August 25, 2018
I’ve been enjoying doing some (indoor) climbing recently. It tickles the same problem solving/figuring out a challenge part of my brain that parkour satisfies. I enjoyed this article on the strange brain of Alex Honnold, one of the current greats of climbing:
The Strange Brain of the World’s Greatest Solo Climber
One of the things I found really interesting is the way he seems to have just gotten used to fear through exposure. This is something that, again, I find in common between climbing and parkour. The more you expose yourself to situations that you find scary, the better you are at dealing with them. The fun part is that it spreads to situations that you haven’t exactly encountered before, but are just similar enough that your brain can deal with them in the same way. A broad experience of different situations can set you up to deal with fear in many different ways.
August 11, 2018
The Benefits of Using a Half-Kneeling Position
Exploring working from different or weird positions has been something I’ve been enjoying lately. I do a lot of my mobility these days from a full kneeling sit position, for example. As such, I found this article from Juggernaut Strength to be a great read.
I switched to split squats a while back over regular squatting because, frankly, I was sick to death of the issues squatting was giving me with my back. Plus, a half kneel/lunge position is the starting point for a lot of explosive movements in sport. I’ve definitely seen benefits from the stability challenges to the trunk that the position provides, like the article talks about, and I plan to use it for some overhead work too in the future.
I think my interest here was inspired by the climbing I’ve been doing recently, where you often have to apply strength in unusual angles, but also from a general need to keep switching things up to maintain interest. Keeping the general movement the same - say, an overhead press - but varying it each week with little things like performing from a half-kneel helps avoid monotony. That’s the secret if just grinding reps out just doesn’t appeal to you!
August 4, 2018
Here’s a really interesting article on ‘mindful running’:
How “Mindful Running” Can Help You Run Faster, Further And More Peacefully
‘Mindfulness’ is kind of a buzzword at the moment, in vogue as a solution for a lot of problems facing people in the modern world. It can be easy to dismiss as a flash in the pan for this reason, except… it kind of is magic. I learned some mindfulness techinques recently to help me deal with stress related panic attacks I was having, and it did wonders. What worked for me is not so much the idea of achieving a zen-like state of nothingness, but the sense of control it restored to me. When your thoughts are running away from you, the practise of maintaining a conscious corner of your brain that remains calm and in charge is very powerful.
Applying this practise in exercise is interesting to read about. It reminded me of a time in my late teens - I used to run a lot around the age of 17-18. I had only just got into the idea of exercising, and didn’t really know much about it, so I just started running for an hour or so most nights of the week. I didn’t have much of a goal but I’d listen to an album and just pace it out, often making up routes as I went.
I preferred running at night - it was cooler and there were less people around. One night was incredibly foggy, with visibility only a few meters in front of me. I must have felt something different because I turned my music off and just ran in silence. It became this wonderful experience of just purely enjoying the feeling of running, rather than any other goal. I’m not even sure how exactly long I was running or for what distance, but I only turned homewards because I had work the next day and it was getting late.
I never quite managed to replicate that feeling - I got close a couple of times running in the rain, but I started to develop distance, time and speed goals, tracking my runs with apps. Then I got shin splints, and started moving into other fields of exercise. I tell myself these days that I don’t enjoy long slow distance cardio, but maybe I just forgot how to enoy it.
What if I tried this approach again? Just head out in the dark without a goal, and try to just enjoy the feeling of running itself. I think I will. I’ll let you know how it goes.
July 21, 2018
‘Find Your Passion’ Is Awful Advice
I found this article pretty interesting. The idea of developing your passion, rather than waiting for it to strike you like a lightning strike, rung very true to me. I didn’t take up a sport until I was 22 and never thought I’d pursue a career in it until years later. Now I’m at university studying it at 31. If I’d gone to uni straight from school, I’d probably have done something IT related - never in a million years would I have chosen sport therapy.
Check out the full article here.
June 23, 2018
Tricking Myself Into Doing Cardio
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of cardio - I don’t really have the attention span for it. I get super bored with long slow distance. I have to find ways to make it interesting, and the best way I’ve found is to try and make it about learning some new skill.
To that end, I’ve been trying to learn to skip lately. Skipping is well known as great cardio - there’s a reason you see it in all the Rocky movies. I was surprised at how tricky it was to get going at first too, having not done it since my school days, which were longer ago than I care to admit. It also has the added bonus of having some variations and tricks you can throw in to try and learn.
When working on something like this, I tend not to worry about strict time or rep counts. Instead, I just set a timer for a general amount of time - 10-20 minutes usually - and just work on the skill during that time. I’ll still finish with a sweat, but because I’m focused more on learning and improving the skill than just counting down the minutes, I don’t get bored.
This video helped me get a bit of the timing down for learning the ‘jogging’ style skip. I apologise for the dude-bro vibe in the video, but the information is good, and you can check out their entire Youtube channel for more if you’re into it.
June 15, 2018
New Gym Who Dis
There’s not much scarier than walking into a new gym.
Well, okay, obviously there’s quite a lot scarier than that, but there’s a unique type of fear about a new gym. It comes storming up out of your gut and can lay low even the toughest, most experienced of gym-bros.
It stems from one simple, unknowable fear.
What if they do something differently, that I don’t know about, and I look like an idiot for not knowing it?
Gyms can be weird places. They can build cultures and subcultures within them that intimidate and exclude just as much as they can elevate and inspire. Cliques and traditions and expectations can all combine in one big melting pot that, if you’re familiar with it, can be as welcoming as your own home. But if you’re not familiar, they can feel obscure and unfriendly.
As an example, I recently went to a new gym for the first time, and upon arrival found the single entry door within sight to be locked with a code on it. I couldn’t see anything indicating how I was meant to get in - I even double checked their website to no avail. There weren’t even windows so I could wave to someone and look gormless until they took pity on me. Eventually I bit the bullet and just knocked on the door. After a few minutes, a grumpy looking guy who was clearly mid-workout opened it.
He was silent as I stepped inside and started to head back to his squat rack immediately. Not knowing what was going on, I asked him if I’d used the right door. “Yeah,” he scowled, “and the code for it is right there.”
The code was inside the gym. Presumably it was to engender some kind of ‘secret cool club’ vibe to the facility, but it came off as unfriendly. Now fortunately I’m an experienced gym-goer and don’t particularly mind making a nuisance of myself or if a complete stranger wants to be grumpy at me, but I couldn’t help but think about how this would have all felt if I’d been brand new to training. I know for sure a few years ago I might not have even had the nerve to knock on an imposing door, and if the first person I’d met inside had scowled at me it would have sent me running to the hills. And that’s a shame, as getting into training is hard enough without encountering these social or emotional barriers to entry.
What can you do to avoid this kind of thing? Best thing to do is find a training partner to go with. If they’ve been to the gym before then they guide you, but even if you’re both brand new you’re far less likely to feel awkward if it’s two of you potentially getting something wrong.
If you can’t find a partner, see if you can book an induction or 1-on-1 session before you get stuck in. Having a staff member show you around really helps - takes notes and don’t be embarrassed to ask hundreds of questions, everything from fitness questions to how the lockers work. It’ll come up, trust me, so find out.
Finally, I’d advise anyone to just hit the ‘fuck it’ button occasionally. So what if you have to ask a question that turns out to have a stupidly simply answer. Big deal if you do something unorthodox in the free weight area. Own it. You’re there to improve yourself and anyone who wants to judge you for minor fuck ups is not someone to waste time worrying over. Take it from someone who has fallen arse over head doing handstands in front of an entire row of packed treadmills more than once. Laugh it off and try again.
Eventually you’ll get comfortable in a space and it will become ‘your’ gym. That’s a pretty special feeling and worth persevering for. And hey, when you reach that place and have to open the door for some schmuck who can’t find the code?
Maybe give them a quick smile on the way in.