My Shoe collection

All my shoes are made by VivoBarefoot. They say we are in the second barefoot revolution. The first revolution took place a number of years ago when minimalist and barefoot shoe brands started gaining popularity, but the revolution seemed to end in lawsuits against shoe makers and injured runners. We are now in the 2nd barefoot revolution as minimalist shoe brands are again gaining popularity, only this time there is a greater level of education among the wearers. Runners sustained injuries the first time around mostly because of a lack of education and small bit of arrogance. Runners don’t want to be told that a lifetime of wearing an inch of rubber beneath your feet has warped your natural stride into an unnatural one. In contrast, todays barefoot runners seek advice from professional running coaches before running in minimalist runners. I recommend these coaches.

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My shoe collection

Reading up on the subject of running is likely to lead you to a large and confusing array of articles and publications that will range from telling you that you’ll be running ultra-marathons with ease the day after you go barefoot, to the other extreme that you’ll lose the ability to ever run again such is the destructive force of barefoot running. Articles like this one make me want to steer clear of too much reading. The best thing you can do is to try yourself.

I’m absolutely not a running coach but I can tell you the benefits I’ve experienced after I switched my running and everyday footwear to Vivo shoes. This is of course anecdotal and applies to me, I can’t speak for others:

  • increased toe dexterity – my toes move much more than before
  • better proprioception through my feet – I didn’t notice this until a day when I had to wear “normal” shoes and the lack of feedback I was getting from my feet about the surface I was on was unnerving
  • Stronger soles – the soles of my feet are just tougher
  • No more knee pain – I used to be immobile on the coach the day after a race. I’ve never experienced this since I started wearing minimalist runners.

I do think the term “barefoot” is off-putting and misleading. As you can see from the photo, I’m anything but barefoot, I have 5 pairs of shoes. I don’t walk around outside in my bare feet, even in my house I usually wear socks. What I am doing is wearing shoes designed around the shape and movement patterns of the human foot, shoes that have a wide toe box, and a thin, flat sole. I’m so pleased with my Vivo’s, I even invested a small amount with them when they were crowdfunding, see this article.

 

 

Training with a New Born

Having a new born in your life makes it harder to fit in exercise. Along with the usual demands in your life, a 9 to 5 job, cleaning, cooking, shopping, eating, you now have the all-hours demands of a baby taking up all your energy. Time is definitely more scarce, but you might also have a new-found desire to stay healthy and active to set a good example for your child, and to keep up with them. Here are some tips:

Find a place to train

When I gave up free-weights I also cancelled my gym membership and moved all my training to the home. I thought this would mean that baby would cause minimum disruption. That was not the case. If I’m at home I’m either with baby or catching up on house chores. I’ve joined a gym near my office to fit in training before work or during lunch. Find somewhere to train thats within walking distance of work, or your home, you can’t waste time commuting.

Have a flexible workout schedule

Bad weather or a traffic incident and the morning bus will crawl into town at a snails pace, add to that a busy day in the office and a fussy baby when you get home and suddenly the pre-work workout you had planned has drifted from 8am to 1pm to 9pm. You’ve got to go along with this and seize your training opportunities whatever the time.

Lazy Workouts

Late nights and broken sleep can mean the you only get a few hours sleep and the next days workout will suffer as a result. Its okay to just go through the motions sometimes, not every workout has to be 100%.

Be prepared to miss some days

I used to say, “don’t let one bad day become two bad days”, now its “don’t let two bad days days become three”. Some workout days will be missed and you won’t catch up, just make sure to get back to it asap.

Equipment-less training

Bodyweight training is a major advantage with a new born. Operating a flexible schedule won’t be as easy if you need big pieces of equipment like bench presses and squat racks that are only at the gym. Having some equipment-less (or close to it) exercises like wall-walks or parallettes will be beneficial for that 11pm session.

Its all great

Baby changes so quickly that if you hit on a routine that works one week, it can easily become obsolete the next. These challenges are real and baby will get in the way of your training goals. Baby will have a negative impact on your training, but rest assured its absolutely, completely, without a doubt worth it. Being a Dad is the best.

Training with baby
Hello, I’m Batman

Parallettes Pt.2

The parallettes have stayed a consistent part of my weekly workout since I first bought and reviewed them. At the time I was looking for ways to bring my training into the home and Mens Health magazine conveniently published an article about the parallettes with some basic exercises you could perform on them. My initial routine consisted of those Mens Health recommended exercises: dips, press-ups, the L-Sit, planche negative press, and handstand press up.

I was enjoying the parallettes but quickly decided I needed more guidance and knowledge than what was contained in that one article I had read. I signed up to GMB’s Parallettes One programme. Parallettes One is a 12-week course divided up into four phases of training that gradually builds up your skills. The ideal candidate for a programme like Parallettes One is someone who is willing to drop what they are doing and focus purely on the programme. I’m not the ideal candidate as I tried to shoehorn the programme into my existing routine and as result, I didn’t give it the attention it maybe deserved.

Having said that, I highly recommend both the parallettes and the GMB programme which provided some much needed structure and guidance to learning, and getting comfortable on the parallettes. Its been great for building upper body strength and control while also introducing new movements.  They are a fast and effective workout and don’t require much space, you can even watch TV while you do it. Below is a video of me doing the GMB Parallettes One routine in full – I’m still a long way from doing it with ease, but practice makes perfect.

My training journey so far…

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Been part of my library since 2005

January is a good time to reflect on my training, and the journey its taken over the years. My initial entrance into the world of exercise was in the free weights section of the gym when I was about 16 years old. I enjoyed lifting weights. I was in the gym 3 to 4 times a week. It helped that I found a kindred spirit that trained with me, we learned together and motivated each other. The Arnold Schwarzenegger Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding was our guide. I got big, but never huge, and in hindsight, I had bigger pecs than a 5ft 9″ human needs, I overdeveloped some areas and underdeveloped others. For years weight lifting was all I did.

I trained in BJJ/MMA for a few years in various places. With John Kavanagh and Chris Bowe in Dublin, and Cesar Lima in London. For a long time this was the only cardio I did and I enjoyed it a lot. But its an expensive and time consuming hobby and required too much of a commitment at the expense of other types of training.

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A bit of MMA / BJJ (2008)

In 2012 I started running. Initially it was because, as a Disney fan, I wanted to run the Walt Disney World half-marathon. It was the novelty of a race through Disneyland that started me running, but I enjoyed the training so much I’ve been running ever since. I followed the Jeff Galloway training programme then, and I’m still using Jeff’s running schedule today.

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Me and runDisney spokesman and US Olympian Jeff Galloway (2012)

It was running coaches Rene Borg and Jason Keogh who introduced me to the concept of barefoot / minimalist running specifically, and bodyweight and natural movement training in general. I now only wear minimalist shoes, for running and otherwise.

Champions Everywhere
Rene of Champions Everywhere working on my running posture (2013)

Following on from the minimalist running, I explored and educated myself in the world of bodyweight training and natural movement. After training with movement expert Ido Portal  I no longer saw the need for free-weight training at all. I replaced dumbbells and bench presses with Olympic Rings, Parallettes, pull-up bars, calisthenics, boxing classes, barre classes and exited the gym in favour of my home, studios, and the outdoors.

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Me and movement expert Ido Portal (2014)

It’s funny to look back over my training journey. At the beginning I trained exclusively in the gym, lifting weights. Today I don’t lift weights at all or have a gym membership. Its important to keep learning, to not get trapped in a particular training dogma. Stay curious, keep learning, and be willing to drop old routines and embrace new ones.

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Feeling good with my general level of fitness (2016)

 

 

 

Training at the Barre pt.2

Nine months ago I wrote a blog post about my first experience doing a Barre Class. I came across the concept of Barre training in an article in Men’s Health magazine. Since that time there seems to be more and more Barre classes popping up in gyms and pilates studios across the country. I’m not surprised by the rising popularity of Barre as I’ve found the Barre workouts to be very beneficial and I’ve continued to attend classes as part of my workout routine.

I benefit from the functional movement, strength work, and stretching that Barre class incorporates. Its a core and stabiliser muscle workout like no other. One of the great things about Barre workouts is you can constantly make it harder for yourself. If you can hold yourself in a plie position with ease, why not try and hold that position an inch lower, and suddenly you’ll feel the burn again. You can constantly turn up or down the intensity to suit your level.

I like to switch up the classes I attend, so I’m only at Barre once every two weeks but I’ve seen great improvements in my Barre abilities, and overflow improvements into other exercises I do. I find it so beneficial I’d be tempted to take a break from some of the other exercises I do and take a month of pure Barre to see the effects.

Its still mostly women that attend this class, and I suppose thats to be expected. But there are so many benefits for men with a class like this. If you’re a man and you want a solid core strength workout, and your ego doesn’t mind being out-trained by women half your size, you should definitely add this to your agenda.

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Barre Training

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

 

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