Training is more than free weights

Lifting weights can be the exercise equivalent of those foods in the supermarket that are branded healthy but are far from healthy. Its unfortunate that food companies deliberately mislead consumers, when consumers are trying to do the right thing.

I often think the same thing about weights training. When getting a gym tour (especially as a man) before becoming a member, gyms tend to show off all the free weights they have. And if you sign up for a programme to get in shape, no doubt there will be weights training involved.

There is a mis-match here – “I wanted to get in shape, and they prescribed me some weights training”. But a manufactured body using free weights is essentially an unnatural one, with muscles that bulge in the middle – a product of linear up and down movements that creates a swollen aesthetic. A functional body has long, toned muscles that are as thick where they meet your joints as they are in the middle.

I think its comes down to uneducated or poorly informed personal trainers, who don’t know anything beyond weights training. Or maybe its just telling people what they want to hear because people prefer the benchpress to build pecs, rather than crawling and push-ups. Its not that I have anything against weights training. If you’re trying to attain a certain aesthetic, weights are the way to go. I just fear that people go to the gym to get fit, are prescribed weights training, and instead of getting fit, they get the look of someone who is fit.

Forget about the weights and forget about legs day, chest day, arms day. Instead work on controlled integrated balance movements, integrated explosive power movements, and endurance workouts. You’ll get a well-rounded, proportional body. It will keep you fitter, leaner, and stronger, for longer.

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Free weights as far as the eye can see

Anniversary Blog Post

WordPress notified me that today is my blog anniversary. My very first blog post was about hitting 1,000 running miles on the Nike+ app. I kept the running theme for my next two anniversary blogs post, which you can read by clicking here: Anniversary One and Anniversary Two.

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On this blog anniversary I have to break with the running theme. I stopped using the Nike+ App to track my runs when the App got an automatic update that made it unusable. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an easy way to extract the data into another app so I lost my historical running data. I downloaded a new running app, Runkeeper, but I only use it when I need to measure distance runs in new locations. The majority of my runs are in familiar territory where I know the distances and times, so I only use the Runkeeper app infrequently.

With no prepared blog post ready for my Blogs anniversary, I took my phone to the gym today and recorded a bit of my workout. I was short on time today so I just did some movement flows. Movement like this (see video below) is part of the “smarter, not harder” philosophy I mentioned in my last blog post. Putting together movement flows is not high impact or high strain, but it is a full body, integrated workout like no other, and using your whole body like this is exhausting, and fun, so perfect for a time constrained workout.  Keep blogging, keep training, keep moving.

Don’t let age interfere with your training goals

When someone asks what age you are the answer is usually given in years. Its a frame of reference we all understand. A “year” is the name we have given to an observed regularity in nature, namely, the amount of time it takes the earth to revolve around the sun. When someones age in years is the only thing you know about them, you get very little context about how fit and able they are, all you really know is how many times the earth has revolved around the sun whilst they have been on it.

How physically able and fit you are is also a good frame of reference for age. People can be young in years and dreadfully unfit. And the reverse is true, you can be old in years and in great shape.

Don’t let your age in years determine what you are capable or incapable of doing. At the grand old age of 31 I’ve felt my body change. I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been, because as I’ve gotten older, I train smarter, not harder, because my recovery times are slowly increasing.

Floyd Mayweather, at 40, is in incredible shape, definitely worth aspiring to.

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Floyd at 40

This video of a 99 year old racing against a 92 year old at the Masters Indoor Track Championship is nothing short of inspirational.

Photographer Alex Rotas took some great photos at the European Masters Athletics Championships in Aarhus, Denmark which I’ve included below. The first is GB’s Barry Ferguson, 71, and Germany’s Hartmann Knorr, 72, during the men’s 300m hurdles, and the second is Austria’s Marianne Maier, 74, in the women’s shot put. My goal is stay as active as these people. Don’t let your age determine your fitness goals.

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Race Review: RunDisney Virtual Running Shorts

During the summer I ran the RunDisney Virtual Running Shorts. The RunDisney events are great races, but because I don’t live in California, Florida, or France, they are expensive to get to, and usually involve the planning of a holiday around the race date. Previously I’ve taken part in the 2016 RunDisney Paris half-marathon as well as the 2012 and 2014 Walt Disney World half-marathons.

The RunDisney Virtual Shorts event consists of three 5k races, one in June, one in July, and one in August. Registration is done online and you pick your own date and location to complete your 5k races. So you don’t need to travel at all if you don’t want to. Race Bibs can be printed online, and once you complete your race, you can enter your times online to get your finisher certificate. Finisher Medals are sent out in the post. You can sign up for as many or as few of the races as you want, but you get a bonus “Series” medal if you run all three races. Everything is done on the honor system.

The whole process is very easy, from sign up, to printing bibs and certs, to getting the medals delivered. Typical Disney efficiency. No doubt Disney make money from this but its a great initiative all the same. Its a great way to motivate people to get active over the summer. I had fun picking locations and routes.

Without a fixed race date it is easy to let the race slip. I ran the August race in September because I, and my fellow runners, had difficultly finding a date that suited everyone. This isn’t ideal but sometimes life gets in the way. Other than the August run slipping into September everything went well and I enjoyed the RunDisney Virtual Running Shorts. I would do it again, and I’d recommend it if you and your friends / family are looking for an excuse to have an active Summer 2018. Getting fit and active with a bit of Disney motivation.

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June Run
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July Run
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August (aka September) Run
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Medals!!

Race Review: Wild Air Run

On Saturday, August 5th, I took part in the Wild Air Run in Marley Park. I did this race last year too. It seemed almost identical to last year. 5k of running, with some inflatable obstacle courses along the way. Its a fun run, not to be taken too seriously, and it delivered on that. It helped that the weather was good.

The sign up process is easy, its all done online and you get a QR code to be shown on the day in order to get your race number. The queue to get your race number moves fast, but got very long at times. When you’re not running, maybe before you’ve started or after you’ve finished, they have a chill zone with seats, a coffee stand, smoothie stand, and hot dog stand, and a free glass of milk from event sponsor Avonmore.

There are things that could be improved upon. Some of the obstacles briefly deflated, one I was on at the time, a long queue develops for the last obstacle, and the website FAQ didn’t mention if they have a bag-drop (they do). But this is me looking for problems. Its a great event.

My race time? Who knows, who cares, its not timed. Just go out and have fun. Here is 5 mins and 42 seconds of inflatable madness.

Shoulder stretch with broomstick

After every workout I stretch. You won’t see a lot of posts about it on this blog because I’m not very flexible and don’t have much insight to share. Whatever bit of flexibility I have is good enough for me, so I continue to try. Its about the process, not the goals.

What I do know is that, when stretching, its important to use a range of motion that is beyond your normal range. Muscle strains and injuries can happen when you move your muscles in a sudden and uncontrolled way. Stretching is a good way to expand your range of motion to prevent such injuries.

Because I work at a desk, I spend a lot of time with my shoulders and back hunched over a keyboard. Here is a shoulder stretch I like to do with a broomstick handle that I feel counteracts that hunch.

Holding a broomstick handle in front of yourself, hands at either end, lift the broomstick up and over your head, and stretch out your chest. There is another variation of this to help work the shoulder joint so technically I’m doing this wrong, but I like stretching out and feeling my chest and shoulders expand. Even if its just a placebo, I feel like I’m undoing some of the desk damage.

Another good shoulder rotation you can do with a broomstick, is to hold a broomstick handle in front of yourself, closed grip with one hand, open palm with the other, and keeping the closed grip, slide the broomstick along the open palm, rotate the closed grip away from you and slide back. Its a range of motion you don’t typically do when stretching your shoulder.

And finally, if you have three broomsticks, you can sit in an A-frame to stretch out your hips.

It helps me, and its worth a try.

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Sitting in the A-frame, a good way to stretch the hips

 

Realistic Aesthetics

Recently I saw Sylvester Stallone posted the picture below from the set of Rocky 3. He describes how between scenes, he had to go to the corner and turn up-side-down to get blood back into his head. In order to look the way he did, his body fat was 2.9%, which made him light headed during scenes, and in order to continue, and not faint, this up-side-down trick was needed. Stallone goes on to say that while he looked in great shape, he was far from it. Transforming his body for Rocky 3 left him very unhealthy on the inside, despite outward appearances. I admire Stallones honesty.

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I’ve read similar things in the pages of Men’s Health magazine from today’s action heroes. Daniel Craig became a vegetarian for a time after James Bond because the diet needed to get his Bond-look was, in his opinion, disgustingly high in meat. Chris Hemsworth was eager for a run because his Thor training regime specified zero cardio work, at one point he stopped training when he outgrew the Thor costume. Henry Cavill says the Superman physique disappears very quickly after filming because it’s not designed to be sustainable.

The action hero physiques you see in the movies are built on training regimes designed to make you look a certain way for the brief period that you are filming. They are driven by aesthetics, not health, and they are ephemeral, not sustainable. That’s not to take away from the effort that these guys put into attaining their physiques, the hard work is very real, but the results are primarily aesthetic in nature, and the schedules not conducive to even their own lives. Aesthetics are important for your mental health, we all like to look good, but don’t base your training goals on what you see in the movies. I work in an office from 9 to 5, so more realistic goals are required.

Gym Review

 

After years without a gym membership, curcumstances required me to join a gym. I’ve been training at Raw gym so thought I’d write a gym review, a first for my blog. 
 
For any gym, location is key, and this depends entirely on the individual. For me, Raw is ideally located. I don’t use the free weights or the cardio machines but they are there. The free weights selection is very big, the cardio equipment less so, but that being said, I’ve never seen anyone have to queue for either. Membership numbers seem to be well matched to the gym size.
 

The only two things I really want from a gym is open space for some movement drills, and a set of Olympic Rings, and Raw has both. There is only one set of Olympic Rings, but I’ve never seen anyone other than me use them so I’ve never had to queue for them.
 

Knowledge is power and although I arrived at this gym with my own training routine, I was happy to meet with one of the Raw Personal Trainers and he gave me some new exercises to add to my routine – its always good to get a fresh perspective, you might learn something. Classes, of which there are loads, are free for members and I’ve been training handstand work Lauren Sweeney and flexibility with Kate Finegan. Between the Personal Trainer, Lauren, and Kate, I’ve made changes to the way I train for the better.
 

Aside from that, the price is reasonable, the changing room clean, the lockers are decent but could do with an update. Overall, a good gym which I’d recommend and that I’ll keep using as long as circumstances require it.
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Plenty of free weights to get your pump on
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Rings, ropes, and a pull-up bar, sure thats a complete gym right there
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A rare commodity in a gym, free space!

I’m not adapted to this

I was recently on a months paternity leave. Paternity Leave went something like this:

  • Wake up in the morning between 6 and 7am, and going to bed at 9pm. Essentially rising and falling with the Sun
  • Following my work-out routine as normal or as best I can
  • Lots of time outside, in the fresh air, under the sun, walking baby
  • Constantly on my feet – the days passed so quickly taking care of baby and trying to get everything done

I returned to the office this week and my routine was something like this:

  • My day revolves around a 9 to 5 schedule
  • Workouts are either done very early in the morning, or very late in the evening
  • Lots of time inside, in air-conditioned air, in artificial light
  • A sedentary lifestyle, sitting at my desk for the majority of my day

What happened with this sudden change from home to office? I was sick by day four. Take any animal, remove it from its natural environment, and it will get sick, either mentally or physically. In animals its sometimes called Zoochosis.

Humans live in a self built cage. We’ve used our intelligence to advance medical science so we live longer, and at the same time, we’ve completely altered the world we live in so that our environment no longer matches the one our evolutionary adaptations make us suited to. Evolution is about adaption, and if I listen to the warnings my body is giving me, its saying my body is poorly adapted to life in a chair, under artificial light, breathing recirculated air.  Being outside and moving, is the best path to staying healthy, its just a pity that won’t pay the mortgage.

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I’d rather be outside

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