Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The BIGGEST Battle in your fitness journey

It is 5am and your alarm screams at you to wake up! "Why the fuck did i set that stupid thing?" as you roll over to switch it off and feel that cold air sneak under your blanket!! What the hell are you thinking getting up to go to the gym at this time of the morning? Is it really worth the effort? I can make this up later in the day!

Your biggest battle isn't your training methods, or your diet, or even the fact that you are unfit and overweight. All of that stuff is really pittance compared to the inner dialogue you are going to have to deal with along the way. The stuff you don't like doing, that you know you need to be doing, creates a very real, very convincing inner voice that tries to dissuade you every step of the way! It is like your own internal Gremlin picking away at you and sabotaging you.

I went for a run today, something i have just started because i have always disliked it but know it has plenty of benefits that will add to my present goals. It was only 3km so not exactly a marathon and this is how it went:- 
  • Before i started "Do you really need to do this?" over and over!
  • First few steps "I can do this!"
  • At about 50m "Why the hell am i doing this?"
  • From then till about the 800m mark there was very real internal argument happening in my head. Just stop, NO, just turn around, NO, You don't have to do this, YES I DO
  • From there i found a rhythm and by the time i was nearing the end it was "just do another lap?"
You've probably experienced the same thing at some point? This is what you need to learn to overcome to achieve your goals more than anything else because it is this constant dialogue that you can't escape. You can surround yourself with like minded people, you could have the best program in the world, be following the best diet ever but at some point it is going to get hard! Actually no its going to get HARD!! Then none of that matters because you have to take control and push these internal thoughts aside.

When things get tough, it is easy to listen to these voices and go back to doing the things you find easy! We all tend to gravitate towards the things we find easy because initially these are the things that get us the initial results and help us become consistent. At some point though we have to accept the fact that we need to get uncomfortable, do the things that push and challenge us and often this will mean doing the things we don't like so much. Dieting, Cardio, weights, HIIT, waking up early, the list goes on but it is at this point that the Mental battle starts.

James Fell Wrote a great piece recently on Six pack abs that explains just how tough things can get on your way to achieving your goal and YOU have to make the decision each and every day about just how far you are willing to go! For most the start is actually relatively easy, you see progress happen fairly quickly and this is enough to quell the inner voice "See it is working!" but then things slow and the more progress you make the slower progress comes. You have to accept this fact and when the negative talk starts you need to have a very strong WHY to fight back with!

The first step to overcoming and winning this battle is action! Just do the thing you are avoiding. This seems so simple but so many people do just roll over, hit the snooze button and don't take the initial action to make their goal a reality. Realise that the inner dialogue is going to happen and the best way to stop it is by actually just jumping into action.

From there it is just a matter of working through the initial internal argument until your actions and mind make the negative talk back off. Our mind is a simple thing and really we are mostly guided by pleasure and pain as humans, our mind realises that we are going to be uncomfortable (Pain) and naturally tells you to back away but soon enough we feel the endorphins kick in, see the results of our work, feel the pride of success (Pleasure) and the inner voices die away and are replaced with that drive and excitement that keeps you going!

In reality your health and fitness journey is fighting a heap of little skirmishes in an internal war. Our bodies like to be comfortable and really don't like big changes (Homeostasis) so we need accept it won't be easy and realise that our body and mind are going to put up a fight. You need to decide that what you are doing is worth the discomfort and effort and develop the skills to just get you going, as once you are going you are much harder to stop!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A new direction for my Strength Training. Same But Different!

I’m full of bright ideas!! Seriously why not take on a competition with just 8 weeks of training and giving my coach 5 weeks to prep me?? Well as it turns out i performed well, achieving my main goal of completing the 5mins in both jerks and Snatches and knowing that i had the 10mins in me. In fact i was a little disappointed in myself for not doing the whole 10mins but i got time on the platform, in front of judges and i got a feel for how competitions work.

I came into the competition feeling confident with my jerk but quite worried about my snatch, only in this sport can a man talk like that and not get funny expressions! At the end of the day it was the other way around, Jerks were survivable but not as great as i hoped and snatch i felt i could have kept going and going?? In my 5 mins i finished with 48 jerks and 94 snatches, both numbers i feel were a little low, but the most reps i had done so personal bests anyway.

Then the rest of the Arnolds i spent networking, building some awareness of girevoy sport here in Australia, getting contact information and the travelling around to the powerlifting and strongman events to watch the best in Australia and the world come together and lift some REALLY heavy weights. Again i spent this time talking with other coaches both local and international from both sports. Some big things are coming later in the year at Be Strong Training if all goes to plan now.

The weekend was great but then came Monday, the start of my level 1 girevoy certification with Sergey Rachinskiy. I was pretty pumped to get to learn from one of the world's best athletes and coaches and the experience was all it promised to be.

Day 1 was jerks and long Cycle practice, Sergey considers these the less skillful of the disciplines, with snatches being the most technical. We went over technique in each movement before completing a workout based around building that movement, so the 2 days was a lot of physical practice and working out which is the best way for me to learn.

With jerks the key is the Rack position, surprise, surprise! Staying connected and driving from the body not the arms was key and during this to be honest my coach had drilled this so much into me that although it was great to get some feedback i didn’t get many corrections as they felt my form was pretty good.

After Jerks we went over programming for jerks and Long Cycle, this i was very excited for, as i am a nerd when it comes to programming. Initially it all looked so confusing but then it all started to make sense. He Started by looking at a present max effort (comp performance) and then set out a sensible “new” achievement to be aimed for. In the example below the 77 reps was what had been achieved and 90 reps decided as a reasonable goal for next comp.

That was when all the workouts then got layed out and plotted into a monthly program. Again i was a little confused to start with as it looks so different to how i have programmed for powerlifting and strongman. When i reviewed everything though it all seemed to make more sense. Workouts are planned out in time frames, then allocated a place within the monthly cycle. For example workout 1 was an interval session, 1min work with 1min rest for 10 total sets, this one was then plotted to days 1,4,25 and 28. The language gap made things a little difficult at times here but what it came down to was spread out the easier sessions, these provide the core of the training with only a couple of ‘hard” sessions each monthly cycle.

So as an example a hard session would be the third workout, which was a 5 minute set of 10,9,10,9,10 reps each minute. This was allocated one session on day 17. Same with workout 8 which was an 8 minute set of 10,9,10,9,10,9,10,9 and allocated to day 26. What i gleaned from this is basically most sessions should be relatively comfortable. Sounds very similar in many ways to what Paul McIlroy, my coach has taught me about training philosophy. In talking a little more with Sergey this program would not look exactly like this as it was being created on the fly in front of the group. But i got the idea.

What i found extremely interesting was that not many sessions were done with heavier bells. Only a couple through the cycle and from speaking with both my coach, Antoni Stojak and Sergey i see a wide variety of methods being used to achieve a common goal. We did some work with these timed tempo sets and i had set that up in my own training with Paul’s methods and i really found these helped me alot with my jerks.

We then moved onto Long Cycle Clean and Jerk and i instantly loved this movement. Sergey explained why, this is the least technical in his book and the one with the most variety of ways to get the job done. He demonstrated 4 variations of the clean and got us to practice them all. He then helped us discern which one seemed like the best fit for us AND which one we might need to revert to when things got tough. That was pretty cool.

Complexes are a big part of his training system, using a variety of movements to complement the one being trained and again this was a big part of what my coach had me doing also. I will say that even the basic complexes we went through with Sergey were epically long:- 1min per movement:-
  • Swing L then right
  • Clean ^
  • Static hold at hip ^
  • Clean and jerk ^
  • Good mornings
  • Squat jumps
  • Clean and jerk 4 min/ arm to finish
We did this with a 12 kg bell and whilst feeling great it was tough going by the end. He had others with bottoms up work and double bells too but this gives you an idea. That finished up an action packed day 1.

Day 2 we went right into swings to prep for snatches and this helped me immensely.

Started with swings, then went into another wonderful complex similar to above but with lots more jump squats and good morning, as well as swings and holds in various positions. I felt this little workout everywhere, it did go for about 30mins. Started off with 1min per exercise, then onto 2mins, before finishing with 3mins of swings/ arm. I was amazed at how this just forced me to relax, it actually got technically easier as it went along? Tough but got a good lesson out of it:- RELAX.

Obviously then we went onto snatches and this was really well explained and demonstrated. He went through up to 6 optional styles of snatch and got us to practice them 4 of them, thumb forward, thumb back, off to the side and deep. As we practiced Sergey went around giving corrections and suggestions and I personally found that shifting to the side felt much more comfortable for most of my work then reverting to a thumbs back style when i started to fatigue and finish off the set on that hand.

Once we finished Snatch practice again we did another complex of movements but this was relatively easy before going through programming info around the snatch. To me this seemed much simpler? However the workload seemed fairly epic.
So Using the example on the left, at present you can achieve 90 reps with a 24kg Bell with the goal to achieve 100+100. This would be some example sessions,broken into phases. How i understood this section was the first session you do 100+100 with a 10kg bell the 90+90 with a 12kg bell then 70+70 with a 16kg bell. The next session you progress up the chain of reps until you are able to achieve 100+100 with all the weights. Then you progress to the next phase

Now this is my interpretation though and is very different to the method described in the Denis Vasilev manual which is broken into timed waves for the snatch. This was the hardest part to understand the explanation but basically work the first phase, then progress to the next one.

From here we went onto GPP work and this was explained pretty well before we jumped in WITH Sergey and did the whole Workout with him. Will break this into bullets for ease:-

  • They don’t train heavy EVER
  • Weights match those you are training with/For so 50kg and 24kg if your comp is with 24kg bells
  • 100 reps is the standard, can be more but not less
  • Try to get the work done in the fewest sets possible
  • Move at a fast pace but quality of movement and power/ speed is important.

Our workout as this diagram explains was
  • Back squat 50kg/ 30kg men/women
  • Jump Squat 24kg/10 kg
  • Dips or Push ups for women
  • Deadlift 50kg/30kg
If you look at the bottom 100 reps and 50+50 dips is excellent the other option listed right of it would be “GOOD”. At the bottom in little writing is what i completed it in, Sergey said “VERY GOOD.” which made my day.

After that it was all stretching, which was discussed at great length throughout the 2 days. The setup, which i forgot to mention earlier is equal parts warm up, workout and stretching/ cooldown. So if you plan to train for 30 mins of work, then warm up for 30 mins and stretch and cooldown for that same time. I have been very guilty of not giving enough attention to this as well as skimping on my cardio which was also discussed often, the cardio is set EVERY DAY, easy on training days 2-3km run or similar time rowing and harder on non-training days 5-7km or rowing. Again this is the stuff i have stepped up, easing into it starting with 4 days a week and at least 20mins stretching after each session.

Hope this rundown of my experience helps in some way and that you found it interesting.?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Its NOT all about High Intensity

Its NOT all about High Intensity

Time to talk shop a little and this may get technical for some and this is completely my opinions so if what I say upsets you, bad luck!

I want to talk about the idea that training at crazy hard levels all the time is now "the way" everything has to be done. Everything you see is "join our high intensity class" or my favourite "constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity"

This idea just flies in the face of everything that has been studied and practiced in strength and performance for the last 70 or so years. YES high intensity has a place, as do all facets of training:-volume, density, speed, power, etc. just not at the expense of all other principles.

What I want to focus on today is a little perspective for you as with the flood of information you are reading, this post included, you have to make some decisions on where to invest your energy, time and money. So I want to utilise Prilepins chart, as it is considered the gold standard for judging volume and intensity for weight training (bodybuilding does need some tweaks) I have attached the chart to help you understand what I am explaining here.

When you consider the goal of your training, what is often lost is the fact that you can illicit the necessary response at a variety of intensities as long as volume is matched correctly. The long standing rationale is that most of you work should be undertaken in the 70-85% range. Below 70% is generally not enough to create enough stimulus (unless speed/ force are added into the equation) whilst above 85% intensities should be used sparingly to gauge progress and prepare for a peak.

BUT the goal of many of these modern classes, training programs and systems (if you can call them that?) is to keep you working at a high intensity all the time! Some of these systems show promise too but drop the ball when you look at overall progressions with movements. They then use constant variety and say they are developing all fitness domains equally. Unfortunately high intensity training does not do this, you need specific time spent on endurance, on speed, power, agility etc. you get sub par results when you focus on all of these things at the same time!

So returning to Prilepins chart, optimal reps in the "sweet spot" zone of 70-79% are 3-6 reps and an optimal total reps of 18 for each exercise. This is the zone that most coaches find that they can achieve a good balance of intensity, volume and frequency, As all of these factors are key to progressing and improving but again you need to find the correct balance! This means you need to repeat these movements to get better at them, progress them, practice them and Ingrain them into your central nervous system (CNS).

When you look at various periodisation systems (linear, conjugate, daily undulating, etc) you may think that some use much more variety than others, or utilise various aspects of training at the same time (for example speed training in a strength cycle) but they don't do them in a vacuum. They are focusing on the main goal, Strength, whilst incorporating these other aspects in to assist  that development. Many use a specialised variety, which means doing something that is very similar to the main task to build up weaknesses seen with the main task. An example is using the Sumo deadlift to assist building your conventional deadlift.

If you keep yourself at sensible zones of intensity not only will your progress be faster but it will be safer, more enjoyable and above all else more consistent. Whilst if you are always at the limits of what you can do whilst doing a bunch of different things all the time then injury, burnout and lack of progression are going to follow very closely behind.

What I am trying to get across here is that there may be many paths to achieve an outcome BUT if your goal is to improve at something, get stronger, run longer, lose fat, whatever then you need to commit to it and then break it down into manageable chunks instead of trying to push your limits in all areas all at the same time and achieving below average results. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

It is hard, stop looking for the easy way out

The fitness industry is such a funny industry sometimes. You want to get the right information to achieve the goals you want to achieve and when you go in search of that information you are inundated with conflicting arguments that leave you confused and thinking:-

"I just want to lose this fat around my belly, it shouldn't be this hard!"

Unfortunately it IS hard. It is a challenge. You will have to work hard, make sacrifices and most of all you will not always like having to do what needs to be done. This is just the fact of the matter, if you have gotten fat, unfit, weak and any other lifestyle induced ailment then you have to realise that he journey forward is going to make you uncomforatble at times, especially at the start.

All the promises of "This is the best workout" or "Take this supplement to drop the fat" that you see pn TV or in magazines are only there to profit the advertiser and when it comes to looking at what the studies say there is very little really offered by any of these things (If the companies have even bothered to get their stuff tested)

When you walk in to the gym you only need a few things to achieve your goal and this is the order of importance:-

  1. Realisation that things NEED to change
  2. Motivation to get started
  3. Understanding that the first few weeks will be tough no matter how easy you start
  4. Someone who has done it before to set it up for you
  5. Realistic expectations of what you will achieve
I know none of this tells you what to eat, drink or do. Why? Because in all honesty everything can and will work "for about 6 weeks" according to legendary Strength and conditioning Coach Dan John. So when you are starting out you just need to keep it really simple, do the basic movements, move as often as you can fit into your schedule and work on cleaning out the processed crap from your diet and pantry.

It is after this initial phase of everything being simple and seeing progress that you need to assess what is going to keep you moving forwards? Some of you will gravitate towards weights, some to cardio based training and some will find sports, Groups or other activities that you have found motivate you most. Again it doesn't matter WHAT you choose as long as at this point you realise that from this point forward you need to be focused on making progress more and more because it is easier and easier to do the things you like and find easy rather than the things that are getting you closer to your goals.

So here we must focus on the things we struggle with to make us better at the things we anjoy most. Me, i love weight training, so i keep a hefty chunk of my training time focused around this activity. I realise though that heart health is important, as is the ability to move easily for long periods of time, so i still do enough cardiovascular training to keep this area improving (it will never be the biggest focus for me) I also understand that lifting heavy and often can stiffen you up and this is why i have a mobility and flexibility routine that i do religiously.

If you want to make unbelievable changes, achieve that satus that your previously considered superhuman then you have to realise, first that it is possible and secondly you have to work for it. It is not a 6 week challenge, or some get ready for summer diet, it is a journey that takes the rest of your life, something you build upon everyday and something you nurture, love and cherish.

You can achieve greatness, go out and do it, then again tomorrow and the next day. This is your health, your quality of life, make it as awesome as possible.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

There is a change coming. It is going to be HUGE.  Be Strong PT is going to change your life forever. Forget all the infomercials and Fad Diets. Forget stressing about all the foods you can't eat. Forget also about all those hours you have to spend running on treadmills and ellipticals to lose weight. There is a much better and more effective method to achieve your results and guess what you will actually probably enjoy it!

We are going to focus on getting you healthy first. We are going to look at how you move and get you mobile. We are going to share with you some sensible, effective and productive methods to achieve your goals. We are going to show you how to achieve these goals without having to stress about all the things you CAN"T have.

Yes you have to train hard. Yes you will be out of your comfort zone, yes you will need to make changes to what you are doing now! I am not going to lie and tell you that all of this comes without any effort? However you will see results almost instantly. You will start moving better, Your energy levels will be better than they have been since you were a child. Your strength will increase beyond belief.

With all of these things you of course will LOOK better too. Your confidence will grow, you will stand out and people will take notice. These people are going to ask what you have been doing to get some awesome results and IF they are lucky they too can join our fantastic community?