Be mindful

Todd Hargrove put an interesting post about joint mobility on the Perfect Health blog earlier this week.

He spoke about joint mobility being work for the brain as it helps to clarify body maps.

‘The body maps are discrete parts of the brain that are organized in such a way as to represent the different body parts, just as lines on a map represent roads. Each part of the body has a separate area of the brain dedicated to moving and sensing that body part.’

The idea is that properly performed joint mobility work will help these maps become clearer and improve control over each body part.

He details five things that will make your joint mobility practice more effective.

  1. Avoid pain and threat.
  2. Be mindful and attentive to what you are doing.
  3. Use novel movements.
  4. Easy does it.
  5. Be curious, exploratory and playful

I would argue that this could be applied to all movement training, not just joint mobility. All of them have value but the first two points should be the focus at first.

Avoiding pain is key. Sometimes it is unavoidable (when going for a max effort for example), but it shouldn’t be the aim. If you want to teach your body a new movement pain will teach it that it is a bad thing.

We also should not engage in movement mindlessly but instead have awareness of how we are moving and which body parts are acting to get us there.

This is important even when doing something as seemingly basic as walking or running.

I see many runners out at lunch time near my office. Most of them do not seem to be thinking about what their bodies are doing, their minds are not on the physical activity. Their facial expressions suggest they are mostly concentrating on continuing running despite the fairly obvious pain they are causing themselves in the process.

Change that. Be mindful. Good things will happen.


Indoor natural movement workout

My plans to go outside and have a natural movement style workout in the park have been scuppered in the last two weeks by crap weather.

I don’t mind running in the rain but crawling about and climbing trees doesn’t appeal. Maybe I just need to break away from the shackles of modern life and get muddy but this week decided to stay indoors and do a similar style workout – I thought I’d share it to show how they can be to put together:

I did some ring ring work to start. It’s an optional extra bit of climbing work, it would be a great workout anyway.

Optional extra climbing

  • Muscle up practice (self spotted from kneeling)
  • Ring routine (pulling)

Natural movement circuit – 5 rounds

  • Spiderman crawl – 20m around house
  • Crab walk – 20m around house
  • Balance crawl – 20m around house
  • Balance squat walks – 20m around house
  • Towel chins – 5


  • 70m sprints x 3

I didn’t have anything to balance along the length of the floor but instead picked a line in the wood floor and followed that, you could do the same with a pattern in the carpet, or even put down some string. The balance crawl was moving along it on all fours, the squat walks involved walking along the line and squatting down after each step.

If the weather was good you could also do this outside. All you would need is a log to do the balances on and a tree to climb in place of the towel chins.

Fitness attributes – morals

This is the next in the series on each attribute in my What do you need to do to be fit? post.

I’ve covered physical fitness in my previous posts but wanted to explore all round fitness – that includes your mind too.

I’m really trying to look at fitness for life, i.e. being able to do the things you need to (and perhaps a bit more in case of emergencies) to live well. Someone could be a complete fitness superhero but if they behave like a dick they aren’t really fit for life. They’re just a prick that can run fast.

I picked out four attributes of mental fitness to talk about – morals, stress, reasoning and happiness – they cover the lion’s share of how you think and behave.

Morals seem like the most sensible place to start because they dictate a lot of how you interact with the world. If your moral compass is skewed you will likely cause distress and problems for other people (and yourself) along the way.

Exactly what defines morally good has been debated and argued ever since people started philosophising. I found the study of ethics fascinating when studying for my degree, but assesses whether individual actions are morally good is not really what this series of posts, or blog, is about.

Instead I’m looking for general principles. Simple stuff that can be applied straight away and that will make a difference most of the time, without over-analysis or over-complication.

Fortunately, I think this can be achieved in relation to morals very simply.

It involves just four words – be nice to people.

Think about it. If you are cranky, aggressive or negative you are more likely to spread your misery to other people and make negative decisions that result from your grumpy disposition. People are also much more likely to reflect your bad mood right back at you.

On the flip side, if you are nice to people these things start to reverse. It can even be as simple as smiling and saying please and thank you. People will react better to you and you may start doing a few good deeds (think stop and help rather than rush past).

I’m not naive enough to think this will work all the time, some people are just grumpy and sometimes you are just having a shit day.

But maybe that’s the bit that takes the largest amount of strength (or fitness) – behaving how you know you should when someone (or life in general) is doing the opposite.

Current workouts – July 2011

Life is still pretty hectic, which means the blog is pretty quiet. All three people in my little family have our birthdays in July which keeps us very busy – it’s always lots of fun though.

The introduction of florieo work last month was brilliant. I haven’t stuck that closely to my planned workouts in a long time.

That said, I do like to change things up so have added a few extra bits into my weekly routine for the summer months – namely some MovNat style training and muscle up practice.

I’ve been following the MovNat guys for some time and in October they are finally coming to London to do a seminar. I’ve signed up and am really looking forward to it. It is a great way to train but weather/equipment issues sometimes make it difficult. I hope to learn ways to apply that style of training to an indoor setting ready for the winter as well as learn some great new skills.

As summer is here the weather shouldn’t be a problem (in theory) so I’ve added in some MovNat style stuff on Mondays. I can run to a park in about 5 minutes and there is a great little trail through woods with trees, fallen logs and various other bits to climb, throw and carry – all good.

Previously I didn’t have the space to work both below and above my rings without adjusting the height, so muscle up training was impossible. Since moving house this isn’t the case so I’m going to start working towards this skill – it will really advance the stuff I can do on the gymnastic rings. The main challenge at the moment is the false grip, so I’m working that hard on Wednesdays and practicing the transition between pull up and dip on Mondays.

I’m also pushing my back lever at the moment using either one leg extended (10 sec holds) or half straddle (5 sec holds).

Kettlebells and clubs are in there for conditioning and leg work and I’ve kept a fair bit of florieo work throughout the week. This is a really nice mix of interesting bodyweight exercise and moving medium weights for a lot of reps. These are my two favourite ways to train.

As last month all sessions begin with some joint mobility, a wrist routine and Ido’s squat clinic.

Monday – muscle up practice & MovNat
A1: Back lever – 4×5-10 sec
B1: Kneeling muscle ups – 3×5
C1: MovNat style training

Work through A1 to C1 in sequence

Wednesday – lots of ring work and KBs
A1: Rotation into low bridge (as far as can go) – 10
B1: False grip rows – 3×5-10
C1: Weighted ring dips – 3×5-10
D1: Ring routine – 3 rounds
E1: KB swing/jerk – using 24kg

Work through A1 to E1 in sequence

Friday – Florieo work and powerclubs
A1: Slide to low bridge – 5 (with 5 sec hold)
A2: Rotations into arch using wall – 10
A3: QDR rotational push ups (beginner) – 10
A4: Chin ups – 5-10
B1: Powerclubs (mostly double swipes)

A1-4 for three rounds, then B1

Fitness attributes – lean mass to fat ratio

This is the next in the series on each attribute in my What do you need to do to be fit? post.

I’ve been a bit slack with keeping up with this series of posts, work has been extremely busy which has left my brain a bit fried.

I have also been back and forth about what to write here. I am no expert in nutrition and, as much as it’s good, my food intake is not perfect – so I’m not best placed to give dietary advice. That said, your levels of fat and lean mass are important to overall fitness and should be managed carefully.

We can all agree fat is not fit for performance reasons but fitness is also synonymous with looking good. I think you would be safe to say that losing weight and improved appearance is the most common reason people exercise and care about fitness.

The idea of losing weight, not fat, is slightly misguided though. If appearance is a priority then what you see in the mirror counts as much as the weighing scales. Even if you have very low levels of fat, to look good, you will still need a decent amount of muscle.

The benefits go beyond just looks. In the excellent book Biomarkers muscle mass is listed as the number one determining factor for increased health and longevity. We need to build some muscle mass to increase our health. If you consider that muscles atrophy with age, you need to build muscle just to maintain your current levels of lean mass as you get older.

A desire for some extra lean mass should be a part of everyone’s fitness regime, including you ladies out there. You’ll look better and feel better. Providing you don’t eat like a horse and take a ton of steroids you WON’T end up looking like a bodybuilder.

Be sensible with it though – the pursuit of greater muscle mass shouldn’t negatively effect mobility, flexibility or any other fitness aspect.

Seeing the new muscle may involve losing some fat (not necessarily weight) and this is were diet comes into it. There are more diet approaches out there than I can list all with plenty of scientific studies to back them up.

Look for a diet that is based on good general principles that make sense to you. The most important thing is that it is sustainable – crash diets are no good – it has to become part of your lifestyle to have a lasting effect.

Be realistic though. You still need to live – an occasional Jaffa cake will keep you sane, an occasional packet will keep you fat.