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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DDP Yoga – a review

I listened to one of my childhood heroes, pro-wrestler Jake “the snake” Roberts, on the Joe Rogan podcast and he had nothing but praise for the yoga teachings of another former pro-wrestler, Diamond Dallas Page (DDP). Its called DDPY (Diamond Dallas Page Yoga). I’ve never done yoga before but the testimonials for DDPY were crazy good so I downloaded the App and started on the Intermediate level. I don’t consider myself at intermediate level yoga at all ,but based on the description of the intermediate level it seemed the most appropriate.

The App is very good. It’s full of video workouts that you follow along with. The videos are fun too, DDP is not your average yoga teacher, and maybe thats his appeal. The App plans out the 13 week programme for you, and it was quick to call me out when I missed the first session, oops. Admittedly, after I did my first DDPY, it was hard to see how big an effect this could really have, the testimonials on the website are obviously chosen for mass marketing effect. All of the success stories seem to be extreme cases while I’m trying to go from fit, to fitter, so maybe I’m not going to experience such a drastic change as the man who started on crutches or the massively overweight people.

Three weeks into DDPY and I felt I was starting to get it, then week four came along with new workouts. The progression level at the beginning was set very well. Enough to be challenging, but not impossible. I do love how DDP always gives a few variations on moves and positions, constantly saying, “do what works for you, its your workout” – meaning he’s giving direction, but you can choose whatever suits you best, it gives you ownership of the workout and you don’t feel discouraged if you’re not at the same level as the people in the videos.  DDP is also mad for his heart monitors which he wants everyone to wear. I don’t wear a heart monitor but I can see the importance of it if you’re starting DDPY from an unfit place, safety is important, especially if you’re training alone and at home which the app enables.

Once I finished the 13 week Intermediate Programme I didn’t see the miraculous results that I was hoping for (wishful thinking). But I do feel good, better than I did before. Yoga feels like it’s laying a foundation layer that will sustain both itself and my other workouts, providing longevity more than anything else. I think DDPY will bring greater overall balance to my body and provide a link between the other, very different exercises that I do. I’ve moved into the Advanced Programme, which felt more like starting over than a transition from the Intermediate Programme. There are a lot of DDPY workouts in the week and its started to monopolise my training. Once I finish the 13 week Advanced Programme I’ll look into the custom ones and see if I can reduce DDPY in volume while still maintaining a high enough level to progress. It’s all about finding the balance.

And the reason I’ve not seen the miraculous results I was hoping for? Because DDPY is a long term play. Like anything else, there is no short cut to success. I’m still very much a beginner at yoga. I’m really enjoying DDPY and I’m in it for the long haul.

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This is the App interface. Your week nicely planned
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Nothing like some words of encouragement from DDP, Razor Ramon, and Jake the Snake
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Working the lower back
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Cobra
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Downdog
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Don’t know what this is called
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This is not even in DDPY, but I couldn’t do it before and I can now

 

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

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.

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