A Winning Mindset During COVID-19 & Adversity

First and foremost, wherever you are and whoever you are, I hope you are healthy and safe while reading this. Every one of us have been affected by COVID-19 and every one of us will be living a different life when this is all said and done. There is no going back to our “normal” after this.⁣

But I also wanted to send out my thoughts and condolences to anyone who has been severely impacted by this virus, whether it’s personally through contact and contraction, or from a business and livelihood standpoint. I’m sending you my thoughts.⁣

Point being: There’s no selling this thing short anymore.⁣

I wanted to put something together that can hopefully help you get through this time of hardship. As a kid who’s been blessed with several privileges growing up from fantastic parents, grandparents, and support – this becomes one of the most trying times of all our lives.⁣

Just think about that for a second, the next generations will be reading about this in their history books.⁣

With that said, I also grew up with a low self-esteem. I didn’t like to be watched doing activities or playing sports, nor did I have courage to go much outside of my comfort zone (including the strength room at my high school). I’m also an introvert, a mix of an emotional/analytical. Somewhere between a wallflower and a guy who needs to know all the facts before making a decision.⁣

Why is this important?⁣

Because I spent A LOT of my time listening and searching for things to help build my confidence and boost my self-esteem, improving my overall mindset. Now I can share some of those things with you.⁣

Doubling back on what I said in the beginning of this blog post, we are not going to be able to go back to what we deemed “normal” before this happened.⁣

Thought leader and author, John C Maxwell says there’s two choices we have through adversity:⁣

1) You can struggle through and go into “crisis” mode, or⁣
2) You can take advantage and lead.⁣

When it comes to leading, I like to think leading by example. You may not think you have anyone to lead, but I’m telling you, someone is ALWAYS watching you. Adopt a 𝘳𝘰𝘭𝘦-𝘮𝘰𝘥𝘦𝘭 𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘴𝘦𝘵 in this situation and beyond. Take a step back and watch how many people you influence.⁣

Your family, friends, and others will take notice.⁣

There’s an old story out there about two trees that a boy and his father plant and aim to grow. After several months, the trees are starting to become saplings and the boys asks his dad which one will grow faster? ⁣

The dad replies, “The one we feed and water the most.”⁣

If you feed your fears at this time, by scouring your social media pages, hitting refresh every 30 seconds to see the updates on the news, you can rest assured that you’ll be adopting panic, fear, and anxiety, thus pandemonium will exist.⁣

But if you feed your faith, your belief and your confidence, you will be fulfilling and nurturing your growth and your ability to get things done through this time of crisis. You’ll be much less anxious and experience much less panic as well.⁣

So, which tree will you feed and water the most?⁣

Wayne Dyer, a motivational speaker and author, says, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”⁣

In other words, how you view things is how you do things. If we can change or adapt your perspective, we can change the actions you take.⁣

Controlling the controllables is a personal mantra of mine. My coaches Alwyn & Rachel Cosgrove have this mantra as well, and are really making sure we’re focusing on that mantra. It’s an important mindset/mantra to adopt as well because an overwhelming majority of stress and anxiety that people go through are from them spending too much time and energy trying to change the things that are out of their control.⁣

There are some things in life that you have ZERO control over, other things in life that you have SOME control over, and finally things in life that you have FULL control over. Make a list of what that looks like for you.⁣

Pic courtesy of thecounselingteacher.com

Right now, we have ZERO control over the COVID-19 on earth, nor the executive orders put in place. You have SOME control on what you need to do in order to get through this, like going to the grocery store, how to work from home, etc. You have FULL control over the decisions you make, your attitude, and how you’ll use your time at home.⁣

There are people and things in life that need your attention, that deserve your attention. Focus on them. Don’t react, but reflect, and take pro-action from what you learn during reflection.⁣

The executive director of the La Crosse (WI) Chamber of Commerce has been masterful at getting out information and adapting on the fly during this outbreak. She’s sending out daily and often times multiple emails per day to keep us informed as well as how to manage our businesses and selves. She said something yesterday that I stopped me in my tracks:⁣

𝘐 𝘢𝘮 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘧 𝘥𝘢𝘪𝘭𝘺 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦.⁣

One of the reasons you may be treading in turmoil is because your life is being thrown into daily change, and you may not like that (𝘞𝘩𝘰 𝘛𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘮𝘺 𝘊𝘩𝘦𝘦𝘴𝘦?, anyone?). It leaves you feeling like you don’t have control, throwing you off your routine and demolishing your structure. Remember, the controlling the controllables here!⁣

Getting back to becoming the master of daily change. How fitting for our time, right? You may have to say this aloud once, twice, or fifteen times. Vicki asks you to chant it, and I agree. It’ll stick and be more powerful. It becomes reality.⁣

Crisis and adversity are part of life. It can be tragic, heart-breaking stuff, but it always 𝘮𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘴 us. What we do with this experience will define us. Times like these will test us, but we will always come out stronger.⁣

Here’s an analogy for you:

In order to build muscle, the muscle has to be stressed, or taken through adversity. The regeneration of that muscle will result in a new, stronger muscle. However, over time, the same adversity (stimulus) won’t cause adaptation. We need to introduce the muscle to more stress which may be new stress or stress with added intensity or pressure. The recovery of that stress is what makes the muscle adapt, becoming stronger yet.⁣

Adversity does the same thing to you and your mind.⁣

There will be failure, heartache, tragedy, and sorrow, but as John C Maxwell says, each of those also comes with a seed of greater benefit.

Adversity will make us stronger. Your perspective on this entire thing can make this whole situation 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘴𝘦 for you, or 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 for you. That’s your 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘪𝘤𝘦.⁣

What I posted above may feel completely wrong to you, and that’s OK. Just remember how you impact and influence others. Do you want them to feel like you do? Do you want to feel like you do? If it’s a no, embrace a different mindset. We will get through this.⁣

I’ll leave you with this, as it was posted by Alwyn yesterday:⁣

“Never regret a day in your life: good days give happiness, bad days give experience, worst days give lessons, and best days give memories.” – Sukhraj Dillon⁣

There may be some out there that believe we have to go through this. Maybe, but I know one thing, when this is all said and done, we’ll be stronger than ever because we’re in this together.⁣

-Coach Jordan, Founder of Unity Fitness

Tactical Strength Challenge: Recovery Basics

When we start training for the Tactical Strength Challenge (TSC), it’s likely that there are increases in overall volume of training – sessions take longer, weight gets heavier, reps go up, etc. This is especially true for those first-time competitors or those just starting to explore the world of kettlebell training. With this increase, we often forget what else has to increase – our recovery.

A picture containing sitting, indoor, bottle, table

Description automatically generated

If we’re not recovering and are constantly breaking the body down during training, we’re not going to see progress toward a heavier deadlift, more snatches or pull-ups, or a longer flexed arm hang time. At the end of the day, we only get better from what we recover from.

Stay healthy!

At the most foundational level, we want to make sure we’re staying healthy. Some of this can be helped with avoiding injury and what I will talk about later in this article, but other lifestyle factors do play a role. Making sure that we’re washing our hands, avoiding touching our face unnecessarily, staying away from those who are sick, etc. is all great to make sure we’re staying healthy!

To the body, stress is stress. If we’re sick, or just barely over an illness, the body doesn’t realize if the stress from a workout is stress from that illness or the workout itself. Being sick may mean a couple days off workouts and training, which is okay if it happens, but we do want to avoid it if we can!

A large bed sitting in a room

Description automatically generated

Don’t neglect your sleep.

Sleep is some of the best recovery work we can do! We want to make sure we’re prioritizing sleep quality and quantity throughout the challenge. Regarding quantity, we want to make sure that we’re getting 6-9 hours of sleep, aiming toward that higher end of the range! While we sleep, it’s like the ultimate reset button for the body. We repair from the work done the day prior, restore hormone levels, etc. However, it’s not all about quantity.

We want to make sure that the sleep we’re getting is QUALITY. As well.  Three big rocks that we can focus on for quality sleep:

  1. Sleep in complete darkness. Invest in blackout curtains, make sure the clocks are on the darkest setting or facing away from you, etc. You can even go as far taping over indicator lights on other appliances you may have.
  2. The room should be cool temperature. Between 60-67 degrees is optimal, according to the research that’s been done. The cooler temps help your body produce more melatonin, decrease insomnia, and are linked to deeper, higher quality sleep overall.
  3. Limit your screen time, especially blue light, before bed. Blue light suppresses our melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that causes us to feel sleepy; it typically should be highest at the end of the day, as we’re going to bed. Most devices have a setting now, but TV’s still usually don’t. Make sure you’re winding down screen-less or limit screens the 90 minutes to hour before bedtime.

Food is Fuel.

Food is fuel. It serves many important functions throughout the body and for training! We have to make sure that we’re eating enough to recover and fuel the body for what’s to come. Though weight loss may happen over the course of the challenge, now is not the time to tie a weight loss to your performance goal. Restricting the calories too low can also lead to a decrease in performance over the course of the challenge. It’s best to allow food to fuel the body.

Eating according to the general guidelines for healthy eating is the best way to go. If you’ve competed before, you know what works best for you. If you haven’t working with a coach is a great way to help find out what may best for you individually.

There are some guidelines we can use to fuel for training, regardless of who you are:  Prioritizing carbohydrates around training, to make sure the body is fueled and ready to go for the workout ahead, is almost guaranteed to aid in performing. Ensuring that we’re eating adequate protein on all days is also going to be key to build muscle and get stronger over the course of the training program.

We can’t forget about hydration! Drinking enough water ensures that nutrient delivery to the cells, digestion is optimal, among a host of other benefits. Aim for ½-1x bodyweight in ounces per day. You can even add a pinch of Himalayan Sea Salt to your first glass/bottle of the day if you’re feeling dehydrated to help with water retention.

Fast and Loose Recovery Work

A person lying on the floor

Description automatically generated

We want to make sure we’re taking care of our body on a daily basis. Adding foam rolling, mobility, stability, and movement prep work daily is going to make sure we’re addressing any movement limitations or imbalances as much as possible. This helps protect against injury as well. To steal a tagline from Functional Movement Systems (FMS), we have to move well before we can move often.

By addressing current imbalances, muscular weaknesses, and other areas of concern, we’re giving them the most attention possible. If it took years to acquire, it will likely take quite a bit of time to alleviate. Just like a weight loss journey, we can’t expect an overnight transformation.

Breath work is another great way for the body to relax, destress, and recover. Working through deep, belly breaths allows the body to move into the rest and digest state. Similarly, to how we want to balance tension with fast and loss, we want to allow the body to balance “fight or flight” with “rest and digest”.

Don’t let your calluses build up.

One of the most talked about topics when we ramp up kettlebell training is hand care. Master Instructor Whoo-chae Yoon said it best during my SFG1 Certification when he told us: If you’re ripping calluses and tearing up your hands, you’re making a mistake. It’s not a badge of honor to have your hands torn up.

However, there is an art to hand care. For strength exercises, such as the pull-up and deadlift, we have a different grip than our ballistic snatches. We can’t neglect our calluses and let them build up. When I was first reading about how to care for calluses, I found numerous different methods. The one that works best for me is:

Using a callus shaver or pumice stone to shave down the calluses while your hands are dry. I’ll usually do this before a shower at night especially. That way, I know I’ll be able to let them relax instead of loading weights while I’m coaching during the day. The water from the shower and the moisture also feels great on them, once they’re shaven down. Then I’ll moisturize with a thicker moisturizer, such as the Coconut Body Butter from Trader Joe’s, and let it soak in

During the day, when I’m coaching or have to use my hands a lot, I’ll also use Corn Huskers Lotion to moisturize and maintain them. I’ve found that it’s best to have callus there, but we want it to be tough, yet smooth.

Just like anything else, hand care is some trial-and-error. I know a lot of people recommend soaking the hands first or shaving down calluses after they shower. But for me, I’ve found that having my hands wet causes me to shave them down too far, so they’re raw the next day.

Preventative Tune Ups w/ Physical Therapy, Chiropractic, etc.

The best way to avoid serious injury is to stay ahead of it! By visiting Physical Therapist or Chiropractor when the injury small, or perhaps not even an injury yet at all, we can make sure our body is feeling good throughout the process. If something is bugging you, or you feel a knot that you can’t seem to release on your own, addressing it when it’s small is likely a better route than to let it get to something big.

It’s All Individual

A picture containing person, indoor, green, wall

Description automatically generated

Take time to get to know your body – there may be some trial and error within the first few weeks. For example, to use myself, I HATE training with food in my stomach. While eating pre-training is typically optimal for performance, it’s not for me. Instead, I opt to train fasted and make sure that I have a good meal ready for me immediately after training to help in recovery as soon as possible.

You may have some trial and error similar to this – What time of day is best? What foods digest the best? Do you need to do a PT/Chiropractic tune up more often? The first few weeks are the best time to get this trial and error out of the way. Then, as we get closer to competition, we fine tune everything, ensuring we have optimal training as well as recovery!

by Emily O’Connor, SFG1 and Unity Fitness Lifestyle Transformation Coach

So, You Want to do a Kettlebell Snatch?

By Coach Emily O’Connor

Doesn’t that hurt your wrist?!

You mean, it’s kind of like a swing, but you finish with the bell overhead?!

Catch the kettlebell… over your head?!

Oh yes, the infamous kettlebell snatch. It’s an impressive feat and a necessary one, if you want to compete in the twice-annual Tactical Strength Competition (TSC) held by gyms across the world whose coaches are affiliated with Strong First. But how does one go about learning this exercise? First, I HIGHLY recommend that you don’t take my approach: “Watch one video, grab your test-sized kettlebell, and give it a go in your living room (no warm up, necessary).”

Not the best way to be successful, right? The snatch is a highly technical movement and reading about it, listening to tips and tricks, and watching videos can all help. But, I would highly recommend finding an SFG (StrongFirst Girya) who is certified and can help you trouble shoot your individual snatch.

If you’re local to La Crosse, Unity has three SFG1 instructors, Jordan, Mandy, and myself. But, if you’re not, you can search by location here or contact us for online training options!

However, if you are going at it alone, or if your coach wants you to do some more reading, here’s a step-by-step guide to your first kettlebell snatch. A final note, this article will reference hardstyle kettlebell training and standards. If you’re searching for further information, use “StrongFirst” or “hardstyle” in all searches, so as to not mistakenly find a competition style informational video. 

Evaluate where you’re at, why do you want to do it.

First, you need to figure out why you want to kettlebell snatch.

Do you want a natural progression to your current kettlebell training?

Do you want it to compete in an event like the TSC?

Do you want to try something new and different?

Do you want it just to feel like a badass and do cool stuff?

All of these are AWESOME reasons, and I encourage you to go after it. However, knowing the answers also provides clarity to other variables. Training experience, a potential deadline of a looming competition, or, if you’re using it to reach a goal, ensuring it’s the BEST possible choice of exercise to get you there. All of these are important factors to consider before you learn the kettlebell snatch.

Clear your shoulder mobility.

There are a few movement tests that you might want to have checked before you begin any exercise program. Ensuring that you’re moving within your capabilities, while working to bring up the weak links, is important to reduction of injury and longevity of your training program. If you’re working outside of your current capacity, you’re very likely to be injured at some point. It’s just a matter of time.

For the kettlebell snatch, overhead mobility (and stability) is crucial. You must be able to bring your arm directly overhead without compromising a properly braced core. In the picture, this is the image on the left. The image on the right is an example of what a “disconnected” and improperly braced core may look like without adequate shoulder mobility.

Clearing this is simple. Stand straight up with your heels as close to the wall as possible and back flat on the wall, from the hips to the shoulder blades. The back of the head should also be touching. Form a “thumbs up” sign, raise one hand, keeping the elbow straight, and try to bring your thumb to the wall, without losing contact of your spine on the wall. Can you touch the wall? Repeat on the other side? Maybe you can touch the wall with one hand, but not the other? Can you touch the wall with both hands at the same time?

If you cannot touch the wall, while maintaining contact of the spine on the wall, you likely need to work on shoulder mobility. Consult a physical therapist, especially if there’s pain, or work with a coach to improve that mobility before you move forward with ANY overhead movements. However, even if don’t pass this shoulder mobility test, we can still work on other things to get you a few steps closer to that kettlebell snatch.

Moving from the Kettlebell Swing to the Single Arm Swing

If you want to snatch, but you’ve never done a kettlebell swing, you’re skipping quite a few steps. We need to nail that two-arm swing, as well as the single-arm swing, before you can think about moving toward the snatch. A powerful swing allows you to generate the maximum amount of power from your hips.

A single-arm swing teaches you to control the kettlebell in a single hand and to resist rotation of the torso as the bell swings between your legs. Maintaining scapular control is crucial as we transition from the upper body controlling the weight in front of the body to controlling the weight in a rack or overhead position.

These movements are just as complex as the snatch, but in order to control the length of the article, I’m going to link a few videos for you to watch that break each of these exercises down. Whether you’re a newbie to kettlebells or have been swinging for years, no one’s ever too advanced to ignore a technique brush-up.

Here’s a video breaking down the kettlebell swing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHxcTn1UeAc&t=62s

Here’s a video breaking down the single-arm kettlebell swing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHn5GQGJLfc

Next up, the Kettlebell Clean

You have a powerful single-arm swing; the kettlebell clean is the next step. At this step, you’ll learn how to keep the bell close, as well as the crucial “punch” for the catch of the kettlebell in the rack position. A snatch is caught with a similar hand and wrist position, while overhead, so this is a crucial step.

The clean harnesses the power of the swing, while practicing other elements of control that you’ll need to perform the kettlebell snatch. The clean allows you to practice coordinating the movement of the bell with the movement of your wrist and arm. This helps prevent smacking your wrist and leaving some pretty nasty bruising. Wrist guards can help, especially in the learning stages, so you may need to invest in a pair.

One tip I like to use here is to think “Row and punch.” To keep the bell close, we want to swing into a row toward the body and then punch the hand through to catch. This is similar to the high pull and punch that will make up our snatch.

Here’s a video breaking down the kettlebell clean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYh7Kf_lEMY

Start Moving Up; Nailing the Kettlebell High Pull

So, we’ve gotten the power from the hips. We’ve practiced keeping the bell close and “punching” in the kettlebell clean. Now, it’s time to start moving up, literally. By this point, you’ll want to have your shoulder mobility test close to cleared, if not be able to fully pass the test.

We can break the snatch down to essentially two parts: a kettlebell high pull and the punch. While there are many steps within each, mastering both allows you to master the snatch. I like to think of the high pull as a vertical kettlebell swing, of sorts. I use the same power from my hips as a swing or clean, while controlling the bell close to the body and in an upward trajectory. The key here is to pull “up” and not “back”. Eventually, we want that bell to end directly overhead, not behind the body, so nailing this trajectory is important.

Starting to look a little like a kettlebell snatch, don’t you think?

Here’s a video breaking down the kettlebell high pull: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyXGycl1ZrQ&t=11s

Clean and Press Up, Snatch from the Top Down

Moving forward is no good unless you have your shoulder mobility cleared, as well as be able to control and be stable in that overhead position. So, if you don’t I would recommend following up with that physical therapist or put in more time working to clear it. Be patient. It might take a lot of time, depending on your unique situation. It’s not always something that you can improve overnight.

But, you’ve been good about your homework, and your shoulder mobility and stability are cleared. Now, we can clean and press the kettlebell into an overhead position and practice controlling the descent of the kettlebell. Each of these reps will return to the ground; don’t string them together quite yet.

Start with a light bell and bring it into an overhead position with a clean and press. Initiate the down by bending the elbow and keeping the kettlebell close to the body. This is key. Casting the bell out in front uses energy and places unnecessary stress on the spine and shoulder, as well as increases injury risk. Think about unzipping your coat (or shirt) as you control the bell into the hike of the swing and return it to the ground. Clean and press into the next rep.

Snatch from the Bottom Up, Eccentric Press and Clean to the Ground

You’ve nailed the top down, now it’s time to reverse it. We’re snatching from the bottom up and then controlling the descent through an eccentric press and clean to set the bell back on the ground. Here, we want to remember the two-part, high pull and punch, that I referenced earlier. The snatch, in simplest form, is a REALLY high, high-pull and a punch. Nailing the timing of the transition is crucial to a successful catch.

It will take time. But start light, as with every step. You can expect to drop a bell size or two each time you move up the ladder of this progression. This allows for less punishing mistakes. Accidentally smacking your wrist with a 16kg bell hurts a heck of a lot more than an 8kb bell, let me assure you! Spare your wrists and start light and/or invest in wrist guards as you’re learning.

You’ve Reached the Full Kettlebell Snatch

It’s time to string them together! Take the top down and bottom up, and perform reps! Start with singles; make sure the bell starts and stops on the ground with each rep. Then, as you become confident, you can string multiple reps together.

Start light and think about all the cues that you’ve learned up to this point. Each one, from the double arm swing power and control to unzipping the coat on the descent is absolutely crucial! Without them, it’ll be difficult, if not impossible, to perform seamless kettlebell snatches.

Here’s a video breaking down the full kettlebell snatch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZO3DzqaKfs

There is an intelligent progress to every exercise and the kettlebell snatch is no exception. Moving through each of these stages is crucial to learning a proper kettlebell snatch. There are drills and techniques to practice at every stage that go well beyond the scope of this article. As I said in the beginning, the snatch is a highly technical exercise and I encourage everyone to undertake the pursuit to learn it. But I equally recommend that you find a StrongFirst Certified coach to work with – in person or online – throughout your journey. While there is a trial-and-error period, and learning how best to “punch” the bell so that you don’t smack your wrist rep after rep, embracing the challenge and pushing the boundaries of what you’re capable of will teach you more than you could’ve ever imagine.

Emily O’Connor, NSCA-CPT, Pn1, SFG1

What if Exercise Isn’t Enough?

In the words of Functional Movement Systems, we need to “Move well  move often.” 

With the world-wide growth booming about 10 years ago, we saw a resurgence back into fitness.  Once again, fitness was become mainstream, being shown on ESPN, put into little clips on social media, and people were starting to exercise (and move) more again.

But what if exercise isn’t enough?

That would be a damn shame, wouldn’t it?

Because as coaches, we’ll show you how exercise can be enough.  It can make every aspect of your life better from your flexibility, strength, performance, flexibility, to your happiness and well-being, mood, etc.  In turn, with your happier mood and newfound confidence, exercise could help make you a better person, or help boost your career, or tackle new tasks.  Exercise will also help you lose weight!

There isn’t much that exercise can’t do – so why are we continuing to lose the battle towards disease and weight gain?

Now, more than ever, our nation is reporting the highest weights of overweight and obesity (these are now stemming down into teens), heart disease, diabetes, and everything else under the sun.

To an extent, it may be safe to say we’re losing the battle.

I’m sure you can I could come up with a list of thousands of reasons why this his happening.  We’ll agree on most of them, and agree to disagree on some, but the point is we can find a lot of them.

As coaches, maybe we missed something here.  Every day we’re given an opportunity to better our knowledge through top-notch certifications regarding strength training, movement patterns, mobility, nutrition coaching, and several more. 

We’re smarter than we have ever been.  We have more access than ever before.  More options to choose from, with new ones coming at you every day.

Yet, we’re still not helping the majority of our population.

Maybe we missed a step…Maybe we forgot to be neat and talk about NEAT.

You know, the Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis?!

Oh, you don’t know what NEAT is?  Well, let me explain…

If EAT (your Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is all the calories you burn from exercising, NEAT is all the calories you burn from moving around, but not through exercise.

So, walking the dog, taking the stairs, parking far away from the store entrance, taking the long way to the bathroom or water fountain, etc all add up to your NEAT.

NEAT is a sum of all the activity you are doing OUTSIDE of scheduled or purposely planned exercise.  Intentionally scheduled and completed exercise goes under your EAT category, and here’s the kicker: your EAT doesn’t add up to nearly the amount of daily energy expenditure (calories burned) as NEAT does (unless, of course, you’re spending +4 hours in the gym every day exercising…and if you’re not competing for something big like the Olympics, then we should talk, ‘cause that ain’t right).

Your BMR is your Basal Metabolic Rate, which is basically what your body burns at rest.  In other words, it’s what your body burns from just being you if you were to do absolutely nothing.  It’s your baseline.  In terms of your energy expenditure each day, this is also known as Resting Energy Expenditure (REE).

TEF is the Thermic Effect of Food, which is the calories you burn from eating food.  Yep!  Your body has to use energy aka burn calories to break food down into your digestive system, BUT this really only happens with whole foods, particularly protein.  If you’re eating highly processed, or fake foods, your body can whip through those no problem so you’re not really getting any major effect from TEF.

The combination of TEF, NEAT, and EAT make up your Non-Resting Energy Expenditure, or NREE.

REE + NREE = TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure aka the calories your burn each day).

Here’s a chart from thesportsedit.com that puts it all together:

As you can see from the chart above, EAT (your intentionally planned exercise) doesn’t add up for much of your overall energy expenditure.  NEAT is higher.

In other words, you’ll burn loads (maybe even boatloads!) of more calories every day by focusing on your NEAT!

Here’s a few other quick examples of NEAT:

  • Have a step goal (more than what you’re currently doing)
  • Park further away from the doors at stores, restaurants, and events
  • Walk during your lunch break, or take a walk every day (walk your dog(s))
  • Take the long way every time you go to the cafeteria, or bathroom, or to grab a coffee or water
  • Don’t use drive through ordering…ever
  • Get a standing desk
  • Take the stairs
  • Do more lawn work our work outside the house
  • Pick up a new hobby that involves some movement (lawn work, mowing, even dancing for some)

I promise, if you focus on your NEAT, you’ll see an enormous benefit not only in your weight loss efforts, but overall health.  We need to capture this moment because our lack of NEAT and priority of electronics and devices could be a major reason why we’re losing this battle.

That, and the simple fact that most of us are incredibly distractable from doing valued, meaningful work (you know, the stuff we shy away from by burying our heads in our phones or Netflix show that will later give us more anxiety).

By focusing some of your efforts towards NEAT, you’ll burn more calories each day and boost your health.  This usually shows a lot of promise for everyone, especially those stuck in a weight loss plateau.

However, that doesn’t mean that EAT isn’t effective.  In fact, EAT shows more long-term, sustainable results towards calorie burning and over health as well as provides us with our toned muscles, strong joints and bones, and longevity.

That means it would be wise of you to make sure your EAT is giving you the best bang for your buck.  It should have components of strength training, aerobic (cardio) work, flexibility, and more.  This is obviously something that’s right up our wheelhouse here at Unity Fitness, where we design customized programs for all our members – servicing you with the best bang for your buck in an effective and efficient program.

In conclusion, I feel like the fitness industry has jumped on the rocket ship of growth and it’ll keep on delivering.  As coaches, we’re undoubtedly extremely passionate about what we do.  Most of us LOVE strength training, but I think our love and eagerness to do the next best exercise has missing some of the “big rocks”, like NEAT.

That doesn’t mean all coaches are like that, but from my perspective, there’s more that are that aren’t.

Don’t forget about your NEAT.  It’s a game-changer in your program, regardless of the goal.  Furthermore, most, if not all, of your NEAT activities will result in fat-burning as well – another WIN!

As much as I love seeing our members every day and watching people better their lives and push their bodies, I also love to know you’re taking care of business OUTSIDE of the gym.

You and I both have the same 24 hours in a day.  We may have an EAT of 3-5 hours per week.  That leaves us with 163-165 hours outside of the gym that we need to create structure and systems and routines to help ourselves.  NEAT is built within that structure.

In a world where exercise is more popular than ever, we’re also showing that exercise may not be enough.

NEAT for the win! Move well, and move often!

10 Ways to Bulletproof Your Body… at Home!

Getting injured is the worst. Seriously. There’s no way to sugar coat it. It’s not fun, we may have to spend time at the doctor, scale back training sessions, or even take some time off. When we’re looking to be in a solid routine with training, it often feels like a step backward when we’re injured.

Some injury is often unavoidable. This typically is a result of an accident: falling on an icy sidewalk, cutting a finger while chopping vegetables, or breaking a bone playing sports. But others may be able to be prevented. These often occur over time and unnoticed, until they become an issue. This can include: chronically tight muscles, stress fractures, and movement deficiencies that may cause pain when we load them in the gym. For example, if you have a poor squat pattern, but we allow you to use weight anyway or go past your personal limits, this may cause injury that could’ve been avoided. By incorporating some small movement habits daily, we’re often able to both prevent and lessen the effects of injury.

EXOS, a premiere human performance company, refers to this as regeneration. It is partnered with recovery. Recovery is passive. Without doing anything, recovery in the body will occur. Muscles will repair, heart rate will return to resting levels, and the body will, once again, be in a place of balance, or homeostasis. By utilizing regeneration strategies, we’re actively working to promote and encourage recovery and optimization of movement. These regeneration strategies may help speed up the natural recovery process. Today, I want to talk about ten ways that you can bulletproof your body, recovery faster, and lessen the risk of injury from home with minimal (or zero!) equipment.

  • Doorway Pec Stretch: If you have a desk job, you likely spend time hunched over work, a computer screen, with your arms crossed in front of you, etc. This shortens the pecs and leads to tight shoulders, overall. When we can’t open up the chest, but then go to perform exercises such as a push up or chest press, it can lead to some nasty shoulder issues. One way that we can head this off is to use a Doorway Pec Stretch. This opens up the chest and shoulder, allowing you to stretch the tight muscles.
  • T-Spine Opener: Any movement will do, I’ll link a few below with some “how to videos”, but hand-in-hand with our tight pecs and chest, we likely have a tight t-spine or upper back. I used to have minimal t-spine mobility. Seriously, check out the picture. But, by using these drills multiple times per day, I was able to loosen it up and now I’m fairly mobile in that area and move well. Options for t-spine extension and rotation drills are: the bow and arrow, Bretzel 1 or 2, open book, or shoulder sweeps. Start slow with this one and gradually reach for more and more of a stretch.
  • Deep Breathing: We breath every single day, but chances are they’re shallow, chest breaths. We often aren’t conditioned to take those big, deep, belly breaths unless we’re consciously focusing on it. Deep breathing can be done in the morning, right when you wake up, or in the evening, as you’re lying in bed going to sleep at the end of the night. At night, it can be used to relax and optimize sleep, which I’ll talk about more later. As we deep breathe, we want to make sure that our stomach rises first, and our chest rises last. We’re breath in through the nose, pause with that full inhale for 1-2 seconds, and slowly exhale through the mouth. Again, we’ll pause 1-2 seconds after the exhale before taking a second breath. Try to exhale for twice as long as you inhale. Aim for a more than 10 second long exhale!
  • Counter-Top Lat and T-Spine Stretch: Our latissimus dorsi, or lats, are the large muscles on our back and the t-spine, as I covered earlier, refers to our mid-back. If you notice yourself in a hunched forward posture while sitting at your desk or working on the computer, these are likely tight. This counter top lat stretch is perfect for when you’re waiting for food to be done in the microwave or during the last few minutes of cooking on the stove top. Set your timer just a few minutes before the food is done, or stay in the kitchen while you microwave, and use your countertop to stretch the mid-back and lats. Then, shake it out, serve the food, and eat your dinner! It’s one extra step, but by building it into your nightly routine, you’re less likely to forget to do it.
  • Half-Kneeling Couch Stretch: This is a GREAT hip flexor and quad stretch. Instead of sitting on the couch at the end of the day and allowing our hip flexors to stay shortened and tight, as they might’ve been if you were sitting at a desk all day at work, spend some time in this half-kneeling couch stretch. It’s a passive stretch; once you’re in the position, just hang out there on each side while you’re watching TV or scrolling on your phone at the end of the day.
  • Toe Yoga: Our feet are our connection to the ground. They’re the start of the base that we move from throughout the day and during our training sessions. It’s vital that we take care of them. One way that we can do this is with toe yoga. Simply, toe yoga is moving your feet around. As you start, just move them. Walk around barefoot, flex and point your feet, roll a golf ball on the bottom of your feet to loosen the muscles. As you want to progress, there are a variety of patterns you can perform: big toe down/little toes all up, big toe up/ little toes down, big and pinky toes down/ other toes up, spreading our (or splaying) the toes, and “running” the toes (think about how you would drum your fingers on a desktop, one down at a time and then back up). Give it a shot seated, standing, balancing on one leg… the options are endless!
  • Teeth-brushing Ankle Mobility: Ankle mobility is highly underrated, and chances are, we could all work to improve it. As you’re brushing your teeth, you’re likely standing in front of the bathroom mirror and you have the cabinet. We can use this time to do a version of the standing ankle mobility stretch. Start with your toe on the wall and tap your knee forward. Keeping your heel on the ground, move your foot further and further away from the wall until you reach a point when it’s difficult to touch and you feel a stretch in your front ankle. Move in and out of that stretch or just hold it on each side for the length that you brush your teeth!
  • Neck Nods and Turns: If you’re like me, you hold stress in your neck. Seriously, I would say, on average, I live a fairly low stress life, and whenever the littlest bit of stress comes up, I can immediately feel it in my neck and upper traps. Incorporating neck nods and turns as made a huge difference in loosening my neck and allows me to make a conscious choice to release the stress and tension that I’m holding there. To perform these, sit or stand tall and punch your hands toward the ground. We want to make sure that our shoulders don’t do the moving. Then, tuck the chin to the chest and think about reaching through the chin as you look up and down. Repeat looking over the left and right shoulders as well.
  • Optimize Your Sleep: Although sleep is passive recovery, the benefits of quality sleep are numerous. I couldn’t possible name them all without taking a full article to explain each. However, I’ll leave it with: quality sleep is absolutely vital and I encourage you to check out this article for more (https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-sleep). Some ways we can change our environment to set ourselves up for a quality night’s sleep are: going to bed and waking up around the same times every day, keep the room completely black, use a white noise device or fan, practice relaxation or deep breathing prior to going to bed, avoiding blue light at least an hour before bed, keep the room slightly cooled (between 66-72F is ideal), and avoiding caffeine at least six hours before bed time.
  • Foam Rolling: I tried to keep it to no equipment, but I can’t not include foam rolling. Although true research is mixed, there’s numerous anecdotal benefits to including foam rolling in your daily routine. It allows you to break up tight knots in tissue and may promote more blood flow, thereby enhancing recovery, of tissues as well. The only downside is that it does require a foam roller, or other self-myofascial release tool. Good news, these aren’t too expensive and last for years.

There you have it! Ten ways to bulletproof your body from the comfort of your own home. They’re not complicated and don’t take a lot of time, minimal or no equipment is required, you don’t have to change in the special clothes, you likely won’t even break a sweat, but they can make all the difference in your movement, training, and reducing the risk of potential injuries!

Written by Emily O’Connor, NSCA-CPT, SFG1, Pn1, XPS