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Thoughts, ideas, and information

Hello! Welcome to my website and my first post. As all aspects of health and wellness are important to me, and I aim to use this site to share insights, build community, and offer support through my coaching and training services. Please feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or concerns. I am always trying to improve myself and those around me. Looking forward to working with you to reach your goals and be your best!

 

Talking with top coaches

I had the great privilege of talking with a few amazing coaches this past weekend. Guy Shultz, Head Coach of the University of Western Ontario Cross Country and Distance program, along with Joel Skinner, who coached Derek Druin, the Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist in mens high jump in Rio 2016. Hearing them talk about training and how important all factors are in putting together a successful program, it just reiterated the things I have already posted about. Get good quality sleep, keep stresses to a minimum, train smarter-not more, less is more, rest is possibly the single most important key to long term success and to prevent overuse injuries, do NOT rush development, patience in training plans usually means a step back before steps forward can be taken, make sure speed work is functional, and a host of other great ideas that they talked at length about.

With so many great ideas buzzing inside my head, I went back to work this week coaching and training. Enthusiastic and optimistic, I shared some of the ideas and concepts talked about with a group I train. As we discuss the benefits of these ideas, they see how excited I am and it rubs off on them. As you the reader go through this blog, get inspired and get active! Great things await you with Penner Fitness Training!

Health benefits of workouts

The benefits of working out are vast and cover a broad scope of levels. Insulin control, weight management, heart health, healthy BMI (body mass index), etc. are great examples of physical benefits of exercise. But too often we forget about the other kinds of benefits that come with physical fitness. Being focused and alert, keeping a sharp mind, and overall better cognitive function are mental aspects of health benefits that are strengthened through exercise. Finding yourself, becoming at peace with yourself, connecting with God, and connecting with your soul are all spiritual health benefits of exercise.

The multi faceted benefits go beyond that as well in my opinion, seeing as there is great overlap between the physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual side of a person.

When someone is healthy in all aspects of life, their quality of life tends to improve drastically. So Do not forget to focus on all components of health and wellness. A healthy lifestyle includes many things, make sure that physical fitness is not forgotten or overlooked, it helps with all other areas of your well being too!

Painful workouts

We suffer because we do not suffer enough. Ya, not a typo. I read a great book on how we often suffer more, and longer because we are too afraid to really hurt. It made me think on a level that I admit is not always easy to appreciate. The outcome of working through this concept is worth it however, especially if I can apply it to coaching/training.

Its like this. Take a child who gets a deep sliver. You have 2 options. A) leave it in B) get it out. Option A is less painful to the child right now, because as long as they don’t use that finger, the sliver is not agitating anything and can not be felt.

But tomorrow it will be swollen and in a few days it will be pussy and infected. Eventually a doctor will have to remove it, or if left in still, it can cause so much damage that the finger may need amputation in extreme cases. The longer it is left, the more pain overall and the higher overall cost of getting it out.

Option B is going to cause the child some discomfort and pain up front.. pulling it out with tweezers is not fun or painless, but the sliver wound can start to heal after the sliver is out. Shortly after it is removed it is forgotten about and the body can heal itself and carry on with important things like playing and exploring.

As my first track coach would say, “Pain is beautiful. It means the body is alive and speaking”. Ask someone who has no feeling in their body (the condition is called congenital insensitivity to pain) and they will tell you it is the greatest curse on planet Earth. These people are dangers to themselves as they do not know if what they pick up or touch is too hot and is burning them, if what they are standing on is sharp and cutting into them, if some body part is being restricted or squished, etc. Pain is the body’s way of letting you know whats going on and when to get out of danger.

That being said, there is good pain and bad pain. As an athlete, I have been confronted by both. Knowing the difference is important. Years ago I fractured my femur and kept training and racing on it. That pain was the bad kind but I did not know the difference, and wanted to tough it out and push through. Typical young and dumb athlete. It cost me a year of my university eligibility to learn the lesson of what the difference between good and bad pain was. Nowadays I try to listen to my body when it is giving me feedback on a workout or even just in general. I also can now appreciate to a higher degree what the difference between good and bad pain looks like as I coach others. I watch intently as any of my athletes or clients do their workouts to ensure that the inevitable pain they will experience is that of the good variety.

It seems logical to try to avoid the bad pain, but going after good pain can reap great rewards. Good pain is the kind that says “wow, you worked HARD and I’m exhausted. It ‘hurts’ (in a sore, not injured kind of way) but I just need some recovery”. That is the kind of pain you want in a hard workout. It is also the kind of pain that is the ‘lets get the sliver out earlier rather than later’. This good pain leads to overall quality of life, like bending over to tie your own shoes with ease, lift groceries out of a shopping cart comfortably, or being able to carry on a conversation going up a flight of stairs. A little regular soreness from regular workouts beats a heart attack from a ‘comfy’ sedentary  lifestyle any day.

Here is to good pain!

Stress

Stress is a major factor in human performance, and can even be in everyday life. Stress is perceived, meaning different things stress different people out. So how does one go about dealing with, or perhaps avoiding stress altogether?

Accept what you can not change. There will always be things that are out of your control. Simply control what you can..namely…you!

Adapt. Life is full of twists and turns. A great quote I like to remember when life throws a curve ball at me is this: “a bend in the road is not the end of the road, unless you fail to make the turn”.

Realize the truly important things in life are not things. Too many people spend their health and well being chasing fantasies (often it is trying to make as much money as possible). …It is worth repeating… This money comes at the cost of their health and well being!. Then after they have made grossly massive amounts of money, they turn around and spend their money trying to get their health and wellness back.Seems a bit counter productive to stress about money only to end up spending it on something that most of us already have and take for granted, which is our health.

Working 100 hour weeks to get that 3rd cottage or get away home seems a little silly, but people get caught up in the ‘glory’ of having it all. Funny thing is, you can only be in one place at a time.

I trained a guy who lived in a mansion with 3 car garage, a large indoor pool, theater in his basement, and a bowling lane in his home as well. A pond in the backyard of his acreage (in the city) and 2 full driveways connecting both sides of his front yard, fancy cars in the driveway, etc., etc. Since I offer in home training, I got to see this magnificent place a lot.

But one day as I was training my client, he turned and looked at me and said that it was too much. He admitted that he made lots of money, but had to work 2 jobs (both excellent paying) to keep up with everything. The stress of having to keep a pool functioning, the bowling lane working, the upkeep of the house and yard was so much. He had several cleaners, maids, and a yard worker. He had no time or energy to enjoy all the things he had and never swam, bowled, or went in the backyard. Movies were watched in his bedroom he said, and never in the theater room. The only trips he took in his fancy car was to work every day. He told me to aim for the middle of the pack. Do not be impoverished he said, but too much is just as bad. His lifestyle was killing him and he knew it. (His words, not mine). All the money in the world had not made him happy or healthy. I was there to work on his health with him…by the end of our time together he could do 60 crunches in a row (we started with 4!) and actually do activities for the full session instead of rest every other minute.

So basically I think the lesson is to be happy with what you have, make the most of every situation, control what you can (you), and take life one step at a time. Stress is perceived, but so is happiness. 🙂

Early Specialization Issues

It seems that everyone is seeking to get an edge in the sporting world, and some genius people are capitalizing on this fear. Fear sells, and the almighty dollar is hard to pass up, even when it costs young athletes their future. Because by that time, the people making the money are usually not in the picture any more.

Let me explain..

Win now, no matter the cost later. Year round training, and endless camps…sold as ‘James might lose his spot on the team if he DOESN’T do spring camp because Owen IS doing spring camp and will outperform him for the roster spot.’ This creates an urgency to sign up, because no one wants to be the parent of the kid let off the Jr high..or even high school.. team. We all know that the greatest glory in the world is making the Jr high or high school team (note slight sarcasm).

Let me remind everyone that Michael Jordan was CUT from his high school basketball team! How did that turn out? Did he end up a miserable failure for the rest of his life because he did not make the team the first time out? Since I assume you know who MJ is and all that he has done in the world of basketball, to say nothing of marketing his own shoe and clothing line..I’d say being cut from the high school team did not do anything too catastrophic to him. It simply taught him that things don’t always come easy and that hard work, determination, and not giving up when at first you don’t succeed are all vital in sports and in life.

Back to making the high school team…doctors are now finding MORE injuries in high school athletes than ever before. 30 years ago shoulder injuries were very uncommon in high school athletes, now most hitters in volleyball and pitchers in baseball have had shoulder injuries. These injuries are more often and more severe, in younger ages than ever. How were they able to stay relatively injury free years ago? Seasons were shorter, people were more well rounded as they played all sports and did not wear out select body parts from overuse, and they tried playing different positions past the age of 12.

There are also mental costs as well to being overloaded and overworked in young ages. Burnout in sports is also much higher nowadays, and it seems to be high end athletes that are at the same if not greater risk of this. This is an entirely different slice of the pie that I will not address in detail here, but will rather dive deeper in another post about mental fatigue and burnout seeing as it is worthy of its own discussion.

The sad part is, usually the coaches and trainers that push to excess are long out of the picture by the time the burnout happens and the new coach/trainer takes the hit. This is why I make sure to do a lot of basic speed and stability training in my camps/clinics. Speed is a basic tool that can be used across sports and does not overload the athlete if trained properly. Stability will ensure greater responses to sport specific training later on. My older athletes will get sport specific speed training, but in small doses (in keeping with a world renowned trainer whose philosophy is that one should do the minimum amount possible to affect a positive adaptation in training).

One last factor I will mention is parents. Yes, parents can be the single biggest hurdle of any young athlete. Parents…your job is to be loving and supportive of your child, not live vicariously through them and try to make up for all your failed plans of becoming a pro athlete. And if you were a pro, understand that your kid is not you. They have their own ideas, goals, and dreams. So shut up, sit down, and let the children play! Enjoy the Jr high/little league game that your kid is involved in. Before you know it, your kids will be grown and gone, and you will be left wondering what happened as you got too focused on one aspect of a life that was yours to nurture, but never to live through.

 

What kind of shoes are best for training?

I have often been asked what kind of shoes people should get. There are a few key factors to consider when looking for good training/running shoes.

A popular thought is that the latest fad is best. This fad is the ‘free’ style. A minimalist shoe that is stylish and flashy. But ask your body if it cares more about a shoe with style and flash, or a shoe that compliments your foots bio mechanics. There is no doubt that your feet would agree with me when I say that option number 2 is by far and away the better option. Here are a few thoughts on why I do not suggest such shoes.

a) These shoes can be wrung out like dish rags. So I take a shoe like this and in front of a client ‘wring it out’. Then I ask if their foot can do that same movement. They usually laugh and say “No”. My response is..”Then why do you think its ok for your shoe be able to?”

b) These shoes can be bent so that the toe and heel touch together. This usually happens because the arch part of the shoe is being bent back severely. Again I ask if this is something that the regular bio mechanics of the foot is capable of. Another “No” follows and most clients start to see my point.

Shoes are replaceable, feet not so much. So shouldn’t your shoes COMPLIMENT the way your body moves, your feet in particular?  Now some people will say “Ya, but the Kenyans don’t have big clunky shoes, and they run fast/train hard.” This is true I will admit, but they also have several key advantages that let them do this.

First, they live in an area of the world that is generally warm. A place that does not have snow 6ish months of the year like most places here in Canada (especially in my home province of Manitoba!) is much better suited for less footwear since literally freezing toes off is not a real issue over there. When you need feet covered for most of the year, the few months of heat we get is not enough time for our feet to properly adapt to minimalist shoes, let alone bare feet before colder weather dictates heavier footwear be worn again.

Second, they do a lot of running/training on meadows. That’s right, soft, mossy/grassy meadows. This acts as natures shock absorber when they run, similar to our cushioning in regular running shoes (not like the super light, little to no cushioning ‘free’ style shoes). Whereas we who live in ‘concrete jungles’, aka cities, tend to not have that option so readily available. Most often we are forced to running on sidewalks, roadways, and other hardened surfaces, and we need some forgiveness and cushioning so our bones and muscles do not take the full force of our body literally pounding the pavement.

So if you live in an area of the world NOT covered in grasses and moss, and are in a climate that does not support the body’s adaptation of using bare feet year round, what are you to do? Get shoes that offer the correct support for YOU and the way your personal bio mechanics are situated. Find out first which of the 3 main types of shoe you need. The 3 main types are cushioning shoes, stability shoes, or motion control shoes. Within each of these are a range of options, depending on exactly how much support you need, how wide your feet are, and a host of other things as well. The last that the shoe is built on should also be taken into consideration. There are several main ones including straight, semi curved, and curved.

Drawing from personal experience as a coach of female high school and university athletes, I find myself saying “function over fashion” as a regular piece of advice when they say they need new shoes. Make sure the shoe fits the way your body moves and works, do not let the shoe dictate how your body moves. High heels are, in my opinion, the ultimate example of how footwear can destroy the body (Achilles and hips especially) simply by forgetting that the body was not built to move in that way.

My final thought is this, good shoes do NOT have to be crazy expensive. The shoe that cost the most is not nearly always the best option. However I must add that eventually the quality becomes quite poor if you spend very little. On average I would say that a good pair of running shoes is regular price about $100-150ish (this is based on my home- Winnipeg, Canada pricing). Less and you typically lose quality, more and you are often paying for a name or new style rather than actual features of the shoe. Of course, sales can reduce this..and we in Winnipeg like our sales! Send me a message, lets go shoe shopping!

How do I get faster and stronger?

It seems to me, as I listen to podcast after podcast, and read article after article, that there is more than one way to get strong and fast. Are there general principles and guidelines? Certainly. But the best answer on “How do I become faster/stronger?” appears to be…”it depends!”. By that I mean that everyone is unique and has a unique body. So if every body is slightly different, a cookie cutter approach to training would not necessarily  be best for groups of people training together, even those training for the same event/position/race.

The flip side of that coin is, training/coaching should not be cookie cutter either. One of the biggest culprits is large groups training together. This typically means that a lot of potential is usually lost due to lack of actual training/coaching. Little attention is given to each person, and addressing their specific training needs. (This is one reason I cap my training groups, and still give custom workouts to those in groups). All too often in large groups only the naturally gifted top talents get the adequate amount of effort from a coach or trainer, leaving everyone else to basically fend for themselves.

Another avenue to consider when trying to develop speed and strength is amount of time invested into these things. This is two fold.

Over the years, I have trained people that don’t show up to sessions on a regular basis. Then, when its performance time, they do not reach their goals. They wonder and curse and question what went wrong. What went wrong was the weeks and months leading up to the event where EVERY excuse under the sun was given for missing the scheduled training sessions. If you do not go to work, you do not get paid. Why would you expect results if you put in no effort and training time?

The second issue with time is at the other end of the spectrum. Those people who are ALWAYS training. I have worked with these people as well, and in talking to them, they usually have the best of intentions. They understand that skipping sessions is never going to let them reach their goals (they know people in the category mentioned above and vow to not be like that). However, they fail to see the importance of balance in the training plan. Rest is as vital as training, since rest helps restore your body after a hard session. These people often end up injured from pushing too hard, too often.

So how does one become faster and stronger given all the variables? (we only looked at a few). Cookie cutter plans may not be optimal for you personally, too little training leaves you unprepared, too much leaves you exhausted/injured. A customized plan for YOU from a knowledgeable trainer/coach is a good start. Make sure if you are in a group that it is small enough that the trainer can give you regular personal feedback. Listen to your body and rest when it needs to. Commit! Do not skip sessions..they should be spaced out with enough rest if planned properly.

Getting faster and stronger also requires patience. This is its own topic but for today lets get the basic issue. We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm, and when pushing a button does not deliver instant results or the drive thru takes longer than 25 seconds, we get angry and disgusted. The body is not equipped to adapt to ANY training plan instantaneously. The body requires time to figure out how to adjust to the training stimulus and adjust so it can perform whatever said task is, at a faster/stronger rate in the future.

In summary, keep committed to the training plan and see big picture end goals. Respect and listen to your body, resting as your body needs, not when its too late. Be patient. Proper training takes time to maximize and bring to fruition all the hard work, just like a fine wine 😉