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But I wasn't ready...

But I wasn't ready...

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In June 2010 I found myself in a two man tent at 14,000 ft above sea level clinging to the side of a mountain. I was having a chat to an awesome guy who worked as a security contractor in the Middle East.  We were both part of an unsupported expedition to climb the highest peak on the North American continent.  We still had the best part of 7,000 vertical feet to climb - by far the toughest part. The tents are tiny - they have to be to conserve space and load - so at that point we were separated by about one foot. Within a few days we would be separated by over 20,000 of them. He at the summit and me back at base camp. One of us successful and one of us not.

But we will get to that.

Back to our tent discussion.

We were discussing our preparation for the climb. When faced with an expected and known physical challenge people may prepare in different ways - use different strategies or tools - but the underlying concept is generally the same. What will I need to be able to do to get the job done - then train to be able to do it.  Can I drag heavy loads for long periods, can I climb uphill day after day, can I carry a heavy pack for days. Yep, Yep, Yep. Did I make the summit. Nope. My tent mate's approach - business as usual. His concept was simple - 'if you stay ready, you never have to get ready'. Summit - check.

'If you stay ready, you never have to get ready'. 

It's a very simple premise - stay in shape (mental and physical) and whenever a challenge (or opportunity) comes your way, planned or otherwise, not a problem. In the months and years since I have often returned to this concept - and seen it play out in my own life, as well as the lives of others. I have seen it both elevate and decimate people from all walks of life in all kinds of situations. 

A few weeks ago we had a string of seriously hot days - high 30's low 40's - the good stuff. And pretty much every gym in our area cancelled classes. We didn't. We ran the classes, as planned. We don't have air conditioners, or evap coolers. We have big roller doors that let the sun in and serve to highlight the complete lack of breeze. Are we reckless? Are we foolish? Are we endangering clients? 

Nope, the reality is we are being brutally honest. A significant proportion of our clients are first responders. Ambulance, fire, police, military. You know what happens when it gets too hot at their work place.

They keep working.

As coaches we need them to understand how to manage heat, how to work in hostile environments, how to hydrate, how to regulate their performance, mental and physical. Because their work, their lives - and potentially yours - depend on it. They have to take personal responsibility for their fitness because they and you depend on it.  One of our firefighters - who has totally transformed himself - was asked how he did it - 'I started to take personal responsibility for my fitness'.

Boom.

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I'm not talking about becoming some Chuck Norris ninja warrior, ready to slay thousands during the impending zombie apocalypse. Simply taking personal responsibility for your health and how that impacts you and those around you. It's one thing to have your physical capacity relied on in your work. But how is that different to being a parent? A husband or wife? Or simply being responsible for your own wellbeing?

When a real test comes and someone else is relying on you - will you wish you had taken a little more care of your body, conditioned your mind to not quit so quickly. Let's be brutally honest - if your toddler gets a decent head start for the road can you get out of your chair and sprint 100m before she is front of a car? If you had to do CPR for ten minutes on your mate at work - could you? If your dog got a snake bite and you're 1 km from your car - can you carry him back fast enough? 

Whether you like it or not at some point your body and mind will be tested - probably not at a time and place of your choosing. And the consequences of your success or failure might be paid by someone else. Potentially paid in full.

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There is a flip side to all this. Sometimes these tests arrive in a pleasant form - hey a bunch of us are going camping and mountain bike riding for the weekend - want to come? Sure just give me a few weeks/months to get in shape...

Imagine if whatever came up, you could be confident to go, yep I reckon I can handle that  - and go out and live it! 

 

Back to the mountain. 

So what happened? Training for a specific event is fine but can lack two distinct facets. It may leave you unprepared for the unexpected and it may leave you unprepared for the long haul mentally. If you are well rounded in your fitness then whatever comes your way you should be relatively well equipped for. If you have conditioned your mind to do the work, whether you think you need to or want to, then when the wheels fall off or you hit an unexpected hurdle the mind will strive forward, not throw in the towel.

I was well prepared for what I expected, but not what I encountered. I had plenty of climbing experience under my belt but when I hit some unexpected snags - boot problems, some gear malfunctions and what I later learnt was a chest infection - my mind folded, closely followed by my body. 

I descended, unsuccessful, went home and immediately set the wheels in motion for the following year, same dates, same lead guide. And I trained - but differently. I trained for everything and anything. Whether I thought it was entirely relevant to the climb or not. I simply trained to be fit across the whole spectrum. When I went back things were different - I still struck gear problems, the climbing conditions were worse and the mountain seemed keen to take it's toll on everyone - 36 evacs and 7 fatalities that season. But I was different, my mind was relaxed, I wasn't worried about what was coming because I felt prepared - for anything. And after 19 days of hard slog we spent a whole 2 minutes on the summit and then spent two and half days getting down. (21 hours a day of sunlight, a downhill run and the promise of a shower and a burger from a place featured on Man Vs Food can help you move pretty quickly).

I haven't climbed for a few years now as life moves me in different directions, but I still train as if a climb is just around the corner, or an adventure race, or a disaster, or weekend hiking, or....

Remember if you stay ready, you never have to get ready.

'..If you can fill the unforgiving minute
  With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
  And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!..'

                                                        - R. Kipling

 

Now go have some fun!

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10,000 KB swings later....

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500 swings a day

5 days a week

4 weeks

10,000 swings.

Seemed like a good idea at the time....but was it?

 

So, here's the set up - I had just completed my HKC and was looking to take all my new found knowledge and enthusiasm and channel it...somewhere. Andrew Read from Dragon Door (and RPT) had mentioned T-Nations 10,000 swing program in passing and for some sadistic reason the concept stuck. Thanks Andrew....thanks a lot.

You can grab all the details here but here's the short version.

5 sessions per week completing 500 Russians Swings per session using the following pattern;

Set 1:  10 reps
Set 2:  15 reps
Set 3:  25 reps
Set 4:  50 reps

You've now completed 100 reps. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 500 swings. Between sets, add a low-volume strength movement eg press. Basically you're trying to couple a ballistic movement (KBS) with a slower strength movement

10 Swings
Press 1 rep
15 Swings
Press 2 reps
25 Swings
Press 3 reps
50 Swings

In my enthusiasm on the first day I assumed there was a 4 rep movement after the fifty swing set and I stuck with that concept all the way through...'cause you know 500 swings a session wasn't enough (and neither is reading all the instructions first)

.So each day for me accumulated 500 swings with a 24kg KB and 50 reps of an ancillary movement. On one day of the 5 sessions per week I would just do the swings without the strength movement.

What strength movements did I use?

Goblet squats @ 32kg (favourite)

Fat Bar push press @ 70% BW (2nd choice)

Front Squats @ BW (hideous)

HSPU 15kg plate deficit (double rep scheme so 2,4,6,8 - was better than I thought)

One day I did the swings with a fellow HKC with heavy prowler (20 metres = 1 rep) as the strength movement. Worst. Decision. Ever.

 image via T-nation

image via T-nation

What happened?

You do 2500 swings a week and you very quickly realise three things - 1. You have a lot of time to think while you're swinging, 2. If you don't have and maintain solid technique you are going to fall apart real fast, 3. Recovery is king.

So the internal monologue went pretty much like this....

gee my back is starting to tighten up...is my core still on....nope....dumbass

man I'm puffing like a steam train...am I'm breathing in time with the swing...nope...dumbass

shit 300 more...dumbass

In all seriousness I didn't feel like I had the swing really dialled and locked until about 6000 in. Really. All those swings gave me the chance to focus on minute detail, and tweak and tweak and tweak until it felt solid as a rock. 

I had to be a bit more religious about recovery (not a bad thing as my typical warm down was the walk to the car and a shower at home) so the foam roller got a fair beating as did the lacrosse ball peanut - it was worth the time.

Lastly - this generally was my only training for the day - because I was stuffed by the end and I didn't want to screw with the process too much. I would still do our in-box WOD 2-3 days a week but that was it. As an indicator it would generally take me around 40 mins to complete the session from first swing to last.

Weapon of Choice.

I used a 24kg hammertone KB from Primal Equipment. I preferred this one as it has a slightly wider grip so I could comfortably get a solid two hand grip and the coating retained grip but didn't act like a cheese greater. I used chalk the first day and then never did again. I didn't have a single tear but lost a few layers hear and there, otherwise the hands were fine.

 

Was it Worth it?

Bottom line - and I know this is all you care about - so I did 10,000 swings and a shedload of strength movements, was it worth it or did I just waste my time?

Was it worth it?

Yes.

Hell yes.

Abso-frickin-lutely.

From an aesthetic point of view I definitely trimmed down, I didn't weigh or measure anything before or after (I don't as a matter of training and coaching philosophy). What I can say is that by the end of the month my work shirts no longer fitted across the shoulders, I was definitely smaller across the midline and I split two pairs of boxers squatting the following week.

I didn't set out to test every single time and 1RM I could think off afterwards but for those that have come up in my training thus far here's the results;

Snatch - +9% PR

Split Jerk - +6% PR

Deadlift - +4% PR

Diane - took 1min (11%) off my previous PR time

Would I do it again - no need. But I do integrate KB work nearly everyday - either as a warm up or as the WOD itself. 

Would I recommend it for someone else - hell yes. But be prepared. Accept that this will dominate your training program for the four weeks and be prepared to put the time into warming up and recovery. Don't do the swings then go do a shitload of other work every day and wonder why you can't maintain the form and intensity, or wonder why you're falling apart.

 

Bottom line, although some days I questioned my own sanity, it was well worth the time and effort.

Pavel, you evil genius,

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2014 - Learn to eat like a human...it's time.

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With January comes a new year and the inevitable onslaught of fitness related fads - the latest machine/pill/diet/ab-enhancer. All designed to turn you into a chiselled athlete - with slimmer thighs and an even slimmer wallet.

I have some bad news.

Weight loss is a farce.

The food (and diet) industry doesn't care about your health. 

Diets have a 90% failure rate.

But there is some good news.

You can stop dieting. (because you are wasting your time)

Counting calories is pointless. (because a calorie isn't a calorie)

Smash your scales (because they don't measure your health)

 

It is time to stop obsessing about losing weight and start thinking about improving your health.

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Your weight on the scales is totally irrelevant.

So stop obsessing about it.

A PT I know recently posted on facebook that they encourage their clients to weigh themselves as often as possible.

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The problem with that? Well Kevin Geary calls it 'The 10 Pound Problem' and I totally agree. Having a 5% body fat doesn't make you healthy. Both the women in the picture above have low body fat % - does that immediately make them equally healthy? 

If you want to lose 5 kg - then I would ask 5 kg of what? And more importantly why? If you lose 5kg but it's all muscle because you spent the last 2 weeks on long cardio sessions and calorie restriction - are you healthier? If you lost 5kg of fat and put on 7kg of lean muscle - the scales will tell you you're 2kg heavier - and I would argue much healthier, but the scales are telling you that you're heading backwards.

See the problem?

Dieting is one dimensional. All it addresses is calories. You know the rule - calories in versus calories out - that's how it works right? 

Right?....

So you're telling me that if I only eat 1500 calories a day and expend 1800 calories a day I'll get thinner and therefore healthier right. Even if those calories just come from Mars Bars....

And this is where the problem lies - a calorie isn't just a calorie and losing FAT (not weight) isn't just about dieting. Diets just look at intake - what about nutrient density, energy levels, emotional eating, sugar dependency, sleep, rest, exercise, stress, metabolic imbalances and so on.

 

So step away from the scales - then smash them.

Because they are not interested in your health.

And neither is the food industry.

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 THE LOW FAT FARCE.

Stop buying low fat.   Yep you heard me.

Seriously, stop it. Buy the full fat stuff.

Let me explain.

Take yoghurt. Manufacturers take out the fat because 'low fat' is better for you right? "Low Fat' sells more, because we are trying to be healthy and fats are bad right? But now the fat's gone it has the flavour profile of my shoe so they add back in a heap of sugar to make it taste great again. 

You buy 'low fat' because you want to 'lose 5kg' - but the fat deprives you of energy (so you crave more food) and the sugar spikes your insulin levels and triggers your body to store fat. So I bought the 'healthier' item, put on weight and guaranteed that I'll be hungry again pretty soon. Yay.

Don't believe me? (good). Then next time you're in the supermarket - grab a tub of full fat and low fat and check the sugar contents. I did this and guess what I found - the full fat version listed the sugar as g/250g and the low fat listed it as g/100g  - so as the number looks pretty close to the same....only it's not. 

Low fat is perhaps the greatest nutritional scam ever perpetrated on the public. If you are looking for some substantiation (and you should - don't take my word for it) google any of the work by Gary Taubes and use that as a massive informational springboard and leap forth. Check out the Whole9 or Rebooted Body.

Unlearn.

 

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 'THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD..'

Human beings have walked the earth for a little over 2 million years - that's almost 67,000 generations of evolution. Of most importance to us is the fact that for 1,990,000 years, we ate a certain way - meat, fish, vegetables, nut, seeds, some fruit, little starch and no processed sugar. It has only been in the last 10,000 years that we introduced grains, and then processed grains and finally processed foods - all within an incredibly short time span as far as our bodies are concerned.

Is it any surprise that our bodies are struggling under the enormous weight of the highly processed, fructose and chemical rich foods that populate the Standard Australian Diet (S.A.D)? 

Perhaps it's time to eat in a way that is in harmony with the way our bodies have evolved to function. This is not a diet - diets are about deprivation and restriction and by their very nature indicate a start and finish - ' oh, I'm on a diet' (but I won't be later).

Maybe it's time to stop dieting and just eat.

Eat clean, eat intelligently, eat like a human being.

 

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Yeah, so how exactly do I do that???

 

With help, and information and guidance and support and knowledge...

Why should you trust us?

Because this is how we eat.

We understand it, we practice it.

But don't take my word for it. Come and have a look for yourself. Listen, see and discuss the logic, the concept and the process.

Discover why going the 'Whole 30' for February will probably change your life.

Info night - Thursday Jan 23rd - 6:45pm at CrossFit Warrnambool.

I'm asking for 30 minutes of your time.

Is your health worth that?

Book your spot via the form below!

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