Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cool Runnings

I've signed up to run the Two oceans half marathon in April next year.  I do not run. This is not my forte.  I do not intend on running for placement, I am not running competitively.  I'm running because as someone who doesn't run, this is a challenge of great measure.  It does not matter if I come first, somewhere in the middle or stone cold last, I want to say that "I have finished", there is a lot of satisfaction in that.

Not only is the marathon a personal test, but as I work with runners on a day to day basis I feel that experiencing a part of them will help me, help them.  I want to put myself in their shoes, I want to expose myself to their highs and their lows.  Lets call it research.

I've always said to my clients that working with kettlebells will boost their levels of fitness, increase their cardiovascular output, and strengthen and develop their 'go muscles' because this is what I have experienced first hand.  However only now that I have hit the road running have I literally felt the surge of all the years of training come together.  My first 5km run, having not even run 100m in over five years was an absolute walk in the park.  My first 10km is still trying to catch up to me.

The ballistic training from kettlebells has increased my power output. My obsession with the kettlebell snatch has not only improved my technique and allowed me to lift heavier for longer but has built strength in my lower back and hip flexors which are vital muscle groups required in running.  My ability to keep running is owed to the fact that kettlebells have improved my conditioning and muscular endurance with less fatigue and lactic acid build up.

The two oceans is known as the worlds most beautiful marathon, I am excited to be a part of it.  I am nervous to be challenging my potential, yet I'm thrilled to be facing the truths of the journey to the end.

To the runners, this half marathon may be a quick afternoon run for you but a nerve racking task to me.  I feel light headed just thinking about facing the road. All though even if I fall flat on my face, at least I will be moving somewhat forward. I respect your sport and look forward to experiencing my first 'runners high', I salute you!

Time to get out the running shoes

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

All work and no pay

Day in and day out you have been busting your balls, sacrificing those office cupcakes, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, substituting your usual double brandy for a Castle Lite, bypassing the sweets isle in the grocery store and even spending 3 hours a day on the treadmill.  Yet come month end, you sneak into the bathroom, peer over your shoulder and jump on the scale, and that hated little indicator hasn't moved a notch.

You putting in the time, you feel like you paying the price yet you not getting the results?  So you resort to the couch with a bag of cheese curls.  High five.  Now that's taking initiative.

Firstly you need to get into the gym, because driving past it doesn't count.  Also, talking about going to the gym is like being a beauty pageant and talking about world peace.  A little less talk and a lot more action is necessary.

If you are however religiously hitting the sweat shop, on a daily basis and still not getting results. You need to reassess your workouts.  Most gym revelers are all about quantity and not quality, people tend to go into auto pilot with the backing track of some recently downloaded idols favourite, and are to busy learning the lyrics then concentrating on doing what they came to do.

Keep it fresh, provide a stimulus because the body easily adapts.  Going from the bench press to the pec dec to the treadmill, day after day, at the same intensity, your body is going to adjust.  The body recognizes exercise as a form of stress and when we stress our body the right way for too long it adapts.

Plan each workout thoroughly. Focus on what you are doing and increase the quality, push your aerobic capacity and your strength, increase the intensity, the volume and the duration of each exercise.  Brace yourself and push your boundaries all the time, every time.

Inconsistency is another ball player on the field of result-less effort.  The weekend comes and all goes out the window.  Going to the gym and then to happy hour is about as effective as eating your morning cereal with a fork.  If you want to see changes and feel changes, you need to change the way you think.  If you are going to set yourself a goal, commit to it.

Another huge mistake people tend to make in their drive to reach their goals, is in that they 'klap' the gym so hard, 3 hours a day, 7 days a week. Yet still, no results. You are doing more damage than good. Pushing yourself to that extent just results in overtraining.  Overtraining breaks you down and makes you weaker.  It is during the rest and recover periods that you are getting stronger, it is in this time that regeneration occurs.

Too much training does not allow your body the period to restore.  Overtraining results in degeneration, fatigue, lowered performance, lowered resistance to illness, mood swings, consistent muscle pain, and the list goes on.

An important note to bare in mind is that abs are made in the kitchen and not in the gym.  Its 70% diet and 30% exercise that contributes to weight.  There are a million books on weight loss, hundreds of methods and most people unfortunately try and fail with each program, and each one goes up in smoke, and then they turn to the next one. 

What they don’t realize is that yo-yo dieting causes a ‘metabolic disaster’, when cycles of weight gain and weight loss are repeated over and over, their energy burning process decreases with weight loss as the body adapts to the lower energy intake, and then when they start eating energy rich foods again they gain more weight than before.

Every time the destructive yo-yo cycle is repeated, the body’s ability to burn fat decreases until you reach a point where weight loss theoretically becomes close to impossible. 

Following a healthy eating play combined with daily exercise is the only road to success, and not just for the next 2 months but for life.

Improve your lifestyle, make the necessary changes and follow the basic rules and you too will receive a satisfying pay check at the end of the month

Friday, 11 November 2011

The power of plyometrics

Do you ever sit and watch the guys from the NBA? I mean really watch the sportsmen, not the game? Besides the fact that these altitudinous men could easily trip over Tom Cruse and fall with their faces in another hemisphere, these guys can jump.

A sportsman's height or physique has little to do with their abilities to elevate themselves beyond their center of gravity.  Football players, MMA fighters, gymnasts, rugby players, these sportsmen all require explosive power for optimal performance. However even the weekend warrior, housewife or average gym junkie should include explosive training into their regimes.

Developing raw strength and rapid power increases your muscular endurance, efficiency, function and capacity. It improves your rate-of-force production, improves your performance, boosts metabolic rate, enhances your ability to burn calories and of course gives you samurai like characteristics to run raster, jump higher, throw further and punch harder.

Training for fast powerful movements is done through methods of plyometrics.  Plyo's involve using the resistance of gravity to elevate stored elastic energy in muscles during the eccentric (muscle lengthening) contraction.  Energy is then discharged during the concentric (muscle shortening) contraction which results in an explosive burst.  Therefor increasing the muscles performance.

In ninja terms your muscle is contracting before it is expanding.  These fast powerful movements improve the way your nervous system works and therefor enhances your functioning and efficiency.  However plyo training does require a pre-requisite of strength work.  Smashing out plyometric push ups (clap push ups) are going to be virtually impossible if you don't already have the core and upper body strength to handle a normal military push up.

Plyometric exercises load your muscles and then contracts them in a rapid sequence. Training your body to contend with the speed or force of the contractions takes time. Rome wasn't built in a day and assuming after 10 box jumps you are going to be able to crack out slam dunks like Michael Jordan, is just going to leave you face down on the floor, in your own sweat.

Include vertical jumps, over head throws, tuck jumps, slams, drop jumping, squat jumps, and plyo push ups into your drills and perform them in a smooth and integrated fashion as quick as possible with as little ground contact time as possible.

Soon enough you will jump like Jordan and bend it like Beckham.


Monday, 07 November 2011

Interview with Trent Murgatroyd

This weekend I managed to get a few minutes with the 'Murgatroyd' himself.  Trent is the regional representative of IKFF Africa and holds both his CKT and RKC in kettlebell training.  Trent hails from a prevalent background of martial arts, and has been lifting kettlebells for the last 8 years.  

Aside from being a self made superhero, Trent has worked with some of the top world ranked competitors in Boxing, Judo, Enduro, cycling and mountain biking.  His extensive knowledge and experience within the sporting world is truly humbling.

Trent is an inspiring teacher, a dedicated student and a coach that every aspiring trainer should take the time to work under.  His workout regimens are challenging, functional and fulfilling in every way.  He calls on your inner beast and lets it out to play whilst instilling discipline, development and personal motivation.

Here's what the Murgatroyd had to say.

Kettlebells are still very much an unknown quantity here in South Africa, as a true patriot, ambassador and athlete of ‘GS’ what are your views on the future of KB’s in our country and what would the ‘Murgatroyd’ have to say had he the chance to talk to the nation?

Awareness about Russian kettlebell training has grown significantly in South Africa, especially over the past few years. Just a decade or so ago, when one spoke of Kettlebell training, the standard response would be a confused “Huh?” … A descriptive explanation would then be necessary. Since then, however, there has been a noticeable growth in the awareness of kettlebell training – thanks primarily to Megan of Pace & Power.  She has, in all probability, single-handedly raised the awareness of this type of training to the general public in SA via her extensive database. And although kettlebell training is now a familiar concept, many “gym-rats” have yet to muster the courage to step outside of their set routines and experience a session with the bells. 

I am obviously delighted with this rapid growth and increased demand for kettlebell training, but many personal trainers have been “climbing on the bandwagon” by teaching kettlebells without having completed any internationally-recognised kettlebell certification. To make matters worse, many of the well-known Personal Training Schools are not certified to offer kettlebell courses! Many of their lecturers have not been properly trained to teach kettlebells. This is indeed a disturbing trend: Kettlebell training, as I am sure you are aware, is not a standard “gym” exercise routine where the risk of injury is relatively lower. The ballistic/ plyometric nature of Kettlebell training increases the risk of injury if the move is not executed correctly: And so, if your trainer is showing you incorrect technique, the risk getting injured rises exponentially.

That said, Kettlebells are an awesome training tool if used correctly – In fact, professional Kettlebell Sport (Girevoy Sport) has one of the LOWEST recorded injury rates when compared to almost any other professional sports in the world. This is because technique is taught systematically; athletes are progressed with caution and judiciousness. According to recorded history, Kettlebells have been around for at least 3 centuries – and so it makes sense for us latecomers to pay attention to hundreds of year’s experience that lies in this momentous Grandfather of physical conditioning. Steve Cotter, who is the head of the IKFF, has had the privilege of training with the best Russian kettlebell coaches worldwide and he shares his cutting-edge training technology as part of the CKT Certifications. The IKFF Certifications are, in essence, the "gold standard" of kettlebell certifications. And so, as head of IKFF Africa, (the International Kettlebell Fitness Federation), my message to South Africans is that if you’re considering training with kettlebells, MAKE SURE THAT YOUR KETTLEBELL INSTRUCTOR IS PROPERLY CERTIFIED through an INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED institution.

You have earned yourself much respect amongst local kettlebell revelers, as the ‘Murdertroyd’ and act as a mentor to myself and many others with your disciplined, challenging, and functional methods of laying down the law training wise.   What advice could you give to other aspiring lifters who strive to be effective and successful coaches?

To be a successful coach, one needs to understand the application of sound training principles as they apply to that unique individual: Periodisation and progression in relation to frequency, intensity, duration as well as the type of exercise selected for that particular athlete or individual. A key principle in kettlebell training is not allowing the participant to go too heavy too soon! Steve Cotter emphasises this careful and prudent approach!

Besides the above, to be a successful coach, mutual respect is imperative: The oldest person whom I have trained was my 90-year old grandmother. Great respect to her! In addition, I never ask my students to do anything that I, myself would not be prepared to do: I place value on earning respect, and respecting the folk with whom I train.

Lastly, and by no means least, to be an exceptional coach, one needs to stay “in the loop”. I personally re-certify with the head of the IKFF every year to stay ahead my game. I believe in sharing my knowledge generously – The passion and love I have for kettlebell training makes this a sheer delight and pleasure to do!

As a child of the seventies you have seen your fair share of training tools come and go over the years, how do you think these pieces of Russia differ and personally how have you seen yourself and your training styles grow through kettlebells?

Uhmmm... child of the sixties actually *blush* :-[
kettlebells to be, by far, the most effective for me. In the words of Steve Cotter, kettlebell training is a blend of strength, power, cardiovascular fitness, muscle endurance and core stability. In terms of athletic conditioning for various sports, Kettlebells are one of the most effective prepping tools: The entire body is loaded on every repetition, strengthening the core and various movement patterns, preparing the athlete’s body to withstand the demands of the sport. I have trained “ordinary” folk of all ages and fitness/strength levels, as well as top athletes, and with kettlebells, there is always a significant improvement in their performance!

Rumour has it John Buckley used the Murgatroyd as a tool to perform the ‘Windmill’, could you tell our readers what the deal was here?

When a VERY strong fella giant, weighing about 400 lbs/180 kgs (at the time), decides to do a 1-arm press - using you as the “kettlebell”, I thought it wouldn’t be terribly wise to decline. I was honoured to be lifted to such heights! John has since lost more than 100lbs/45 kgs and is now not only incredibly strong, he is fit and lean too. John also performed a 1-arm barbell snatch using a 60kg Olympic bar; as well as a double “bottoms-up” press using 2 x 32kg kettlebells. He is a really strong guy!

You are a remarkable teacher, yet also a student – where to next for you?

I think of myself more as a student than a teacher. When one ceases to learn, one ceases to evolve.  The kettlebell journey has taught me much! And with this journey, I have discovered my passion :-)
Next up? More fun with greater expansion! We have already embarked on a program to take kettlebells into the rest of Africa. It makes so much sense! Kettlebells are such a simple, yet effective training tool that can be used anywhere, anytime… and really, they should be available to everybody. It's not supposed to be an elitist sport. Africa has some incredible natural athleticism, but lacks good training tools and systems. A kettlebell is an affordable item - you don’t need 26 pieces of gym equipment to get full body conditioning: One kettlebell will suffice! I also believe that kettlebells can play a significant role in raising our standard in the international sports arena where we are currently lagging - such as rugby and soccer. We are told that the All-Blacks have been using kettlebells as part of their sports-conditioning for some time now. Given their results in the recent World Cup, that’s an exciting trend! 

The IKFF with its systematic approach has much to offer South Africa and Africa as a whole - It is truly an honour to be associated with them! 

Thanks for your time Trent, we look forward to having you back on local soil in the near future.

Thursday, 03 November 2011

I choose to sweat

I am not an addict to fitness, I am not obsessed and I am not an extremist. Yes, I push my body, I push my own limits, I break my own records, I challenge myself. I choose to feel alive rather than hungover. I choose to release my spirit rather than contain its potential.  Lazy is your choice, dedication is mine.

Why do I choose to sweat?

1) Nobody can understand a comfort zone quite like someone who distances themselves from it entirely. Spending an hour in the rain pushing iron to the elements, fighting fatigue, challenging your muscles potential and holding on when your body is begging for you to stop.  When that weight hits the ground, that moment the pain subsides, that feeling, that rush of blood to every muscle in your body.  That feeling of being completely alive.

2) Setting yourself a physical challenge, whether it be completing the comrades or finally smashing the 20 dead hang pull ups you have been working so hard to achieve. Achieving it.  That feeling of knowing that you have tried, tested and smashed it. The possibilities are endless.

3) Finally seeing how mental strength over powers physical strength tenfold.  Your body begs for mercy but your mind gives it horns. Believe me when you smashing out 12 minute planks, your fatigue sets in at 6 minutes, your body has given in by 8, the last 4 minutes were all mental.

4) I am not competitive, I do not care if you can jump higher, run faster or push heavier than I can.  I sweat because breaking my own records is the most rewarding and fulfilling conviction I have experienced

5) Being in the zone.  You can only really understand being in the zone when you in it.

I can be cliche and continue on about how fitness and strength will change your life forever, how it promotes longevity, how good it is for your heart, your blood pressure and preventing thousands of diseases.  But for me its more about how it changes the way you see and experience the world.

In French they say "Qui s'excuse s'accuse" He who excuses himself, accuses himself

I am not obsessed, I am dedicated