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Understanding Protein

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When I joined the BCG, I started having conversations with people about nutrition and training, although it was probably less of a conversation and more me rambling at whoever was in earshot at the time.

One of the nicest things about the BCG is how it encourages beginners to get into training who maybe have never been in contact with a barbell before. I wrote this article originally for the BCG Facebook group to cover some of the basics of protein and how it relates to training, with the hope that it may be a nice and accessible intro for members who hadn’t had cause to think about nutrition before, and its relation their training, and also to cut through a lot of myths and misinformation that is present in so much training literature (protein powder companies being the worst for pushing this). Read more…

If You Can’t Sit Less, Sit Differently

In the UK, adults of working age sit down for an average of 9.5 hours each day. As we get older, this increases (source). We’ve all heard how sitting down is terribly bad for us, but what can we really do about that? Most of us are employed in ways that involve being sedentary and wouldn’t be willing or able to quit our jobs just so we can sit less. Read more…

Understanding Programming: Volume, Intensity & Stress

One of the programmes we use for our Strength Circuit

Working out alone vs. working out with others

When I became part of the BCG I had previously spent a few years working out by myself in commercial gyms. I’m not going to spend too much energy on dissecting just how horrible those kinds of spaces can be, but that was a secondary consideration at the time; I was training by myself purposefully, and with the intention of interacting with others as little as possible. I wanted to get in there, lift, and get out.

Training for me was, and still is, the primary way I combat my depression and anxiety. Getting under a heavy barbell, squatting it and trying to stand up again, takes pretty much 100% concentration, otherwise you end up squished. This level of concentration is incredibly calming. A lot of the constant mental ‘noise’ that I experience goes away, and stays away, at least for a short time. So the point of training for me was also to reach that point of intense focus. Suffice it to say this is not a very sociable state to be in. Read more…

Getting Stronger with Bristol Women Climbers

Bouldering at TCA

I have always been the first one up a tree whenever I spotted a good one to climb, or the concerning adult crashing kids playgrounds in order to use the climbing wall – and yet it took me to the age of 24 to actually make it to a climbing center. The only reason I did that was through the Bristol Women Climbers group, organised by Lorna Cooper. Read more…

If You Have To, Which Protein Bar?

"Wake up, Homer! Those bars are just junk! They're made out of apple cores and Chinese newspapers!"
“Wake up, Homer! Those bars are just junk! They’re made out of apple cores and Chinese newspapers!”

Recently I have been experimenting with what I eat. As is my way, I have really gone to town on it and have been tracking my calories, protein, fat, carbs etc.. I’ve been enjoying the way that feels and what it’s taught me about food and my body but I want to say right at the start of this post that tracking and getting weird about food like this is absolutely not necessary.

To pay my bills and fund my impulse purchases (most recently, this), I do support work at a university. I only work term-time and this week is my first week back. This is the first year where I have been paying this much attention to what I eat, so before going back I wanted to get a plan together for how I was going to continue to meet my calorie, protein, fat etc. targets while not spending loads of money and with minimal faff. Read more…

From a Mile to an Ultramarathon on Bristol Footpaths

A lush old track in Dyrham

After I wrote the post about running, a few people said they like the idea of using routes that are less urban, so I thought I’d share this spreadsheet that I made. Read more…

Lessons Learned About Training From My Time in Skyrim

Lovely except for the mud crabs

I can tell that I’m overdoing it and getting my “work / life balance” wrong when I start to crave escapism. I usually end up looking at really isolated Photo Spheres on Google Earth, checking the release date for The Book of Dust (again), and playing Playstation. Read more…

Chickpea, Sweet Potato and Tinned Spinach Curry

WADA's not banned spinach yet..

My housemate and I recently both bought a can of spinach from the corner shop for the first time ever… independently of each other. Wild. We were sceptical at first but it doesn’t taste tinny, it isn’t watery and the can is packed full of green. Great for when there isn’t much fresh veg in the house and you can’t be bothered to venture far. Perhaps Popeye and Olive were onto something after all… Read more…

In Praise of Not Specialising (and Lara Croft)

Warming up for a Strength Circuit

Specificity

One of the first things you are taught as a coach is the principle of specificity. This is usually summed up as “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand” (the SAID principle), meaning that the body adapts to the specific demands placed upon it.

The researcher Chris Beardsley published a nice series of articles recently about this that are worth reading, if you find this interesting. In one of them, he lists how strength can be specific to:

  • the type of load being used
  • the direction the force is being applied against the load
  • how quickly the force is being applied
  • how many reps are being done
  • the range of motion used
  • the muscle group being tested
  • the type of contraction the muscle is doing (concentric or eccentric)
  • the stability of the surface being tested on

This is because of adaptations to bones, connective tissue and musculature as well as to the way the brain interacts with the muscles. You might hear this all summarised in the phrase “strength is a skill”. In order to get better at doing something, you’ve got to practice it. Read more…

Forest Bathing in the City

Leigh Woods isn't a forest but it's still pretty nice

This Spring there was a flurry of articles getting excited about shinrin-yoku, the Japanese practice of “forest bathing” – relaxing in woodland.

The concept of forest bathing and other nature therapies is that we enter the environment in a stressed state (due to urban life and technology), experience the restorative effects of nature, and that this has some sort of preventive medical effect. Read more…