Its that time of year again when the Christmas tree has to be carried home.
I exercise to stay fit and healthy, which does sound a somewhat vague goal. What does fit and healthy actually look like, how will I know when I’ve gotten there? And for what purpose?
During covid times especially, when I rarely leave my house, it can feel like I’m exercising at home just so I’m capable of getting through the next exercise session, also at home. When you live, work, and exercise inside the same four walls the benefits of being fit and healthy don’t seem to have any broad application beyond exercise for its own sake.
Thats why the annual Christmas tree carry is something to look forward to. Finally, a years worth of exercise has a practical application!
Hugh Jackman has been known to get into character as Wolverine before starting what he knows will be a tough gym session. Beyonce embodies a fictional, more confident alter ego, Sasha Fierce, when performing on stage. Adopting an alter ego is a form of ‘self-distancing’ and involves taking a step back from your immediate feelings to allow you to view a situation as someone else. Its a technique most often used to help with stage performing, job interviews, public speaking, but really it can be used for any task. Its sometimes referred to as the Batman effect. Batman being Bruce Waynes alter ego.
Although the embodiment of a fictional persona may seem a bit crazy, research suggests there may be some real psychological benefits to the strategy. Self-distancing yourself from a situation by embodying someone else gives you a little bit of extra space to think rationally about a situation and increases your perseverance on challenging tasks. Forget that you’ve never bench pressed more than 100kgs, because this is not you, its Batman, and it can/will be done.
Self-distancing can also increase your intention to exercise or resist junk food. I want that chocolate, but what does the Wolverine want? I don’t want to work out this evening, but what does Arnold want? Okay, Arnold is not fictional but he’s a larger than life character.
Its Halloween weekend so I decided to try a drastic version of the Batman effect. I worked out as Spider-Man. I wouldn’t have believed it had I not tried but it made a positive difference (and its not easy to breath in that suit). I won’t be doing this again, its better that I take a step back from the theatrics before I’m committed or I try to swing from buildings, but a little imagination might help you run that bit faster, lift that bit heavier, push that bit further.
I have previously written posts called Training with a baby and training with a new newborn. How long ago those days seem. Now its training with two kids under the age of four. If covid-19 had not happened, I think fitting exercise in would have been easier because my office has a studio and a gym nearby so lunchtime workouts were easy. In theory, they still should be but they’re not. Working from home during the pandemic I tend to eat quickly and get back to work, doubly so if its my turn to cook the lunch. I say lunch, I eat my dinner at 12 so its the main meal of the day.
Between work and kids my free time is squeezed into an evening time slot, between 7.30pm and 10pm. More often than not I’m up later than 10pm getting my life in order but 10pm is the goal so I can get my 8 hours in before the 6am wake up call. Eating up my 2 and half hours with an hour of exercise is a difficult choice to make. I find that when the work day is over, and the kids are in bed, I have an energy crash, “ah, the day is done”. So finding the motivation to exercise isn’t always easy. I’d prefer to relax and watch T.V
While I have some nice photos of me training during the day with my kids, which would look great in a fictitious insta life, the truth is 99% of my training is in the evening or late at night and its really hard. More often than not I’m dragging my tired body and unenthusiastic mind onto the exercise mate. I always feel great afterwards. Such is life, finding motivation is not easy, but you can do it and its always worth it. Stay positive. Here is my fake life where the kids love exercising with me:
Yes, it was, but covid-19 has resulted in gyms being closed. I can’t help but wonder what the post-covid world will look like, and will everyone just pick up where they left off, or will time away from the gym have changed peoples views on fitness and what the gym actually offers.
In any gym I’ve ever been a member of, the men tend to cluster in the weights room. I was once a member of a men-only gym that was nothing but a weights room. And the reason, men want to add muscle mass and get bigger. But men often confuse wanting to get bigger with getting leaner. Often they already have muscle, its just obscured by fat.
If you instead focus on burning fat, you’ll dial up your definition and bring your muscle mass to the fore. For most people its unlikely you have weights at home to rival the gym so you’ve probably already turned to something like running and may well be seeing the results you always wanted from the gym but never got.
As well as confusing getting bigger with getting leaner, men often confuse getting bigger with getting fitter. But bigger isn’t fitter. Fitness is the combined power of your heart, lungs, and muscles to enable you to do meaningful activities. A bench press isn’t a meaningful activity. I learned this first hand when I worked as a furniture delivery man. A bigger muscle is a stronger one only to a certain extent, because strength is largely neuromuscular, it’s about your brain connecting to your muscles in the most efficient way possible, for example, when you’re carrying a wardrobe up a flight of stairs. So to get stronger you should be learning new skills, not endlessly repeating bicep curls.
I think time away from the gym will reduce the enthusiasm for the weights room, as people realise they were mis-informed as to what you can achieve in there.
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.
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.
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.