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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the last 22 days I’ve exercised 7 times. Thats not a lot. It doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting in front of the television the whole time. I’ve been working in the garden and been outside a fair bit, so I’ve been up and active, but there has been a distinct lack of planned exercise due to work, work trips, other trips, miscellaneous tasks around the house, etc. And there might have been some TV time thrown in there too. Essentially, life has gotten in the way. This is always going to happen from time to time.
I do love to exercise, thats no secret, but I find that during these periods when life gets busy, that the less I exercise, the less motivated I am to get back to exercising. I can get consumed by routine, and when I lose that routine, I get frustrated. Paleoanthropologist Joseph Lieberman has speculated that people today aren’t motivated to exercise because hunter-gatherers, from whom we descend, needed a lot of rest. To do nothing when you didn’t have to was adaptive once and necessary to survive, but it’s maladaptive now. Activity and inactivity are complementary traits, skilfully balanced by the hunter-gatherer, but mismanaged today.
You may not always be motivated to exercise, and that is okay, but thats when your discipline comes to into play. During those times when life gets busy, fit in what you can even if its not a lot, and when your schedule clears again, get planning and let your discipline carry you when your motivation won’t.
Spinning is not exactly a new thing but it is something that is new to me. I’ve been to a grand total of 3 spinning classes, and for the foreseeable future spinning will be part of my training regime when I can fit it in (not always easy).
After finishing my first spinning class it was hard to say exactly where I felt it most, the legs for sure, and my shoulders too but I think thats from poor form when I’m standing up on the bike. If there is one piece of consistent feedback I get from almost any fitness class I go to its, “relax your shoulders”. So while I can’t feel what Spinning is targeting specifically, I do finish the class dripping in sweat. Spinning is a great cardio session, and for that reason alone, I’ll keep it up. Its hard to get a good sweat going with the strength work I do on the Olympic Rings or the Parallettes. Those types of workouts are exhausting, but not sweaty. Spinning is a great way to get your sweat on as its an intense, cardio heavy session. Other people I know who have been spinning for a long time tell me they notice the biggest change in their waistlines, and based on a quick glance around at the other people in the class, spinning does look like a good way to stay slim.
My class of choice is Spinzone. Spinzone is a dedicated spinning studio. Spinzone has about 60 bikes, is dimly lit, with lots of neon lights and thumping music, more like a rave than a fitness studio. The audio system the instructors use could do with an upgrade as sometimes its hard to hear what they are saying. Spinzone is a pay-as-you-go service, 6 Euro per class. I like the cheap pay as you go option that Spinzone offers. Most exercise specific gyms like spinning or boxing or barre make the per class price prohibitively expensive to encourage monthly memberships over pay-as-you-go classes. Monthly memberships are good for the gyms, but not good for someone like me who likes to try lots of different classes.
Another thing I like about spinning is that you can make it as hard or easy as you like. You adjust the bikes difficultly yourself, but under the instruction of the person leading the class, “Go to 70% resistance…10% resistance..”, and so on. What exactly 70% resistance is in entirely up to you, which mean anyone of any fitness level can join any class. Its a flat out workout thats easy on the joints and leaves you feeling good about yourself, you can’t ask for much more than that.
“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.
“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”
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.