Indoor Exercise four: Chin up bar

We are firmly in the cold, dark, and rainy winter months. Lacking the conditions to train outside means its time to bring the training inside again. Previously I blogged about indoor exercises such as headstands, wall walks, and parallettes.  Today I’m looking at the Chin Up Bar. Youtube is full of home chin up bar fails and I think that puts people off, but having used a chin up bar for over a year, and not having a single youtube worthy fail, I deem this piece of equipment to be perfectly safe.

My chin up bar routine consists of:

  • 3 sets of close grip chin ups (10 reps per set)
  • 3 sets of shoulder shrugs (8 reps per set)
  • 3 sets of wide grip chin ups (10 reps per set)
  • 3 sets of incline press ups (12 reps per set)

Close grip chin ups are the best exercise you can do to build bicep strength. Shoulder shrugs work your trapezius muscles and teaches you to manipulate your scapula in a compression/depression manner. Wide grip chin ups develop the upper and outer regions of your lats and shoulders, as well as spreading the scapula. Push ups work your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Its amazing what you can do with one piece of equipment and a door frame.

With the chin up bar, its important to not let your ego get in the way of progress. When I say 10 reps, I mean as close to 10 as you can get. Don’t cheat the movement, all the way up, and ALL the way down, thats 1 rep. Don’t be surprised if 1 rep is all you can do. This routine takes no more than 30 minutes, theres no commute, you can watch TV while you do it, and its a decent, all over upper body workout. No excuses for not having this at home.

Another Blog Anniversary

October sees me passing from my 2nd to my 3rd year of blogging, which WordPress reminded me of with an anniversary badge, thanks.

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WordPress Anniversary

I’ve posted 38 blogs across two years, not enough to consider myself a hard-core blogger, but just enough to keep the creative juices flowing, keep me entertained, and hopefully entertain/inform some readers. My first blog post was about running. My first anniversary blog post  was a follow up to that post, and in keeping with the trend, this second anniversary post will follow up on both.

I was disappointed that between October 2014 and October 2015 I added 329miles to my Nike+ total, less than a mile a day. To remedy this perceived shortage of distance, I said I’d have to plan ahead and sign up for more races, as nothing motivates like a goal, a race day deadline for which I’d have to put in the miles beforehand in order to be fit and ready. Planning ahead was key! Ultimately, I didn’t plan ahead or sign up for many races. In the 12 months that have passed, I’ve run only two half-marathons, the Glen t0 Glen Half-Marathon and the Disneyland Paris Half-Marathon.  So I didn’t follow my own advice on that one. What I did do was stay consistent in my training. I still try to run 3 times a week, two timed runs of 30 minutes each and one distance run. In the last 12 months I’ve covered 497 miles, bringing my total to 1,826 miles. Thats over a mile a day, and 168 miles more than I had completed the previous year. So while long term planning failed me and I didn’t sign up for or run many races, short term week-to-week planning and consistency was my friend and I ran more year on year without signing up for races. I’m looking forward to another year of blogging, and another 497+ miles of running.

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Nike+

Disneyland Paris Race Review

On Sunday the 25th of September I ran the inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon. I can’t review the race without mentioning the theme parks. I’m sure local people can participate in this race without visiting Disneyland, but for me, part of the joy of this race is combining it with a long weekend visit to Disneyland Paris, Disney Studios, and Disney Village. This is a race review, but needless to say, I had a great time in the parks, on the rides, in the restaurants, shops, and everywhere else.

The race itself was easy to sign up for online. To complete the registration I needed a doctors cert saying I was healthy enough to run, which was a first for me but apparently its pretty standard for France. Race bibs and commemorative shirts were available for collection throughout the weekend at the RunDisney Health Expo. From sign up to bib collection is was a smooth operation. Security on race day was tight, bag and people scanners, like those at an airport, had to be passed through to get to the starting line. The race was due to start at 7am but there was a 10 minute delay “for our security”. The beginning of the race brought us through Disney Studios, followed by Disneyland, which combined took about 30minutes, and then onwards to the French countryside and nearby towns until we made our way back through Disney Village and the finish line.

The parks are fun to run through, the course is flat, lots of Disney character photo points, and once outside the parks there are bands playing music spread every few kilometers for entertainment and lots of water stations. I ran the race in 2 hours, 8 minutes, and 43 seconds, finishing 2,240th out of roughly 11,000 runners. My only complaint after this amazing weekend is that there was no notifications from Disney about race times and no information about when photos will be released, not on the official race website, or the RunDisney facebook page, and no response to the many runners who posted requesting information. Disney finally posted the results on the 29th, 4 days after the event. Overall, this is a great race and one I hope I can do again sometime in the future.

Below is a 4 minute video of some the best bits.

Consistency and Planning

There is always a new fad, a new super food, a new exercise, or a new piece of equipment that is the key to getting in shape. There is always a new “secret to success” that is the health equivalent of a get rich quick scheme. The true road to success is far less flashy. The key to success is consistency.

If you train every day one week, and not at all the next, or you train all summer and take the winter off, then you’re never going to see long term results. How you spend your day becomes how you spent your life. We change, every day, and move slowly towards the person we’ll end up being. Will you end up becoming a strong, lean, fit human being, or someone who is slightly soft around the mid section and finds themselves panting for breath after a few flights of stairs? If you care, you’ll train consistently, and you’ll shape the you of next week, the you of next month, the you of next year. Consistency is key to becoming the person you want to be.

Consistency can only happen if you plan ahead. If your plan is a very loose “I’ll try to go to the gym twice or threes times this week”, then you’re going to have a hard time succeeding. Every Monday morning I write out all the training sessions I want to do in the week ahead, my runs, parallettes, rushfit, bodyweight drills, any classes I plan on going to, etc. Once the list is complete, I open my diary, and try to find a spot for everything. Depending on the week I might not always find a place for everything, but at least the plan for the week is set. Through consistency and planning I stay in shape all year round, and I hope to stay a healthy human for decades to come.

If you’re not consistent, if you don’t plan ahead, you’ll find that, almost by accident, you’ve become out of shape.

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Planning the week ahead

 

Race Review: Wild Air Run

On Sunday the 14th of August I took part in the Wild Air Run in Marlay Park. I hadn’t heard about this race until Saturday the 13th, but it looked fun so I signed up on a days notice. Luckily there were still places available for the 10am wave.

Signing up for this race on short notice was not a problem because its a race for fun. Its a 5km race, which is an achievable distance for most people to run, and its not timed so if you wanted to walk a portion of it, or all of it, thats fine. At some of the obstacles you had to queue to get in/on them so this was one 5km race where personal bests weren’t going to be beaten, a competitive attitude was best left at the starting line.

I thought it was great just running around for the fun of it, a reminder that fitness need not be a chore all the time.The course was made up of 10 inflatable obstacles, each one with a race official armed with a water gun. For a first time race it was organised very well. I signed up online, downloaded my e-ticket, and collected my race number on the day, all without a hitch. The only problem was of my own making when my Go-Pro stopped working. I would definitely like to see more novelty races like these, which inject a bit of fun into running, in the future.  Some photos of the day and a video of (some) of the obstacles below.

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Pokemon Go: Worlds most popular fitness App

Most people don’t like the thought of exercise, because its not seen as fun. I believe that if you get into a routine, for a long enough period of time, then exercise becomes fun. I’m at a stage where I enjoy exercise. The word “addicted” carries a negative connotation, but when it comes to exercise, getting hooked is a good thing, you enjoy what English long distance runner John Tarrent called, “the magnificent feeling of well being”. But for a lot of people, fun and exercise aren’t associated with each other.

And then along came Pokemon Go, bridging the gap between exercise and fun. Its an App that has been downloaded over 100 million times across Android and iOS as of July 31st. Pokemon Go is arguably the worlds most popular fitness app. Its a game that requires you to walk or run around, looking for Pokemon in the real world. Unlike step tracking apps and bracelets which guilt you into walking in order to hit daily targets, Pokemon Go has you accumulating steps without ever noticing, you’re too busy having fun. Pokemon Go is the gamification of exercise – making exercise fun like no other App has done before. The Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii have made some in-roads into the fitness as fun genre too, but Pokemon Go is the first mainstream attempt that moves you from your living room, to the outside world. The game doesn’t go beyond asking you to walk or run, but its a start.

Because using the Nike Plus App and Pokemon Go at the same time nearly melted my phone, I no longer use Pokemon Go while running, so in order to hatch those Pokemon Eggs, I’m now more inclined to walk those short to medium distances that I used to drive. With any luck, the success of Pokemon Go will cause other app and game developers to come up with similar games, more gamification of exercise, and a healthier populace as a result.

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Gotta keep moving to hatch these Pokemon Eggs
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Time to roam the streets looking for these guys

Functionality and Movement

The July/August issue of Mens Health magazine is the Body Issue, which confused me because I thought that every issue was a body issue. Issue theme aside, it was a welcome surprise to see that when choosing which men to feature in the “body issue” they opted for ability and functionality, instead of aesthetics. Rather than cover model bodies and hollywood stars, Men’s Health have put together a list of Olympic rowers, strong men, cyclists, runners and ballerinos.  To be fair, all the men featured look good aesthetically, but all in their own way, and all very different from one another.

The men, and their training habits, featured in the current issue Mens Health seems to be part of a larger trend in mens fitness, away from free weights and bulk for the sake of bulk, and towards functionality, ability and movement. This trend has been quietly gaining momentum for years. While Conor McGregor has helped bring bodyweight and movement training more into the spotlight, fellow UFC competitor Nate Diaz commented;

“Everybody nowadays is like there is this new movement setup that Conor is bringing to the table but that was already around. That’s what inspired us to begin with…….all that movement stuff they’re trying to preach, we already got.”

A few years ago I went to my first movement based exercise seminar. At the seminar my free-weight built muscles were exposed as largely useless. It turns out my free-weight build muscles were only good for lifting more free-weights. I quit the gym and replaced it with running, Rushfit, boxing, barre, olympic rings, crawling, parallettes and more. I do still own a set of 7.5kg dumbbells, but I incorporate them into full body movements. I drop elements of my training and bring in new pieces all the time, which keeps it interesting. In the Summer months, like now, I can train outside in the sun and fresh air. Below is a video of me doing some free movement, its far from perfect and I have a long way to go, but I feel fitter and even though Im getting older, I’m becoming MORE mobile, long may that continue!

 

 

Not a morning person

I’m not a morning person, I think few people are. When my alarm clock rings every muscle in my body is telling me that its okay to sleep in a little longer because I need the rest, and my brain is telling me that a missed workout this morning can easily be compensated for later in the week.

But getting up early is a good habit to get into. The early hours of the morning are a good time to get things done without distraction. The time between when you wake up and when you get to work is ideal for accomplishing personal goals that are not related to your job. I also enjoy starting my day with something other than work because it means that work is something that comes in the middle of my day, but the beginning and end of the day is my time. Preparation and routine are key to being an early starter.

You won’t win every morning, but its worth trying.

Here are some tips to help get started in the morning:

  • Prepare in advance. This means your alarm is set, clothes ready by the bed, workout equipment set up, and coffee capsule in the Nespresso machine.
  • Use a motivating Alarm Clock. The standard “beep beep beep” would drive anyone mad. For a long time my alarm clock was set up to play this video. Lately, I’ve been using the Rock Clock. The Rock Clock has no snooze feature, to turn it off you have to hit two buttons, one saying “Get Up”, and then the other “Get After it”. The Rock Clock has a weird psychological effect on me, its seems disingenuous to sleep in after having already confirmed with The Rock that I’m “getting up, and getting after it.”
  • Have more time than you need. Don’t set you alarm so that you can get up, achieve a personal goal, and make it into work with seconds to spare, this is more stress than its worth. Time should be your friend, no rushing.
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6am Wake up call with the Rock

 

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Inspirational message of the Day

 

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Workout Gear Prepped and Ready to go
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In town by 8am for a cafe stop off, coffee and a read
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Different coffee, different read, have to keep things free

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glendalough Glen to Glen half-marathon

I took part in the Glen to Glen half-marathon on May 28th. It was the inaugural Glendalough half-marathon and accompanying marathon. Its been nearly a year since I last took part in a race, the Viking Quarter Marathon, and it was good to get out again in a racing environment.

For an inaugural race, it was organised extremely well. Multiple information emails were sent prior to the race, and registration and race number collection were easy. The race started 5 minutes late (I’ve seen worse), and teas, coffees and a generous amount of baked treats were available at the end. For a first time race, organised by a local running club, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the finishers medal, which is a great addition to any collection.

Glendalough is a great location for a race. The scenery is stunning and the only sounds are birds, sheep, rivers, and runners on pavement. Its amazing that such an idyllic county location is only a 40 minute drive from Dublin city (60 minutes if you get stuck driving behind cyclists).

I found it to be a punishing, but enjoyable race. I felt like the run up the mountain towards the top of the waterfall would never end, add to that the scorching sunshine and it felt like a very long, very grueling race. My official race time wass 2 hours, 4 minutes, and 47 seconds. I’m pleased with that time considering how tough I found the course. Maybe I’d have gotten under 2 hours had I not stopped for some photo opportunities. Photo taking may have slowed me down, but it would be a shame not to stop and take in the scenery, after all, its not all about the time, its about the enjoyment. Photos below 🙂

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View of the lake in Glendalough, about 5 minutes into the race
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The Waterfall
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View of the Glen
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Worlds best water station run by 3 generations of the same family, containing water, water melon, oranges, apples, wine gums and jelly babies
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Bit worse for wear, but job done!

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