Movie Review: The Game Changers

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.

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Patrik doing his thing

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.

 

Gym Review: Flyefit Dundrum

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.

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Not a carpark
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Studio Room
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Open Spaces
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Weight Room

Meeting Lou Ferrigno

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.

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Me and Lou Ferrigno
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Lou Ferrigno during bodybuildings “Golden Era”
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Lou as the Hulk, no CGI needed

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

 

Isometric Training

So often training is about repetitions. Pick up a weight, do some repetitions. Jumping jacks for 60 seconds, as many repetitions as you can manage. Reps, reps, reps. But you can train without repetitions. Its called isometric training, its a great strength builder, and it adds a bit of variety to your usual training regime. Its really very simple, all you do is hold yourself in position.

When maintaining a static hold, your muscles accumulate “time under tension.” You can feel your muscles working, and draining of energy. I also like the mental focus, it creates a muscle to mind connection as you struggle to keep yourself in place. Also, because you’re not moving, you’re not putting movement pressure through your joints. With repetitions, you can sometimes cheat the movement by letting the momentum carry you through, you’ll have no such help with a static hold.

Isometric training, a good to addition to any workout routine. Below are a few examples.

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L-Sit
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Double Arm Lever
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Hollow body hold
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Air Freeze

 

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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