Was the gym any good in the first place?

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.

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Not a treadmill in sight

 

 

 

Training when the gym is closed

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:

Blog post revisited: Rushfit

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:

DDP Yoga – a review

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:

Parallettes Pt.2

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.

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The complete home gym

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

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.

The Responsibility to Stay Fit

“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable”

– Socrates

Wise and interesting words from Socrates. If I were to update it for the 21st century I’d replace the word “man” with “one / person” and I’d add that no government has the right to let its citizens be amateurs in the matter of physical training.

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Looking good Socrates

I do believe Governments should help their citizens stay fit and healthy. There are many so called “mismatch diseases” that are a direct result of our sedentary lifestyles, things like obesity, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease. These serious disorders share several characteristics: They’re chronic, noninfectious, aggravated by aging and strongly influenced by affluence and culture. Modern medicine has come up with treatments for them, but prevention, by combating the sedentary lifestyles that lead to these problems, could work just as well.

If people had access to free or subsidised gyms now, then they are less likely to suffer from mismatch diseases in the future. This could be a way to reduce future Health Care costs, or at least, free up space and resources for those people that need treatment. While in San Francisco I came across an outdoor, free gym, that has everything you need to stay fit and healthy, all in one place, with instructions on the wall. I’d love to see spaces like this all over the country.

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Best free gym I’ve ever see – San Franciso
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Jeans and no top, this was an unplanned visit

There are of course many potential problems. Assuming Health Care has a fixed budget, subsidising gym memberships means diverting spending from the old and sick to the young and healthy for a payoff that won’t be seen for 20 or 30 years, what politician would back that? Can the government force you to exercise? And how do you monitor what type of training people are doing, I don’t what what my taxes subsidising a bobybuilder who, despite training a lot, is still on a collision course for mismatch diseases.

Exercise can be expensive and time consuming, while the responsibility ultimately rests on the individual, its would be nice if governments stepped in to make it that be easier.  Really what I want is a free gym 🙂

Free Weights, Thor, and why I train

My training used to be entirely about lifting weights. But the point of going to the gym is not to become bigger, but to restore or maintain normal, baseline physiological function. After all, greater mobility gives you a foundation on which to build better strength and superior athleticism. I’d forgotten why I starting going to the gym in the first place: to refine skills and develop strength so that it could be expressed somewhere other than the gym. Lifting weights had become the only training I did because I understood it, and was comfortable doing it. Then I had an awakening and realised that bulking up in the weights room wasn’t helping me achieve anything, and I quit the gym and gave up weights cold turkey. From only weights training, to none at all.

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Its been a long time but I’m lifting again

I was reading about Chris Hemsworths training for the movie “Thor: Ragnarok”. When originally cast as Thor, Chris was told he needed to add 9kg of muscle to fit into the Thor suit, which he did by eating a lot of meat and lifting lots of weights. For “Thor: Ragnarok” Chris tried a healthier approach and tried to get as much protein as possible from beans and vegetables and less from meat, and bulked up using a lot more calisthenics and bodyweight movements, though he still lifted weights to make sure he got the “Thor look”.

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The Thor training regime is certainly working for this guy

Its that last part that struck me. The need to lift weights to get the “Thor look”. So why do I train? For sure I’m trying to stay as fit and mobile as I can for as long as I can, but I’d be lying if I said aesthetics meant nothing to me, what “look” do I want. This is why I’ve re-introduced weights into my training, roughly one session every 10 days. The idea is to use free weights as a supplement to, but not as, my main training. A healthy body doesn’t always signify a healthy mind, and more and more men are dissatisfied with their physical appearance. So why not use weights to help with aesthetics? I’m going to try it for a while and see how I get on. Stay happy, stay healthy, and find that one perfect mirror where the lighting comes together in just the right way to make you look great, then take a selfie to preserve for eternity.

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Feeling happy because I found the perfect mirror with the perfect lighting

Training is more than free weights

Lifting weights can be the exercise equivalent of those foods in the supermarket that are branded healthy but are far from healthy. Its unfortunate that food companies deliberately mislead consumers, when consumers are trying to do the right thing.

I often think the same thing about weights training. When getting a gym tour (especially as a man) before becoming a member, gyms tend to show off all the free weights they have. And if you sign up for a programme to get in shape, no doubt there will be weights training involved.

There is a mis-match here – “I wanted to get in shape, and they prescribed me some weights training”. But a manufactured body using free weights is essentially an unnatural one, with muscles that bulge in the middle – a product of linear up and down movements that creates a swollen aesthetic. A functional body has long, toned muscles that are as thick where they meet your joints as they are in the middle.

I think its comes down to uneducated or poorly informed personal trainers, who don’t know anything beyond weights training. Or maybe its just telling people what they want to hear because people prefer the benchpress to build pecs, rather than crawling and push-ups. Its not that I have anything against weights training. If you’re trying to attain a certain aesthetic, weights are the way to go. I just fear that people go to the gym to get fit, are prescribed weights training, and instead of getting fit, they get the look of someone who is fit.

Forget about the weights and forget about legs day, chest day, arms day. Instead work on controlled integrated balance movements, integrated explosive power movements, and endurance workouts. You’ll get a well-rounded, proportional body. It will keep you fitter, leaner, and stronger, for longer.

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Free weights as far as the eye can see

Anniversary Blog Post

WordPress notified me that today is my blog anniversary. My very first blog post was about hitting 1,000 running miles on the Nike+ app. I kept the running theme for my next two anniversary blogs post, which you can read by clicking here: Anniversary One and Anniversary Two.

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On this blog anniversary I have to break with the running theme. I stopped using the Nike+ App to track my runs when the App got an automatic update that made it unusable. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an easy way to extract the data into another app so I lost my historical running data. I downloaded a new running app, Runkeeper, but I only use it when I need to measure distance runs in new locations. The majority of my runs are in familiar territory where I know the distances and times, so I only use the Runkeeper app infrequently.

With no prepared blog post ready for my Blogs anniversary, I took my phone to the gym today and recorded a bit of my workout. I was short on time today so I just did some movement flows. Movement like this (see video below) is part of the “smarter, not harder” philosophy I mentioned in my last blog post. Putting together movement flows is not high impact or high strain, but it is a full body, integrated workout like no other, and using your whole body like this is exhausting, and fun, so perfect for a time constrained workout.  Keep blogging, keep training, keep moving.

Gym Review

 

After years without a gym membership, curcumstances required me to join a gym. I’ve been training at Raw gym so thought I’d write a gym review, a first for my blog. 
 
For any gym, location is key, and this depends entirely on the individual. For me, Raw is ideally located. I don’t use the free weights or the cardio machines but they are there. The free weights selection is very big, the cardio equipment less so, but that being said, I’ve never seen anyone have to queue for either. Membership numbers seem to be well matched to the gym size.
 

The only two things I really want from a gym is open space for some movement drills, and a set of Olympic Rings, and Raw has both. There is only one set of Olympic Rings, but I’ve never seen anyone other than me use them so I’ve never had to queue for them.
 

Knowledge is power and although I arrived at this gym with my own training routine, I was happy to meet with one of the Raw Personal Trainers and he gave me some new exercises to add to my routine – its always good to get a fresh perspective, you might learn something. Classes, of which there are loads, are free for members and I’ve been training handstand work Lauren Sweeney and flexibility with Kate Finegan. Between the Personal Trainer, Lauren, and Kate, I’ve made changes to the way I train for the better.
 

Aside from that, the price is reasonable, the changing room clean, the lockers are decent but could do with an update. Overall, a good gym which I’d recommend and that I’ll keep using as long as circumstances require it.
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Plenty of free weights to get your pump on
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Rings, ropes, and a pull-up bar, sure thats a complete gym right there
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A rare commodity in a gym, free space!

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