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.

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

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

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)


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!

MovNat London workshop – Tired but happy

Tired but happy. I think that’s how we all felt after attending the London MovNat workshop last weekend. It was a great day.

The workshop was an excellent introduction to all that is MovNat – loads of great ideas and techniques, with lots to go away and practice. I was glad to have a notebook to hand, my brain and body were buzzing by the end of the day!

Vic Verdier did a great job of condensing a huge amount of movement skills into one day. The pace was quick and we didn’t spend an extended period of time on any particular technique. This was inevitable we covered a huge amount of content, and much more preferable than missing things out.

The workshop format loosely followed the evolutionary progress of humans, starting with flip flopping on the ground and working way our way through the following movements:

  • Crawling
  • Standing posture
  • Balancing
  • Lifting
  • Walking
  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Climbing
  • Throwing

The workshop was paced brilliantly (Vic knows what he’s doing!). The intensity built gradually throughout the morning finishing with a circuit of the skills we had learned so far. The rest over lunch was very welcome but stopping moving meant that some stiffness started to creep into our muscles (or it did mine at least). Fortunately we picked things up slowly after the break with walking and gradually increased the intensity at a pace we barely noticed. Before long we were outside chasing each other up and down the street.

Going by their facial expressions, the locals thought a group of crazies had descended on their bit of London!

Technique is everything

There were three main themes that ran through everything we were doing:

  • Maintain good posture in movement
  • Use the most efficient, effective technique
  • Practice movements with real life applications

A key takeaway for me was to concentrate on mastering technique rather than artificially creating fatigue to simply get stronger. If you start by jumping a distance of 30cm, that’s ok – master it and build from there.

The focus should be on good form rather than more weight/distance/speed so rather then just doing the movements, you do them well. The aim is that an activity can be repeated over and over again with as little fatigue as possible.

I think there is a good reason that climbing techniques are in the last part of the day – by that time you are too tired to muscle it, efficient technique is the only way you are getting up!

Real life vs party tricks

Vic made the point that MovNat is about practicing stuff with potential real life applications, anything else is just party tricks. It’s totally fine to train them as they can be fun and certainly build great levels of strength, but it is the ability to apply that strength in a real life situation that is important.

For me this is about maintaining honesty with yourself with regards to your training – I love training the back lever and other basic gymnastic movements but they won’t help me become better at climbing/jumping/balancing etc unless I also practice those techniques.

A way of approaching movement

The ideas behind MovNat make sense. Our bodies are designed to perform a full range of useful movement skills – so we should do them. To not do so is like having a Ferrari and only using it to pop to the shops and back, the full potential is wasted.

That doesn’t mean MovNat has to be the only form of exercise you do – although the results would likely be excellent. Instead, by adding in a session or two a week, MovNat can help plug any gaps in your movement skill so if need be you can do it all.

You will feel and move better as a result, and have a lot of fun along the way.