Current training – January 2012

I’ve been really enjoying pressing kettlebells recently.

My main short term goal is to consistently clean & press the 24kg kettlebell and I’m doing a few things to help get there.

On Monday I’m doing jerks with the 28kg, with a controlled negative folowed by swings. The idea here is to build strength with the heavier kettlebell, and make the goal bell feel lighter (in my head at least!).

Then on Wednesday and Friday I’m getting some volume in with the 20kg so practice the press, with one day lighter and one heavier.

I found the 16kg kettlebell always felt heavy until I spent time with the 24kg, then it felt like a toy. I want to replicate that. 

Let’s see how it goes.

Monday

  • A1: 28kg KB jerk R/L – 3-5
  • B1: Front lever (tuck) – 12sec
  • B2: 28kg KB swing R/L – 5-10

5 sets of A1 then 5 rounds of B1-B2

Wednesday

  • A1: 20kg KB clean & press R/L – 2
  • A2: Embedded back lever (adv tuck) – 12sec
  • A3: 20kg KB clean & press R/L – 3
  • B1: 28kg KB swing R/L – 8-10

3 rounds of A1-3, then A2 again, then 5 sets of B1
 

Friday

  • A1:20kg KB clean & press R/L – 2
  • A2: Embedded back lever (adv tuck) – 12sec
  • A3: 20kg KB clean & press R/L – 3
  • A4: Embedded front lever (tuck) – 12sec
  • A5: 20kg KB clean & press R/L – 5
  • B1: 24kg KB swing R/L – 10

3 rounds of A1-5, then A2 and A4 again, then 3 sets of B1

Saturday/Sunday (maybe)

Run/MovNat/parkour

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Buying minimal shoes for children – not easy, but doable

As a parent it can be a challenge to find what I would consider ‘good’ shoes for children.

I am an advocate of wearing barefoot/minimalist shoes, and do so pretty much exclusively and it would be hypocritical to not apply the same to my children. Unfortunately most children’s shoes are hard, inflexible and like bricks. What’s more, we are told this is a good thing as children’s feet are weak and need protection while they grow.

It’s an easy sell for shoe companies as we naturally want to protect our children but I would argue that the exact opposite is needed – these shoes give no reason for the muscles in the foot to get stronger, which is what makes them weak.

Good, minimal shoes for kids are few and far between. Not to mention that buying children’s shoes is an expensive business – their feet grow very quickly!

This cost is a massive barrier. No designed, minimal shoe can compete with a £1.50 pair of shoes from Primark. That said, there are still ways to follow a more minimal shoe philosophy with your kids and manage the cost at the same time.

It’s never going to be as cheap as non-minimal shoes but this is the approach we’ve taken with our daughter, I plan to repeat it with the new baby that’s on the way – although she’ll probably end up wearing P’s hand me downs!

Where did we start?
The first shoes we bought were minimal by accident.

We went to Clarks for P’s first pair of shoes (it seems inbuilt in British DNA to do so). She has such tiny feet that their ‘walking’ shoes wouldn’t fit and the only ones that went down to her size were designed for babies to wear when they are crawling and cruising around furniture. Fortunately these shoes were amazing in terms of a minimal shoe, the sole was 2mm at most and very flexible – in my view they were pretty close to an ideal first shoe.

I’m sure other retailers do similar style shoes which, although say are not for outside use, have full soles and are completely fine. It’s a real shame they are promoted for crawling only and not as a first walking shoe.

The cost
We had to pay full price for the first pair. We had held off buying shoes until she walked (shoes for crawling make no sense btw!), but once she started walking we needed them right away.

Luckily at that same trip to the shop we found almost exactly the same shoes, but a larger size, in the sale bin for £6 – bargain.

This is my major tip for keeping the cost down when buying kids shoes – check the sales and plan ahead. Your children’s feet are only going to get bigger so buy a bargain when you see it. They WILL grow into them.

What next?
Obviously, even with tiny feet, shoes designed for pre-walkers are not going to last for long but there are other options. P wears Vivo Barefoot shoes now most days. They cost more than £6 but were bought in a sale for much less than RRP.

We also found that you can buy slightly big and they still fit well, with the added bonus of lasting longer.

There are also other brands out there that we’ve yet to try like Bobux. I also have friends that can’t say enough good things about Crocs.

So good shoes are out there but are expensive. The main thing is to keep an eye on the sales, sign up to the manufacturer’s newletters, get onto the bargains early and buy new shoes before you need them.

What to do at a minimum
Ideally you would have at least the shoes they wear the most (probably school) in a minimal style.

If that is still an issue, then try to follow these shoe principles as best you can (in order of preference):

  • Thin, flexible sole
  • Zero drop heel-toe
  • No/minimal arch support
  • Wide forefoot to allow toes to splay

Something more along the lines of plimsol, is way better than a big, blocky shoe.

This is all easy for me to say, I have toddler who wears what she’s told and doesn’t even know what Nike is yet!

Maybe check back once my children are both in their teens. I may have a different story 😉

Current training – December 2011

I’ve simplified things a bit this month and reduced the number of exercises in each session. This is to keep the workout time a bit shorter (sleep is not always great at the moment) and also to rest my left wrist which has been playing up recently (all floor based exercises are out).

The other big change is the introduction of kettlebell presses. I’ve been pretty much bodyweight only recently but fancied lifting some weight for  change.

The format is structured sessions on Monday and Friday, a more random MovNat session on Wednesday and then maybe a run at the weekend depending on the weather and what else I’m up to. All very manageable through the Christmas silly season.

Monday
A1: Embedded back lever (adv tuck) – 10sec
A2: Ring dip – 5-8
A3: Front lever row (tuck) – 5
A4: Box pistol R/L – 5
B1: 24kg KB swing R/L – 8-10
B2: 16kg KB press R/L – 3

3 rounds of A1-3, then A1 again, 4-5 rounds of B1-2

Wednesday
A1: MovNat combo – exercises vary but always includes balancing, jumping and embedded front lever (as climbing)
B1: KB swing/jerk combo – various set/reps/times

A1 then B1

Friday
A1: Embedded back lever (adv tuck) – 10sec
A2: 20kg KB press R/L – 3-5
A3: Front lever row (tuck) – 5
A4: Band assisted pistol R/L – 3-5
B1: Hip thrust (legs& shoulders raised) + 3 sec squeeze – >20

3 rounds of A1-3, then A1 again, then B1
 

Saturday/Sunday (maybe)
Run/MovNat/parkour

Thoughts on running

I’ve been running once or twice a week all summer and will continue to do so until it gets too cold to be enjoyable. I’m no expert on mixing running with more general strength training but here are some thoughts nonetheless: 

  • Adding some natural movement and basic parkour makes a long run more fun. Try dropping into a crawl every now and then, or check some parkour vault tutorials and jump over stuff rather than run round.
  • Glute strength is key – think glute bridges and hip thrusts – running seems so much easier when I’m doing them. Bret Contreras has tons of more info.
  • Pistol squats help too. They build strength in one leg from flexed knee to standing. A bit like running. This is probably true of most single leg squatting exercises.
  • That said, if I do pistols the day after running my knees hate me.
  • Getting stronger makes it easier.
  • Running is a fundamental movement. It’s how we moved quicker than walking before people tamed horses and built cars.
  • It’s good to mix it up between very short, very fast; medium (about a mile) and pretty quick; and longer, but slow. I prefer to spend most of my time around medium-fast
  • When you are going slow and long, go slow.
  • Slower than that.
  • Running for longer than a sprint currently has an unecessarily bad rep. It might slow your strength gains slightly but is worth doing anyway. Being able to knock out 5-10km without dying is a good thing.

New shoes – Vivo Barefoot Ra

Vivo Barefoot have recently (although it might have been last season??) released a shoe that’s suitable for wearing with a suit/trousers.

Excellent, now I can be barefoot-ish everyday.

The stylings of the Ra will look familiar anyone that knows the Vivo range fairly well. They look kinda like a leather Dharma with laces.

I’ve only had them for a short while but initial impressions are very good. They have all of the features I would expect from a minimal shoe:

  • Zero drop heel-toe
  • Thin flexible sole
  • Wide toe box (it is massive!)
  • No arch support

My only complaint is that they rub and cause a blister just below my left ankle. I epxect this will pass as the materials softens.

Also, it may be unique to me as my left ankle is still slightly larger them the right following a nasty sprain earlier this year.

In summary, I’m very pleased so far.

I wear my work shoes more than any others and will update on how they wear over time. That said, I’ve never had any problems with other Vivo shoes – between me, my wife and daughter we now have nine pairs!