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Showing posts with label Sports Injuries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sports Injuries. Show all posts

What is the difference between Amateur Athletes and Professionals?

What is the difference between Amateur Athletes and Professional Athletes?

Well, for starters lets talk about Food and Nutrition.

One of the things that has annoyed me in the past is when someone contacts me asking for training in a specific competitive sport because they want to become a professional athlete and I start asking them questions about their diet and nutrition - which are extremely important questions when it comes professional sports because of how competitive it is.

And the response, quite often, is that they don't think their nutrition is an important factor in their sports career. Not their exact words, but basically they downplay how important nutrition is. Which I take to be a clue that their level of nutrition isn't very good and they don't want to admit it.

To use a racing car analogy, poor nutrition would be like putting sub-standard fuel into a race car that runs on high performance octane (usually 94 or higher). You don't really expect the car using sub-standard gasoline to win if you know everyone else in the race is using high performance octane, do you?

So to me, the question of the differences between amateur athletes and professional athletes is a case of food. Food equals fuel. And if you want your body to be a high performance machine then it needs to be using high performance fuel.

Amateur athletes often totally ignore the quality of their nutrition.

Professional athletes take their nutrition very seriously.

I have a book on my shelf, one of my favourites, called "High Performance Sports Conditioning", edited by Bill Foran. It was published in 2001, but not much has changed in the world of sports conditioning during the last 15 years. I highly recommend finding a copy of if your goal is to be participating in professional sports. During chapter one it discussed 'Establishing a Solid Fitness Base' and talks about athletes building a Team of Support Staff including:
  • Athletic Trainer or Coach (that is my job)
  • Sport Nutritionist (to advise on nutritional issues)
  • Sport Physical Therapist (for treatment of injuries)
  • Physician (in case of serious injuries)

Acquiring one of each of these is basically a necessity for any professional athlete. The names of the individuals may change over time as an athlete's competitive career changes. They might start with their family doctor as their physician and later gain a Team Physician if they end up on a team of athletes that train together.

Having these people found in advance is an advantage because what if a situation arises and you, for example, break your leg, and you don't even have a family doctor. Instead you are going to walk-in clinics where you get random doctors who are barely out of medical school and have no experience with sports injuries.

Find these people in advance, and then begin training.

Amateur athletes won't think that will need a team of support staff, and thus won't bother to get them. That means no coaching, no nutritional advice, they might have a family doctor but not necessarily a doctor familiar with sports injuries, and they definitely won't have a physical therapist who specializes in sports injuries.

Coaching obviously is going to be a big factor as well. Coaching doesn't necessarily happen every day however. It might be once per week or even once every two weeks. Coaches are usually also available via phone or email to answer questions the athlete might have.

As athletic trainers go coaches fulfill three important roles:

#1. Knowledge Base - to provide the athlete with a plethora of knowledge in their chosen sport with respect to learning how to best achieve results during competition, how to train towards specific goals, what exercises to be doing, any cross-training to be doing, how to create a training schedule, etc.

#2. Motivational Guidance - the coach is there to keep the athlete motivated, to keep trying harder in order to succeed.

#3. Mental Game - some athletes develop problems mentally and lose focus on what they are supposed to be doing. In archery for example professional archers will sometimes develop problems like "Target Panic" which is an anxiety that causes them to become anxious and then shoot too soon when they are not ready yet, or also "Gold Shy" is when an archer starts deliberately missing unconsciously or subconsciously. It is the coaches job to be part psychologist and cure the athlete of any mental problems they might be facing.

Note - My solutions to both of the above two problems is to either take a break from normal shooting and practice doing something different for fun (like shooting at moving targets), or to deliberately make the challenge harder so that the archer is forced to concentrate more.

Lastly, professional athletes Practice and Train 3 to 5 days per week, depending on their sport, and use their off days to rest and recuperate. This process of Training, Resting, Training, Resting, Training, Resting, Training, etc is continuous and allows for peak muscle growth and helps prevent sports injuries like repetitive strain.

People often think that professional athletes Train, Train, Train or Practice, Practice, Practice - however that is a bit of a misunderstanding. It is more of a Train, Rest, Practice, Rest process.

An amateur who doesn't know what they are doing might simply practice every day until they exhausted or hurt themselves. That might make logical sense to them at the time, but once they learn the horrors of the first serious sports injury they will either quit the sport or rethink how they are training.

This means the professional athlete makes a Training Schedule.

Lets say for example you are a competitive compound archer. Using the above order of training, what should your 4 week training schedule be?

Week 1
Sunday Training at Gym, Monday Rest, Tuesday Practice at Archery Range, Wednesday Rest, Thursday Training at Gym, Friday Rest, Saturday Practice at Archery Range.

Week 2
Sunday Rest, Monday Training at Gym, Tuesday Rest, Wednesday Practice at Archery Range, Thursday Rest, Friday Training at Gym, Saturday Rest.

Week 3
Sunday Practice at Archery Range, Monday Rest, Tuesday Training at Gym, Wednesday Rest, Thursday Practice at Archery Range, Friday Rest, Saturday Training at Gym.

Week 4
Sunday Rest, Monday Practice at Archery Range, Tuesday Rest, Wednesday Training at Gym, Thursday Rest, Friday Practice at Archery Range, Saturday Rest.

Week 5 = Start over at 1.

Now the above training schedule is just an example of one way a person could create a training schedule. There are literally thousands of different training schedules for hundreds of different sports online available for free.

Often a training schedule will also have dates set aside for specific events, such as competitions. In the example marathon training schedule below there are dates set aside for specific marathons and events like the "National 1/2 Marathon", or the "Cherry Blossom 10 Mile", or the "Flying Pig Marathon".

Professional Equipment

Depending on the sport it is a good idea to be training with the best equipment you can find. This often means equipment that is more expensive, more durable, less likely to have problems, more adaptable, easier to use, etc.

Having the most expensive / "best" equipment isn't always a necessity however. In the world of competitive weightlifting for example it doesn't matter whether your weights are homemade or made of solid gold, 50 lbs is still 50 lbs regardless of what it is made of.

Thus for people on a budget they should be thinking in terms of the necessities. eg. A marathon runner will want a good pair of shoes and a source of water at intervals during practice runs. (Tip, if you plan your jogging route along Starbucks they give out free water. All you have to do is ask for it.) Nobody cares what the marathon runner is wearing, so any old pair of pants or shorts and a t-shirt will do. Wearing skin tight breathable fashion is not a necessity and if anything you will look silly wearing that when you are not in an actual marathon.


This is just a brief overview of the differences between professional athletes and amateur athletes. The following are just a few of the fundamental differences between those athletes who take seriously what they are doing and those who simply don't care, and thus are really just amateurs. That perhaps is the most fundamental difference of all. Professional athletes take everything seriously. Amateurs do not.
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Team of Support Staff, including Coaching
  • Train, Rest and Practice + Training Schedule
  • Professional Equipment

There is one last thing unfortunately... Money. You may have noticed that buying nutritional food is more expensive than buying sugary and fatty foods. Coaching is likewise expensive, as is having support staff even if you only talk to them once per month. Having all that training time might mean you don't have time for a normal 9 to 5 job either, so having money saved up so you can have time off to train is a necessity too. And of course money for equipment. Some sports are very expensive. Others less so. You might need to buy gym memberships, club memberships, etc to get access to equipment that is too expensive to buy normally, or you might decide you absolutely need that equipment so you can use it all the time - in which case it might be very expensive.

Also please note that most professional athletes (with the exclusion of team sports like baseball, hockey, football, soccer, tennis, golf, cycling, etc) don't actually make a lot of money in their chosen field. Some do because they are well paid members of a team, but most sports don't have a lot of big sponsors and thus the prize money is a lot smaller.

Thus if you manage to win some prize money that money will probably go right back into your budget for food, coaching, equipment, etc. Don't expect to be making a living off the sport.

Note - This is probably why gambling is such a problem in many professional sports. An athlete who deliberately loses can sometimes make more money losing than they can by winning. eg. Boxers taking a dive. Even big name events like the Olympics are rife with gambling, although it isn't often talked about.

Thus if you are getting into a competitive sport you really should be doing it for the right reasons. To try and attain that goal. Trying to do it for lesser reasons like greed isn't going to help you. Greed is only going to hold you back from what should be your real goal: Attaining Perfection.

Sportsmanship and Giving Back to the Community

It is my personal opinion that a true athlete should also at least attempt to be a good sportsman, to be generous and kind to their fellow athletes, and to give back to the sports community by donating their time and effort towards causes that helps the sport.

They should also admonish activities that give the sport a bad reputation, like fighting on the ice in hockey, or dentist bowhunters who poach lions for kicks, or cyclists who resort to using steroids in order to win the Tour de France. Such behaviour needs to be admonished and discouraged so that younger generations of athletes know and understand that the sport should not be defined by a few bad eggs who are violent, immoral and cheat.

Sometimes one of the best things a famed athlete can do is to simply show up, sign autographs and shake the hands of a younger generation.

If you want to read more articles like this please subscribe to or bookmark this page and come back for more. The above post is Part One of a new series of posts about Training for Professional Athletes.

Sprains, Strains and how to Prevent Them in the First Place

We all want to stay active and a regular exercise routine is an essential way to ensure that you maintain a healthy lifestyle. The one drawback to regular exercise is the possibility of injury. This is something that we cannot always avoid and when it happens it can really affect our exercise routine and our everyday lives. We have all heard the horror stories of people doing some exercise and ending up with broken limbs, sprained ankles, pulled muscles and ligament injuries. This can put you out of commission for several days to several months. So what injuries are possible and what can we do to avoid them? Below we will see what can happen and how we can prevent them from happening.

While listening to the radio I heard the story of a young woman who decided to participate in crossfit training. This is a high impact type of exercise that includes exercises such as high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, girevoy sport,calisthenics, strongman and other exercises. These types of exercises requires a high level of athleticism and great strength. The young lady loved doing crossfit as she had a been involved in sports her whole life including competing in the Olympics for martial arts. Crossfit provided her with an opportunity to compete with others and remain athletic at the same time even if she was not able to it at an Olympic level. One day she was doing box jumps (literally jumping up on boxes from a standing position) and she felt her leg crumble underneath her weight. It turned out she had shattered her lower leg from ankle to knee breaking it in multiple places. It took several surgeries, a lot of physiotherapy and many months of recuperation to get her walking again much less working out.

Traumatic injuries such as the one described above are the worst types of injuries we can suffer while working out. Common injuries like sprains and pulled muscles are a bigger concern for everyday people. But it is important to remember that exercise is not inert. They can provide you with great benefits but can also cause great injuries. It is best to do any exercise with great care and preparation. Also, consult your doctor before you do anything strenuous or if you feel that you are experiencing pain or discomfort while doing the exercise.

How do you get a sprain?

Sprains can happen all over your body. When do exercise you may encounter a sprained ankle or wrist. Sprains are injuries to ligaments when they are suddenly pushed past their limits. They can tear or become deformed as a result. Usually, you just need to give your sprain some time to heal and some cold compress. If they are particularly bad, you may need to seek some medical attention as soon as possible.

How to prevent sprains?

Some ways to prevent the injury are to not over do it if you have not done an activity for a while. Say you had to take an extended break from playing basketball and finally got the opportunity to start playing again. Do not over do it by playing exhaustively for an hour. Your ligaments and muscles just cannot take it. You need to give them some time to stretch and get used to being used in that way. Stretch first, take it easy for the first few times on the court (do not exert yourself too much), play for a short period of time, and stop if you feel any discomfort.

Another type of muscle sprain is a groin pull. It can occur when you push off your feet in a side to side motion, like when you run. You see this injury in athletes all the time especially in sports such as hockey, soccer or football. In these sports, people are required to run or skate at the drop of a hat and it is this kind of situation can cause a groin pull.

You can prevent a groin pull by stretching and warming up beforehand. Make sure that you do so in a through manner to ensure the best results. Also, just like the basketball player above, make sure that you have conditioned your muscles for the task at hand. Build up conditioning through repeated exercise over time can prepare your muscles for any activity you might do.

Crossfit and Why it is Dangerous to Over Do It

Lets do a little myth busting.

First, yes, it is true that Crossfit exercise routines will help you lose weight.

But it is also true that Crossfit is dangerous, pushes people to extremes and even causing exercise addiction - and the resulting Crossfit devotees (or should we say addicts) get really into all the activities done at crossfit gyms - but the repetitive strain and the injuries pile up, which can lead to extreme injuries.

In fact to outline just how dangerous Crossfit is why not Google the words 'crossfit injuries' and read some of the 1.17 million webpages on the topic.

What is also funny is how many Crossfit enthusiasts (addicts) tell fellow enthusiasts to "suck it up", "no pain no gain", "don't be a wussy", etc whenever the topic of injuries come up.

 And we're not talking mild injuries. We're talking about people who injure themselves so much they can't even walk any more.

That puts it on the same level as people who are so anorexic they cannot walk any more, or people so obese they cannot walk any more... in this case it is people who exercised so much they injured themselves and now they cannot walk any more.

Cannot walk, are in severe debilitating pain, and in some cases will be like this the rest of their lives.

There are Iraq War Veterans out there missing limbs who are in better physical condition than some of the Crossfit devotees who injured themselves because they didn't know when was a good time to rest and recuperate.

So let me break this down for you.

When you exercise, weightlifting for example, you need about 24 to 48 hours (sometimes more depending on your age and how much weightlifting you do) in order to repair all the muscle tissue you ripped during your weightlifting session. With weightlifting you are often only challenging a few parts of your body at a time, which means your body only needs to repair muscle tissue in those areas after the exercise is over.

The purpose of Crossfit however is to rip muscles in almost every muscle in your body by pushing your limits in many different ways. Afterwards your body heals up and you end up being stronger all over (not just in specific muscle groups)... but because Crossfit is addictive you end up with people who are doing it 5 to 7+ times per week, leaving your body almost no time to repair itself.

Lack of repair time leads to repetitive strain injuries - and repetitive strain rip tendons.

Do you know how to fit a tendon?


Lots of surgery. It is painful and truth be told whatever body part you ripped the tendon in may never be the same again. It is a bit like someone who has a heart attack. Once you have your first heart attack it is pretty much all down hill from there.

Below is a photo of a ripped tendon in someone's arm being repaired via surgery. If he is lucky he still has full use of his arm, but the chances are more likely his arm will be in pain and have restricted motion for the rest of his life.

And this is just one of the many injuries people can develop from Crossfit.

As a personal trainer I actively discourage all of my clients from activities that could result in any kind of sports injuries. Yes, I know you want to lose weight and gain muscle - but sports injuries are not worth the risks associated with 'extreme fitness' activities like Crossfit.

In other news, Happy Halloween! I hope the above photo scared you away from Crossfit.

Oh and mountain climbing. That is pretty dangerous too. Trust me, I nearly died twice in South Korea while climbing mountains there. The view up there was nice, but in retrospect I should have taken the safer route to the top.

Causes and Cures for Chronic Back Pain

While many people experience back pain, chronic back pain is actually more like a sports injury like tennis elbow.

Why? Because often chronic back pain can be solved through proper form while lifting objects, more exercise, diet, sleeping positions and more.

Below is a list of causes for chronic back pain - and their solutions.

Years of poor posture

The Solution - Practice good posture when sitting, standing and even sleeping. For added benefits take up yoga to build stronger core muscles.

Improper lifting and carrying of heavy objects

The Solution - Practice proper form while lifting things (lift with your legs and your back straight), even when lifting small objects. When in doubt, let someone younger and fitter carry it for you. Wearing a back brace is also a smart idea to help prevent injury.

Even lifting small objects improperly can put a lot of strain on your back - unnecessary strain. So if you drop your toothbrush, bend over without thinking and pick it up improperly you can still hurt your back - not because of the weight of the toothbrush, but because of the weight of your upper body.

Being overweight, which puts excess strain on the back and knees

The Solution - Go for daily walks, cut back on the sweets, keep doing this until you attain your ideal weight. Also try swimming, cycling and other cardio exercises to help you lose weight.

Wearing high heels

The Solution - Stop wearing high heels. Wear flats with cushioning instead. Take up yoga to help correct muscle imbalances in your back.
Congenital condition such as curvature of the spine

The Solution - Seek medical treatment from a back / spinal specialist.

Traumatic injury (eg. car accident damaged your spine)

The Solution - Seek medical treatment from a back / spinal specialist.

Note: Sadly the above two can only be solved with the help of doctors and trained specialists.

Sleeping on a poor mattress

The Solution - Buy a better mattress that supports your back better. Research proper sleeping positions that won't damage your spine.

No obvious physical cause

The Solution - Experiment with different solutions above until you find something that works. I recommend starting with practicing good posture, taking up yoga and sleeping in better positions that are good for your back. Many people have poor posture / sleeping positions and don't realize it.

Ordinary aging of the spine (degenerative changes)

The Solution - Regular exercise and a healthy diet will keep you younger longer and give your spine more longevity. Walking, yoga, light weight lifting with proper form can all help you keep you feeling younger and build bone density.

Dealing with Archer's Elbow / Tennis Elbow

I recently learned I had what is historically known as Archer's Elbow - which by modern standards is known as Tennis Elbow.

Tennis elbow or archer's elbow is a sports injury wherein the outer part of the elbow becomes sore and tender because the area has become inflamed - I have this in both my elbows. It is often associated with playing tennis, badminton, golf and similar sports which involve using the elbows a lot.

Archer's / Tennis elbow can also be caused by repetitive strain and often effects mouse / keyboard users, mountain climbers, and even people who work with their hands a lot (like carpenters).

Why does Archery cause it?

When you draw a bow, both elbows go under extreme pressure and strain.

Your bow arm elbow has to be fully extended out in front of you and held dead still.  It is your extensor muscles and tendons that are responsible for your stable positioning.  To draw the string back, it is your flexor muscles and tendons that do most of the work.  Archer’s elbow injuries are most common in your bow arm simply because your outer forearm/elbow muscles and tendons are not as strong and powerful as your inner flexor muscles. But you can also get Archer's Elbow in your drawing elbow because of the strain it requires to hold the bow steady.

Lastly when you release the bowstring there is a lot of shock and vibrations that travel through your arms and your elbows are more vulnerable.


#1. Switch to a lighter poundage of bow or even better, switch to a compound bow that has a let off.

#2. Get dampeners and stabilizers for your bow, they will reduce shock damage.

#3. Do elbow strengthening exercises. Just make sure they are specific for tennis elbow injuries and they will work well for both prevention and treatment.

Archer's / Tennis Elbow Treatment

Physical therapy.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen or aspirin.

Using heat or cold wraps.

Using a brace or strap to reduce the strain on the elbow.

Elbow Strengthening Exercises

Browse Google images to see a variety of different elbow strengthening exercises.

Remember while doing these exercises to not squeeze anything too hard and if you are experiencing pain, then you are doing it wrong. Remember light grip and no pain.

Yoga Injuries - Be careful, trying to perfect a pose can hurt

TORONTO - Sports injuries sounds normal for many more vigorous sports, including ballet dancing, but what about yoga?

It may seem ironic at first, but the exercise regime often recommended by doctors and therapists (aka yoga) as a rehabilitation tool to overcome a range of sports injuries can itself become a cause of sports injuries if people get "too into it".

Yoga, considered a relatively gentle means of building flexibility, muscle strength and endurance through physical poses and controlled breathing, can lead to a number of repetitive strain injuries and even osteoarthritis, Ontario doctors say.

"Most of the injuries I see are from repetitive strain," says Dr. Raza Awan, a Toronto sports medicine physician who's been practising yoga for about a decade.

The most common yoga-related injuries he sees in patients are rotator cuff tendonitis and tears; spinal disc injuries in the low back and neck; cartilage tears in the knee; hamstring strain and tears; and wrist injuries.

There are a number of reasons why yoga — in which practitioners generally perform a series of poses, called asanas — can cause injury, he says.

One of the causes is "definitely pushing too hard" to attain a specific pose, which can involve stretching the upper body into a forward or backward bend, twisting the torso, or performing an inversion, such as a handstand or headstand, balanced on the hands or forearms.

In other words trying to show off by doing handstands and headstands can get you injured. Gotcha!

"So, for instance, people who are too flexible or people who are too tight, they're at more risk, I find," says Awan. "If you're too tight and you try to force yourself into a pose and your muscles aren't flexible, then you might strain another area to compensate."

"Or let's say that you're very flexible and you get to the end range of a pose and you don't have the muscular support to maintain the pose ... you're holding the pose without muscular endurance, you're basically holding it on your ligaments or your tendons and you strain those structures that way."

Ego also can lead to injury, he says, explaining that in yoga classes, some people push their bodies beyond their limits trying to match or outdo the person on the next mat. Being a showoff is basically an excellent way to get yourself injured doing any exercise.

Even competing with oneself — for instance, trying to get the heels flat to the floor during the "downward dog" pose, despite having tight calf muscles from sitting at the computer for hours — can lead to strains or tears, he says.

"You strain yourself because you push yourself."

Sometimes, overdoing it in yoga may exacerbate an underlying problem called femoroacetabular impingement, or FAI, in which the bones of the hip are abnormally shaped and don't move together smoothly. The hip bones grind against each other during movement, causing joint damage over time and osteoarthritis.

Dr. Chris Woollam, a Toronto sports medicine physician, says he started seeing "an inordinate number of hip problems" about two years ago, including among women aged 30 to 50 who were practising yoga.

When range of motion in their hips was tested, not only was movement limited, but "they would jump off the table because of the pain," Woollam says.

MRI scans showed the women had joint damage resulting from FAI, which can be severe enough in some cases to require hip-replacement surgery.

And since yoga is becoming increasingly popular it is now ever more important to warn people about the dangers of trying to over do it.

"So maybe these extreme ranges of motion were causing the joint to get jammed and some to wear," Woollam says of certain yoga poses. "If you start wearing a joint down, then it becomes arthritic. So you're seeing these little patches of arthritis in an otherwise normal hip that seems to be related to these extremes of motion or impingement or both."

However yoga isn't entirely to blame. You just have to listen to your body. When it's saying there's a pain, then you have to recognize that and then take a break from whatever you are doing. Pain is a good signifier that you are overdoing it.

Vancouver chiropractor Robin Armstrong, who's been practising yoga since 1999, says the most common injury she sees among fellow enthusiasts are hamstring strains. Typically, they are overuse injuries and tend to occur more among experienced practitioners rather than beginners.

"I think it's also just repeating core movement patterns, and if you have a teacher who corrects the way you're moving, I think that can help prevent these types of injuries," says Armstrong, who also teaches anatomy and injury prevention to yoga instructors.

"I talk about where you have to use caution in certain poses and when appropriate use certain poses for certain people and when to avoid them altogether."

Some yoga teachers will encourage students to try a more challenging pose, while others may physically "adjust" a student to correct their posture and alignment. And that can take a person to a place their muscles and joints aren't ready to go. So sometimes it is the yoga instructor who is pushing the student too much.

But Armstrong says how far and how fast an individual advances in yoga is a shared responsibility between the student and the instructor.

"The teacher doesn't know what you're feeling in your body and you have to be comfortable enough knowing, 'OK, is this right for me? This might be right for the person beside me, but is this right for me at this moment?'"

"Don't get so attached to making the pretty picture with your body, you're still doing yoga even if you're not doing the full expression of the pose," she says. "And that goes back to not comparing yourself to others, because everyone comes with a different body and a different experience."

Yoga has many upsides, including sharpening mental focus, easing stress, and improving range of motion that can help avoid injuries while performing day-to-day activities or participating in sports.

"There's a lot of benefits to doing yoga for certain types of problems, but obviously any physical activity has its risks, too," says Dr. Awan, who is among those who uses yoga as a therapy for some patients and believes most yoga-related injuries are preventable.

"It's a great movement-based activity to do, but you have to try to keep safe, just like in other sports activities. Don't push your body beyond."

Building a Stronger Grip using Grip Exercises

Building a stronger grip is really a specialized form of weightlifting / resistance training, and usually the result of someone some form of hand injury wherein their hand was in a cast for a month or more and they need to rebuild the muscles in their hand.

There are a variety of other reasons why people might want a stronger grip in their hands (eg. people who are into rock climbing), but their goals will be roughly the same - to build the muscles in their hand so they can strongly and firmly hold something in place. For bodybuilders having a good strong grip is also handy when lifting the heavier weights.

Some people also build stronger forearm muscles, which also effects grip, so absolutely that is another reason to be doing grip exercises.

There are essentially two ways to do this...

#1. Sports Hand Grips and Weightlifting Grips

You've probably seen them in stores before. Its basically just a device with a spring that you squeeze together. Its not complicated or expensive to purchase them, and they do "most" of the job they are advertised to do.

When buying grips you will want to start with a low number - like 30 lbs or 40 lbs. You can even get adjustable grips where you can change the tension in the spring.

The more heavy duty weightlifting grips start at 100 lbs and go up to 300 lbs, but that is more for serious weightlifters.

#2. Old School Frugal Grip Exercises

These are arguably the better way to attain a stronger grip. Why? It gives you more range and variety, offering you more of a challenge and will push your muscles further than any mere gadget will do. The types of grip exercises will give you different things to challenge yourself with - and the beauty of these exercises is that are not only better for you physically, but they're easy on your wallet too.

Look at the visual examples below of various grip exercises you can try. You won't need anvils or weights to do some of these exercises. When lacking in equipment try using books and heavier objects in your home or garage. Rope climbing is an excellent method too as it uses your body weight instead of the weight of the object.

Lawyer suing NY personal trainer

A lawyer in Manhattan New York is suing a celebrity personal trainer in NYC.

What is interesting is WHY he is suing the personal trainer.

Manhattan attorney Neil Squillante signed up for some personal training sessions 3 years ago, the workouts were too intense for him and he is still in pain 3 years later.

Why? Because the workouts were so intense it ripped ligaments in his joints. The scrawny lawyer was apparently so skinny and underweight that his ligaments weren't used to the intensity of the muscle strain he underwent during the workouts that it ripped the ligaments.

Now I should note that for weightlifting, ripping muscle tissue is normal (“no pain, no gain”) and even desired because it builds new muscles tissue in-between the ripped tissue. However, ripping ligaments is not something you want to happen, because the damage is much more severe, painful, and crippling.

People who get into professional weightlifting and power-lifting are warned about the dangers of ripping ligaments. You have to know your limits and not take risks. Like muscle tissue, ligaments need time to grow and become stronger.

What the personal trainer in New York did was take a workout that they normally do with celebrity's like Beyoncé (Beyoncé is one of their former clients) and then give the same workout to a skinny lawyer who has been sitting at a desk almost every day for the last 10 years.

So I agree with the lawyer. The personal trainer who was training him should have known better to force such an intense workout on someone who's body wasn't ready for it.

What he needed was a more gradual workout program designed to toughen him up first, emphasizing endurance first and strength secondary. Smaller weights, less intensity, longer time period. That is what the personal trainer SHOULD have done.

Instead here is what happened...

#1. Prior to signing up for sessions Neil Squillante “lived a sedentary life with minimal physical activity, lacked physical strength and fitness . . . and had no experience with vigorous physical exercise or strength training.” As such the trainer should have known that in order to prevent injuries that this person would have to be introduced to intense workouts and weightlifting gradually.

#2. In April 2010 Neil Squillante signed up for personal training sessions with a Chelsea personal trainer, who is the Focus co-founder Gabriel Valencia, whose clients include the singer Beyoncé.

#3. He should have been started off gradually with mild workouts, small weights, low intensity and a focus on endurance first. Instead the workouts ended up being a series of intense sessions of squats and thrusts with a heavy medicine ball in what Squillante describes as "a torture session".

“Within a few days after his first physical training session, Squillante told Valencia by telephone that his arms were so sore from the workout that he could not lift them,” the lawsuit says. “Valencia chuckled and said that Squillante’s soreness was normal and nothing to worry about.”

Soreness in the arms, okay. But soreness in the joints so that he can't even lift his arms? That is a warning sign of damage to the ligaments. The personal trainer Gabriel Valencia SHOULD have halted the sessions immediately and counseled that he seek the attention of a doctor who specializes in sports injuries.

Instead Squillante went to two more sessions and ripped his ligaments even more. He ended up having severe damage to his knee, hip and pelvis due to multiple torn ligaments.

#4. Three years after several Neil Squillante still suffers “pain and weakness when he stands,” has trouble sitting “for reasonable periods,” and is in constant pain even when he is not standing or sitting. He rarely travels, has few work meetings, is unable to recruit staff (he runs a legal information service company), and has a diminished social life. He is basically a cripple.

#5. Neil Squillante filed a lawsuit on May 15th 2013 against the personal trainer Gabriel Valencia, his boss and the company.

I believe Neil Squillante absolutely deserves to win his lawsuit because that was gross incompetence on the part of the personal trainer who evidently wasn't used to training people who were that thin / unused to exercise and furthermore ignored the warning signs of a serious sports injury.

Hearing Loss from Bodybuilding?


"Hello! Have you ever heard of anyone developing hearing loss from bodybuilding / weight lifting?

- Jake H."


No, I can't say that I have.

However with the wide plethora of supplements and steroids available to the bodybuilding industry I would not be surprised if some of the more illegal steroids have side effects that include hearing loss.

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to drugs that have not been properly tested and have been deemed to have dangerous side effects.

However the hearing loss could just be caused by something else and falsely attributed to weightlifting.

For example the older people get the more likely they are to experience hearing loss. 33% of elderly people between the ages of 65 and 75 experience some form of hearing loss. Above the age of 75 the percentage goes up to 50%. Thus if a person at the age of 68 took up weightlifting later in life, and became really serious about it, and then started experiencing hearing loss at the same time, they might falsely think their hearing loss was somehow connected to the new love of weightlifting.

To my knowledge there is no medical connection between weightlifting and hearing loss - but that doesn't mean a person can't develop hearing loss due to another cause. It would therefore be logical to start by eliminating other possible causes before we start pointing fingers.


#1. Genetic factors - Is there a history of hearing loss in your family? This is entirely possible when you consider 50% of people encounter hearing loss over the age of 75. Even people who have no history of hearing loss in their parents or grandparents may still have inherited a recessive gene.

#2. Excessive Exposure to Loud Noises over a Longer Period - What kind of work or home environment do you have that might expose you to loud noises? eg. If you work in a noisy factory and have been doing so for years, and you don't wear ear protection, you could suffer hearing loss.

#3. Buildup of Earwax / Medical Conditions - Some people build up earwax faster than others and it interferes with their hearing over time.

#4. High Intensity Sound - A single loud burst of sound can also cause hearing damage if its exceptionally loud.

#5. Tumor, Abnormal Bone Growth, Ear Infection - Some of these could be permanent or temporary. Depends on the precise cause. An audiologist could provide more info.

#6. Ruptured Eardrum due to Unknown Cause - Sometimes accidents just happen and we have no idea why.

#7. People who are into boxing and wrestling can sometimes suffer hearing loss. Many boxers and wrestlers also encounter other problems like blindness, mental impairments, speech difficulties, respiratory problems, and paralysis. A hard knock to the head can damage the bones inside the ear and cause some extent of hearing loss. Boxing can cause all sorts of damage to your ears.

Symptoms of hearing loss are pretty easy to spot. The muffled quality of sounds, listening to things at a higher volume that others complain, asking people to repeat themselves louder.

NOTE: If you experience complete hearing loss in one or more ears, or constant dizziness, then you should contact a doctor immediately.

Treatment really depends on the cause and severity. If its just earwax, then you can just remove the earwax - possibly by visiting a doctor and getting a medical wax removal procedure. The use of hearing aids is more for people who have severe damage.

And then there is Cochlear Implants - which is a whole other subject. CIs is a surgically implanted electronic device also referred to as bionic ears that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. Even people who are born deaf can sometimes be given a sense of sound thanks to these implants. They are not cheap however - costing anywhere from $45,000 to $125,000. A cochlear implant will not cure deafness, but is a prosthetic substitute for hearing.

If you really think you might be suffering hearing loss (regardless of whether you think it is caused by weightlifting or some other cause) then I recommend speaking to an audiologist. I know of an audiologist in Vaughan who works for Omni Hearing, who offers free hearing tests. So at least it won't cost you anything to have your hearing tested in the event you feel you are suffering hearing loss.

But with respect bodybuilding and hearing loss? I would say that is a myth until proven with some kind of scientific study.

12 Tips for Running a Marathon

Running a marathon is the ultimate accomplishment for many runners and joggers whose goal is to stay fit or achieve a personal best, but it is also one of the most difficult fitness goal to achieve (up there with triathalons and Iron Man competitions).

Just running 42.2 kim (26.2 miles) and not hurting yourself is a physical accomplishment, as sports injuries are pretty common when running a marathon.

Regardless of your goals or completion times you need to be prepared. Running a marathon demands intense preparation in all aspects of one’s life, including training, diet, and sleep, and mental preparation. Here are 12 tips that will help any marathon runner reach their desired goals:

1. Plan well, and do so well in advance. A marathon is absolutely not something you just decide to do on a whim. It should take months of preparation. Even as much as six months or a year in advance, depending on your fitness level. Choose a marathon that is months away to work towards, and begin preparation immediately. Start logging your runs and times, starting with shorter runs (2-5 miles, depending on your endurance) during the week and longer runs on the weekend. Slowly work your way up as you build endurance.

2. Set reasonable goals. If you've never run a marathon before, don't think you'll go under-4 hours the first time out. Set goals that will push you, but that at the same time you can actually reach by keeping a log and seeing where your stamina and running capacity is well before the race begins.

3. Do practice Half Marathons. Once per month try running a half marathon and time yourself. Half marathons will give you a better idea of where you will fare when you finally do a full marathon.

4. Set Limits on your weekly running. Your goal should be to run 45 to 50 km (25 to 30 miles) per week. Basically 9 to 10 km (5 to 6 miles) fives times per week. The reason you want to limit yourself is to prevent injuries and stave off the effects of running addicition (which can lead to insomnia and a variety of health / mental problems including OCD). As your legs get stronger and you get significantly better endurance wise you can start increasing your amount of running to 90 to 100 km (55 to 60 miles), but avoid going over the 100 km per week limit. Running obscene amounts can lead to running addiction and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - causing you to lose friends and alienate family members with your addiction. (Running addicts are known to avoid going to the funerals of loved ones because they'd rather be running, go running when on vacation when they should be relaxing, avoid friends/family, etc.)

5. Eat a low-fat, high carb diet. Carbohydrates are the fuel you will need to push through a marathon and for all training runs leading up to it. Make pasta and baked potatoes a staple in your diet. Keep your diet low-fat, but not no fat; focus on good fats, like those found in poultry and fish, are necessary for storing extra energy during your runs.

6. Drink lots of fluids. Carry a nalgene or similar water bottle and try to drink at least one, if not two throughout your day. During runs, stay hydrated by bringing a smaller water bottle. Don't overdo it though: drinking an excess of water will make you feel sick and can lead to cramps, dizziness, and nausea.

7. Incorporate other exercise into your routine. Some weight lifting—particularly with a concentration on the lower body—will help build up muscular endurance for races. Yoga is also extremely helpful to runners in that it helps stretch muscles and develops flexibility, but also is a time for meditation and stress relief.

8. Think you can. Mental preparation is key for helping push through when you hit the wall towards the end of a race. Learn to think positive and visualize success (especially completing a race) in the months leading up to the big event.

9. Develop a regimented sleep schedule. Sleep is necessary for stress relief, body repair, and for your general health and well-being. Be sure to get at least 8 hours every night. Tailor your sleeping patterns leading up to a race to match the hours you will be getting up for a race and going to bed before it. If you are suffering from insomnia it might be because you are running too much (or too close to bedtime). Change your routine so you run in the morning and avoid exercising 4 hours before your bedtime. During weekends or days off try to get naps too to speed up healing process.

10. Find a partner. Some people like running as a solitary endeavor, but most find the most success when running with a partner. You'll be able to push each other and support each other, particularly when the going gets tough. Don't expect to talk that much while running, if you are capable of talking when you should be breathing heavily then you really aren't pushing yourself that hard.

11. Taper leading up to the race. Don't push yourself harder than you ever have before or during a marathon. Instead, taper off how much running you do leading up to a race so your muscles have plenty of time to recover and are at full strength on marathon day. During the race remember that you might not finish the race due to exhaustion - it happens and its nothing to be ashamed of. You will do better next time.

12. Enjoy the experience. Don't get so caught up in how others are doing or get down on any lackluster runs to forget that running marathons is a truly enjoyable activity. During the marathon, take the time to take it all in—the scenery, the crowds, and especially your successes. Make memories that will last long after you cross the finish line.

General Wellness - Mind, Body + Soul

If you exercise and eat well because of the health benefits (and longevity) its possible that you've also realized that health also includes mental health - and that mental health is often the most important thing you need to worry about.

Fitness is more than just sweating your buns off, pumping iron and trying to burn the most calories possible. You also need SLEEP and REST time to heal and build new muscle tissue.

Another thing you should do regularly is STRETCHES. There will be times when you are in so much pain for exercising that you won't even want to stretch, and you might be tempted to regularly skip stretching or exercise sessions because you are suffering from muscle pain/fatigue. That is normal. Its a sign that you've been pushing yourself too much.

When that happens it means you need to force yourself to do stretching or yoga instead of your regular exercises - and more importantly to rest and get plenty of sleep. You may even need to purchase muscle relaxers in the event that your muscle pain is so severe you are having difficulty sleeping.

Sore muscles become filled with lactic acid, the adrenal glands fatigue and the body produces more cortisol, a hormone that will store more fat, and make it harder to burn off. Too much intense exercising actually becomes quite counterproductive if you are overdoing it and making your muscles too sore. Over training can be a serious problem in exercise enthusiasts and can cause irritability, fatigue and the increased risk of injury. Take care of your body by introducing gentle exercise such as yoga, tai chi, Pilates or general stretching can help give your body a break and give it more time to build new muscle tissue.

Sports injuries are a sign that you are doing something wrong. When that happens it is important to make sure you are - not overdoing it, observing proper form on your exercises (sloppy form = more injuries), or trying to challenge yourself too much by doing things beyond your current talents.

It is true that "No Pain = No Gain" when it comes to weightlifting, but "Too Much Pain = You're Doing It Wrong" is also equally true.

Doing regular stretches and yoga, and basic exercises to build up your core strength, help to prevent sports injuries and should be a regular component in your fitness regimen.

Remember these three things!

MIND - Sleep, rest and meditation. Remember to take naps when you get the chance.

BODY - Stretching, yoga, low stress exercise days. eg. Going for a nature walk instead of weightlifing.

SOUL - Fun exercises / sports that give you peace of mind. eg. Archery, cycling, ice skating, swimming.

The simple act of walking or cycling on a nature trail is great exercise but also calming, refreshing and revitalizing - helping your mind and body on multiple levels. You have to think in terms of BALANCE so your body can maintain its equilibrium physically but mentally and emotionally too.

There is no point being buff on the outside if you are falling apart on the inside.

Can I Exercise Around An Injury?



I have a sports injury that I have been trying to work around. Do you have any advice for how to get a good workout, but without interfering with the healing process?"

- George C.


Hello George!

I noticed you didn't mention what type of sports injury you have, so I have provided advice below for the two most common injuries. If your injury isn't for knee or shoulder please let me know and I shall add more Do's and Don'ts for your kind of injury.

Knee Injury Do's and Don'ts

-Focus on upper body in seated and standing exercises.
-Work out the lower body on the floor (glute kickbacks, inner/outer thigh raises)
-Focus on core and stretching
-Cardio only within limitations. Running is bound to be aggravating to a knee injury but perhaps the elliptical is fine. Listen to your body.
-Depending on the injury shallow squats (preferably with a stability ball) can help to strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
-Air punches for cardio can even be practiced seated.

-Do lunges
-Do step-ups

Shoulder Injury Do's and Don'ts

-Focus on lower body
-Add more core and low back exercises
-Try new cardio exercises (cycling, running)

-Use the arm handles on the elliptical
-Many upper body exercises use the shoulders. Listen to your body. You may be able to do bicep curls but not a triceps push down.
-Do bench press (too much weight and shoulders assist the chest and triceps and secondary working muscles)
-Do shoulder exercises unless prescribed by a physiotherapist.

Anatomical Terms for Athletes

Ever had a personal trainer refer to a part of the body using a word you didn't know? Well here is a handy guide to the various body parts / muscles most commonly referred to and likely a few you didn't know.

Well here is a two handy diagrams showing all the muscles of the human body so you can take note of the names of muscles you didn't know before. Also important if you ever get a sports injury and want to tell the doc where you hurt yourself.

If you are ever in doubt ask your personal trainer to slow down and explain which muscles they mean exactly. It never hurts to ask.

If you live in Toronto (or any other major city) you can also find lots of bookstores that will have a variety of anatomy books which can explain what you are looking for. Try to find an anatomy book that is more attuned to exercising.

In the future I may even post reviews on books I think are particularly useful.

Injuries Vs Fitness: 7 Tips to getting Back on your Feet

Injury. It’s the one word that can strike fear into even the most dedicated of athletes. (Followed possibly by "drug test".)

An injury can completely derail even the most motivated of gym-goers. And unfortunately, it’s one of the most common mishaps of training.

Suffering from an injury is one of the biggest reasons that people stop working out altogether, but it doesn’t have to be! If you approach working out the right way even though you’re injured, and you maintain a positive mindset then you can preserve your physical fitness while still healing.

1. Go get a professional opinion

Before you do anything else, go see a doctor! Though most of us have an uncanny fear of going to see a doctor to get an injury checked out (how many of us have fallen victim to the “if I ignore it, it’s not real!” mindset?) it’s the very first thing you need to do. Getting a professional opinion will help you overcome injury faster and help you come back stronger and better than before. Many times they can point out things that are wrong that you didn’t even notice, thus saving you from repeating the same mistakes and re-injuring yourself over and over again.

2. Exercise around the injury

You don’t have to completely stop working out just because you have injured a body part. Instead focus on the workouts that you can do. If you can still do low-impact cardio try taking up swimming or biking. If you’re sidelined from doing upper- body weights find lower-impact lower body exercises or core work that you can do without affecting the injured area.

3. Don’t use injury as an excuse to completely stop

If you are able to still work out despite an injury than do so! It’s going to be that much harder to get back into working out if you stop completely. It’s easy to view an injury as an excuse to become lazy and stagnant,however continuing to maintain your physical fitness will make you stronger not just physically but mentally as well.

4. Focus on what you can do

Use this time to clean up your diet or try something new that you have been putting off. Injury is your body’s way of telling you that it needs a break from some activity or that you approached an activity with a little too much fervor.

You may have never realized how much you enjoy cooking until now, or that you actually really love yoga classes despite what you thought before. Use this time to make yourself a better-rounded fitness and nutrition enthusiast!

5. Stay positive

It’s so easy to fall into a downward spiral of negativity when you suffer an injury, sometimes even bordering on depression. When you’re sidelined from doing something you love it’s hard to find acceptance in that.

And it’s okay to acknowledge these feelings. But don’t let them consume you. Stay as positive as possible and focus on the good in your life – it will make everything else more bearable as you wait for your injury to heal.

6. Don't Overdo it on the Pain Killers

Yes, you are in pain. But just because you have access to powerful painkillers doesn't mean you should be gobbling them up like Smarties.

7. Give your body time to rest

I know, I just spent several paragraphs explaining how you should stay active. But you also need to allow your body adequate time to rest and heal. Just like you shouldn’t give up exercise completely, you shouldn’t approach it with an over-zealousness either.

Use this time to find a healthy balance between both rest and exercise.

As frustrating as injuries are, they don’t need to signify the end of your fitness career, only that you need to tweak it a bit. Get professional opinions from doctors and personal trainers so that you can approach your recovery in smart way and come back more fit and strong than before.

Don’t give up hope – you will be back on your feet in no time!

How Much Rest Do You Need?


"Hello! I am confused from various people who say I should exercise daily and other people saying I should rest every 2nd day. Who is right? What should I be doing with respect to resting?"

- Jessica Y.


They're actually both right, but I understand your confusion.

Not the answer you were expecting, is it?

Ideally what you want to be doing is alternating days where you do upper body exercises and lower body exercises, giving the upper or lower half a rest in between.

Daily exercise is your ultimate goal, but to do so without developing sports injuries you need to take a rest in-between each day so you don't over-exert yourself and injure yourself.

Doing Alternating Routines also increases your endurance over the long run, because you are getting adequate rest for your various body parts, but your heart and lungs are being exercised daily - which means your heart and lungs will get stronger and develop much more endurance.

So for example if you are doing lots of upper body weightlifting one day the next day you should be focusing on your legs and hips.

However if you are doing full body exercises that are pretty intense, such as marathon running, then you need to be taking a break for a day (or two) after running a marathon.

Also please note the differences between different types of resting:

Active Recovery - Do something less stressful to stay active and not sedentary.  Instead of running go for a walk or do yoga, lift lighter weights and increase reps or swim for fun to take a break from your competitive training schedule.
Absolute Rest - Do nothing at all!  Read a book, go to the museum or take a nice long bath.  No activity is a great reward for many consecutive days of hard training.  Your mind and body will thank you!

Alternating Routines - Give your upper or lower body the time it needs to recover by alternating routines on different days of the week.

If you hire a personal trainer (hint hint) they can help you to create alternating upper body and lower body routines, thus allowing you to maximize your exercise and rest periods.
Looking to sign up for archery lessons, boxing lessons, swimming lessons, ice skating lessons or personal training sessions? Start by emailing and lets talk fitness!

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