A failed Race Review

“Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live”

– Jim Rohn

Last year I signed up the Glen to Glen Half Marathon. I had a date clash so I wasn’t able to take part but the organiser , in a very kind gesture, allowed me to defer my entry. When I saw the 2018 race date go live I decided I’d take part. My big training casualty since having a baby was long distance runs. The last half-marathon I did was the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon in 2016. To get race fit I started training 17 weeks before race day, which equals 51 runs in total.

My training started well. Unfortunately pressures at work and at home, combined with some freakishly bad weather put a halt to my training for just over 3 weeks. I had a 17 week training plan but I would have preferred 18 weeks. Adding in the missed weeks of training brought my prep time down from a desired 18 weeks, to a mere 14 weeks. And not 14 consecutive weeks, 14 broken weeks. I decided that this wasn’t enough time. You have to gradually condition yourself for long races. I’ve taken part in Half Marathons were people have died. You can’t enter a half marathon in some European countries without a doctors cert to say you are capable. Improperly trained and you could drop dead (worst case) or do long term wear and tear damage to your body (best case). Always, always, always train appropriately for a long race. Unfortunately this is one race I won’t be taking part in. Be aware of what you can do, what you will be able to do in time, and what you can’t do right now. Don’t try and smash through your limitations, gradually push back your limitations with consistent training. There are no quick wins.

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I can’t run in this

 

 

The Responsibility to Stay Fit

“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable”

– Socrates

Wise and interesting words from Socrates. If I were to update it for the 21st century I’d replace the word “man” with “one / person” and I’d add that no government has the right to let its citizens be amateurs in the matter of physical training.

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Looking good Socrates

I do believe Governments should help their citizens stay fit and healthy. There are many so called “mismatch diseases” that are a direct result of our sedentary lifestyles, things like obesity, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease. These serious disorders share several characteristics: They’re chronic, noninfectious, aggravated by aging and strongly influenced by affluence and culture. Modern medicine has come up with treatments for them, but prevention, by combating the sedentary lifestyles that lead to these problems, could work just as well.

If people had access to free or subsidised gyms now, then they are less likely to suffer from mismatch diseases in the future. This could be a way to reduce future Health Care costs, or at least, free up space and resources for those people that need treatment. While in San Francisco I came across an outdoor, free gym, that has everything you need to stay fit and healthy, all in one place, with instructions on the wall. I’d love to see spaces like this all over the country.

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Best free gym I’ve ever see – San Franciso
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Jeans and no top, this was an unplanned visit

There are of course many potential problems. Assuming Health Care has a fixed budget, subsidising gym memberships means diverting spending from the old and sick to the young and healthy for a payoff that won’t be seen for 20 or 30 years, what politician would back that? Can the government force you to exercise? And how do you monitor what type of training people are doing, I don’t what what my taxes subsidising a bobybuilder who, despite training a lot, is still on a collision course for mismatch diseases.

Exercise can be expensive and time consuming, while the responsibility ultimately rests on the individual, its would be nice if governments stepped in to make it that be easier.  Really what I want is a free gym 🙂

Gym Review: Basecamp Fitness

I recently went to Basecamp Fitness in San Francisco. Basecamp is a class based gym, you come to do the class, and nothing else. I do like this growing trend of class or exercise specific gyms, assuming you can pay per class (even though they all encourage membership) it lets you pick and choose to get the best of everything.

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Lots of natural light coming in the window

The Basecamp class is simple, 35 minutes of training, push as hard as you can, no rest, burn it, earn it, and then you’re done for the day. Its broken down into one minute exercises. One minute on the bike, and then a 10 second transfer to another exercise, one minute of that, then a 10 second transfer back to the bike. And on its goes for 35 minutes. The exercises that you are meant to be doing when not on the bike are displayed on the screens around the gym, simply look at the screen where you can see a video of what you should be doing, and the instructor will advise also.

Not everyone is doing the same exercises at once. At the beginning of the class you’re paired up and assigned a letter. My partner and I were assigned the letter A. When I was on the bike, he was doing an exercise, and vice versa. To know what exercise we should be doing, just look for A on the screen and do that.

There is a variety of exercises, bent over dumbbell rows, bicep curls, push-ups, figure 8’s with a weight plate, and so on, so its kept very interesting. By the end of the class I was exhausted and felt I got a great workout done. The staff are also friendly and energetic. If I lived in San Francisco, I’d be a regular.

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Agreed

One cool novelty, the headphones. Through the headphones you hear thumping beats and the instructor, although she wasn’t so far away that you wouldn’t hear her anyway.

One drawback, no changing rooms. The toilets have to double up as changing rooms. I was the only person to use the toilets as a changing room, everyone else arrived at class in gym attire.

There were also a few ab drills after the 35mins so its not strictly a 35min class. Final verdict, I bought a jumper as a memento, that says it all.

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Bikes and equipment
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Loving my headphones

 

Free Weights, Thor, and why I train

My training used to be entirely about lifting weights. But the point of going to the gym is not to become bigger, but to restore or maintain normal, baseline physiological function. After all, greater mobility gives you a foundation on which to build better strength and superior athleticism. I’d forgotten why I starting going to the gym in the first place: to refine skills and develop strength so that it could be expressed somewhere other than the gym. Lifting weights had become the only training I did because I understood it, and was comfortable doing it. Then I had an awakening and realised that bulking up in the weights room wasn’t helping me achieve anything, and I quit the gym and gave up weights cold turkey. From only weights training, to none at all.

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Its been a long time but I’m lifting again

I was reading about Chris Hemsworths training for the movie “Thor: Ragnarok”. When originally cast as Thor, Chris was told he needed to add 9kg of muscle to fit into the Thor suit, which he did by eating a lot of meat and lifting lots of weights. For “Thor: Ragnarok” Chris tried a healthier approach and tried to get as much protein as possible from beans and vegetables and less from meat, and bulked up using a lot more calisthenics and bodyweight movements, though he still lifted weights to make sure he got the “Thor look”.

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The Thor training regime is certainly working for this guy

Its that last part that struck me. The need to lift weights to get the “Thor look”. So why do I train? For sure I’m trying to stay as fit and mobile as I can for as long as I can, but I’d be lying if I said aesthetics meant nothing to me, what “look” do I want. This is why I’ve re-introduced weights into my training, roughly one session every 10 days. The idea is to use free weights as a supplement to, but not as, my main training. A healthy body doesn’t always signify a healthy mind, and more and more men are dissatisfied with their physical appearance. So why not use weights to help with aesthetics? I’m going to try it for a while and see how I get on. Stay happy, stay healthy, and find that one perfect mirror where the lighting comes together in just the right way to make you look great, then take a selfie to preserve for eternity.

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Feeling happy because I found the perfect mirror with the perfect lighting

Taking a break from training

Sometimes it is important not to train. Over the Christmas holidays I’ll dramatically reduce my training. I want to see friends and family, eat Christmas dinners, selection boxes, mince pies, Christmas cake, drink Coca-Cola, and spend a lot of time sitting. Its a big swing from one extreme to the other. My Christmas holidays could be considered unhealthy, especially my Christmas diet. While you don’t need to go to my Christmas extremes and stuff your face with chocolate, cake, and coke, but it is as important to plan breaks from your training.

Even without a obvious breaking point like Christmas, its important to remember that good health is supposed to be a pleasure, not a chore, and scheduling deliberate breaks can stop you forming negative associations with your training. Enjoyment is a crucial factor in sticking to a fitness plan. Without enjoyment you’re likely to quit. Even the most varied of training plans can become stale, so a short break is good to re-energise your enthusiasm.  A scheduled break will also prevent overtraining. Overtraining can lead to spikes in cortisol, which at high levels leads to muscle weakness and weight gain, so a break in your training may well help you achieve your training goals, rather than set you back. So go ahead, take a break. Happy Christmas.

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Tea, Donut, and relaxation

Glimpse into my training

I’m often asked what exercises I do. I take it as a compliment. For someone in their 30’s with a 9 to 5 desk job I’m in reasonably good shape. But the answer is never straight forward, I do lots of things, and when my answer gets more complicated than, “this is leg day, this is chest day”, I think people stop listening. So I decided to capture a typical two weeks of my training in the below 3 mins and 30 second video. I try to keep my workouts varied and interesting. Across the 2 weeks I did 18 separate workouts, and missed 4. When planning the week ahead I always plan a perfect week. A prefect week is very rare, life gets in the way. During the two week period that I captured in the video below my wife went away for a few days, my son got sick, and I had important lunch time meetings. Some workouts had to be dropped, and others had to swap places. Don’t stress over missed workouts, and keep the timetable flexible. The perfect week is there to be aspired to, making it a reality is less important. 18 workouts might seem like a lot, but some are only 20mins long. Not every session has to be an hour long with full intensity. A good workout is more about the quality of the movement than its length or intensity. I’m not telling you how you should workout, I’m just showing you what I do and hopefully you’ll find it useful for creating your own goals.

Training with a baby

Previously I posted a blog called, “training with a new born“. Prior to baby all my training had been moved into the home which I thought would be perfect for keeping fit with the new arrival, but I soon learned that I needed a dedicated place to train and had to join a gym for the first time in years. I also needed to have a more flexible time table, to have shorter workouts when required, to have a few lazy workouts after a poor nights sleep, and of course missed workouts are inevitable. All things considered it was actually easy to manage and the overall effect on my training was minor.

The demands of baby are always changing so where am I today? The end of maternity leave was a big change. Morning workouts have been replaced by creche drop-offs. Lunch time work outs have replaced the morning sessions and I occasionally run home rather than taking the bus, so there is still time for everything. Having a gym within walking distance of the office is still a must, although home workouts have become easier as baby can now entertain himself and as long as he’s within eye shot, he’s safe. Missed workouts still happen, and a flexible timetable is still key. On the plus side, sleepless nights are now much more rare so there are less low energy workouts. Constantly changing, always adapting, and still living the dream.

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My turn on the parallettes

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.

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