My training journey so far…

Bodybuilding
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.

MMA BJJ
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.

Jeff Galloway
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.

Ido Portal
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.

Fitness
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.

imag0232
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.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-9-06-54-am
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.

screenshot_20161016-115437_1
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.

imag0094
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.

IMG_1173IMG_1176IMG_1183IMG_1198

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.

PokeEggs
Gotta keep moving to hatch these Pokemon Eggs
PokemonNear
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!

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑