Waking up refreshed

The place where I work invited a sleep expert into the office for a lunch and learn session. One of the things I learnt was that a great nights sleep can be ruined by waking up the wrong way. If your alarm clock catches you during the wrong part of your sleep cycle you can wake up feeling exhausted, even though you’ve had a good nights sleep.

To combat this I got a Lumie alarm clock, which some of my colleagues recommended. The concept is simple, you wake up with light, instead of noise. You set your alarm for the time you want to wake up, in my case 6am, and from 5.30am to 6am the clock gets progressively brighter, like the rising of the sun, and wakes you up more gradually and naturally using light instead of noise.

The clock does have a normal alarm function too and the Lumie website says that most people turn this on at first but later turn it off when they find the light is working just fine. I decided I’d jump right in and use only the light function, no alarm, resting assured that if the light failed to wake me then my wifes phone alarm surely would.

On my first day of use, a Monday, the Lumie woke me up exactly on time. I can’t believe it worked from day one. Its incredible how the human body so instinctively wakes to the rising of the “sun”. Waking up with the Lumie was far less jarring than my normal phone alarm and I did not wake up tired. I didn’t necessarily wake up motivated for Monday but at least I woke up refreshed. The Lumie is bright though. It was meant to be for me but its hard to see how anyone else in the room could avoid it.

Day 2 was the same, I woke up at 5.58am

Day 3 I got a terrible nights sleep due to a migraine but still woke with the light at 6am.

Day 4 and 5, success again.

For the weekend I re-set the wake-up time from 6am to 7am. My son woke me up on each of these days at about 6.30am so Lumie was beaten to the punch.

To sum up, I’m amazed this worked right from the get go, amazed that years and years of alarm clock usage couldn’t un-do the human body’s instinctive reaction to rise with the sun, and I’ll be sticking with this mode of walking up forever.

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It also functions as my desk light

Travelling makes me sick

The body is finely balanced, and grows accustomed to routine. Most of us have routined and predictable lives. In my case, I exercise a certain amount, I eat certain foods, go to bed and wake up a certain times, in short, a fairly predictable routine. And the body grows accustomed to this. A sudden change, and the whole chemical balance is thrown off and the result, you get sick.

A holiday is a sudden change. Suddenly you can be in a different time zone, eating different foods, and because it is a holiday, you stop exercising. A shock like this weakens the immune system. I’m notorious for getting sick when I travel too far. I travelled to Las Vegas recently. I was determined to not get sick. I planned on eating well, using the hotel gym, and even more conveniently, using some fitness apps on my phone that don’t even require me to leave the hotel room. The plan was to deviate as little as possible from my “normal”.

Sadly, I did get sick. By the time my head hit the pillow in my hotel room, 24 and half hours after I’d woken up, I had a sore throat, headcold, and coldsore. It seems my body is more delicately balanced than most. I had packed plenty of medication knowing this to be the case.

Even if you’re not as fragile as I apparently am, lots of people get sick on holidays, or around Christmas because of the break in your routine. Your body adapts to your routine, change it, and the shock can make you sick. This applies to micro as well as macro changes. For no reason in particular, I’ve always combined cheat day with rest day, until recently I heard bodybuilder Dennis James question why anyone would do this, its a shock to the system. Cheat day and rest day should not be the same day to minimise the shock.

The lesson, any changes to your routine should be small and gradual.

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Airplanes – recycled air for 12hrs
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Airport Yoga Room – more of this please

 

Isometric Training

So often training is about repetitions. Pick up a weight, do some repetitions. Jumping jacks for 60 seconds, as many repetitions as you can manage. Reps, reps, reps. But you can train without repetitions. Its called isometric training, its a great strength builder, and it adds a bit of variety to your usual training regime. Its really very simple, all you do is hold yourself in position.

When maintaining a static hold, your muscles accumulate “time under tension.” You can feel your muscles working, and draining of energy. I also like the mental focus, it creates a muscle to mind connection as you struggle to keep yourself in place. Also, because you’re not moving, you’re not putting movement pressure through your joints. With repetitions, you can sometimes cheat the movement by letting the momentum carry you through, you’ll have no such help with a static hold.

Isometric training, a good to addition to any workout routine. Below are a few examples.

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L-Sit
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Double Arm Lever
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Hollow body hold
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Air Freeze

 

Carbs

I’ve known a few people to cut out carbs as way to get healthier. Although I’d be skeptical if the goal is to get healthier or to look better. Carb molecules encourage your body to store water, so by eliminating them, you’re essentially wringing your body like a sponge. So the pounds will fall off pretty quickly on a no-carb diet. Quick and easy weight loss success on a no carb diet is just dehydrating yourself and its just water weight you’ve lost.

On a slightly longer term view, a low carb intake means less muscle mass. Without the glucose found in carbs to burn off, your famished body turns to precious amino acids instead, causing you muscles to catabolise. And with this quick reduction in lean mass, your metabolism starts to stall, burning fewer calories, making real weight loss harder still.

And its not just your body, its your brain too. Your brain uses up over half of your bodies glucose stores. A few days into a low-carb diet and you’ll struggle understand all the subplots in the latest Fantastic Beasts movie.

Its true not all carbs are created equal. Refined carbs have been associated with obesity. I recently heard a phrase I like and it went something like this, “don’t ask if its good for me, ask when its good for me.” If you’re a professional athlete, you can handle a lot of carbs. If you spend most of your time watching Netflix, you should limit your intake.  Foods don’t exist in a vacuum, you have to look at your carbs in the context of everything else you eat and do. Its all about balance, and some days that means a pasta.

Eat to fuel your body for performance, not to look good.

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Pasta and broccoli – thats lunch sorted for a few days

Race Review : KBC 10k Halloween Night Run

I haven’t taken part in an organised run since I did the Virgin Media Night Run in April 2017. I still run regularly, but running in events has been the big casualty of becoming a Dad, its just hard to find the time to stick to a full training plan in order to be able to safely take part in running events.

I was informed of the KBC Halloween Night Run with lots of advance notice, so I had time to create and stick to a full training plan. It felt good to make running the priority in my training schedule again. I felt that getting race fit again elevated all my training. I felt generally healthier, or as John Tarrent refers to it, “the magnificent feeling of well being”.

As for the race itself, it was well organised. Sign up was done easily online and race numbers were available for collection the day before the race and on race day. There was also a well managed and supervised bag drop.

The Halloween theme made for a fun race. Not everyone opted to dress up but there was a few people in costumes. I went for a running friendly Thor costume. Fair play to the person in the inflatable t-rex costume. It was an interesting course, around a GAA pitch and out onto the beach in Sandymount. I don’t think I’ve ever run in a beach race before. The full moon added to the atmosphere. There was one bottleneck at the switchback where runners had to pass single file, this was annoying as you had to stop running and walk through, and it would be the first thing I’d try to change if the organisers run this event and course again.

The course was 5km long, and those doing the 10k ran a second lap. There was a huge drop out rate after the first lap which made for a lonely second lap, I’m glad I was running with a group.

Overall, my criteria for a successful race, whether running alone or in a group: have fun, run as fast as you can, but as slow as you need to, and finish the race with enough left in the gas tank to be able to run another mile. This was a successful race and definitely worth running.

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Race completed
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Superhero landing
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Nice medal

 

What shoes should I be wearing

“Get out of those corsets, they’re killing you”

– Catherine Beecher

Catherine Beecher lived during the 19th century and is mostly know as a proponent of education for women. The quote above is directed towards physical health rather than education. In Catherines time, corsets were tight, and designed to hold and shape the torso of women into a more desirable, aka fashionable, shape. Without question, these 19th century corsets were not good for your health. Using an item of clothing to re-shape your body to something other than its natural shape is a bad idea.

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Today I’d say, “get out of those shoes, they’re killing you“. Shoes started out as a means to protect your feet, and your feet do need protection. But we’ve flattened our world. Gone are the rough and rugged terrains we used to wander, replaced by flat footpaths and flat floors. Even as the ground beneath our feet has gotten flatter, the soles on our shoes have gotten larger. How much protection do you need from a flat surface?

The modern shoe is not a functional item, its a fashion item, and it re-shapes your foot to something other than its natural shape in the name of aesthetics. Most day to day footwear is harmful. Men have it bad, women have it worse, high heels anyone?

Most running shoes are harmful too. Gift wrapping your feet in fully padded, air pumped trainers will disrupt the natural biomechanics of your run and do harm to more than just your feet, it will ricochet upwards to your knees and hips.

The new normal is to have shoe shaped feet, instead of feet shaped shoes. This needs to change. The number one priority of your shoes should be function, not fashion. If you’re interested, these are what I wear. These guys also make nice children’s shoes, Anna and Paul

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Feet shaped shoes or shoe shaped feet
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Took this from NatGeo’s insta page – an Ashaninka Indian. Human feet shaped by nature

 

Class Review: F45

I recently did a class at F45. If memory serves, I think I first read about F45 in Men’s Health magazine and they mentioned Hugh Jackman is a client. If it’s good enough for the Wolverine, it’s good enough for me.

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The 45 in “F45” is how long the class lasts, 45 minutes. It’s a circuit training class and they do lots of variations to keep it fresh. I thought it was very enjoyable, in a torturous sort of way. The circuit itself had 12 different exercises and I was in another room getting changed while they were explaining them but no need to fear, they have screens at each station showing you what you’re meant to be doing and two instructors walking around helping and motivating.

There was a weird “let’s do this, we’re all in it together” vibe that I can’t quiet explain but created a nice team atmosphere. Facilities wise, the whole place looks new, and to be fair, it is. Fresh paint, new equipment, just a high standard in general, I hope it stays that way. There is no changing room which most people seemed to know already because they arrived and left in their gym gear. There is a unisex shower and bathroom area, relax, each shower and cubicle has its own door, and that is where I got changed. Personally, I do like proper changing rooms.

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How was the class? Well, as I was sitting and putting my shoes back on after the class, I had complete jelly legs. F45 is an exhausting workout and I worked up a proper sweat. It’s also accessible, you’re very much in control over how far you push yourself. If I were to add anything it would be a cool down session after the workout. There is no rushing people out the door at the end of the class so you could do your own cool down if you wanted. I enjoyed F45 and I will be back. I think classes like this are going to be very popular and will challenge traditional gyms for memberships. I don’t envision F45 having any trouble bringing in the patrons. Great to see F45 in Dublin. The variety of fitness options in this city continues to grow. I wish them luck. See you again soon enough.

Play time

Watching my son engage with the world I see that he’s only interested in play time. Play serves many functions, its a bonding tool, its a way to learn how your body moves, and it floods your body with feel good endorphins.

For a young mammal everything is play time, and everything in your environment is there to be engaged with. Curiosity is constant. I wonder when we lose this curiosity, and when we start to view our environment as something that can only be used in a certain number of ways, I can’t remember the last time I stood rather than sat on a chair? I suspect school has something to do with it. Perhaps schooling has changed since my day but I seem to remember sitting a lot, does school kill our natural desire to engage with our environment?

I don’t expect anyone to be able to maintain child like curiosity into adulthood, but when is the last time you played? I decided to go to the gym with no plan, I just wandered around and did whatever came to mind, it was fun, and I took a few videos in the process.

Break out of your normal routine, use your environment, go play.

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Street architecture – I must climb it!
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All mammals love play, climbing on mammy is always a favourite

 

 

Handstands

I’ve been working on handstands for a while. I usually do one handstand session a week. My progress has been slow, but fun. Aside from looking cool and being a very graceful demonstration of strength, there are other benefits from working on handstands.

Upper Body Strength 

Staying up-side-down requires shoulder, arm, and upper back strength. Actually, pretty much every muscle in the upper body is put to work in a handstand, making it one of the most beneficial upper body exercises. Your upper body will gain size and strength from handstand work.

Improved Balance

Holding your body upside down requires constant small adjustments of all your body parts, from your fingers right up to your feet. This increases the strength of your core and stabilisation muscles and will have a positive effect on your general balance.

Abs

Those stabilisation muscles include your abs, and who doesn’t want good abs. Sit ups and crunches are not the only way to get that 6 pack. Your abs will do a substantial amount of work holding your body straight in an up-side-down position.

People are afraid of handstands if they don’t have a background in gymnastics, mostly because they are afraid of falling on their head. I have no gymnastics background and I was very afraid of falling on my head, or kicking up too hard and falling flat on my back. Thats why you start with a wall for support, and other than that wall, there is no equipment needed for handstand training. I have fallen, but never badly. The body has a funny way of catching itself to prevent a nasty fall. I found that this one handed wall drill is a good drill to build shoulder strength and helps to improve handstands. Find a wall and get going.

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Handstand work on the beach

 

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