Monthly Archives: August 2015

Michael Clark’s back condition

Retiring Captain of the Australian men’s cricket team , Michael Clark, was diagnosed with a degenerative back condition as a teenager. It was found during a scan,  at the tender age of 17, that he had three degenerative discs in his lower back. Degenerative disc disease is the most common causes of back and neck pain. Disks act as shock absorbers for our spine and are able to deal with pressure from multiple directions. The disks themselves don’t hurt but they can harden or degenerate and don’t offer the cushioning and can “sensitise” the nerves that run through or by them. Also with the disc hardening, the jelly like “inner disc material”, can cause a bulge of the disk or cause a “slipped disk” which can greatly irritate the nerve.

These impinged nerves can trigger pain, causing soreness at the site or referred pain at a different site, typically down the nerve at the buttocks or legs. This soreness causes muscle tightness both at the back and elsewhere which is a secondary issue but can be the most painful when in “spasm”.

A typical care plan for both general back pain and this specific condition are:

  • strengthening of the core muscles
  • stretching
  • and relaxation.

While lots of people have degenerative or general back conditions they can lead a relatively pain free live. During an episode where the nerve becomes irritated they need to manage the pain, rest the muscles concerned, relieve strain and tension and protect the area.

A general management plan may include the following:

  • stretch the muscles and increase mobility of the disks
  • strengthen core muscles to avoid injury
  • manage pain
  • relieve tension – through massage, acupuncture or other approaches
  • resume stretch/strengthening plan
Bulging discs in our back cause pain, reduction in mobility and causing us to modify our activities, with the pain even referring down the legs in some instances. Between each vertebrae of the spine there is what’s called a disc which separates each bone. The discs are made of quite pliable material allowing a cushion for the joint and allow normal rotation of the trunk. Michael Clarke has a far greater issue: he has decimated discs at two to three different levels. This causes a whole host of problems and is quite clearly linked to his recent hamstring problems.
Treatment for this is more a management plan, which includes keeping his core strength in magnificent shape, which he does, maintaining mobility and flexibility around the back and surrounding structures, keeping well-conditioned for his activity – in this case international cricket and avoiding activities that aggravate the condition. will have problems in the future, as he has had since he was 18 when he first came into the NSW squad. He does everything in his control to keep fit, keep his back strong and mobile, and get regular rehab and mobility work in. He even stands during most travel on a bus or plane, which he has done since he was 20 years of age.  – Jock Campbell –  leading expert in athlete high performance, strength and conditioning.

A typical day for Michael Clark looks like the following:

  • 5.15 wake up, have breaky and read email detailing rehab plan for the day.
  • 6.15 arrive at SCG, constantly supervised by medical staff.
  • 6.30 ½ cardio session to warm up his body – cross-trainer or the stationary bike
  • 7.00 1hr rehabilitative strength work in the gym – (Some exercise might include)
    • Isometric contractions (muscle contracts but muscle length does not change or shorten)
    • Standing knee flexions – Heel to buttocks (gravity and slowly increase weight)
    • Hamstring catches – leg drops and stop before it touches the ground
    • Glute Bridge – raise buttocks off ground
    • Seated Hamstring Curls – Heel to buttocks
    • Lunges
    • Good Mornings – like dead lift
  • 8.00 Day 1 Pilates for an hour. Stretch, Strengthen, develop core and enhance endurance.
  • 8am Day 2 Jog on the grass or do shuttles (sprints).
  • 9am – eat some food
  • 11am Day 1 – Gym – upper body circuit to build endurance or strength while keeping heart rate up
  • 11am Day 2 – Pilates
  • 12pm – 30 minutes back mobility with specialist machine MedX machine  designed by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s former personal trainer Arthur Jones….“I sit in position in the machine while it stretches me to full flexion and full extension.”
  • 1pm – lunch and rest for a few hours.
  • 4pm – running, walking, stretching in water. speeds up recovery
  • 6pm – Treatment and massage


Michael strengthens his back for the rigours of international cricket which includes standing all day, running quickly between wickets, diving, throwing, twisting, etc. He said of his back “ gets irritated when I’m in flexion and I rotate…” like it did while twisting to avoid a ball in first day of opening test against india Dec 2014. Check out the video here…

While many of us don’t have the time and energy to devote to a care plan such as listed above, but for those living with chronic back pain, stretch, strengthen and relax is all they know. If you have lower back problems as I do, I hope what you have read here highlights that there is no “solution” as such but there is definately “management plans” available.  Speak with your Doctor, Physio or PT about a care plan to manage your back condition.


My Wing Chun journey

Two  of my news year’s resolution for 2011 was to get fit and start a martial art of some form. February 2011 rolled around and I had done neither. So I decided it was time enough to do something about that. After some fruitless searching I Googled “Kung Fu” and “Sunshine Coast”. I found Sunshine Coast Wing Chun. I did some reading about Wing Chun and was intrigued. Little did I know at this stage the powerful Vortex that I was looking at.

I rocked up to Andrew Withford’s Mooloolaba Branch and I don’t really even remember those heady days, but it replaced a void in my life and I began training Monday-Thursday from 6 – 9pm most nights.

One of the more interesting elements of WC I find is Stance Training. I have an old injury to my lower back from my apprenticeship and I have been to every quack and witch doctor in Brisbane searching for lasting pain relief.  While I was on sick leave from work I tried all sorts of weird and wonderful sleeping positions, stretches and poses to get any sort of relief.

While doing the dishes one day I stumbled upon a pose that immediately took my pain from a genuine 7 out of 10 to about a 3.

The secret I found was combining everything I had been told by my physio. They used a number of analogies. “Draw in your belly button”, “Turn on you internal underpants”, “Cut off a poo”. These is of course internal contraction or “tai gun” we talk about, used to connect the upper half of our body with our lower half. Most significantly was the pain relief I got from “unlocking” or “relaxing” my knees. And finally rolling my pelvis under. Combining these three or even just the knees and pelvis rotation was enough to allow me to stand long enough to do simple choirs to be useful in my share house.

When Andrew introduced me to stance training I went whooshing back to that days of “stance” I used do staring out the window over looking Raby Bay in the Redlands. Now I combine this with Si Lim Tau and have observed some of the most magic sunsets all while working on my “Little Idea”.



Exercising with your baby

A new baby around the house is a quiet time of adjustment for you and your family. But it needn’t be a time when your good lifestyle habits go out the window. When the dust has settled and you have your baby in a routine, be sure to make enough time for yourself by working exercise back into your day.  As well as being important for you and making you feel good, exercising can actually be a pretty special time to connect with your baby.

Initially this will be just walking until you are ready to resume exercise and when your baby is physically strong enough for the rigours of exercising with you. At around 3-6 months, depending on the exercise and the strength of your baby, he should be ready to start training with you. The exercises depicted are not vigorous and are normal actions you would normally undertake when interacting and playing with you baby.

When you shop, clean, pack and unpack your car, your arms, back and legs are already working out without you even being aware of it. Lifting, holding, squatting, bending ( from the waist) are all exercises being performed that benefit your body and muscles. The number of lifts (reps), how often you do them (sets) and weight are important in your work out, but you must have a bit of a goal in mind. “I want to lose weight”, “I want to grow stronger” etc. These goals will determine how heavy you should lift, for how many sets and how long you should rest for. Aim for two to three sessions a week. Have a look below at how your sessions should be structured depending on your goals.

If you wish to improve your strength in your legs and arms:

  • Lift (or squat ) with heavy weights, (no you won’t look like a man)
  • 3-6 times (reps),
  • 2-3 minutes rest (between sets),
  • about 3-6 sets,
  • 2-3 times a week.

If you wish to lose weight from your body:

The goal should more focused on keeping your heart rate at between 120-140 beats a minute for a 30 year old woman. Around the house this going to vigorous house work like vacuuming. Cycling, jogging, jumping, sit-ups, push-ups, kicking, punching, burpees, etc.

Also if you wish to lose weight, there are two clear paths you can follow. High intensity workouts (HIIT), Long Slow Distance (LSD). A few other things worth mentioning here are you should also focus your efforts on portion control, a good balanced diet to ensure you baby is getting nutrition from you and if you are breast feeding then that baby is going to suck that fat right off you! Also work with your doctor and be guided by them when you are ready to start exercise.

Long Slow distance is where you should start exercising. Doctors and nurses now start getting patients up and about sooner these days. The focus of your efforts here should be on getting mobile for 30-60 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week, getting your heart rate in the 65-75% range and gradually increasing the intensity or duration of your work out. With regards to your heart rate an average healthy women of 30 should aim for a heart rate of 125-145 beats per minute. You can measure your pulse for 15 seconds and it should be aim for between 30 – 36 beats. The intensity should start quite easily, walking on a flat ground or slight incline and gradually build it up, walking with pram, increase weight in pram, walking up steep hill etc. Always be guided by your heart rate. If you are ready start jogging to raise the intensity. Also if you choose a walking path, do some workouts at the council provided exercise stations.

High Intensity work outs are now proven to raise your metabolism for longer that just moderate exercise alone by up to nine times. HIIT is the principle of raising your heart rate to up to 90-95% of your max capacity (up to 175 bps for a 30 year old woman) for short bursts then resting for bit then raising it again. Chemicals in your body are released that facilitate bone and muscle growth which sends your metabolism through the roof! The work to rest ration should be 1:3, (10 seconds of HIIT followed by 30 seconds of rest) repeated at least 5 times and up to as many times as you feel comfortable, down to 1:2 (10 seconds exercise 20 seconds of rest) when you are feeling fitter. The rest should also be determined by your heart rate. You should resume your HIIT session when you heart rate falls to approx 135 bps. HIIT exercise should be conducted 2-3 times a week.

HIIT exercise can be sprinting in a park, tuck jumps, cycling a bike or any exercise that allows you to raise your heart rate in a short explosive burst. Note the largest muscles in the body are the legs and will be required to get that heart rate up. You won’t get into the HR zone by doing bicep curls or situps.

I’ve included the HIIT work out here for general information but obviously the theme of this blog is exercising with your baby so HIIT may not be practical unless they are content in a pram or are with a friend in the park. So jogging and using your baby as weights may be more practicle.

A baby can be used as hand weights and the following can be used as a guide for the types of exercises that can be performed.

Raising baby bicep curls
Raising baby bicep curls



Bicep curls. Hold you arms down straight with your baby by you waist. Feet shoulder width, engage your core. Bending your arms at the elbow, raise your baby using your biceps until you can kiss them. Ensure your head is up straight, your core is engaged and your shoulders are square and flat.




Sit Up With Baby
Sit Up With Baby



Situps. Lay down on your back, holding your baby in a kangaroo cuddle or just above your body. Raise your knees and keep your feet flat throughout the movement. Engage you core, raise your shoulders and lower back off the ground. Keep you head in a neutral and your back straight.





Pelvic bridge with baby
Pelvic bridge with baby



Pelvic Bridge. Lay down on your back, holding your baby at your waist line. Slide you feet in so you knees are a right angles. Engage you core and raise you waist off the ground. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds, less if new to this position.





Leg Extensions with baby
Leg Extensions with baby


Leg Extensions. Lay down flat on your back. Raise you knees so they are tucked up over your chest with your shins parallel to the ground. Place your baby on your shins, raise you feet up pivoting from the knees.Hold your baby securely so your baby doesn’t slide back towards you. (use common sense here. You’ve probably done this one when playing with them. I still do it with my 14 year old daughter.)







Squats with baby
Squats with baby






Leg Squats. Standing up, hold your baby in a comfortable position in your arms. Stand with legs at shoulder waste toes pointing forward. Engage core, keep back remaining upright, head up eyes forward. Lower your self to a half Squat, hold for a few seconds if you are able to and slowly return to the upright position. Focus on slow controlled movements.









baby overhead press
baby overhead press



Over head shoulder press. Stand holding your baby, ready to lift them straight up, feet shoulder width apart. Slowly raise you baby straight up. Focus on slow controlled movements. Stop well before you arms are straight. Keep your back straight and eyes forward.








Lunges with baby
Lunges with baby



Lunges. Standing up, hold your baby in a comfortable position in your arms. Engage your core and step one leg out. Lower you wast down but don’t allow your front knee to travel forward over your toes. Focus on your rear knee travelling to the ground. Travel as deeply and hold for as long as comfortable.



Push Ups with baby
Push Ups with baby


Pushups. Place your baby flat on their back on a towel on the floor. Move over them as though you were going to kiss them. Assume a push up position, arm shoulder width and knees on floor. Slowly move down until you can kiss you baby. Push away from the floor until you have reached maximum extension.




All of these exercise depicted can be done to suits your level of fitness or your desired outcome. If you wish to lose weight, focus on achieving a suitable cardiac outcome, (work until you are puffed) with shorter rests. If you are after strength or muscle gains,  work with heavier weights,  lower repetitions and have longer rests. Also modify you body leverage to achieve the desired weight. For example use knees instead of toes for pushups, sink to half depth squats, or pushup on incline, borrow heavier baby etc.  Speak with your doctor about exercisign and focus on correctness of technique. Shoot me a question if you have any questions about the exercises.



How to get started in Jogging

Getting Started

Looking back on my own life I have jogged much more than I remembered. I have jogged on and off since my early 20’s. I never found it easy. I struggled to find rhythm, my legs always felt uncoordinated and I never got over the hurdle to run long distances. I did however get fitter. Since January 2014 where I made a solid effort to start running decent kilometres, I did make in roads. I bought a new pair of shoes, my breathing became notably easier, I got a running app to track my progress and my legs and body recovered quicker from my standard 6 K run.

I highly recommend running as it’s an easy (yes easy) way to get started with fitness given you can build your length, speed and how hard you run. And its addictive!

As I improved, it no longer felt like I was being dragged behind a car. I felt the various “gear shifts” in my body as my various energy systems switched from one to another. I felt improvements as various parts of my body improved (legs, lungs and other things that can hurt). I knew I was improving when my body outlasted the K’s I was running and I started getting bored.

It never even occurred to me, that I could get comfortable with running a long distance,  that I got bored with it. Up around the 40-60 minute mark your brain finishes digesting your day, you’ve silently giggled at that joke that you heard last week, the album you listened to has finished, you remember to grab that extra thing for the weekend, you relive a moment from work… Luckily for me over the last two years I have been studying heavily and started a business, so I have appreciated the “me time” for my brain to just think.

When you start running, assuming you are relatively sedantary now (but don’t smoke) , your body quickly undergoes a number of adaptations. I’ll come to them shortly but I first like to describe the reasons that are likely to cause you to stop running and start walking.

First it will be your cardio vascular capacity. Put simply your lungs and heart will not be able to get enough oxygen to the muscles you are using. So your lungs will burn, your heart will race above your target rate of 65-75% of your heart rate and you will literally feel like you are drowning or dying. So your brain tells you to stop. This is most likely to occur if you attempt to run to fast too soon. To help ease this for someone who has just started I recommend you to start at a nice slow pace. A “7 minute kilometre” (that is it took 7 minutes to travel 1 kilometre) is a reasonably slow amble that should be maintainable for 5-10 minutes. Something interesting happens at the 5-10 minute mark that is quite remarkable. I’ll get back to this.

Lets assume you jogged for 5 minutes at 7 minutes a kilometre and continued walking for 5 minutes while you recovered, then jogged for another 4 minutes, before slowing and then walking home for another 5 minutes. You might infact travel up to 1.5 – 2 kilometres. Not bad effort for a first day.

If you jog/walked for 15-20 minutes a day, 2 – 3 times a week you will notice definite improvement in under 2 weeks. Your body will adapt at this level very quickly. Your lungs become much more efficient at exchanges gases with the blood, getting Oxygen in and Carbon Dioxide out. Your muscles will be sore after each jog, but will improve. As you get over this hurdle you next barrier will be your legs. If you travel further or travel at a higher intensity (faster jog) your legs will tire as they wont be efficient at getting oxygen in, it will deplete energy stores and may even get sore from lactid acid build up. (Lactic Acid is a bi-product of the work muscles do). Thats because the muscles need to be trained to operate more efficiently. This will take a little longer. Possible an additional 2 to 4 weeks or (4 – 6 weeks after you started running.) At the 6 week mark however, your heart lungs will work incredibly well and will be able to sustain you for 20-30 minutes of continuous running putting you in the 5 K zone. Thats not bad! Training for run 5 K in one month is definitely doable!!

Second Wind

You may have heard of the expression “Second Wind”. In the right context, it refers to the change over in energy systems within the body. Your has three 3 energy systems. I want to discuss the two that are relevant here. The Oxidative (Oxygen) System and Anaerobic (Lactic) System. When you start running your body quickly start breathing more heavily dependant on the load  required by your muscles. When it exceeds what you can supply, you get exhausted very quickly. (Think running flat out for 30 seconds). When you sustain activity at 65-75% of your max heart rate or “the fat burning zone”, for 5-10 minutes the Anaerobic system will kick in it and will convert energy from your fat stores and doesn’t require oxygen to do so. Your body still needs oxygen for other operations but energy to jog will start coming from the Lactid Acid system system. This is 18 times more efficient than the Oxidative system and your breathing may almost return to normal. You will barely be aware of the change over but after 10 minutes you will notice your breathing is shallower and less frequent.

Heart Rate

Your heart rate is the best tool to monitor your fitness. Conduct this test to determine a base line (starting point). You can accurately measure your heart rate by counting the beats of your heart for 15 seconds and the multiply by 4.

  1. Measure your resting sitting heart rate
  2. Walk for 5 minutes and measure your heart rate
  3. Jog for 5 minutes and measure your heart rate
  4. Rest for 5 minutes and measure your heart rate
  5. Time how long it takes to return to your resting sitting heart rate

These key performance indicators will be your dash panel to your fitness.mOther indicators like, How far can I run in 5 minutes, how long can I run continuously, how many minutes can I run 2 kilometres etc are all relevent and can be used to track your perforance. Yo can use a smart phone app.

I spoke earlier of the “fat burning zone”. This is the zone of heart rate at which your fat is burned from your body. (Not necessarily the best over time but one of the best to get started with). The equation looks like this.


Fat Burning zone = (Max HR – Age) x .65 (lower training limit)

Fat Burning zone = (220 – 42) x .65

Fat Burning zone = 178 x .65

Fat Burning zone = 116 (lower training limit)


Fat Burning zone = 178 x .75(upper training limit)

Fat Burning zone = 134


So the fat burning heart rate range for a 42 year old is 116-134 beats per limit. Under that limit and he’s not working hard enough, above that limit and his body will switch bad to oxidative system and wont be using fat stores as efficiently. Itrs worth mentioning that High Intensity Training (HIIT) over a longer period of time will burn more fat for less time expended but you must work your body at extremely high heart rates. That’s up to 90% of you max heart rate for short intervals and then resting until the Heart Rate falls to 160 then raising it back up to the HIIT zone. So for me thats per the below.


HIIT zone = 178 x .90

HIIT zone = 160K

Here are are some other tips from around the web for getting started.

  • Get the right shoes
  • Learn correct form
  • Start slow
  • Schedule the time
  • Get some tech
  • Do the walk/jog/walk thing until you can do the jog thing
  • Allow rest days
  • Allow for cool down to flush muscles of toxins
  • Do stretch properly after each walk
  • Keep properly hydrated
  • See a doctor first
  • Run earl morning or late afternoon. The heat form the day makes jogging much harder when its hot
  • Avoid hills until you are ready for another challenge
  • Learn some running form
  • Find a running buddy


I could have gone on a length with this article. So if you feel I missed anything out, I probably did and would appreciate your feedback.