Keep moving – everything depends on it!

Exercise isn’t just about body image or taking selfies for an ego boost

Bodies adapt by developing in a way that is most appropriate to meet the demands that are placed on them.

This is called ‘specificity of training.  If you sit all day, your body has little in the way of demands placed on it for movement. Your muscles atrophy, your joints become stiff, and your bones brittle. This is the start of a vicious downhill spiral-the less you do, the less you feel like doing, and then the less you are capable of doing.

Movement actually drives your cerebellum. This is the part of the brain is responsible for coordinating voluntary movements, plus a number of other functions including motor skills such as balance, coordination, and posture.

Movement skills get lost not only because the joints are stiff and the muscles weak, but also because the central controller becomes ineffective. In a sense, we forget how to perform certain tasks.

Watch an elderly person walking. Not only is the stride shortened, (something which starts with a subconscious fear of falling), but they don’t swing their arms. This arm swing is important for counter-balance. At some point they stopped including it and its absence really messes up their gait.

I’m seeing increasing numbers of younger people losing their functionality. Walking isn’t something that seems to flow, their balance is poor and their mind/muscle connection just doesn’t seem to be there. Their walking patterns are something I would expect to see in middle aged people. Their glutes and abdominals are weak from too much sitting, and they don’t know how to switch them on. I have no stats, it’s purely based on personal observation.

I’m currently working a lot with seniors and I can see the end result in how a lack of movement has affected their mobility. There’s a sequence that muscles need to fire in for the body to perform an action. Earlier generations had a lot of incidental movement in their daily lives, so they just kept practising. Labour saving devices and more sedentary work have diminished the need for movement. Not doing those bigger tasks is making it harder to do the smaller ones.

Resistance training provides simple but incredibly useful movement patterns, and these patterns are applicable in tasks we perform in daily life. By repeating these movement patterns, we not only strengthen our muscles and bones, and mobilise our joints, we also re-learn how to do these movements.

Weight training is the original ‘Functional Training’. Lifting, pushing, and pulling are the basic tasks we need to perform to remain independent. Lose these abilities, and your world narrows.

By practising these tasks, we quickly improve because those patterns are buried somewhere in the deep recesses of our brain. Initially, it can take verbal cues to remind us of the specific sequence the muscles need to fire to perform an action. This is where rote learning has a place. Verbal repetition drives the process into your consciousness. A good trainer, coach or instructor can be invaluable as a starting point.

Eventually, the pattern becomes reflexive again, so we don’t need to think about it before doing it.

Felicity Neale has been a part of the fitness industry for over thirty years. She has been a personal trainer, competitive bodybuilder, gym manager and class instructor. She is currently in lockdown in Sydney and using the time to hold Zoom classes for older adults and furthering her knowledge and practical understanding of biomechanics and functional neurology.




Are Your Hormones Making You Fat?

It’s just not fair!
Whilst your brothers and boyfriends and husbands seemed to be able to stuff bread and chips down their throats all day without any serious ramifications, you’d just have to think about a slice of cake and blow up.
The sad fact is, women tend to be more insulin sensitive than men. It’s not fair, but there it is. Our physiology is very different and we have evolution to blame for that.
Men tend to have more central fat deposits, whereas women have more peripheral fat. In other words- ours is more obvious! It’s also higher- again evolution.
It’s significant that many post-menopausal women develop more visceral fat.
This doesn’t mean that it’s all totally beyond your control. Obesity is on the rise in this country and there are serious health risks attached to it. It also has a detrimental effect on the quality of life.
At the end of the day- what you consume directly affects your body fat levels, so think twice before you reach for the Timtams to cheer you up.
Weight gain is often a choice, perhaps not a good choice, but definitely a choice. As the late Charles Poliquon once said, “I’ve never heard of anyone who got fat from eating too many apples”.


Another 21st Century Ailment If you spend most of your day hunched over a screen, it’s pretty likely you’ll have this. The name alone is self-explanatory. Its symptoms can range from pain and/or stiffness in the neck, shoulders and/or upper back. Even if you’re not at a computer every day, think about how many times […]

My Pelvic Floor

All women should be able to sneeze with confidence! 

I’ve had this really nasty tight hip flexor on my left and started to also get sciatica down the right. This bloody hip flexor just wouldn’t release no matter how much stretching or pounding and it’s rotating the hip forward.

I had a brainwave and went to see a physio who specialises in women’s health. Turns out my obdurator was locked up. This is one deep muscle and can only be reached internally- yes, what you’re thinking is right.

The obdurator helps rotate the head of the femur and if it gets locked- you’re in all sorts of trouble. Constant nagging pain around the top of the hip flexor, painful sex, and a leg that doesn’t want to stretch.

She released it and it’s like- heaven!

Many women just suffer through this stuff when it’s not necessary. There are plenty of physiotherapists who specialise in this area. 

You can get some great tips as well, on pelvic floor exercises.  I find out that sometimes, doing pelvic floor exercises can aggravate a problem. Get the problem treat first, then you can squeeze and flex for all you’re worth!

Gym Etiquette You Need To Know…….

What do you actually do in a gym? What are the mysterious rules and is there a code of conduct?

One of the recurring things I hear from women is that they don’t know what to do in a weight room, so it puts them off. Learning to use the equipment is only one part of it. Knowing how to act, where to go and what the right thing to do is a huge part of being comfortable in the environment.

When I first started weight training, I was as blind as a bat, so I wasn’t particularly threatened by what was going on around me. It was all just colour and movement anyway. There was a 140kg powerlifter who screamed, “Get out of my fucking mirror”, at me once. Once was enough! No one has ever had to say that to me again.

What really prompted this is I was training a male client the other day and asked a girl if we could work in with her on a piece of equipment. She’d only just started and she scuttled away, clearly thinking I was kicking her off, despite me trying to assure her we just wanted a turn when she was between sets. I felt terrible. 

It’s not the first time I’ve seen this, a woman undervaluing her own workout- as though it’s less important than a man’s workout. If we want respect in the weight room, we don’t so much need to earn it- as expect it. I think it was a blessing being so myopic in the early 80s- if there were any derogatory looks, I was utterly oblivious. It made me quite assertive- not aggressive-just assertive.

Of course there are bullies in the weights room, I won’t deny it, bullies are everywhere in this world. But to you women out there- remember- you have paid your membership fees and have every right to be there. Stand your ground! If someone asks to work in- don’t read too much into it, men really aren’t that complicated, they usually do just want to take turns.