At FitStrong we practice the skills of strength and mobility aka moving strong and well.
Oftentimes however, outsiders have a mixed thought about what ‘practicing strength’ means.
Is it bodybuilding, is lifting to the extreme to boast our achievements at the end of the week, is it like the stuff you see cross fit doing – or is it something else?
Let me briefly define how I would categorise the key three areas of strength training that we practice and who these forms are generally for.
This is what I recommend to people who feel weaker through lack of activity, busy lives and work etc. This could be described as rebuilding the strength we know we should have. The ability to do gardening all morning without feeling worn out. The ability to play with our kids, or grand children if we’re at that stage. The ability to be able to get down to the floor and back up without difficulty.
Restorative strength forms the basis of my over 55s classes that run two mornings a week and hopefully a new class midweek (early evening).
This service is also available on a one-to-one basis and is covered in some of my current shared small group sessions.
Restoring our natural strength and abilities is well in truly covered in customised MovNat programs.
For sports, special endeavours and explorations. When we have established a good level of strength and want to take it further.
This a service I provide on a one-to-one basis owing to the specialised nature of the programming.
This often occurs in small group training when it’s a common goal.
Strength is a wonderful tool, an attribute every human was born to possess. Strength can be used to transform someone physically, to lose unwanted body fat, increase fitness and flexibility, increase self esteem and learn valuable lifestyle habits.
Our Amazing 12 program is the service I run throughout the year in waves to help people meet the person they know they are. I know that sounds cheesy and full of hype – but it truely is an ‘awesome’ program with fantastic outcomes.
If you are curious to learn more about strength training for you, why not get in touch?
An undeniable truth of modern living is that we are all sitting much more everyday than our ancestors did.
Humans were never intended to spend so much time sitting still, resting in or being supported by chairs, seats and sofas. As evidenced by much research, prolonged sitting contributes to ill mental and physical health. An average day may see the average adult sit for 6.5 hours and adolescents 8.5 hours. (Research Link)
These figures are based on a study from 2011 to 2016. Our lives have changed significantly in the past year also, with home study and working from home being a new norm for many. The physical activity outcome from this change equates to even further potential for prolonged sitting.
But why is chair sitting such a problem?
Resting has for multiple millennia been carried out not in a chair, or a soft, embracing sofa lounge; but by resting on the ground. Yes, often with some support from cushions, bolsters or a tree! Humans are animals, designed to move, to thrive by being active and resting when needed. Modern humans however seems to live to rest.
Most humans get out of bed, rest to eat, lounge in a supportive chair in a vehicle to get to work and then possibly rest in another chair to work, only to head home to rest up on the sofa. Often people will include going to the gym to sit on machines to workout too! Not everyone works in a chair of course, but the trend is heading that way.
The problem for health is not just the lack of activity directly, but all the indirect affects or tolls on the body.
Increased blood pressure
Increased blood sugar
Increased body fat, especially around the waist
Reduced ocular muscle use
Increased risk of dementia, diabetes, heart disease, cancer
Reduced muscle tone, strength
Pain – neck, back, shoulder pain is common with long term sitters
Choosing the floor
Sitting on the ground is not as popular as it used to be in western cultures. Mostly it is looked down upon, as a poorer option to rest in. We no longer have to choose the floor as a resting position as we have money to buy lots of sitting furniture to sprinkle around the home. God forbid we have a space with nowhere to sit our behinds!
I have had a terrible history with back pain, shoulder pain, hip and knee problems that all culminated (with an outcome epiphany) when I took a family trip back to Ireland in 2016. After only a few hours onboard the plane my hips and lower back were aching. In the terminal of Singapore I spent 20 minutes stretching and doing my usual mobility routine which helped, but once I was onboard again, the pain and stiffness set in quickly. After my arrival all the stretches helped but the sudden change to my lifestyle for 4 weeks of sitting in cars, around dining tables catching up with people really made me realise how troublesome sitting in chairs was.
On my return I delved into the work of Katy Bowman and her passion for helping people regain their comfort with resting on the floor, going barefoot and other wholesome ideas. Since then I have moved away from my armchair and spend my rest time, lunch time, work, study and family movie time, sitting on my yoga mat on the floor. In doing so, my back and hips stay happier for longer.
Let’s look at a list of the benefits of sitting, resting on the floor.
Reduced hip tension. Prolonged chair sitting shortens the hip flexor muscles causing tight and stiff hips – a leading cause of lower back pain. When you sit on the floor, the extra moving uses and relaxes the hip flexors.
Encourages natural movement and stability. Without the support of a chair, sitting on the ground forces your body to engage trunk muscles for stabilisation and encourages joint articulation.
Increased mobility. Sitting on the floor is what I like to call moving rest. The frequent shifting of positions continuously uses and stretches muscles throughout the body, without being a workout.
Improved ‘get up’. Choosing to rest on the floor brings with it the great practice of getting to the ground and back up. Much study has been conducted into the importance of being able to move down to the floor and then return to standing.
Bed time. Think of the last time you stayed up too late to watch TV. Your cosy chair probably made it easier to stay up. When you’re resting on the floor and that becomes too tiring, your body is telling you it’s bed time.
Being totally honest, sitting on the floor can initially to a challenge, uncomfortable and will take a planed approach to get accustomed to it. Much like wearing a pair of your expensive, fancy shoes takes some wearing in time, it can take a wee bit of practice to get your body used to floor time. Of course, I advice you to choose wider, thinner, less restrictive shoes too, but that’s another topic for another day.
Here is a plan
Rather than jumping into selling all your furniture on gumtree and embracing your new floor based lifestyle, let’s just shoot for some reasonable efforts.
The basic plan below which I’ve imaginatively called The Floor Project is a serving suggestion to play with, to encourage your body to adapt to the demands of floor sitting before embracing the freedoms it will deliver. How quick you get used to sitting on the ground depends on your body, how much chair sitting you do and how much you practice.
You may need to keep your chair close by to assist getting to the floor if you are particularly stiff and maybe use a soft rug, a yoga mat and a cushion can be of use too, to help with comfort.
The sitting position options are numerous. From kneeling, squatting, sitting and lying prone, you have many variations to explore.
Don’t limit yourself to sticking with just one style, shift around and try as many options as you can. Be imaginative. Don’t be worried about what the names of the positions are, just move and be comfortable.
Here I’ve taken 15 different photographs to illustrate your options.
The Floor Project Plan
This plan is basic. You can of course experiment with how much daily floor time is reasonable and practical, but I encourage you to give this plan a go for at least the 4 weeks. Truth is, if you can spend 10 minutes on the floor and don’t feel the urge to get up, why not spend more time down there.
The caveat to this plan is what your body brings to the game. If your legs start to cramp and get pin and needles, well then, practice is up for the moment. Get up, move around and maybe tray again later. The times below are suggested ‘accumulations’ per day. A minute here and there adds up.
Aim for 5 to 10 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.
Aim for 10 to 15 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.
Aim for 15 to 20 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.
Aim for 20 to 30 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.
Weeks 5 onwards, I think you can handle more. Maybe you’re ready to move that armchair to the corner and spend your evening time resting on the floor.
If you are more willing, enthusiastic and able, shoot for more, but not to the point of discomfort, pain and such. Just fit in more ground time every day.
Not ready for full blown floor rest?
You can still easily modify your chair sitting positions. If getting to the floor is a trip too far for now, or, if you just have to use a chair at your work station, consider building in some of the above ground based positions on your chair.
You can sit cross legged, side sit, straddle sit and so much more. See below for a few demos. Any frequent change of posture is good. You really want to get out of fixed positions for lengthy periods of time – even 20 minutes in a static position is detrimental. Change is good.
Here is a fun experiment I had on the gym bench. Not quite a chair but close enough. Sure, you might get strange looks sitting at the cafe ‘on’ the chair… or you could sit on the ground. Your call.
Want to get in touch, share a story about getting down to the floor and staying there for a while? Please do, I’d love to hear from you.
The end of 2020 is almost upon us, and whether you’re glad to see the back of it or not, I plan on making 2021 a fantastic year.
2020 was to be the year I took take Animal Flow out to the parks. It was the year I was going to introduce MovNat, natural movement classes outdoors too, but alas, circumstances prevailed and these were shelved.
However, as the year ends I will be re-planning these awesome outdoor activities (in addition to the undercover sessions) and inviting everyone to try out.
For all who supported FitStrong this year, I sincerely thank you, from the bottom of heart. This has been a challenging year but above all, I believe many of us have learned the value of moving better for our health both physically and mentally.
Earlier this year I spent a few weeks and posts describing a variety of ‘get up’ exercises. For some, the act of exercising getting off the floor and back down again might seem odd, a waste of time (“what muscles does that work bro”?) or best directed to the circus performers, but really, you never know when it’ll come in handy.
Here’s an example. Let’s call our subject Jim. After much waiting, Jim finally got his triple hernia operation. I must add, his hernias arose from his employment demands, not the gym. Anyhoo, surgery went very well but Jim learned very quickly post surgery how the get up technique applied to getting out of bed. After having your abdominal wall poked around at by a surgeon, crunching up and getting out of bed is not a good choice. Using your hip to roll over to get up out of bed made perfect sense.
Back to the Challenge
If you are a kettlebell fan, you’ll probably be aware of the Turkish Get Up (aka TGU) but there many other forms of get up drills to help you develop mobility, strength, ‘fitness’ and to learn how to operate the one piece of hardware you’ll own until death – your body. If get ups do something great, it’s just that – building physical autonomy.
Over October I’ll be dedicating 10 to 20 minutes daily to practicing the following get ups:
To get going, here’s todays 10 minutes of Turkish Get Ups
Want to join in?
Study each or any of the above get ups and practice for 10 minutes a day. If that’s just Monday to Friday, sure that’s fine too. You’ll gain many benefits from frequent practice. Not killing yourself with huge efforts mind you, just simple, step by step practice.
You can still do your other training of course. Feel free to share your challenge on your own facebook etc but please use #fitstronggetups or even just post my sites link fitstrong.com.au
My thoughts about what being a Badass in the gym means and looks like.
Everyone likes lists – yes? Here’s a list of 20 Rules and Tips for training like a Badass.
First off, what is a Badass in the gym? It’s not (in my honest opinion) the tough looking gym goer with the scowling attitude or the dude with the big Beats headphones or the girl with (whatever is in right now) or the loudest, strongest meathead. It doesn’t even have an appropriate hashtag (#tbc)!
The badass is the one who trains and moves every day to be better than last week. The true badass is more capable, physically competent and isn’t concerned with who sees them ‘workout’. They are the useful person you call when you need a hand moving furniture, pulling out that tree or helping out with all the stuff that’s challenging in life. The badass is a great all-rounder. The badass knows how their body works. The badass just gets the job done.
Get strong, but move strong too
Fundamentally, if you train, you should ideally be working on moving better and getting stronger. Moving includes walking, climbing, getting to the ground… and up. Being flexible and free to move your body as you need when you need. Strength – see below.
Lift, push, pull, squat and carry – a simple recipe
The fundamental movement categories humans are designed to be strong and able at include these. Progressively develop your scope and range of strength in each of these.
Learn liftings common features
When learning the strength movements above and mobility drills, you will observe common features, instructions or rules and such.
Move as nature intended
The human body is built to move and manipulate. Before recent times we had grown superior to other mammals because we adapted so well to our chosen environments. Physically we developed aptitudes and skills like getting up and down from the ground, walking, running, jumping, throwing, balancing. carrying, climbing, lifting, resting in a deep squat, catching, pushing and pulling. It behooves us to maintain that which made us the species we are today. You can clearly see the evidence of the lack of these aptitudes in the sedentary.
We ‘are’ built to do more than just leg day, arm day and chest day. Practice all our abilities and every now and then work them together. Lift something, carry it, push it, throw it. Practice good form of course, but challenge yourself a little, maybe getting a little out of breath. Do try to maintain nasal only breathing though.
Turn up, show up, just start – all refer to the same notion. Do not hesitate and grab opportunities. Many stories of success start with someone meeting and talking to someone they wouldn’t normally talk to. Many successes start with going to an event not normally attended. In 2008 I begrudgingly attended a weekend certification for this stupid looking thing called a kettlebell. At the end of the weekend my curiosity grew. Two years later I certified again under the worlds most intense Kettlebell certification (RKC), I met some of the worlds best coaches and many new doors of opportunities opened for me. Cliche time. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always had. Just start, even if it’s a small gesture.
Lock away the ego
That extra rep, that extra grunt, going hard or going home; really has no place in a sensible, healthy strength, fitness or wellness plan. Yes, hard work is fine when part of a planned program, but if you treat every session like a competition against yourself – it’s a losers game. Injury is high risk. Being able to move well the following day is hindered. Repeating a training session with the same effort will become more and more difficult. Follow a good plan, lock away the ego and smile for gods sake when you’re in the gym. There are way too many serious looking grumps with attitude in gyms these days.
Meet your body where it is
There are those old words of advice, ‘listen to your body’. To listen you have to let your body speak. This happens best with routine movement. The more often you move the more familiar you get with the feelings, sensations and limits of your own body. Some days you’ll feel like a super hero and on other days! Well, on some days you’ll wonder why you even got out of bed. However, remember point #6, Turn Up. Meet your body where it is on any given day. Adjust your program. Don’t compare yourself to your training peers or social media performers. You be you. You are your own special snowflake 🙂
Do not punish yourself with exercise
I seriously do not know how this sentiment exists. The concept of subjecting your body to abuse because you chose to eat something you regretted is a matter best referred to some serious time alone to consider your life choices. You really need to know your why. Why you eat what you eat. Why you feel the ways you feel after eating. Why you exercise. Why you value yourself and life. Rant over. Each and every time you exercise, it’s an opportunity to better yourself, not beat yourself. Enjoy food, but know and practice knowing when to stop. Again, enjoy food, It’s a gift. Learn to adorn yourself with exercise methods you enjoy, look forward to, reap benefits both physically and emotionally.
Be safe, effective and efficient
In the hardstyle kettlebell method, we say that anyone can swing a kettlebell between their legs but still not perform a kettlebell swing. The same can be said about just about any other strength and movement aptitude. To do is not enough. To do well with skill should be the goal. Keep in mind too, that this applies not just to physically demanding movements, but to everyday, seemingly simple tasks. Standing, walking and twisting are everyday moves but done with poor conditions leads to gradual breakdowns. “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” —Lou Holtz
Stop looking at the socials for inspiration – just stick to the dam plan
Referencing this to both training and nutrition coaching, most failures occur as a result of not following the plan. ‘Jamie, I just didn’t get much out of this program’, says the individual who came to train fours times out of six scheduled appointments! ‘That diet didn’t work, even though I only cheated on a few occasions!’ Stick to the dam plan. This then shifts to looking for inspirations from make believe role models in social media. A brief glimpse into someones workout of the day, meal prep is just that – brief. You may not see how the rest of their day rolls. Their life is theirs, yours is yours. Be you. You deserve it – now get back to the plan.
Use various equipment and objects and ‘see point 3’
I had one of those epiphany moments a couple of years ago when a gym strong woman struggled to move a large plant pot (empty) from her arms to the floor! Here’s a woman who can lift heavy kettlebells, but can’t lower a common ‘thing’ to the ground. The problem? She couldn’t contextualise her training to the real world. Our gym is now populated with a bigger variety of objects to train with. Not expensive equipment, but things you can find around the house and garden. That paired with building scenarios in the gym can really help to relate the movements we practice in the gym with real world physicality’s.
Don’t rush – work on just getting better
Progress is not always a numbers game. Adding reps, KGs, volume, time, speed are all great parameters to adjust and grow. But what about competency? I actually overheard a cashier talking to a co-worker yesterday (I wasn’t eavesdropping, honestly) about how she put the bar thingy behind her head and went down when her knee popped! She is referring to squatting of course but her words and tone told a story of incompetence and unfamiliarity. Move strong to lift strong. Spending time learning how to move really well in the big archetypal movements before adding loads should make sense. ‘Should’, but doesn’t often happen these days of instant gratification. Better is better. You can’t rush better. Just spend time enjoying learning about yourself, and progress.
Never work to failure but embrace the suck sometimes
Getting better (see above) at anything takes skill. Skill is practice. Practicing in a stressful environment rarely results in developing good skills. Imagine shouting at a student to learn quicker, stressing them out, getting them all sweaty, hot and bothered and mouth breathing! Learning requires attention in the absence of stressful distractions including working a movement or muscle to the point of failure. Detailed research and anecdotal observations both support training in the effort range of 60-75% of maximum to attain training adaptations. Naturally, to discover those percentages you have to (every now and again when the time is right) get a bit uncomfortable and work up to relative technical maximums or near to. This is not max max, where the trainee collapses in a heap of, well, physical failure. Guided testing is fine when appropriate but should not be a frequent training objective. Practice makes progress. Failure makes for a day in the operating theatre at some point.
Plan your recovery, self care and maintenance
All the gym time in the world is useless if you are not recovering adequately. Recovery first of all isn’t plopping down on the sofa and chilling out with a protein shake and a season of Stranger Things. Recovery entails nutrition and hydration for sure, including planning out meals, shopping accordingly and eating it of course. Great things happen when we eat more proteins and vegetables and cut back on cardboard carbs. Sleep is the highest priority when it comes to recovery. A crappy nights sleep can derail your day and turn you into a Gruffalo and ruin your training session to follow. Aiming for 8 to 9 hours should be a goal and as I’ve learned recently, the hours before midnight matter more than those after. Yup, off to bed early. Other areas to work on include joint and muscle recovery with a solid mobility practice like Original Strength and booking in for a monthly massage. If that’s not an option, a foam roller or Therapy Gun are great additions to your self care tool box. Ideally, self care every day. Move well, move often.
‘Why so serious’? Great line from a great character in a great movie. Whilst we shouldn’t be planning the downfall of Batman or the city, we all need to play more. Adulting is serious for sure, but having fun feels good, and you guessed it, feeling good feels good. Taking time to explore other ways of moving apart from pressing, pulling, squatting etc should be part of your weekly routine. You just might surprise yourself with some latent skills. You might just be one of those people who can hand stand, pistol squat and jump over tall buildings without knowing it. Go explore.
Eat like an adult
Sorry, I’m gona hurt your feelings perhaps! A diet consisting of biscuits, cereals, chocolate spread on toast, fish fingers or chicken nuggets and chips isn’t going to take you to your health and fitness goals. Okay okay, a very infrequent, every now and then indulgence isn’t going to cause havoc but, making processed foods a daily occurrence is a failure to eat like an adult. Eat a variety of vegetables, preferably from local(ish) farmers. Eat naturally occurring proteins, meats or otherwise. Cook with naturally occurring fats rather than factory processed oils. And choose naturally growing carbohydrates when fuelling up is needed. Spices, herbs and some condiments are great to make most kitchen concoctions flavoursome galore.
Embrace the process towards your goal(s)
Over many years of training I have discovered, seen and read how focussing on the goals are fatiguing; fraught with distracting stresses. Impatience can ruin many a goal by failing to focus and work on the skills of the processes that ultimately leads to the goal. I’m not one of those people who was blessed with the natural ability to perform a pistol squat. I could barbell squat 200kg at one time but couldn’t do a pistol squat. However, once I started following a progressive skill and strength plan, the pistol squat organically grew out of the honing of all the other skills. Like many others, I loved the steps of the journey towards the pistol squat aka the process, and the final outcome, the pistol squat was a nice end to the journey. But, without following the process, I would probably have given up after many failed attempts at just trying to ‘pistol’. Enjoy the process and let the outcome happen.
Love your strengths but develop your weaknesses
Specialisation is a very (modern) human trait. Specialists are admired for their prowess in their specific field or expertise. Odd really considering how limiting of our potential the restraint of speciality is. In the gym, the specialist is the bench guy, or the squat queen, or the person in lycra obsessed with spin bikes. Sporting individuals too, meet the category. But, what other physical qualities are left untouched on the proverbial table when we become a connoisseur? Well, the physios treatment table is often where we’ll find the evidence of a singular focus. Imbalances in posture, muscle tone, strength and such are side affects of speciality. There’s nothing wrong with having a passion, but we are simply not designed to specialise. Humans thrive on being generalists, great generalists. But, we can still love our strengths so long as we still look after other areas. Love your bench press? Well, identify your weaknesses and develop them. Love your cardio? Trust me, get a little stronger and your cardio will reap the benefits. The same goes for the iron lovers – get your cardio in and look back at number 16, find fun ways to get your cardiovascular training.
Be an example
You never really know when you’ll be required or challenged to use your strength and fitness. Training can be a great past time, but ultimately if it’s not adding to your health and longevity plan, what is it doing? Like number 19 above talked about loving your strengths and developing your weakness, also identify your usefulness. Demonstrate that often. Use your physical abilities to help others, to be useful. In turn set an example of this practice to your peers, your partner and your children if you’ve been blessed with them yet. Don’t let ego dictate your actions, let the love of helping lead your actions.
‘The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind’
…Great. You’ve got a framework to start evolving your movement and training mindset. But, I’m not ending this here.
Next, I want to share the ‘then what’ or the ‘what if’, for any of you who have a curiosity about your health, fitness and optimal potential.
All of those 20 rules or tips are fine, great even. I aspire to each and every one and encourage my clients to do the same. If you live by these as standards, you will go far.
However, without being lofty, by achieving these you could maybe consider yourself passing level 1 in a multi-level computer game as it were. The ‘then what’ or ‘what if’ quest I am now proposing is to challenge the rules, the status quo.
To understand why the rules exist, the how and why they are important you could explore the yin to the yang. What is the boundary, the opposite, the polar or even the compliment to a movement, your comfort level, the foods you eat? Stretch, compress the guidelines. Would you commit your usual 1 hour of practice to an extended 5, 8 or 10 hour period.? Would you take just one movement and dedicate an hour, 1 week, 45 seconds even or a month to practicing it? What would happen? What could happen?
Could you not sit in a chair or such furniture for a day? The floor is a very welcoming environment if you give it the chance.
What would happen if you went to your gym and spent the whole time exploring your ability with crawling? Yeah, they might scold you for ‘being different’ or it might open a dialogue for a very forward thinking conversation.
What if you confront your fear? What can go wrong if you try that cartwheel you’ve always wondered about?
If you scan back to point # 10 – Be safe, effective and efficient – it makes sense. Being safe is clearly an obvious factor to sustain but don’t mistake safe for being comfortable. Uncomfortable is not painful.
Effective is a confronting subject matter for many stuck in their dogma. While there are set in stone methods to achieving effectiveness, there are other ways you might discover. Tim Anderson, co-founder of Original Strength has recently completed the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) certification without using kettlebells. He crawled, climbed, sprinted, carried ‘stuff’ and trained with everything except the kettlebell. Imagine that. A very specific outcome with a very unconventional method.
Efficiency is skill and aptitude based and dependant on many factors. The commonality in these factors is frequent exposure to exact, very similar or similarish demands. You can see the common features in many fitness, strength and movement elements. You just have to spend time in and exploring them.
I am not saying to push your boundaries in everything you do. But do play the pendulum swing in everything to understand your own ability. I can guarantee there will be naysayers but that’s typically what happens when paradigms are nudged and wrestled.
You might just figure out that your dogma is faltered, validated or just not important. There is no wrong in what you may find.
‘No person is truly free, who is not Master of themselves‘
Heading to the gym to lift weights, run on a treadmill or cycle on a stationary is all fine and grand – good entertainment while getting your pump on or raising your pulse rate.
But, is it really natural physical development as per our design? If all you care about is burning calories – go for it. But if you’re invested in personal physical development to enhance your life and into the future, it probably isn’t hitting the mark.
What day to day tasks do you struggle at?
I used to struggle with jumping, more specifically the landing. Feet would hurt, knees weren’t sure what was happening and my back wanted to disown me.
Walking in the countryside entails a bit of leaping and what about those days when the heavy rain turns every curb-side into a river? You need to learn how to leap, jump and especially stick the landing.
The 2020 I’ve lived so far has been far removed from the one I had planned. Business life, family life and exercise. Back in February I was on a plan to work on my pressing abilities focussing monthly on various forms of pressing. At the same time I had planned to continue to explore contextualising my traditional strength training with natural movement health, strength and fitness routines.
It’s now June and the more serious pressing program has been de-emphasised to reduce overall stress. Stress is a terrible burden that weighs down many ambitions. Not wanting to add physical stress onto emotional and mental stress, I reduced the more serious, heavy training to work on an easy strength program I was giving to gym clients. I must write about that one as it was full of surprises. Made me think again about ‘how hard is hard enough’ in strength training.
Heading into July now I feel more ready to tackle something. I’ve been following the more relaxed strength program and now favour something more metabolic. Something to make me work on my breathing; fitness if you will, maybe with a hint of hypertrophy and strength endurance.
If you spend time delving into the various metabolic programs you will find some commonalities. Namely how work to rest ratios are timed.
Time and time again you’ll find 30:30:30 routines. In fact, long time coach, Dan John has recently reinvigorated his 30 minutes of 30 secs work and 30 secs of rest routine with 5 movements. I’ve used similar in the past and miraculously in the past week, MovNat released their metabolic program. And yes, it too has elements of 30:30. Fancying something different and in the grain of my recent training, I have dived straight into the MovNat metabolic 8 week program. It allows for various equipment to be utilised. My kettlebells will not be gathering dust over the next 8 weeks!
I will document my progress over the next 8 weeks and all going well, I’ll have something presentable for my clients and MovNat head quarters too.
As a quick glimpse of todays routine, here’s a wee video for you.
It’s a simple looking routine. Each movement represents everyday activities. Lifting ‘stuff’, crawling both hand foot and inverted, getting up from the ground and the sprawl is a very common method of getting up from the floor. I’m not going to give the whole MovNat program away, just snippets here and there.
You might not have ambitions to be heavy hitter gym goer, world record deadlifter. You may and probably want to be a better operating version of yourself though. And this is where I believe natural movement style programs rules.
Fun, practical and relative.
And to be clear, this is not a follow along video with instructions. It’s a demonstration. Got it?
Let’s kick this off by stating that all movement is good, so long as it doesn’t hurt. No, pain is not weakness leaving the body. It’s a signal to stop doing what you’re doing. The fitness world is a packed arena full of good movement from yoga, pilates, barbells, kettlebells, calisthenics, walking, running etc etc. It’s all good. Moving is good. Feeling good is good.
But here’s a question, is what you are doing now going to serve you when you are both out of your exercise modality and when you will be old(er)?
It’s great to be flexible, but are you strong? It’s awesome to be strong, but can you get to the floor and play with the kids or grandkids?
It’s mighty fine to have an exercise habit but are you useful?
This is something I’ve been acknowledging for a while now after the realisation that some people are great in the gym but, well, kind of suck at life usefulness. A bold and cheeky statement, but a truism all the same. It is oh so very important to go to the gym, develop strength, mobility and to go for a good walk or run, but I believe we are missing the boat somewhat by not using our exercise time for a higher purpose. Life.
Life is not just going to the gym (#gymislife) as many will propose. Life is living well, with great function until the day we die. Doing the housework without getting out of breath. Tidying up the garden without putting your back out. Playing with the kids without limitations. Having the confidence to go for a good bush walk, climbing over boulders and jumping over creeks. And as we age, still being able to do all of this as well as dress ourselves and climb the stairs with an armful of groceries.
Note, I made no reference to doomsday preparation or the zombie apocalypse. I’m talking about real-world, purposeful exercise.
Believe me when I say I love kettlebell swings and presses. Like as much as Thor loves Beer, I love Kettlebell training. But while the kettlebell swing does develop strong, snappy hips, it’s not the best preparation for jumping over things. It’ll help a lot, but will not develop the ankles and feet for take off and landing as well as propulsing the body through space. The kettlebell press teaches great pressing mechanics but not necessarily the pressing ability to push over the top of a wall, branch or throwing a heavy object. Pressing a weight will help, but it’s not complete.
Yes, strength training with weights from kettlebells to barbells is fantastic but maybe they lack some reality or context to the real world.
Here’s a fun challengeto contextualise your training
If you train 3 times a week for example, how about taking one of the sessions and adding context. By that I mean converting each exercise or movement on your list and making them real world applications of that movement. This session wouldn’t mean a max out type session, but the execution of purpose behind each movement.
To demonstrate, here are some ideas.
There are no reasons ‘not’ to practice traditional strength movements. They are great at develop specific strengths. What I would love to see more of is the practice of using these traditional lifts with a flare of real-world applications.
A greater use of our time spent in the gym would be in helping others. Be that assisting the elderly, disabled, volunteering to help maintain our green spaces putting your hand up when people ask for help on social media. We’ve almost gotten to a stage when meeting new people is fearful. Eye contact is dwindling or shielded behind our smart devices.
As the Irish poet William Butler Yeats put it, ‘There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met’.
Train to be strong, useful to yourself, your family and community.
I would love to hear from you if you already train / exercise / workout this way. Likewise, if you’d be interested in learning more and how to apply this concept to your own training, just get in touch.
I really am a terrible person but I just can’t help myself laughing out loud, a literal lol when I watch one of those videos with people slipping, falling, crashing their bike on a straight road and of course cats slipping off the kitchen counter.
It is an innate human thing to do – laugh at someone else’s expense. This very natural response is called Schadenfreude. ‘Schadenfreude is when we laugh at someone else’s misfortune. Schadenfreude comes from the two German words, Schaden and Freude, harm and joy’. Psychology Today It’s our built in response to avoid fear or pain. Simple hey!?
Personally I’d rather not fuel someone else’s avoidance of feel fear or anxiety by not tripping, falling, slipping, to the best of my abilities anyway.
Another failing of mine are my feet. My big size 46 feet. I used to torture them by squeezing them into tight, rigid cycling shoes. I wore these specialised shoes for 20-25 hours+ a week for a few years when I raced full-time in the 90s’. The firmness of the shoe helps not waste energy pushing into the pedals but can and does result in pathetically weak feet and ankles if no other training is carried out.
Apart from neurological conditions, weak feet and ankles are leading causes of trips, falls and knee pains.
While my feet are better now than right after I hung up my bike and stiff shoes (because of knee problems), they have suffered anyway. I tend to train in the gym barefoot or in socks which has helped me immensely. No more orthotics for me. However, I noticed for ages how my bush walks took their toll on my feet and ankles despite wearing expensive barefoot style shoes. Cramps, aches and occasional plantar fascia inflammation all made walking less enjoyable. Until…
Until I discovered balance training.
In 2016 we had some renovation work done on our house. One length of hardwood removed nearly ended up in the builders skip. This piece of 5m, 8cm x 20cm chunk of hardware made me immediately think ‘balance exercises’ in the gym. I was mostly thinking of adding this for my senior gym members as part of fall-prevention training.
Sadly I didn’t action this right away. Thinking people would label me as mad as a fish I wasn’t brave enough to unleash the beam. Until…
… Until I finally attended the level 1 Certification with MovNat in January 2020. The curriculum includes many aspects of natural human movement. The preparation manual included many movements to practice including balance. I didn’t really think much about the effort of walking along a length of timber until I realised how inefficient I was. Not wanting to flunk my cert because I couldn’t balance walk, I put in much practice. Pretty much daily I spent a minute here and there walking forward, backwards, shuffling sideways, duck-walking along the timber and other really quite fun moves. This was between November 2019 and January 2020 and during this time I was still doing my weekly off-road walks that I’ve always done. Very rough paths, loose stones and rocks and bits of trees etc.
I can honestly say my body had an epiphany earlier in the year. Were I normally have to focus on where I’m placing my feet to avoid an ouchy, it’s as if my feet just all-of-sudden intuitively knew where to go. These past 6 months of ongoing off-road walking have been fantastic. More relaxed, faster when I need to be and so much more efficient with fewer trips or stumbles if any at all. Best of all, my feet and ankles simply do not give me any negative feedback afterwards. No tight ankles. No big toe pain. No plantar fascia pains. My feet have learned how to be feet again it seems.
Doing more readinghas supported my thoughts that balance training effectively fine tunes the feet and ankles and their reflexive strength and endurance.
I do still daily walks on my cheap ol homemade balance beam that was saved from the builder and I have all my clients routinely walking and working on some 2x4s from Bunnings. At $5 each these have been great investments. A lot cheaper than recovering from a painful fall or trip. I’m not saying a trip or fall will never happen, cause hey, ‘life happens’, but luck favours the prepared.
If you spend your day in hard soled shoes and complain of sore feet and ankles, I really do recommend you call over to your local hardware store and pick up a length of 2×4… or check out the builders skip in your suburbs.
Here are a couple of videos of simple balance drills, starting with one not needing any equipment at all, just the floor beneath you.
And if you can get hold of a 2×4 or similar, here are some great exercises to practice.