How to keep in shape when time is short

I have a second baby on the way, which is very exciting. It will be great fun to do the ‘baby’ thing again as P is growing up very quickly.

It will also mean that time will become even more stretched and my ability to recover from exercise will be reduced (sleep is overrated anyway – right?). So, I’ll have to rethink my approach to exercise for while.

There are three general principals I will follow:

1) Don’t stop
As much as it would be unreasonable expect to make massive progress in the gym at the same time as something as life changing as having a baby, it is important to keep doing something. It will be much easier to get back on track if I’ve maintain strength levels. You lose it fast when doing nothing.

2) Be realistic
My sleep will be massively effected. Between a newborn feeding through the night and a toddler occasionally waking I could be looking at 3-4 hours some nights, and still have to go to work and do a reasonably pressured job in the daytime. Attempting to carry on as if I was getting 8 straight hours a night is asking for trouble*. Something will have to give, best to be realistic about what I can do from the off.

3) Go minimal
I will pick exercises that have the biggest return for time invested. Compound movements are the way to go, the more muscles that are involved the better. Sessions that last around the 30 minute mark will give enough time to get in some good work but still be easy to recover from.

My approach
I currently exercise after my two year old goes to bed, three times a week. I haven’t yet decided exactly what I’ll do when the new baby arrives, if the evenings are fairly settled I’ll stick with my current times but change exercises to get a lot of work done in a short period of time.

I’ll probably alternate between these two sessions, which should both take less than 30 minutes including warm up.

Session 1

  • A1: Handstand practice – 5 mins
  • B1: Ring routine – Muscle up, L-sit, back lever, front lever row, front lever x 3-5
  • C1: Pistols

Session 2

  • A1: Staggered towel chin ups – 5 x 2-3
  • A2: HeSPU – 5 x 2-3
  • B1: Glute ham raise – 2 x max

Both cover pretty much everything. Gymnastic rings come into there own here as you get pulling, pushing and support work all done at the same time – ace!


*I actually can’t remember the last time I got 8 straight hours sleep, but anyway…


Could it really be that simple?

I Twittered about this article in Sports Nutrition Insider a couple of weeks ago. It has seemingly hundreds of people giving their top nutrition advice – there are some themes in their advice (eat more protien!) and some feels complicated (have xg of protien/carbs, x amount of minutes post-workout).

One piece jumped out because of simplicity and for being applicable for everyone, whether they care about ‘peak performance’ and body fat percentages or just want to be healthier than the average joe.

“Use common sense and stop the silly fad diets.  It’s not about low calorie, low sugar, fat free, gluten free or any other ‘label.’ It is as simple as eating a variety of natural foods in there natural form at the right times of the day and be mindful of proper portion sizes. You have choices: an apple or a candy bar, a had full of M&M’s or almonds, fast food or home cooked, water or soda, etc. You know the answers, apply them and you will look and feel amazing. It is that simple!”
Kim Lyons NASM CPT

Great advice (please ignore that she used to be on The Biggest Loser).

It may be easier said than done initially, but it can be this simple. Nothing complex required, just eat the stuff that looks like food, avoid the stuff that sounds like a chemistry experiment.

Will a rear foot strike when running get you injured?

There’s a great post over at Sweat Science at the moment:

Lieberman on foot strike and injuries on Harvard’s XC team

It references a recently released study by Dan Lieberman that looked at injury rates in Harvard’s cross-country team between 2006 and 2011.

It links in really nicely with my post from yesterday.

The study showed that rearfoot strikers had around twice the injury rate of forefoot strikers, but there is huge variation. Some rearfoot strikers were rarely injured and some forefoot strikers were injured all the time.

The hypothosis?

“running style is probably a more important determinant of injury than footwear ” 


More thoughts on running – resolutions and technique

My journey into fitness has been a relatively recent addition to my life, I’ve only really been interested in the last 3-4 years (out of 30ish). It’s been incredibly rewarding. Feeling physically able to complete any task I come across day-to-day is a very good thing.

I’ve seen a lot of extra runners out on the streets this week and hope that all those out as a result of new year resolutions stick with it and get the same benefits as I have (although I would recommend they to add some strength training).

I also hope the other extra runners that are kicking off their London Marathon training get the sense of personal/charitable achievement they are looking for out their training.

Seeing all these people hitting the pavement has highlighted a big thing I missed out of my previous blog on running: that running is a high skill activity.

That looks painful
Runners demonstrate a wide range of running styles. Some will be sleek like a jungle cat, others will look like a tired, injured gazelle in the seconds before it gets munched. These people often look like they are causing themselves a lot of pain (the face never lies!). 

Pain shouldn’t be misinterpreted – it is a good thing. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to not repeat whatever you just did. It’s a warning sign, so if an activity causes you pain, and you keep on doing it, eventually you will run (ha ha) into trouble.

This doesn’t mean you should give up running because it hurts, instead look at how you run and change it so it no longer causes pain.

So what is running?
It’s like walking but faster, right?

Um, not really.

I like to look at running as series of mini jumps, as that’s pretty much what it is. So, keep that in mind and think about jumping from a table – you land softly and bend your knees to absorb the force.

Then think about jumping off of a step – you do the same thing. Jump off some 2×4 –  the same.

Now run – suddenly we’re landing on heels with straight legs the same as when walking.

This is a mistake as running has far more in common with jumping as your entire weight leaves the floor with each stride.

Are you going to preach about forefoot striking now?
No, there’s tons of stuff in the interwebs that does that anyway.

Personally, I am a forefoot striker, it works for me and I would recommend it to others. It might not work for you.

The main thing is to land softly with your knee bent and absorb the force with your muscles and tendons not your bones. This blog has an excellent discussion on heel striking – interestingly they quote 60% of high level athletes in a race as heel strikers.

What to do
Be mindful of what you are doing and don’t just ‘run’. Think about how you are moving, what feels good and what doesn’t.

Try to move as smoothly and quietly as possible. I always think that the less noise I’m making, the better I am running. To be quiet, the landing has to be light.

As a test I would try running in your normal style without shoes, if you can’t then it’s not as soft as it could be.

Piling on distance before safety will lead to pain. Initially it should not be a workout. Instead think if it as learning a skill.

Aim for light, floaty, joyful running and soon you’ll love running for running’s sake, rather than hate the painful slog round the block.

Don’t be that gazelle, try to be like the cat.

If you do want to find out more about running with a forefoot strike this is a great place to start.