is something as simple as being able to comfortably bend down to tie your shoes, or something more profound such as drastic medical improvements. The success stories that I have encountered have been in very similar scenarios where their more superficial goals were met by some pretty incredible change along the way.

To finish this article, I have to say that for anyone who has reached the point where working out is completely natural they all know one thing. Exercise is a must! While they may have started out with aspirations of a better body, it evolves into something well beyond that. Those who experience success in the gym understand that there is a lot more on the line. It is their ability to understand that the intrinsic significance of what they are doing is their blueprint for success. They understand that their body is something that they only get once. There is no return or exchange policy and they know that their time with it is limited so you may as well make the best of it. If you can get to this frame of mind, consider yourself enlightened.

Jan 31, 2012
Move Improve! What it means to us, what it could mean to you.
Move, Improve! What it means to us, what it could mean to you.
Jeff Aker CSCS
 
These two words have been a big part of Josh, Martyn and I over the past fifteen months. They have encompassed everything that we have put into The ChangeLink project. It is a phrase that defines what we believe in and it is synonymous with everything that we have put into the app. The phrase Move Improve started out as a catchy tag line for us when developing both our app as well as The ChangeLink project as a whole. What started as a catchy name has evolved into a statement with substantial meaning and the potential to change a lot of lives.
 
I have spent the past five years working with Josh and Martyn and it is fair to say that collectively we have had a huge impact on a lot of people’s lives. We have been able to evolve individually, learn similar lessons, face similar challenges, and share some success stories.  These stories range from some general image changes to stories that involve incredible physical, emotional, and medical gains that have brought a feeling of fulfillment which words cannot describe. What these stories have in common, is that each individual story of change began with movement.
 
We hear it time in and time out, exercise is good for you. Move Improve is a result of understanding exactly how good it is for you. While movement is a small piece of an integrative wellness puzzle, we look at it as the biggest catalyst in bringing wellness, balance, and appreciation to ourselves. I personally can say that it was what sparked my fascination in health and wellness both as a profession as well as for my own benefit.  For myself and the success stories that I have witnessed over the years, seeing and feeling the benefits of exercise evolved into something greater. What starts off as an appreciation of what exercise can do for the body and mind evolves into a greater desire for improvement in the other aspects of wellness. The desire for improvement soon evolves into other key factors of wellness. Nutrition becomes a greater priority. Sleep, stress, balance, emotional wellbeing, education all become more integrated as a result of exercise. As the straight line of improvement grows, the desire to improve also evolves.
 
The statement Move Improve resonates with me as I reflect on it. My time in the gym has given me the chance to experience the true benefits of exercise. This experience has completely changed the outlook that I have on my physical self as a whole. Nutrition has become one big experiment to find out what will keep me at my best. It has taught me about balance, time and stress management, it has taught me about discipline and stepping outside my comfort zone. Ultimately, the statement Move Improve has directed me to a career where exercise has taught me the essentials of professionalism, building relationships, as well as improving myself on a career level as well as a personal level.
 
For Josh, Martyn, and I this has led to some incredible experiences. We have witnessed the results that the statement Move Improve is capable of. We have been able to see people use their bodies in ways they would have no longer and sometimes had never thought possible. We have seen incredible physical, emotional, and medical changes occur as a result of adapting a Move Improve mentality. We have seen it spark positive outlook, we have seen it spark creativity, we have seen it improve lives, and in some cases we have seen it save lives.
 
While Move Improve has been the signature of The ChangeLink project, it is the mentality behind Move Improve that has created it. It has taught us the importance of integration, and education in everything that we developed whether it is our ChangeLink TV series, our writing such as the Lifestyle Guide, The Move Improve Action Plan, our articles, our speaking topics, and what we can bring to the gym. It has also been the driving force behind our biggest accomplishment which has been developing our Move Improve fitness app. What has been put into that app is what has been the recipe for success for both ourselves, as well as the stories that we have encountered.  While the app is an exercise tool, we believe that it has the capability to spark improvement well beyond the way that you move, look, and feel. It is a product of the stories above and the catalyst, as well as the centerpiece of The ChangeLink project as a whole.
 
If you are reading this article I would personally like to invite you, your friends, your  family, and your colleagues  to embrace everything that we are putting into thechangelink.com, ChangeLink TV, our writing and of course the Move Improve app. On a larger scale, we would like to invite you to embrace the Move Improve mentality as a whole as it will be your biggest asset in becoming the best you can possibly be.
 
Move, Improve,
 
Jeff
Jan 27, 2012