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.

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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!

 

 

Training Outside

With the nice summer weather the gym can be a depressing place. Why am I training inside, with this artificial recycled air on this glorious summer day? This is how I used to feel in summer when I had a gym membership. I haven’t been a member of a gym in a while, I train a lot outside these days. A first I missed the gym, but now I love being outside.

Getting out into nature and the fresh air helps promote feelings of wellbeing, I can’t explain why, but the outside has that effect on me. I especially like a hit of Vitamin D. The sun is great source of Vitamin D, which is essential for healthy skin. It doesn’t have to be sunny either, the sun is always up there, even in winter.

Training outdoors is good for mental stimulation too. The gym is pretty static, it doesn’t change much. Doing bicep curls staring at the same wall is so boring, running on a treadmill, equally so. In the outside world, you’ll see more. The constantly changing scenery excites and stimulates your brain.

Now is the perfect time to try training outside because the weather is so great, but it doesn’t have to stop once Autumn and Winter come. Get used to being out in the rain, sun, day and night. You’ll get used to it, you’ll feel more alive.

Training Outside
Training Outside

Exercise Opportunist

It seems like the main point of adult life is to get from one chair to another. We get up in the morning and sit at the breakfast table, we leave the house early to catch the less crowded bus so that we get a seat and don’t have to stand for our commute, or alternatively, we sit in the car and drive. When we get to work, we sit in the same chair from 9 to 5, sit on the bus journey home, eat dinner in front of the TV in the comfy chair before going to bed.

Much of our environment is designed to shuttle us from one place to another, from one chair to another, without any opportunity to play or move beyond the immediate goal of getting from place A to place B. Our cities are designed to discourage us from interacting with them. Studs are added to handrails and ledges to stop skateboarders from grinding and extra armrests are added to public benches to stop people lying down. These are all anti-play, anti-homeless measures, but they are also anti-human, area-denial measures that are unnatural to us. Most other species can engage much more freely with their environments, unless in a zoo.

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We’ve confined exercise to hour long sessions in gyms because our environment is no longer suited to our needs to move, play, and exercise, and its been designed that way. Whatever the reason behind this design, its not good for your health. Become an exercise opportunist. Ask for a standup desk in work to encourage standing and movement, sit or lie on the floor while watching TV instead of a chair, and use the environment around you in any way you can. For example, use a bike stand for leg raises to work your abs, or use tram handles for hanging to increase shoulder strength. There is a free gym all around you if you look for it. Try to interact move with your environment. Play in your city.

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Leg Raises

This is a great exercise for the lower abs. Leg raises can be done hanging from a bar, hanging from the rings, supporting yourself on a vertical bench, or, as in my video, supporting yourself on the rings.

The idea is to keep your legs as straight as you can and lift them up in front of you as far as possible, hold, and then lower them back toward the floor. When in the lowered position, your feet should be hovering above the ground but not touching the ground.

Keep your movement slow and controlled. The effort of hanging or supporting your body is not really part of the exercise, and moving too fast will cause your body to swing which we don’t want, since the focus here is on the lower abs.

Doing this exercise with bent knees will enable you do to more reps, with a longer range of motion. The bent knee version is good if you can’t to full leg raises, or if you’re exhausted from full leg raises but still want to keep going.

Knee and Ankle Stabilisation

Leg stabilisation is important for almost every upright human movement, be it gymnastics, martial arts, running, dance, etc. Knee and ankle stabilisation is important not just for sports, but also for general day to day activities like walking and standing. Two exercises I use to build stabilisation in my knees and ankles are the side scale and the weighted row.

For the side scale, stand with feet together either on the floor or a raised surface. Raise one leg out to the side as far as possible and hold for 10 to 15 seconds, and then repeat on the other leg.

Side Scale
Side Scale

For the weighted row, learn forward while allowing your leg to raise behind you. The rear leg should stay in line with the torso. From here, preform a row, bringing your elbow back around your spine and using your other arm as a counter balance. The added weight puts extra pressure on your stabilisation muscles.

Weighted Row
Weighted Row

These exercises are best performed barefoot. Most conventional runners have high sides that act as ankle stabilisers, this will prevent you from building up your own stabilisation muscles.

Hanging

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Ido Portal created the one month hanging challenge. With a lack of items to hang off in my home and office (rubbish excuses) I didn’t fulfil the challenge but I have started to incorporate more hanging into my exercises and general life. I hang from the Rings in the park and from the bars on the tram during my commute.

Hanging more has improved the strength and stability in my shoulders, elbows, and wrists. I’ve also seen improvements in my grip strength and endurance. An unexpected gain, though in hindsight it seems obvious, was in my pull ups. Hanging is the basis of pulling strength, and when you become strong enough to hang with relative ease, pull ups become much more comfortable

The park I train in can be very busy. When families with kids pass by, the kids often ask to hang from the Rings I’ve set up. Two striking things about this. Firstly, kids have remarkable hanging strength, yes they are smaller but their muscles are also less developed so their hanging strength impressive.  As adults we have grown weaker than we should be due to the lack of physical demands in our daily lives. Secondly, kids can’t tell the difference between exercise and fun, to them its one and same, the Rings are essentially a playground. In our sedentary lives we tend not to move and climb and hang and exercise for no other reason than  because its fun. I’ve rediscovered that fun by moving from the indoor gym, to the outside world.

Dips

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I find dips to be a great exercise to workout triceps (back of the upper arms), deltoids (shoulders), and pectorals (chest) .

Dips are very simple to do. Keep your knees bent and make sure you are well balanced so you don’t fall forward. Push up until your arms are locked, and come down slowly until your deltoids or pectorals reach your hand level, and then push up again. Always look ahead and keep your body straight. Be sure to do full repetitions, all the way up, and all the way down. The more fully you do the repetitions, the more fully your strength and muscles will develop.

I switched from doing dips on a dip machine in the gym, to doing dips on Olympic Rings in the park. The difference has been amazing. Unlike the dip machine in the gym, the Olympic Rings are not stationary. A stationary machine targets single muscles and any progress you make is only applicable to the next time you’re on that machine, its specific to the point of uselessness. Because the Olympic Rings are not stationary, when you try to do dips, the rings try to move outwards, away from the body. To get the rings to stay in place, you have to engage a lot more of your stabilisation muscles, building functional strength.

When I switched from the dip machine to the Rings, the number of repetitions I could do plummeted.  Its important that you don’t get hung up on the number of repetitions, just concentrate on strict form. Better to do 3 dips with perfect form than 30 sloppy ones.

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