Current training – August 2012

My foot is getting better but is still painful enough to limit my training. Anything putting pressure on my toes is out so the pressing continues!

I’m doing some combination of these four sessions each week. The handstand session is usually on a Wednesay but Monday and Friday vary.

I’m actually leaning more towards kettlebell pressing most weeks, simply because I can do it outside. I can’t get outside to run and play but can still take my KBs into the garden and get some sun while doing my presses.

The static hold section still looks the same, but the holds are feeling much easier. If they consistently feel easy for a couple of weeks I’ll up the time.

  • A1: Low L-sit – 2 x 20sec
  • A2: German Hang – 2 x 30sec
  • A3: Tuck front lever – 2 x 20sec

KB press 1 – using ladders to get some easier volume and practice – 30 reps each of clean & press and chin ups. Reps/sets etc are kept same week to week

  • A: Static holds
  • B1: Goblet, 24kg – 2-3 x 5-8
  • C1: KB c&p, 16kg – 3 x 5
  • C2: Chin up – 3 x 5
  • C3: KB c&p, 20kg – 3 x 3
  • C4: Chin up + 5kg – 3 x 3
  • C5: KB c&p, 20kg – 3 x 2
  • C6: Chin up + 5kg – 3 x 2
  • D1: KB swing, 24kg – 3-5 x 10-15

KB press 2 – using ladders or straight sets and working to push the reps up a bit.

  • A: Static holds
  • B1: Goblet, 24kg – 2-3 x 5-8
  • C1: KB c&p, 20kg – 5-8 x 3-5
  • C2: Chin up + 5kg – 5-8 x 3-5
  • D1: KB swing, 24kg – 3-5 x 10-15

Handstands , ropes & swings

  • A: Static holds
  • B1: Face wall HS – 5-8 x 30sec
  • C1: QDR R/L – 3 x 10-20sec
  • D1: Rope climb – 5 x 1
  • D2: Hanging leg raise – 5 x 3
  • D3: KB swing, 28kg – 5 x 10

HeSPU training – using a slightly different approach to including static holds

  • A1: Low L-sit – 3 x 15sec
  • A2: Box HeSPU – 3 x 5-8
  • A3: Tuck back lever- 3 x 15sec
  • A4: Rope pull ups
  • A5: Tuck front lever – 3 x 15sec
  • A6: Pistols R/L – 3 x 3-5
  • B1: KB swing, 24kg – 3-5 x 10-15



Some basic principles

Here are a couple of basic training principles I’ve been thinking about. I started off trying to write a list of five, but stopped at two instead – no need to make things more complicated than they have to be.

Be strong to be useful

We are all well aware of the value of strength training. Getting stronger makes most other activities easier.

This quote says it all – I’ve seen it attributed to various people – Dan John, Brett Jones and Eric Cressy – all smart guys and worth listening to.

Maximal strength is the glass in which all other strength qualities fit into and at a certain point you will be limited by the size of the glass.

That said, there is a difference between being strong to be useful, and just being strong. You have to be able to apply any strength built in the gym outside of the gym.

This is not just a machines vs free weights thing, but also about keeping balance, like still being able to do a pull up while getting better at picking up heavy stuff.

Gym lifts are impressive, but the ability to express that strength in real life has to be the main aim.

Move so that you can

The human body is capable of a wide variety of incredible and interesting movements – train them, play with them and enjoy them.

This starts with basic natural movements that can be useful in life:

  • If you can crawl it helps play with your kids.
  • If you can run you won’t miss that train.
  • If you can climb tree you can escape a hungry tiger.*

It is also well worth including more playful, exploratory movement as well – gymnastics, handbalancing, capoeira, dancing etc – they teach you lot about your body and what it can do.

If you consistently move in your training, you will be able to consistently move. It sounds obvious but is easy to miss if you focus too heavily on gym training. I think that maintaining wide-ranging movement ability is fundamental to healthy longevity.

* I know tigers are pretty good at tree climbing too. The likelihood in the tiger situation is that you are just fucked – but you get my point.

Training with an injury

I really dislike being injured. I love moving and get very frustrated by anything that restricts my ability to move.

Over the last week or so I’ve been experiencing pain in my left foot which has been diagnosed as foot tendinitis. I didn’t even realise such a thing existed.

The pain comes when I either land on my forefoot (running/jumping) or rock from heel to toe (walking).

This stops me doing a few movements I’ve been training recently:

  • Any freestanding handstand work, including kick up practice – I don’t have a steady balance and don’t want to risk coming down onto my left foot.
  • Running, jumping, climbing – so MovNat is pretty much totally out
  • Capoeira movements – I’ve been having great fun with cartwheels and moving round the floor but it just puts too much of the wrong pressure on my foot

This makes a bunch of my last training post pretty irrelevant.

Rather than total rest, I’m training the movements that are pain free.  Luckily anything with a flat foot or where my feet don’t touch the floor is fine.

So I’m fine doing: all pull ups, dips, face wall handstands, headstand push ups, squats, kettlebell press, KB swing/clean and gymnastic statics.

Pull ups and static holds remain the same. I’m alternating the rest of each session between focusing on HeSPU and KB clean & press. My pressing strength is poor so I may as well spend time on it while my options are limited.

It’s not how I’d like to be training at this time of year. Summer should be about exploring movement outside but that’s not really an option right now.

Thankfully the British summer has been awful so far so I’m not missing too much!

Birthday burpees

I started this tradition on my 30th birthday. It’s hard for me to say exactly why, potentially because of a premature concern about middle age.

It very simple – on my birthday I do my age in burpees.

I very rarely train burpees so it is quite a nice test of my general conditioning and ability to move my body about the place.

I was 32 yesterday and got through them relatively easily, although foolishly forgot to time myself.

It actually felt a lot easier than the first year I did them. I imagine that may change as the years go on, although I will continue training to try and make the tradition as easy as possible.

Book review – Sad dog, happy dog by Kathleen Porter

Sad dog, happy dog by Kathleen Porter is a book designed to help parents and teachers promote good postural alignment in children. I’m a big believer in the importance of posture (see here, here and here) and want to do what I can to help my girls maintain the effortless good alignment they currently have.

This book is designed to do just that.

The book is split up into a number sections:

This section uses babies as examples of good, natural alignment. They haven’t been around for long enough to pick up bad habits and learn to sit and stand by finding a natural balance.

Porter highlights how posture can break down as people age with lots of visual examples of both good and bad alignment. This section also introduces Porter’s sad dog, happy dog concept and how it can be used to teach good alignment.

Why natural alignment matters
This section runs through the various systems of the body (circulatory, skeletal etc) explaining the effect poor alignment has on their function. It’s not good news.

Keeping children naturally aligned
This chapter is main reason I bought the book. There are tips on adjusting buggies and car seats to help maintain the natural alignment of children, and also how to use wedges to help children sit with better posture if it has started to decline.

One great thing about these tips is you can easily adapt them to adult car seats and chairs. The book is aimed at helping children but the content can also be applied to adults.

There is a large emphasis in this section on doing as well as teaching, which is great. The book encourages teachers and parents to be a good example and actually do the things you are teaching, which is great advice (and not just in this context!).

Instructions to align yourself naturally
The first part of this section is a step by step guide to sitting with naturally aligned spine. It is explained very simply and is easy to follow. Each technique has basic instructions that use imagery to help them be easier for children to follow.

There are also more detailed instructions that delve deeper into anatomy and what the various body parts should be doing – this is great if you like to get more information about what’s going on.

After the guide to sitting with good alignment the book explained how to apply these principles to standing, walking, bending, sleeping. The basic principles are the same the whole way through so it’s all very easy to follow.

The section finishes with a few more visualisations that can help keep you aligned. I have found these incredibly useful in keeping aligned while moving about.

What I liked about the book

  • The method is incredibly simple, as you would expect as it is designed to be taught to children. It is the easiest to follow that I’ve come across.
  • I love the emphasis on walking the talk. We should set good examples for our children, they are far more likely to form good habits if they see their parents doing them.
  • Although more detailed information is included for each technique, the initial descriptions use imagery which is much simpler to remember and follow. I now use this imagery alone when thinking about my posture.

What I didn’t like about the book

  • The attitude to gym traing and its effect on posture is a bit blinkered. The book suggests all gym training is bad and that postural alignment is all you need to be fit and strong. Instead, I would suggest improving alignment, then getting stronger in that position.
  • Some of the information about keeping a child aligned is a bit brief. It states that ‘some buggies can be adapted’ but doesn’t really show how. You can work it out fairy easily but having it more detail would make the book more ‘complete’.

I only have minor grumbles about this book. I mostly loved it.

Although it is designed for children, it is the posture book I would most likely to recommend to anyone. I expect I will refer to it again and again over time.

Current training – July

I’ve decided to made my training update more honest this month.

I usually list out a few workouts on a weekly schedule which no doubt gives the impression I stick with that routine for every week in the month.

The reality is a bit more fluid. I will have a pool of 4-5 workouts that I choose from during the month. Week by week the sessions vary but will have consistencies like handstands, rope climbs, squats etc so that, as well as variety, I also regularly practice the skills I want to get better at.

My choice will be based on the previous session, time, energy levels and any soreness.

Currently it is a combination of basic gymnastics, MovNat, stuff from Capoeira Conditioning and some kettlebells – a fine mix.

I train each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each session will generally follow this format:

    1. Warm up
    2. Static holds
    3. Handstand practice
    4. Strength/conditioning

      The static and handstand portions generally look like this:

      • A1: Low L-sit – 2 x 20sec
      • A2: German Hang – 2 x 30sec
      • A3: Tuck front lever – 2 x 20sec
      • B1: Face wall handstand – 5 x 30sec
      • C1: Handstand kick up and hold – 10-15

        I then complete the session with one of:

        1. D1: Goblet squat – 3 x 8
          E1: Negativa lateral-cartwheel – 4-6 x 5/5
          E2: Rope pull up (hand by opposite elbow) – 4-6 x 3-5
        2. D1: Cartwheel-QDR – 4-6 x 3/3
          D2: Rope climb (up/down no legs) – 4-6 x 1
          E1: KB swing – 3-5 x 10-15
        3. D1: Goblet – 3 x 8
          E1: Ring routine – 3 x MU-dip-back roll-reverse crank-crank
        4. MovNat – various (may also drop statics and do longer MovNat session)
        5. D1: Extend handstand practice
          E1: QDR – 3-5 x 10-20sec
          F1: KB swing – 3-5 x 10-15

        I’ll also go for an easy run on a Thursday and either a run or bike on Sunday. I may also go climbing at some point.