8 things I took from the 2012 Asia Fitness Convention

The Lab Team with the king of kettlebells, Steve Cotter

Last week the Asia Fitness Convention came to the Dusit Thani Hotel in Pattaya. I attended a few sessions at last year’s convention in Bangkok but this was my first full conference.

The event was a great opportunity to refresh knowledge, get some new ideas and pick up some inspiration to push forward.

What I enjoyed most about the conference was meeting people all over the region (and the world!) involved in the fitness industry. I met fitness professionals based in Hong Kong, Korea, Phnom Penh, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India and the States, to name a few, and I’ve already planned a few trips for the next few months.

Below are the top 8 things that I learnt or was reminded of at the AFC 2012.

In no particular order…

Kettlebells! I’ve been kettlebell training for 2 years but it was great to get a refresher on kettlebell technique from the man at the top of the sport, Steve Cotter. The guidance and instruction was invaluable and it truly was a unique opportunity to learn from the best in the business.

Calories I attended some great sessions with Fabio Comana, head of NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine). His nutrition seminar taught us that tables showing how many calories we use each day (based on our perceived activity levels) are decades old and are therefore very outdated. As a western population we move around far less that we used to and this needs to be taken into account. In short, these quantitative tables, and related apps and online calculators, are often rendered confusing and misleading, and we should focus more on the process towards healthy living. If we do this, the results will come.

Weight training is fine for 7 years+ I have always subscribed to the idea that weight training for young people is healthy and productive. After all, since the dawn of time children would have been required to move and lift heavy items. It was good to hear my views reaffirmed by Fabio and to hear the NASM recommendation that resistance exercise is good for children 7 years and above. I’m not suggesting we have kids doing 1 rep max power cleans, I mean lifting and shifting weight safely with good and proper technique. A lot of parents believe it will stunt their growth, including some parents of children I instruct at some of my international school strength and conditioning programs. This is totally misguided.

Body fat % testing machines are largely useless I’ve always thought this and seldom use these handheld machines. People seem to like gadgets that provide numbers on progress though so they’ll be around for a while.

NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and is based around the idea that someone who is generally more active throughout the day but works out 1-2 times a week can get better health, fitness and  weight loss results than the person hunched over the computer who trains hard 3-4 times a week. This seminar on calorie expenditure and weight loss provided a lot of information to help my weight loss clients.

IKFF are serious about their qualifications With many fitness courses you simply turn up for the day and pick up your certificate. That’s not to say they don’t hold value, but most are simply attendance based rather than pass/fail. It was refreshing to see that the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation have a very stringent test and evaluation, which only 3 people out of 20 passed, including two of my colleagues at The Lab (well done Rich and Sasha, only the best at The Lab!) This means that to hold this certification really means something significant and special.

There’s a difference between training hard and training well Training someone ‘hard’  is easy, you simply increase the work time, weight or reps and decrease rest time until they’re exhausted. However, training athlete’s effectively and efficiently is somewhat different. Progressions should be earned, not given. The metabolic conditioning seminar provided a good reminder on programming, recover time and training with your goal in mind.

And the last thing I took from the AFC 2012?

A pink BOSU! Confirming the long-held theory that alcohol and charity auctions don’t mix, me and my colleague and friend Sasha put in a last-second winning bid for a bright pink BOSU stability ball… Haha!

Our new pink BOSU

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Tabata

There’s a lot of hype at the moment about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and with good reason. It’s been featured in newspapers and magazines a lot recently and in my line of work I often get asked about it.

The idea behind this kind of training is that you complete high intensity bursts of exercise (as close to ‘all out’ as you can) for typically 20-45 seconds, with recovery periods that can be either complete rest or low intensity.

This kind of training is preferably done with something that you can hit with 100% intensity, such as sprinting, rowing or plyometric exercises such as lunge jumps or squat jumps. Something like press ups wouldn’t be ideal, unless you were firing through the repetitions fast or making the exercise explosive by bringing your hands off the ground or clapping at the top of the movement.

Below is a YouTube video of me completing a HIIT workout known as Tabata. Tabatas are 4 minutes long and are made up of 8 rounds of 20 seconds of high intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of complete rest.

I believe that regardless of your fitness goals, high intensity exercise should make up part of your program. Our bodies respond very well to short bouts of all out effort and it helps to burn fat, build muscle and improve your cardio, especially for sport where short intense bursts of running and jumping are required for successful performance.

This kind of training will leave you feeling strong and energized, especially if all you’ve been doing are long, steady runs or cycles. I will write a piece soon on some ways to practice interval training that you can do anywhere.

If you are interested in learning more about High Intensity Interval Training and how it can benefit you, or if you’d like to schedule some HIIT sessions then please contact me.

Bangkok Personal Trainer – 6 tips to find the right personal trainer in Thailand

So, you’ve decided to hire a personal trainer in Bangkok to help you reach your health and fitness goals. Like lovers, friends and business partners, not everyone is compatible in life, so it’s important to find the right personal trainer that suits you if you want to progress and achieve your goals.

The standard of personal training in Bangkok’s health clubs and gyms is generally quite low. Many of these chain gyms charge extortionate money for underqualified and unmotivated ‘personal trainers’ who care more about selling you your next 50 sessions than a real desire to see you improve.

In one of Bangkok’s largest chain gyms (that shall remain unnamed!) I’ve seen PTs more interested in phone messages and checking themselves out in the mirror than monitoring the progress of their clients. However, there are also some great outfits in Bangkok providing a thorough, extensive service and new innovative techniques.

Personal trainers can be great if you’re struggling for motivation, you’ve hit a plateau and have stopped improving, you prefer training with someone or if you’re coming back from an injury and have specific training requirements.

So if you’re considering hiring a personal trainer in Bangkok I’ve drawn up a list of things to think about and consider:

1. Are they organized, attentive and honest?

In summary, do they have the character and attributes of someone you can work with – honesty in setting realistic goals and feedback about what you’re doing right and wrong; punctual and organized in planning and implementing your program to fit in with YOUR schedule; and attentive to your needs by offering their full commitment and attention to you?

2. Are they a good motivator?

Whatever your reasons for getting a personal trainer, you should be motivated and inspired by them. Do they have a drive and enthusiasm that will rub off on you? Are you motivated and inspired by their achievements and outlook on fitness/life?

3. Are they qualified?

Don’t be scared to ask them what qualifications and experience they have. Make sure their qualifications are from a respected, accredited body, such as a REPS Level 3 (UK) or NASM (USA). Ask about additional qualifications and if they’re first aid qualified.

4. Do they offer discounts for bulk sessions or group training?

Ask if any discounts are offered if you book, say, 10 sessions. Many people like to train with a friend so see if any discount is offered for this. Your trainer may offer a second friend free or a set rate for groups of friends.

5. Are they a good role model?

Ask yourself if this is someone who practices what they preach. If your PT trains hard, looks after themselves and has a positive and energetic approach to life and fitness then they will also have a positive impact on you.

6. Are they pushy?

I’ve heard of all sorts of high-pressure sales tactics in the fitness industry in Thailand. Put simply, if they seem more interested in pressuring you to purchase more training sessions than your progress then steer well clear. Sometimes only a few sessions is enough to set you on your way; sometimes people need more. Be especially wary if they push supplements or pills onto you – although dietary supplements sometimes have their place, you can reach your fitness goals from a balanced, normal diet.

There’s a few questions to ask yourself when you’re thinking about hiring a personal trainer in Bangkok to help you meet your goals. If you’d like to discuss your fitness goals or anything else in this article please feel free to contact me.

Good luck!