Friday, 31 July 2009

Climbing Workout

I have been off work for a week and so have done plenty of running around with my kids for several days. Thus I have done no strength work. This morning I felt hungry to lift and so headed in to the garage for three laps through1a-1f:

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (15 mins)
1a) Laddering ('for time')
1b) Ring Scissors (5 scissors)
1c) Five L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine
1d) Fingerboard 'touches'
1e) Tuck Planche (3x5s)
1f) Kneel Backs (3x20s)

2a) Ten-Minute Deadhanging routine

There was greater emphasis on the fingers today and I pushed up the number of muscle-ups. boy did those transitions tax me!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Elbow Spins

I am a big fan of gymnastics, parkour, martial arts, rock climbing, and freestyle sports done on skis, snowboards, bikes, skates etc....

I just love athletic displays that show skill and grace combined with strength and imagination. I happened to chance upon this video that gets truly amazing towards the end!

And if that doesn't float your boat, here is some 'power' oriented breakdancing that WILL amaze!

Captain Kid Rides Like the Wind

Captain Kid turned five at the end of May. As my regular paleo training partner (I use her as a body weight on some occasions or as 'quarry' in chasing games on others), my teacher (her specialist area is 'parenting') and general motivational force (her passion to learn and desire to explore and develop would shame most motivational speakers and life coaches), we spend a lot of time tackling life's hurdles together.

There are key milestones she has reached such as the ability to stand, walk, run and jump. There are more cerebral skills such as talking, reading and writing. But for me, two of the most abstract and therefore skillful challenges to master are those of swimming and cycling. I know adults who are unable to perform one or other of these.

Today Captain Kid nailed cycling!

Progress had been slow over recent months. She had been learning on a bike that in retrospect was perhaps a bit too big for her. I had removed the stabilisers in the belief that these would 'destroy' any sense of balance she had - or at the very least inhibit progress. I took to running behind her, bent almost double and holding her seat as she wrestled with the handlebars/steering. We got so far using this method but neither my back or thighs could take much more!

A few weeks ago a colleague passed on a smaller bike to me and this gave me the chance to try an alternative approach. I removed the stabilisers and pedals from the bike. I then lowered the seat.

These steps (and particularly the fact that the bike was smaller), enabled CK to 'scooch' herself forwards and explore her own balance point. We made up a game called 'Moon Steps' where she would see how few steps it would take to cover a given distance.

Within an hour she had made more progress than in the past six months and once she achieved speed, was confidently covering several meters with both feet off the ground and correcting her balance as appropriate with the handlebars.

The weather has been awful over the past few days but since the initial practice we managed another few hours of practice (but probably no more than three hours in all).

Today, we reattached the pedals on to the bike and after an hour she was able to make the transition from 'moonstepping' to pedaling. I live on a hill and we then developed our braking skills by rolling down the hill. The gradient also enabled her to practice 'starting off'. She was flying in no time!

After tea we spent a wonderful summer evening down the park with her racing around on the bike. I am thrilled to bits for her. I am not sure she is aware of the scale of this achievement - or the subtleties of how we 'decomposed' the activity to its basic pieces to allow gainful practise. But she does recognise the thrill of danger and the buzz of speed! She has overcome adversity and in that, has taught me a little bit more about application, dedication and perseverance.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Magic of Taubes

I have recommended Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories" to several people over the years. Of those that have gone ahead and read it, they have all been....for want of a better phrase, 'blown away'.

Of those that have declined to read it, those that borrowed my (highly prized) first edition claimed to have 'not had the time' to read it, whilst the remainder (whom I left to obtain their own copy), seemed to be convinced that it would simply be 'another diet book'.

I continue to recommend the book to calorie restriction and low fat obsessed dieters around me but despite my results they seem to think that I must have blessed genes that allow me to eat what I want and to remain lean. Or that I must be 'burning it all off'.

When these doubters witness with horror the piles of red meat and fat that I consume, they trust that I must be doing myself untold damage and that 'it is only a matter of time' before the reaper comes to claim me'.

By the same token, many of these same people seem to think 'it is only a matter of time' before their low fat diets produce results. Years go by and despite the absence of long term weight loss, they find consolation in the fact that by following governmental and NGO nutritional advice, they must be achieving optimal metabolic health.

What prompted this post was the fact that a few of my latest batch of converts or ahem...'disciples'...have had staggering success. Not all of them needed to read Taubes to be convinced of the benefits of 'going paleo'. Some chose to read it and then went on to make the necessary dietary changes and others were simply convinced by my chronic hectoring (which involved me bearing my abs in frustration and shouting in a wild-eyed rant "look, look, I cannot put fat on no matter how much I eat").

Their success has lead a few of them to confide that they "must be my star-pupils" - but I have told all of them that what they are experiencing is well within expectations. Against any other dietary principle (i.e. caloric restriction), the LC diet does appear to involve voodoo and/or magic beans - such are the results. But LC just works. Simple as!

I still get wrapped up in disagreements and the most popular line of attack is that, despite the examples/evidence I give, not only am I going against just about every piece of governmental and NGO advice on nutrition, but I have no formal medical training. This is true. But the science I am able to fall back on, and the research I can quote, leaves them with contradictions to address.

This leads back to Taubes' book - a key weapon in my armoury. I picked it up again the other day and have now found myself reading it yet again. It is a staggeringly beautiful piece of work. Comprehensive, thought provoking, riveting, controversial, compelling....

And for me, one passage stands out - and raises a smile every time I read it. It comes from pages 168-169 of the first edition. I have copied it below. It sums up everything about the whole sorry mess of what passes for modern nutritional advice. It also sums up everything that is billiant about 'Good Calories, Bad Calories'. Try not to smile as you read it:

  • "The observation that monounsaturated fats both lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL also came with an ironic twist: the principal fat in red meat, eggs, and bacon is not saturated fat, but the very same monounsaturated fat as in olive oil. The implications are almost impossible to believe after three decades of public-health recommendations suggesting that any red meat consumed should at least be lean, with any excess fat removed."

He goes on,

  • "Consider a porterhoues steak with a quarter-inch layer of fat. After broiling, this steak will reduce to almost equal parts fat and protein. Fifty-one percent of the fat is monounsaturated, of which 90 percent is oleic acid. Saturated fat constitutes 45% of the total fat, but a third of that is stearic acid, which will increase HDL cholesterol while having no effect on LDL. (Stearic acid is metabolized in the body to oleic acid, according to Grundy's research.) The remaining 4% of the fat is polyunsaturated, which lowers LDL cholesterol but has no meaningful effect on HDL. In sum, perhaps as much as 70% of the fat content of a porterhouse steak will improve the relative levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol, compared with what they would be if carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, or pasta were consumed. The remaining 30% will raise LDL cholesterol but will also raise HDL cholesterol and will have an insignificant effect, if any, on the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL. All this suggests that eating a porterhouse steak in lieu of bread or potatoes would actually reduce heart-disease risk, although virtually no nutritional authority will say so publicly. The same is true for lard or bacon."

Did you smile?

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


The Victorian has attained a mythical status in gymnastics. You are probably aware of the Iron Cross and its face downwards, horizontal variation (the Maltese Cross). Well the Victorian is a face upwards version of the Maltese Cross.

The ever inspiring Gymnastic Bodies website has a thread on Frenchman Danny Rodriques performing just such a move! It really is incredible.

From a paleo point of view, perhaps this kind of expression of strength veers over in to 'unhealthful'. There is a moment at 1:55 where this point is 'expressed'. But nevertheless, you have to take your hat off to the guy because he has forged new ground in most demanding event of the most demanding of disciplines.

Also, further down the thread is a link to an Adidas commercial featuring Diego Hypólito. In the film Hypólito talks about a training injury that struck just prior to a major event (the World Gymnastic Championships). His foot severely damaged, he did some weight training to maintain upper body strength during convalescence.

To cut a long story short, he took gold - which surprised him! Maybe there really is more to the 'less is more' training mantra.

Dynamic Workout

Mondays workout took it out of me a bit*. The following Lau Gar session was also pretty intense, so I decided to aim for just one gym-oriented workout this week.

The intention is to make three passes between each exercise group - 15 reps each. Where appropriate, movements should be explosive but the weight lowered under control. Try to keep the tempo up by moving between exercises. After completing three sets of the first group of exercises, take a minute or so rest before moving to the second group of exercises.

I started with three sprint sets to warm up. After 10s of sprinting I ran in figure eights (facing the same direction throughout), thus invoking lots of side and backwards movements.

Warm Up (5 Mins)
Main (30 Mins)
1a) Sprint to Forwards Facing Fig 8's (10s:60s, 3)

2a) Alternate One-Arm Dumbell Snatch (16kg 3x15)
2b) Frog Planche (3x15s)
2c) Back Bridge (3x15s)

3a) Walking on Hands (3x'for time' - around 25s each)
3b) One Arm Dumbell Rows (3x15x18kg)
3c) Tuck Lever (3x15s)

This really got the sweat going. It is tough on the shoulders and the handstands felt particularly fraught!

*I forgot to mention that Flash was introduced to my gymnastic rings for the first time on Monday. Straight away she grabbed them and managed to lift her legs clean off the ground for about 5 seconds in a sort of L-Sit - all under the tutelage of Captain Kid (he wrote all misty eyed)!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Climbing Workout

Yesterday I headed off with the family to watch Madness in concert. It was a really excellent 'tribal gathering' with 40,000 people singing their heads off in unison (and it gave me a good excuse to wear a fez in public)! Captain Kid and Flash know the words to plenty of their songs and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it!

We got back late and so I was pretty tired today. This evening I got the urge to do a quick workout before Lau Gar.

I performed four cycles through the following, with a set of deadhangs to finish.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (15 mins)
1a) Laddering ('for time')
1b) Ring Scissors (5 scissors with a 10s hold on last rep)
1c) Three L-Sit Muscle Ups to Basic Ring Routine
1d) Hill Sprints (4x10s)

2a) Deadhang (7s TUL:3s Rest)

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Andreas Thorkildsen

Sometimes you see footage of a human feat that simply astounds you. You watch it again, and again. Sometimes the phrase OMFG is simply not enough!

Step forward Norway's Andreas Thordkilsen who nails an incredible jump here. Andreas is an Olympian in the Javelin and at 6'2" tall (190cm) and around 200lbs (88-93kg) is no lightweight. He undertakes gymnastics as part of his training but is not (nor has he ever been), a competitive gymnast, which makes this iron cross pretty bloody impressive.

More details at Gymnastic Bodies where, amongst the comments is buried this gem showing some not-too-shabby tumbling. Sure there are better tumblers around, but how many tumblers do you know who have won four Olympic golds and five World Championships in alpine skiing like Kjetil Andre Aamodt - the athlete tumbling here?

Let's not get to bogged down in what is and what is not 'gymnastics'. The point being that if it involves strength, speed, agility and kinaesthetic awareness - primal qualities, training can manifest itself in many forms.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


I mentioned that today my workout was interrupted several times, and that one of those interruptions was due to some guy chatting about the US Marine Corp's Basic Fitness Test (BFT). Well, he also chatted about the UK Forces' BFT - and specifically that of the Royal Marine Commandos.

Our little chat was actually the second one we have had. I met this guy a few weeks ago when he was doing crunches on a mat adjacent to mine. I was doing 'handstands for time'.

We talked about training ideas (it IS possible to hold a conversation whilst holding a handstand for a minute), and I explained my ideas on short but intense, primarily bodyweight exercises. He seemed to have an appreciation of the simplicity of 'the gym you carry around in your pants' (my definition of a bodyweight routine rather than his), and recommended I look up a book called '5BX'

5BX is short for Five Basic Exercises and the '5BX' program was used as a basic fitness program by the Canadian Air Force from the 1960s up to the 1980s. A bit of googling has highlighted free copies of the original pamphlet (and several successive versions), which are well worth downloading (for free).

Much of the advice therein has seldom been bettered and is closer to the paleo model than just about everything in the mainstream of today....and in only 11 minutes a day!

Power Session

After over a week off, I headed off today for a power workout! The workout felt taxing and could have been harder and quickier had I not been interrupted four times as follows:
  1. One compliment on my physique (yes, I am that shallow at times),
  2. One compliment on my Vibram 5ingers (the second such compliment in a week - but still outweighed by the looks of OMG!),
  3. One comparison of my workout with some USMC BFT,
  4. One comment on how hard my back-bridge looked!
The goal was 5 cycles through the following circuit - each pass should take around 4mins if you keep the tempo up (and unless you are interrupted):

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (25 Mins)
1) 2 mins rowing at 70% intensity and 30 SPM.

2a) Alternate One-Arm Dumbell Snatch (18kg 5x7)
2b) Chin Ups (5x7)
2c) Back Bridge (5x15s)
2d) Frog Planche (5x15s)
2e) Tuck Lever (5x15s)

It was very wet on the local park, so I swapped running/sprinting for rowing. The snatches lost their form towards the last rep of the last set. I was forgetting to let the legs do the work due to fatigue.

The sun was out for the duration of the workout and so all but the bar work and back-bridges was performed outside. At the end, my heart was racing and I took five minutes to walk around in the sun to cool down.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Slowing Ageing

A truly staggering story from the BBC concerning the effects of restricted diets on the ageing process:
  • Cutting calories may delay the ageing process and reduce the risk of disease, a long-term study of monkeys suggests.
Ok, so the story itself will not be new to the paleo crowd, but what is impressive is the sequence of photographs accompanying the story. What is staggering is the visible difference between the two monkeys. The benefits didn't end there,
  • [by] reducing calorie intake by 30% while maintaining nutrition ...appeared to impact upon many forms of age-related disease seen in monkeys, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and brain atrophy.

Personally I have no wish to measure my calorie intake nor reduce it by 30%. But with a combination of intermittent fasting/episodic feasting and fasting, along with eating within 'feeding windows', there is evidence that you can enjoy all of the benefits without the mathematics and will power.

It should come as no surprise that the British Dietetic Association pop up to offer some vacuous knee jerk reaction to the story. Although the BDA warn that "monkeys may be a close relation but there are significant differences which means not everything we see in them can be translated to humans" they go on to scare and speculate and trash their own weight loss ideology thus:

  • there should be some serious reservations about cutting calories so dramatically, particularly for anyone under the age of 30....People would have to weigh up whether they are prepared to compromise their enjoyment of food for the uncertain promise of a longer life, and a life which could be dogged by all sorts of problems - including osteoporosis."

Now then, somebody remind me how the BDA and their ilk recommend we lose less (calorie restriction) and do more! Baise moi.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Istvan Javorek's Conditioning Program

Istvan Javorek seems to be getting a higher profile in the fitness world. A recent article on MSN highlighted his approach which involves:
  • [compressing] a high volume of intense work by shrinking or even eliminating rest periods, the complexes were originally devised to combat monotony and save time while improving endurance, muscle tone, coordination, and aesthetics.
High intensity workouts that are completed in under 30 minutes? This will be nothing new to the paleo crowd, nor will his ideas that "Overtraining comes from bad technique, bad diet, not enough sleep..if you eliminate these things, it's difficult for overtraining to be the real issue".

The MSN interview goes on to say that, "[his] full-body approach is mirrored in today's functional-training movement" and that "training while sore offers recuperative benefits, as long as the workout is 10 to 20 percent less intense than the one that made you sore".

There is obviously a big overlap with paleo workouts here, and the idea of 'training while sore' is close to the paleo mantra to 'self-locomote daily' and exert oneself according to a power law and invoke play.

While I am not that much of a fan of dumbell and barbell exercises (nor machines for that matter), they perform a service in that they offer a source of resistance. Used in 'complexes' you can get a demanding workout and looking at some of the example footage on you tube (here), this particular program is not dissimilar to my own iron-routines - although, unlike in this example, I reckon you gain more by (quickly) selecting a more appropriate weight for each particular exercise.

The MSN interview gives a good breakdown of Javorek's program thus:

The Drill
Three times a week, do either complex. For Complex Number 1, do 6 reps of each exercise and move to the next without stopping. For Number 2, do three reps of each exercise and move to the next without stopping, building up to 3 total circuits. As you advance, increase the number of circuits.

The Program
1. Upright row: Stand with your knees slightly bent and hold a pair of dumbbells at arms' length in front of your thighs, thumbs facing each other and palms facing your thighs. This stance turns your elbows slightly outward and your shoulders slightly inward. Look ahead with your chest up, back straight, and abs tight. Bring the weights up to neck level, keeping the pair aligned. Your elbows should be flared out to ear level. At the top, rise up on your toes. Return to the starting position.

2. High pull snatch: Stand with dumbbells as if you're about to perform an upright row, but lean forward to lower the weights to knee level, keeping your head and neck aligned. This is the starting position. Now raise the weights as you did with the upright row, but don't pause at the top; instead, flip your wrists back to bring the weights overhead, extending your arms fully while rising up on your toes. Return to the starting position. Keep the weights as close to your body as possible throughout the lift.

3. Squat push press: Stand upright and hold dumbbells at your shoulders, palms facing forward. Maintaining this position and looking straight ahead, bend your hips and knees to lower into a full squat, thighs at least parallel to the floor. As you rise from the squat, begin pressing the weights overhead, rising up on your toes at the top, at which point your arms should be fully extended overhead. Return to the starting position.

4. Bent-over row: Stand holding dumbbells at arm's length in front of you, palms facing back. Bend your knees slightly, and bend at the waist so that your back is flat and angled 45 degrees to the floor. Once your body weight is centered on your heels, you're in the starting position. Without altering this position—no swinging your trunk—bend your elbows to bring the weights quickly and explosively into your armpits. Return to the starting position at a slower pace.

5. High pull snatch: Repeat Number 2.

It is PALEO, but via the backdoor!

Monday, 6 July 2009

Climbing Workout

This evening the weather broke big time with a storm of tropical intensity. I had 30 minutes to spare so figured I'd head to the garage to torch my climbing muscles!

Four cycles through the following, with a set of deadhangs to finish.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (15 mins)
1a) Laddering ('for time')
1b) Splits (60s, 60s, 60s)
1c) Alternate One Move L-Sit Rope Climb to Lock-Off and Lower

2a) Deadhang (7s TUL:3s Rest)

Friday, 3 July 2009


As Aldous Huxley said:
  • "All great truths begin with heresy"
There's nothing like challenging 'conventional wisdom'! Seemingly it takes a lot to follow the science rather than convention. This paper tackles the thorny issue of not rocking the boat, maintaining the status quo and "making data confess":
  • ''Based on theoretical reasoning it has been suggested that the reliability of findings published in the scientific literature decreases with the popularity of a research field."

Seeing guys like Gary Taubes going in to medical establishments and tackling them on their own turf, in their specialist areas of medicine/biology, you really get to understand what a bold move this is in light of the paper above.

Lactic Sets

Today I repeated the workout with tag '3'. The goal was session was 3 sets of 12 reps with about 2 minutes rest between an exercise.

Warm Up (5 mins)
Main (20 mins)
1a) Rowing (1x120s - Medium Resistance, 29rpm)

2a) Assisted Pistols (3x12 - with '8')
2b) Frog Planche (2x30s)

3a) Wall Assisted Handstands (3x30s)
3b) Kneel Backs (3x30s)

4a) 30s Chin Up (3x1)
4b) Tuck Lever (2x30s)

The 30s chin was a new addition. 15s up and 15s down. I found in hurt my forearms more than anything. This along with the pistols, left me pretty sore coming out of the gym. I had figured on it being an easier day!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Murray's Press Ups

Watching some of the coverage of Wimbledon you can't fail to have noticed Andy Murray's training. One of his exercises in particular seems to have caught wider attention; the 'Donkey Press-Up'.

It is good to see such novel bodyweight exercises getting wider exposure but I think that Murray might well get bigger bang for his buck with two other variations on this movement.

The first is the plyometric push up. This is best done with blocks/platforms for the hands onto which you can bounce on and off. As this relies on the fundamental press-up movement, you can focus on the shoulders and simple core alignment throughout.

My second recommendation would be the planche. There are many variations of the planche all of which will, if performed properly, reach deep in to your reserves in a matter of seconds, or, if trained, longer (depending on what you want from the session).

Both of these variations require control - and it is easier to execute this control than the donkey push up with the 'wild' precursor to the movement proper. One of the main drawbacks of the DPU is the difficulty in kicking the legs upwards whilst maintaining form.

Variety is what it is about. Donkey push ups are just another tool to do the job. But the static demands of planching and the dynamic demands of the plyometric push up may well be a source of greater gains due to their inherent focus on those muscles intended as the target of the exercise.

Still, it looks like DPUs have got Murray this far so who am I to criticise? Let's hope he can continue his storming form!

Go Andy!