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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On Sunday the 23rd of April I ran the Virgin Media Dublin Night Run. I ran in this race series a few years ago when it was called the Samsung Night Run, and excited by the prospect of a new route, new medal design, and a new commemorative tee shirt, I signed up again.
The online registration was easy, Virgin couldn’t have designed an easier to use website. Event communication was timely and clear, with three days available to collect your race pack in Trinity Sports Centre. Race pack collection was also easy as Virgin had placed floor markers guiding you from the Sports Centre Entrance, to race pack collection, and back out again, a nice touch.
On race day, I had planned on running the race in about 60 minutes so I tried to find my way to that section on the starting line, but bad sign-posting meant I found my way to the 45-55mins group. Thats not a big issue as I’ve only rarely seen race organisers enforce this and most runners don’t seem to care. Its the one thing and only thing that could be improved on.
The course was enjoyable, it was a nice way to see Dublin at night. As with all races it was packed at the beginning but thinned out slightly as the race went on, it was never lonely. I ran a respectably 59 minutes and 7 seconds. Maybe I could have improved on that time had I not stopped to take photos, but half the fun of these races is enjoying the sights and sounds. If you’ve not done this race, its one for the list. Below are a few photos I took during the race, trying my best to capture the beauty of Dublin at night.
All my shoes are made by VivoBarefoot. They say we are in the second barefoot revolution. The first revolution took place a number of years ago when minimalist and barefoot shoe brands started gaining popularity, but the revolution seemed to end in lawsuits against shoe makers and injured runners. We are now in the 2nd barefoot revolution as minimalist shoe brands are again gaining popularity, only this time there is a greater level of education among the wearers. Runners sustained injuries the first time around mostly because of a lack of education and small bit of arrogance. Runners don’t want to be told that a lifetime of wearing an inch of rubber beneath your feet has warped your natural stride into an unnatural one. In contrast, todays barefoot runners seek advice from professional running coaches before running in minimalist runners. I recommend these coaches.
Reading up on the subject of running is likely to lead you to a large and confusing array of articles and publications that will range from telling you that you’ll be running ultra-marathons with ease the day after you go barefoot, to the other extreme that you’ll lose the ability to ever run again such is the destructive force of barefoot running. Articles like this one make me want to steer clear of too much reading. The best thing you can do is to try yourself.
I’m absolutely not a running coach but I can tell you the benefits I’ve experienced after I switched my running and everyday footwear to Vivo shoes. This is of course anecdotal and applies to me, I can’t speak for others:
increased toe dexterity – my toes move much more than before
better proprioception through my feet – I didn’t notice this until a day when I had to wear “normal” shoes and the lack of feedback I was getting from my feet about the surface I was on was unnerving
Stronger soles – the soles of my feet are just tougher
No more knee pain – I used to be immobile on the coach the day after a race. I’ve never experienced this since I started wearing minimalist runners.
I do think the term “barefoot” is off-putting and misleading. As you can see from the photo, I’m anything but barefoot, I have 5 pairs of shoes. I don’t walk around outside in my bare feet, even in my house I usually wear socks. What I am doing is wearing shoes designed around the shape and movement patterns of the human foot, shoes that have a wide toe box, and a thin, flat sole. I’m so pleased with my Vivo’s, I even invested a small amount with them when they were crowdfunding, see this article.
Having a new born in your life makes it harder to fit in exercise. Along with the usual demands in your life, a 9 to 5 job, cleaning, cooking, shopping, eating, you now have the all-hours demands of a baby taking up all your energy. Time is definitely more scarce, but you might also have a new-found desire to stay healthy and active to set a good example for your child, and to keep up with them. Here are some tips:
Find a place to train
When I gave up free-weights I also cancelled my gym membership and moved all my training to the home. I thought this would mean that baby would cause minimum disruption. That was not the case. If I’m at home I’m either with baby or catching up on house chores. I’ve joined a gym near my office to fit in training before work or during lunch. Find somewhere to train thats within walking distance of work, or your home, you can’t waste time commuting.
Have a flexible workout schedule
Bad weather or a traffic incident and the morning bus will crawl into town at a snails pace, add to that a busy day in the office and a fussy baby when you get home and suddenly the pre-work workout you had planned has drifted from 8am to 1pm to 9pm. You’ve got to go along with this and seize your training opportunities whatever the time.
Late nights and broken sleep can mean the you only get a few hours sleep and the next days workout will suffer as a result. Its okay to just go through the motions sometimes, not every workout has to be 100%.
Be prepared to miss some days
I used to say, “don’t let one bad day become two bad days”, now its “don’t let two bad days days become three”. Some workout days will be missed and you won’t catch up, just make sure to get back to it asap.
Bodyweight training is a major advantage with a new born. Operating a flexible schedule won’t be as easy if you need big pieces of equipment like bench presses and squat racks that are only at the gym. Having some equipment-less (or close to it) exercises like wall-walks or parallettes will be beneficial for that 11pm session.
Its all great
Baby changes so quickly that if you hit on a routine that works one week, it can easily become obsolete the next. These challenges are real and baby will get in the way of your training goals. Baby will have a negative impact on your training, but rest assured its absolutely, completely, without a doubt worth it. Being a Dad is the best.
The parallettes have stayed a consistent part of my weekly workout since I first bought and reviewed them. At the time I was looking for ways to bring my training into the home and Mens Health magazine conveniently published an article about the parallettes with some basic exercises you could perform on them. My initial routine consisted of those Mens Health recommended exercises: dips, press-ups, the L-Sit, planche negative press, and handstand press up.
I was enjoying the parallettes but quickly decided I needed more guidance and knowledge than what was contained in that one article I had read. I signed up to GMB’s Parallettes One programme. Parallettes One is a 12-week course divided up into four phases of training that gradually builds up your skills. The ideal candidate for a programme like Parallettes One is someone who is willing to drop what they are doing and focus purely on the programme. I’m not the ideal candidate as I tried to shoehorn the programme into my existing routine and as result, I didn’t give it the attention it maybe deserved.
Having said that, I highly recommend both the parallettes and the GMB programme which provided some much needed structure and guidance to learning, and getting comfortable on the parallettes. Its been great for building upper body strength and control while also introducing new movements. They are a fast and effective workout and don’t require much space, you can even watch TV while you do it. Below is a video of me doing the GMB Parallettes One routine in full – I’m still a long way from doing it with ease, but practice makes perfect.