Was the gym any good in the first place?

Yes, it was, but covid-19 has resulted in gyms being closed. I can’t help but wonder what the post-covid world will look like, and will everyone just pick up where they left off, or will time away from the gym have changed peoples views on fitness and what the gym actually offers.

In any gym I’ve ever been a member of, the men tend to cluster in the weights room. I was once a member of a men-only gym that was nothing but a weights room. And the reason, men want to add muscle mass and get bigger. But men often confuse wanting to get bigger with getting leaner. Often they already have muscle, its just obscured by fat.

If you instead focus on burning fat, you’ll dial up your definition and bring your muscle mass to the fore. For most people its unlikely you have weights at home to rival the gym so you’ve probably already turned to something like running and may well be seeing the results you always wanted from the gym but never got.

As well as confusing getting bigger with getting leaner, men often confuse getting bigger with getting fitter. But bigger isn’t fitter. Fitness is the combined power of your heart, lungs, and muscles to enable you to do meaningful activities. A bench press isn’t a meaningful activity. I learned this first hand when I worked as a furniture delivery man. A bigger muscle is a stronger one only to a certain extent, because strength is largely neuromuscular, it’s about your brain connecting to your muscles in the most efficient way possible, for example, when you’re carrying a wardrobe up a flight of stairs. So to get stronger you should be learning new skills, not endlessly repeating bicep curls.

I think time away from the gym will reduce the enthusiasm for the weights room, as people realise they were mis-informed as to what you can achieve in there.

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Not a treadmill in sight

 

 

 

Training when the gym is closed

With the restrictions in place under covid-19 my gym is closed. I use the gym for the odd free-weights session and the pull up bar. The office I work in has a studio, and this is also closed. The studio is a big empty space that I use for bodyweight exercises and handstand drills.

Staying at home to prevent the spread of covid-19 does not mean the end of exercise. Long ago I started moving much of my exercise into my own house. If you’re looking for ideas on how to exercise at home, the links below to some of my previous blog posts could be useful.

Below I’ve linked my most recent review of Rushfit, a home fitness DVD. Don’t think that a home fitness DVD is any less beneficial than a gym membership. Rushfit was so intensive and the benefits so great that I quit the gym when I did it as it made the gym redundant:

Blog post revisited: Rushfit

And if DVDs are too old school for you, there are loads of fitness apps that you can download to your phone or tablet. I use a yoga app called DDPY which is one such fitness app, you can read more about it in the link below:

DDP Yoga – a review

Home equipment doesn’t need to be a bench press or chin-up bar, which can either be big and bulky or difficult to set up. The parallettes are a simple and effective tool, they don’t take up much space, and require zero installation:

Parallettes Pt.2

There are so many options to train at home, and they are so effective, that once the gyms re-open, you might even be reluctant to return. Forcing yourself to be more creative with home workouts might just broaden your training horizons beyond what the standard gym can offer.

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The complete home gym

A tale of two races

My new Vivobarefoot shoes arrived today. Its mad to think that they are the only brand of shoe I wear. Minimalist shoes have really helped strengthen my feet and ankles. Running has become low impact and pain free. As an example, I give you a tale of two races.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2012

  • I had a standard pair of Nike running shoes, nice big soles on them
  • I trained for the race using Jeff Galloways training programme, two timed runs a week, and one distance run a week that gradually got longer
  • I ran the half marathon in 2hrs and 5 seconds.
  • My knees were in agony. I hobbled back to the hotel.
  • I was in Disney World so after I’d showered and changed, I went to the Disney Studios theme park. With my knees too sore to actually walk around, I spent most of the day on a bench people watching, envious of the other runners I saw with ice packs strapped to their knees, “clever” I thought

Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2014

  • Between this race and the last I had learned to run with a professional running coach (yes, running is a skill that has to be learned) and on their advice I now wore Vivos, a minimalist shoe
  • I trained for the race using Jeff Galloways training programme, two timed runs a week, and one distance run a week that gradually got longer
  • Ran the half marathon in 2hrs, 9mins and 24 seconds.
  • I felt fine and walked back to the hotel
  • I was in Disney World so after I’d showered and changed, I went to the Disney Studios theme park. I spend the day in park, went on all the rides and had great day

If you have 9mins to spare, the below video from Vivobarefoot is a great watch.

Benefits of Running

Running has been a big casualty of becoming a Dad. Running is not something you can do in the vicinity of your children, unlike say, yoga, because its not stationary. And going for a run is nicest during the day, but during the day is when you want to spend time with your kids. After everyone has gone to bed, and its dark outside, I’m less inclined to go for a run. I ran for a bus today and not that it was hard, but it wasn’t as easy as it has been.

I’ve run a few 10k’s in recent times but the last half-marathon I ran was in 2016. How is it already 2020? I’d like to get half-marathon fit again this year so I think I’ll go search for a race that I can take part in.

Theodosius Dobzhansky stated, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. And we have evolved to be endurance athletes. The homo sapien is very much the running ape. Running is the most species specific exercise there is. In 1984 the Stanford Runners Study took 538 runners, and 423 non-runners that were otherwise healthy to use as a control group. All 961 people were over 50. Twenty years later the running group had a 20% lower mortality rate and a 50% lower disability rate than the control group of non-runners.

The benefits of running include:

  • Stronger heart
  • improved circulatory system
  • improved immune system
  • better muscular – skeleton system
  • improved digestion

Lace up and get out there.

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New Vivos ready for 2020

 

 

Blog post revisited: Rushfit

I bought Rushfit way back in 2013 and wrote a blog review on it which you can read here. Rushfit consists of multiple DVDs and an 8 week training programme with nutrition guide. I remember finding Rushfit intense enough that I stopped all my other training to focus on the 8 week programme. And once I’d finished the 8 weeks, I did the programme again, and then again, I think I may have gotten through it 5 or 6 times because I found it so beneficial and enjoyable.

I still do Rushfit today but I no longer do the programme. In my ever evolving routine, Rushfit still has its place. I typically do one of the Rushfit workouts every 8 days or so. I’m actually amazed the DVD’s still work after nearly 7 years of constant use. I can’t remember how much I paid for the Rushfit DVDs, I think it was somewhere between $100 and $150, but after 7 years, its probably the best return on investment on any fitness item or service I’ve ever bought.

I went looking and the Rushfit website doesn’t seem to exist anymore, I certainly couldn’t find it. Georges Saint Pierres own website doesn’t have Rushfit available in their online store either. Amazon seems to be the only place its available to buy. And if you don’t want to buy it, its easy to find on Youtube for free. The lack of a Rushfit website makes me think that this was a one time thing and there won’t be any sequels coming, which is a shame because I’d love to see an updated version.

I have two kids so exercising at home is often the only option available. If you’re strapped for time and can only train at home for whatever reason, I can think of no better combination of exercises than the Rushfit DVDs combined with the DDPY yoga app. If you’re not fit, and your resolution for 2020 is to get so, and you asked me to recommend one thing, it would be Rushfit.

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Georges Saint Pierre
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DVDs still going strong after 7 years
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A bit of Rushfit in the sunshine

 

Gym Review: Flyefit Dundrum

After the closure of Raw Gym I joined Flyefit. The main Flyefit that I use is near my office in Portobello, and I wrote a review of it that you can read here.

Because Flyefit gyms seem to be popping up everywhere, I chose a membership option that made me a member of all Flyefits. I was in the area so I did a workout in Flyefit Dundrum.

First the good. Like the Flyefit in Portobello, the Flyefit in Dundrum is not a purpose built gym, its a building that has been taken over and turned into a gym, but this time it is has worked out really well and the layout is far more understandable. The gym is big, clean, and has a wide range of equipment and open spaces. The locker room is a decent size too.

And now the bad. Sadly, this gym, like the majority of gyms, has no Olympic Rings. Thats really all I can fault it for. I showed up at an off peak time and while this gym is large, I can imagine it getting full quickly given its location, but I don’t actually know how busy it does get. Also, when passing by, this gym looks like it has a carpark, but don’t be fooled, the carpark out front is blocked off at all times.

Overall, this is a good gym. Not as good as the now closed Raw, but better than Flyefit Portobello. Aside from the few bits of special kit that I like, its hard not to see this gym being pretty perfect for the masses.

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Not a carpark
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Studio Room
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Open Spaces
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Weight Room

Meeting Lou Ferrigno

Lou Ferrigno was in town for the Dublin Comic Con and I went to hear him speak. He’s an interesting and entertaining fellow. He’s very passionate about encouraging people to follow their dreams, that’s for sure, and he also spoke about the various hurdles he’s overcome, his Dad being one, his hearing problems (he’s about 90% deaf) and his speech difficulties as a result. He talked about his time as the Hulk and his career as a bodybuilder.

During the Q&A people asked for advice on getting in shape. Two things I took from him that I thought were worth sharing. One is the time it takes to get in shape. He mentioned that people join a gym and buy loads of supplements etc and they expect to look like Lou Ferrigno, but it doesn’t work that way, it takes time, and for the aesthetic heights Lou reached, it took years. So don’t expect immediate results, be patient.

And another nice quote he gave, which I think I remember correctly:

“You can do cardio and crunches from the womb to the tomb, but you have to control the fork and spoon.”

What you eat is so important. You can’t get in shape or be healthy with exercise alone. That works the other way around too, you can’t get in shape or be healthy with diet alone.

The overall message, be patient, eat right, have passion.

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Me and Lou Ferrigno
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Lou Ferrigno during bodybuildings “Golden Era”
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Lou as the Hulk, no CGI needed

Gym Review: Flyefit Portobello

Unfortunately, because of forced redevelopment, the gym I train at has been closed down. Raw Gym, where I had been training, had three things that made it ideal for me. 1) Close to where I work 2) Open space to practise movement and 3) Olympic Rings. I’ve joined another gym, Flyefit Portobello, so thought I’d write another gym review. 
 
First the good. Flyefit Portobello is centrally located, thats a plus. Also, its cheap. My membership fee for Flyefit is slightly less than what I was paying Raw, and not only am I member of Flyefit Portobello, but I’m a member of all the Flyefit gyms, of which there are 14. And they are 24hr gyms at that. The gym is clean, the locker rooms a decent size, and the lockers functional (you’d be surprised how many gyms have broken lockers). Flyefit Portobello also has the most impressive collection of squat racks I’ve ever seen in a gym, about 10 in a row. 
And now the bad. There are open spaces but anytime I’ve been at the gym there has been classes running so there is not a lot free open space to do movement drills. For those who like classes, happy days. There are also no Olympic Rings. The cheap membership fee also brings in the masses so the gym can get very packed at times. And lastly, this gym has a confusing and messy layout because the building its in was not originally built to be a gym. 
  
Overall, its a good gym for the price you pay. While it is lacking for my specific requirements, its the best alternative now that Raw Gym is gone. 
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Nice old Dublin building
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The confusion!?!
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Is that a fireplace? Something tells me this was not meant to be a gym
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And another fireplace
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Good free weight area

Still getting older

Last month was my birthday month so I thought I’d do an update on a previous blog post on not letting your age interfere with your exercise. Another year into my 30’s and gone are the days when I could recklessly push through my limits day in and day out. Now, pushing past my limits during todays workout will result in injuries and soreness tomorrow. This is because your levels of the muscle building hormone, testosterone, and growth hormone, are at their peak between the ages of 19 and 30, which made recovery quicker and muscle soreness less debilitating. How I miss those days. I certainly didn’t appreciate it at the time.

I’ve had to become more clever with the way I train so that I don’t lose days to injury, soreness, or exhaustion. Who would have guessed I’d take up yoga! Today, few of my workouts are as intense as they used to be, but by training correctly, my exercise routine is equally if not more effective than it has ever been. You’re better off training at 80% intensity 100% of the time, that 100% intensity 80% of the time.

Of course my priorities have changed too. Come your mid 30s the ability to run a 10k in under 40 minutes or bench press 100+ kg’s is less important than your ability to keep pace at the playground. With kids to chase after for the foreseeable future, keeping myself in above average physical condition now could be the best health investment I’ll ever make. There is so much evidence that if you keep physically active, you don’t experience some of the difficulties associated with ageing.

All is not yet lost. Just because its topical and breaking all movie records, I though I’d take a look at the ages of earths mightiest heroes, the Avengers. Their ages are listed below.  I’m younger than most, and well below the average. There is hope for me yet. Stay active, train safe, save the world.

Don Cheadle (War Machine) – 54

Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) – 54

Mark Ruffalo (Hulk) – 51

Dave Bautista (Drax) – 50

Paul Bettany (Vision) – 48

Benedict Wong (Wong) – 48

Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange) – 42

Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) – 41

Danai Gurira (Okoye) – 41

Zoe Saldana (Gamora) – 40

Anthony Mackie (Falcon) – 40

Chris Pratt (Starlord) – 39

Chris Evans (Captain America) – 38

Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier) – 36

Chris Hemsworth (Thor) – 35

Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) – 34

Pom Klementieff (Mantis) – 33

Karen Gillan (Nebula) – 31

Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) – 30

Letitia Wright (Shuri) – 25

Tom Holland (Spider-man) – 23

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Book Review: What Doesn’t Kill Us

This book has been on my list for some time. I finally got round to reading “What Doesn’t Kill Us” by Scott Carney. Carney is a writer and journalist and by his own standards, was neither a fit nor unfit man, just “normal”. Carney accepted the trapping of his mid-thirties; stomach, not as flat as it had been, back pain, just one of those things. Then he saw a photo of a man called Wim Hof, 20 years his senior, sitting in the artic in nothing but his swimming togs.

Seeing this photo of Wim Hof sends Carney on a journey to learn the Wim Hofs methods of controlled breathing and cold exposure that seem to give practitioners of Hofs methods super human abilities. Hofs teachings and Scotts own journey of exploration leads him to comes up with the three pillars of physical fitness. Diet and exercise are pillars one and two, and this is something I’ve always focused on, and the third pillar is environmental stress, like exposure to cold and hot temperatures, something I’ve never considered. The book argues that this third pillar is needed if we’re to reach our full potential.

Humans are more capable and adaptable than you might think, and this book is full of examples. The body can adapt to environmental stress very quickly. In high altitude for example, you’ll produce more red blood cells, in hot temperatures, you’ll sweat less salt and produce less urine. Carney gives accounts of people using Hofs methods to manage the symptoms of Parkinsons and autoimmune problems, and even to speed up recovery after surgery. Carney does allow for some influence from the placebo effect, which is also powerful, but this only reinforces a key theme of this book, the power for the human body and mind.

Carney shows how the invention of technology often correlates with a general weakening of our species. GPS for example has reduced our ability to navigate the way our ancestors could. Carney gives the example of Tupaia, a Polynesian navigator in the 18th century who helped guide European explorers by his ability to read the waves of the sea to pinpoint himself. Is Tupaia a superhuman, or is this something that is innate in everyone and we’ve just lost touch.

To me the most amazing thing about Carneys journey and Hofs methods is how simple it appears to be. All that it takes is routinely practiced controlled breathing and exposure to the elements. Carney does warn that every person has their own limits, and if you cross that line it gives nature an opportunity to take a fatal toll. But in general, exercising the stress response through cold exposure allows a person to assert a measure of control when the environment gets challenging and helps reconfigure the cardiovascular system and combat autoimmune malfunctions.

The book is a narrative of Carneys journey, its not a guide book in how to achieve these results, but thats a good thing. I wanted an entertaining read, not a guide book, and this book delivered. Where the reader goes from here it up to them.

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