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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Game Changers is a documentary movie about the benefits of plant based diets.
There is no denying the results that the athletes in this movie are seeing by switching to plant based diets. I was most shocked by Patrik Baboumian. Patrik is an extremely strong human and is on an entirely plant based diet. I didn’t realise someone could get that big, or be that strong, without at least some meat protein source. I’ve been proved very wrong. I was also surprised by some of the athletes on plant based diets, like F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton and MMA fighter Nate Diaz, I had no idea and I’m a fan of both sports. These athletes are seeing improved cardio, faster recovery, and longer careers by cutting out meat, to the point that they see a vegan diet as a strategic advantage.
Arnold Schwarneggar is also interviewed and I like how rational he is about going vegan. He comments that if you tell someone to stop eating meat, they’ll respond, “fuck you”, but if you tell someone to have “meat free Mondays” – they might actually do this. So the movie doesn’t argue for sudden and drastic change. Perfect is not the enemy of good here.
The movie is by no means perfect. Some areas I’d like to see more of or changed:
It focus’ on high level athletes competing at the top of their games. This is not me. I’m an office employee who likes to exercise so its not clear what the results would be like for me if I were a vegan.
The health benefits of vegan over meat diets are often given in terms of relative risk, not absolute risk, which is a nice trick to make things seem more dramatic.
The movie talks about the evolutionary traits we have to highlight that we, and our ancestors, are plant eaters. Downplayed or just not mentioned are our evolutionary traits that show we are also meat eaters. I’d suggest reading “The Story of the Human Body” by Daniel Lieberman for more on this
My blog is health and wellness based so I don’t want to delve into the environment too much, but if you’re trying to save the planet it seems that giving up your car in favour of an electric scooter is a waste of time, going vegan is how we’ll save the world.
The movie itself is well made and interesting from beginning to end. My nit-picking above it just that, nit-picking. I walked away from this movie committed to eating less meat, primarily to make a healthier version of myself, and if it reduces pollution too, thats an added benefit. The Game Changers was so interesting and I’d like to know more and I wish this had been something like a four part series rather than a movie. But isn’t that the sign of a great show, leave the audience wanting more.
Below is the trailer, give it a watch, and I’d recommend the movie too.
Below is a video by Klaus Sports Chiropractic showing the effect shoes have on the newest walkers. Aside from being ridiculously cute, the video shows that shoes take away propreception. The soles of your feet are very sensitive to touch because they have a high concentration of nerve endings, similar to your hands, tongue, and nose. When this poor kid had all the sensory input from their feet blocked off with thick shoes, they had no sense of their body position in relation to the ground. I love how they tried to take the shoes off! – an obvious solution.
At the same time that the above video made its way into one of my feeds, so too did the below picture of some running shoes. I mean honestly, they look almost nothing like a human foot, its like its designed to impede movement. You won’t get much sensory inout from these. Walking around barefoot is not practical, but we need to move away from these massive soles, they don’t help human movement and we end up adapting our natural human movement to suit the shoe, rather than the shoe suiting human movement. Once you’ve gone far enough down the massive sole path you’ll have forgotten your natural running gait (it can be re-learned) and you’ll have to buy shoes like the ones below, to help solve the problems that you created by wearing shoes like the ones below, its a vicious cycle.
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.
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.
A book that I’ve been working on for some time has recently been published. This blog post is for the most part, a shameless plug of that book, but I will try to shoehorn this post into the general health and fitness theme of my blog.
The book in question is “The Story of Disneyland Paris”, and rather than dwell too much on what the book is obviously about, you can just click here to find it on Amazon.
I set myself the goal of writing a book, a goal that I imagine is on many a bucket list. In my head I envisioned myself being the next J.K Rowling or George R.R Martin and creating entire fictional universes. The problem is, I don’t read a lot of fiction, and I had no ideas. Then a simple thought, “write the book I’d like to read” – and thats where the history and continuing story of Disneyland Paris came from, it’s the book I’ve always wanted to read, since I first went looking for it in 2010 to help with my M.Sc thesis.
It took a year and half for me to write this book. I worked on it nearly every day. I did miss a few days, maybe Christmas Day, or if I was at a wedding, but for the most part, I worked on this project every single day, for a year and a half. Consistency is key. I didn’t necessarily work for hours everyday, sometimes it was as little as 15mins of either reading, writing, editing or researching, but the point was it was done, progressing word by word, not chapter by chapter.
Writing the book also proved an enjoyable past time, I wouldn’t describe it as work. “Working” on this book reminded me of this quote from James Michener:
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure…..He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both”
I wouldn’t describe myself as a “master in the art of living”. People can usually tell if I’m working or playing, but its an admirable goal and to some extent writing the book fit the quote. “Are you working this evening?” my wife would ask when I opened my laptop in the evenings, “er, yes, no, I’m not sure, sort of.”
I did a small bit of research into publishing at the beginning but I ditched that pretty quickly, as getting published sounded impossible. I wanted to write the book so I’d write it, even if it was just for my own amusement for an audience of one. And during the process, I read a few books from a small independent publisher called Theme Park Press who I thought might be interested in what I’d written. They were interested and they published it, but they were never the goal, just a happy by-product of the process itself.
Now, to take what I’ve learned from the book writing experience and shoehorn it into my health and fitness blog, here are the key learnings:
If you want to lose weight, add muscle, increase flexibility, write a book, whatever, it can only be achieved by consistency, there is no quick fix.
Commitment to your goal. If you get on a streak, like 10-20 days of consistent work, that creates a desire to keep the streak going, until eventually, it becomes habit.
Think about the things you’ve not been able to do and ask yourself if you’ve really tried. For example, I’ve always said I’m not flexible, but have I worked on flexibility every day for a year and half, nope. So theres your answer.
Concentrate on the journey, not the goal
Enjoy the process, the rewards will come by themselves.
Have a pastime
Pastimes are good for mental health. Exercise is my pastime. For a time so was the book. Pastimes that require a high level of concentration (so not TV) have therapeutic effects because they limit anxious self-reflection. Consciously living in the moment reduces stress.
You’ll not see me and my book on any bestsellers list, the book is not likely to appear in any bookstore (just Amazon), its a quick read and if you do read it, it will be clear this is my first rodeo, but its a major tick off my bucket list and has me wondering about what else I might be able to achieve if I give it enough attention. Now, get working on your own bucket list, and enjoy!
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.