Thursday, 24 May 2012

Time to get schooled

I am an ex professional student, if I could earn a living from studying, I would never have ended my career in Varsity hopping.  Matriculating at a ripe 16 was never easy, having to decide how to define your future whilst still shopping in the kiddies section leaves you as confused as a fat kid with a salad.

I am passionate about many things, first and fore most, the culinary world.  This took me through many years getting educated, chopping at the grindstone and sweating buckets for countless hours in hotels around the world.  I earned my place in the society of the industry, I put in the hours, I put in the cash and I earned the respect of my peers.

Having since then returning to get schooled in Sports Science, and again hitting the books for years, starting in the trenches, following another passion, it has been difficult to say the least, however what I did learn from my years in the culinary world is that experience is key but education opens the door.  This applies to everything, every game.

You need the fundamentals to cut through the surface.  You need the basic knowledge to challenge mastering the game.  Having put myself through the marrow and the outdated theory, I did learn that some things never change, the anatomy will always be the anatomy.

Bringing me to my point,  spending a couple months training in a discipline doesn't earn you a level of mastery and ability to now coach in that discipline, nor does a 2 day workshop, or an online certification from the same institution that sells doctorates. These workshops may give you the right to teach but you owe your clientele the foundation.  On that same note, I have however seen qualified trainers dishing out programs and exercise sequences that should never have left the figments of their imagination.

Education and experience goes hand in hand.

Passion gives you direction, but hard work, experience and education gives you permission.

I have researched a handful of institutions in our country offering certifications in the exercise world, as outdated as they may be they give you the basics, they give you the right.  With this knowledge and background the world is yours for the taking, those 2 day workshops now become applicable, those weekend seminars and trips around the world to learn from the best can now be readily applied because you have that basic knowledge, you have that key.

The people in this industry are driven by their sentiment for it, yet the enthusiasm doesn't earn them a roof over their heads.  Education is not just attending an academy for a piece of paper, its ongoing, its evolving, its never ending research.

Its dissecting techniques, its breaking down mechanics, its learning a science, its reading hundreds of books, its spending time with the experts, its late night programming, early morning teaching and all day learning.  Trips to Mauritius, nights on the town, holidays in Maui and social gatherings take a back seat.  Its working through the trenches, its starting at the bottom, its keeping your head above the water while you learning from the best.

Personally going from a life of high rolling entertainment, celebrities, Dom Perignon and designer shoes to counting pennies, cereals for dinner, early mornings, late nights and mountains of debt was not easy, it is still not easy.  The time and dedication it takes to build up a business, compete against the market and offer something that is based on theoretical knowledge, years of learning and working with the experts, I know will someday make me really good at what I do.  Not today, not tomorrow but someday.

It is not all about scoring the winning touchdown, its about hard work, education, dedication and commitment to that very passion and enthusiasm that drove you to it.

If you claim to be passionate about something you will devote your last hour and your last cent to being the best at it.

You have to learn to crawl before you can walk.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Get back in the kitchen

What a cliche.  I hate this picture.  Not because every Tom, Dick and Muppet has posted it at some point onto their walls, their tweets, their cars or their foreheads, I hate it because as much as its so very true, its out there in your face all the time, yet people still don't believe it.

As a trainer, and many trainers reading this can relate to the infamous "I've done 1 million crunches and I still don't have a six pack"  you can do a million more, but if you still going to shovel donuts and McDonald's every chance you get, that tyre around your waist is going to be used as a piece of gym equipment very soon.

It doesn't matter if you run every morning at the crack of dawn, hit the gym every afternoon and close the evening with a session in Pilate's, as long as you not watching what you eat, you not going to achieve those goals.  Exercise of course plays an all important role in weight loss, it burns calories.  If the exercise is right, the post oxygen consumption is going to have you burning calories right through the night.  You going to build muscle and the muscle mass will increase your resting metabolism. I am not going to elaborate on the degenerate comments of weight training for woman bulking you up.  Cakes and chocolate bulk you up. But how pointless this all is if you going to hit a case of beer on the weekend and fill your lunch boxes with processed rubbish.

I'm not going to go any further into either subject, as they are subjects that have been covered in over a million books and at least 3 times on my blog alone.

If you cant get back into the kitchen and preparing yourself healthy natural food, if you cannot replace the bad with the good, then you cant get rid of your excess weight.  The magic pill does not exist.  I know that it is not easy, I know that it will take time to lose the weight and the stigma that comes with being overweight, I know that diet and exercise may not work for everyone as each person is different and wadda wadda fish paste.  I am aware.

I am merely just saying that exercise is not the big answer to losing weight.

You need to eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible, one should focus on their health, as being overweight is not the big problem, life expectancy is.

The big corporations will tell you whatever it is you want to hear to get you using and eating their products.  If you cannot pronounce an ingredient it is probably not food, acknowledge food labels.

It is all about your diet, it is all about your health.  I do not strive to get you being the best at exercise, I strive  to build your physical and mental strength, I strive to lengthen your life.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

From 60 to 30: A letter to my younger self

- A guest post by Terence Mitchell

Dear Terence

At the time of reading this you will be 29 years old and in the process of building your business and establishing yourself as a strength coach and your gym , Mitchell Strength.  As you well know your 20's have not been easy, there have been many , many personal setbacks, foolish choices, irrational decisions and you have paid the price for all of these.  However the point of this letter is not for looking back into your past but for looking forward into your future, by handing you advice that is going to carry you through for the next 30 years.  Use this letter as a road map , a kind of manifesto for life that will pull you through the tough times and set you up for the better times.


After years of training and following various programmes which were not necessarily all bad, you now know what needs to be done.  For as long as you have trained you have always known that it is the basics that get real results in the gym.  You have never shyed away from good old fashioned hard work, over the many years you have squatted, dead lifted, paid your dues with pull ups and chin ups, heavy rows and presses.  You have had to overcome injuries and set backs which have derailed you, but that is life and the same thing has happened many times to many lifters far stronger than yourself. 

However this did not stop them and will never stop you.
I would like to impart more advice just to make sure you stay the course and walk the path less travelled.

Stick with your basic 5/3/1 template for your 4 big lifts and have faith in the long term process.  You are getting stronger week by week, yes, that does not mean that you hit one rep max PRs by the month, you know very well that in the real world things don't work like that.  It becomes a game of inches, 3 steps forward 2 steps back, another kg here, another rep there.  You need to continue doing the things that other people fear, hate or just don't have the mental or physical resolve to stick with.  You are different and this is what will set you apart from the crowd.

There is something I also want to share with you that I want you to always remember especially when it comes to training.  When it gets boring its working! 

Remember Terence you are living in a soft, weak metrosexual age were people always want the next best miracle program,  celebrity diet, supplement or fancy piece of 'advanced' equipment, you need to fight this and love and respect what is 'boring' .  Boring works every time in the gym and in life, especially when the going gets tough.  For example: Squats, deads, heavy sand bags walks, farmers walks and hill sprints are considered boring by 99% of people but these great exercises WILL ALWAYS work and they will always build brute raw strength , incredible conditioning and a dangerously strong mind.  Fall in love and commit to what is boring and simple.  Do this for the rest of your life and you will not be sorry.

Now that I have made sure to keep you on the right path as far as strength training goes I need to remind you how important it is to be conditioned.  Here once again you know the deal, you have never been one to skimp on real conditioning work.  All through your time at high school training for rugby and after school training in the Royal Marines you knew what needed to be done.  You sprinted hills, you sprinted hard and your sprinted often, you were always the last one standing at the end, wanting to do that extra hill just to make sure you were truly done.  You never cheated when the coach or PTI turned his back as you always knew you were only going to cheat yourself. This kind of attitude has given and will continue to give you the greatest gift of all.  The gift of self respect.

Remember Terence people will not understand your obsession with hard conditioning, you don't need to do it because you plan on sprinting in a race,  you sprint because the hill is a metaphor for everything life will throw at you. The hill is long, steep and uncomfortable, you will be breathing hard, your lungs will be burning, your legs will be aching but you will finish what you set out to do. You will continue to sprint hills for no other earthly reason than the fact that you can!  You will view all obstacles and set backs in your life the same way you view a long steep hill that needs to be sprinted: With a never relenting self belief, loads of aggression and plenty attitude!


Terence the world is obsessed with material things that only create disorder, confusion and clutter. People will literally sell their souls in order to live somebody else's dreams.  People you know will blow through money that they did not have to earn, people will try and maintain outrageous lifestyles while the global economies literally crumble and consumer debt sky rockets.  But you are not going to fall into this trap because you know better.  You need to understand right now that money without sacrifice and work is a very dangerous thing.  You see it all the time with people you know very well.  Easy come easy go.  Always remember that real people are attracted to real confidence and self-reliance not flashy material things that mean nothing.  Remember that looking cool and trendy is for insecure little boys with precious egos to protect. 

Save 20% of your income.  This goes without saying.  Live within your means and If you want something that you cannot afford right now remember that you don't need to have it RIGHT NOW, instead save up for it.  I advise you to always pay for things with cash you actually have instead of using or owning a credit card.  Your goal is to be fully debt free and OWN everything you own!


By the time you reach your mid 30's you will sadly see the effects of ill health in many people that you know.  It is a sad reality, but you always knew that people have a choice.  Alcohol and smoking will ruin the lives of many people, however what is more concerning is how poor nutritional habits will continue to increase despite all the warnings.

You know this well but I will nevertheless remind you.

1. Eat as much natural, free range, organic fruit and veg as you can.
2. Always buy hormone free or organic chicken, grass fed free range beef and lamb, organic eggs.
3. NEVER eat sugar, wheat, soy, corn, beans, processed dairy.
4. Don't waste your money on protein shakes.  Always opt for real food.  It wins hands down every time.
5. Drink filtered water.
6. Drink very high quality coffee ground from the bean, organic cocoa and rooibos tea.
7. Eat grains in moderation and when you do always opt for whole grain rice's and quinoa.
You are on the right path so just keep going.


Here I am not talking about formal education.  I want to remind you of your responsibility to always be educating yourself.  Terence education never ends.  You will never know it all and you will never know enough!  You need to read as much as you possibly can, here 2 books per month is really a minimum.  When you have free time on the net use it wisely, follow up on what the worlds top coaches and nutritionists have to say.  Also there is more to life that your world i.e.: training and nutrition.  Educate yourself on things you might not like or understand.  Arts, culture, religion, philosophy.  There is no excuse in your day and age to be an ignorant fool.  Get out there and expand your mind.  A lifetime of information is literally at your finger tips so please I implore you to consider everything in this regard.


You have travelled quite a bit but you need to travel more.  When they ask people on their death beds what is one of their biggest regrets the answer often is that they did not travel more and see more of the world and learn more about its people.

Think about how much you learnt and gained from your few travels.  Learning just how different yet how similar people really are.  I know travelling is expensive and that is never going to change but you need to do what ever it takes to see and experience more of this world.

Attitude: Love, Life & Loss

Terence, my friend, life is not for the weak or the feint of heart.  You will lose people you love, special people will come into your life and they will leave.  Not all the people you are going to meet and spend time with are going to be with you forever.  This is the truth, as heart breaking as it is you need to accept it for what it is.

You will love many women and you will lose many women.  You will get your heart broken and you may very well break someones heart.

You will lose close friends, by distance or death.

But you need to understand it and be a man about it and strive on.

I cannot promise you that things are going to get easier, that your life is going to be obstacle and pain free.  But your attitude can determine so much.  You, as you are right now, as you read these words, have the choices and the tools to deal with anything life can throw at you.

Terence you know what needs to be done, now go and do it.

Your older self

* Inspired by Jim Wendlers Letters to my younger self

Monday, 14 May 2012

My animal diaries

We have progressed from animals.  That's my belief.  Evolution is how it came to be. I'm not going to go into that much further. Politics, religion and once being a close relative of an ape are things people don't like to agree on, so lets just leave it at that.

Keeping our heritage of natural animalistic instincts and movements in mind, let me introduce you to something that has hit the calisthenic (body weight training) world by storm over the last few years.

Enter 'Animal Flow'.  If you have heard of animal flow, you have heard of Mike Fitch, this beautiful specimen is the non traditionalist trainer that with a passion for body weight training has developed what we know as animal flow and taken over the globe with his unique methodologies and result driven approach.

I have written many articles on the awesomeness that is calisthenics, I practice bar tending, I coach in body weight techniques and I sleep, dreaming of physiques like Fitch.  There are multiple body weight disciplines and each contender needs to find their niche.  I have a thing for Mikes niche it seems.

Animal flow in a nutshell, is taking the disciplines of calisthenics and combining them with fluid and efficient movements, much like the movements of an animal.  These 2 methodologies hand in hand increases mobility, flexibility, endurance, stability, builds raw power and assists greatly in neuromascular development.

Personally I see animal flow as more of a discipline than a workout that requires practice, as any skill would.

To save you from the split second it takes on google, check out Mikes site

I have seen the gains, I have seen the improved efficiency and I have seen the changes in my clients and in my body personally from body weight training.  Some hit the pec dec, some hit the treadmill, I combine calisthenics, hill sprints, kettlebells and lifting heavy shit to get me mastering my body.  I strongly believe with a combination like that there is only one way, and that's up.

Here's a list of things that I do not go a day without:

Chin Ups/Pull Ups:  I cannot express how vital this exercise is to your physical diet.  They build wings that will literally make you fly and in turn assist you in all your heavy lifts.

Handstand Push ups: Pressing your entire body weight is tough, I do not need to explain that.  This move builds shoulders like nothing else will and improves your overall athleticism.

Pistol Squats: The one legged squat is a serious feat of strength, it builds every muscle in the lower body whilst building co-ordination, balance and raw strength

Bridges: Purely for the health of your spine, we spend hours bent over our computers, reverse that call, for your body, for your health - everyday.

Push ups: This exercise is too often forgotten, its loathed in every variation it comes in but it builds your back, your shoulders, your arms, your core, your strength endurance, and it builds serious mental fortitude in high numbers.

Its your body, its your vehicle, master it.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

My rules to eat by

I don't believe in diets, eating plans or fancy fluff.  I don't believe in any of the dribble that goes with it.  I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian and I do not proclaim to know any more than the average person.  There are millions of books out there, hundreds of different trends, a thousand opinions and even more approaches to these options.

With each different 'plan' comes an interpretation.  Old 'Noakes' and his Carte Blanche extravaganza sent this country into turmoil and a giant heap of confusion, should we eat animal fat, shouldn't we eat fat, should I cook like this or like that?  It makes me feel sick to the stomach.

I have a simple set of rules that I live by, and that's it.  I do not count calories, I do not weigh my celery sticks and I do not stand on my head while I eat chocolate to avoid it going to my hips.

If I got a buck for every stupid weight loss/weight gain technique I'd heard of, I would be suntanning on the deck of my house in the french riviera sipping a glass of Armand de Brignac.

It's simple, if it has come from the earth, I eat it.  I am also a meat eater, in fact there is very little I do not eat.  I'm not going to sit here and tell you how packed with protein and how low in saturated fats Impala and Kudu are because you cant just walk into your local and ask for 2kgs, so its pointless.  What I can tell you is to stop being fooled by the labels 'free range' and 'hormone free' the birds are about as free as a man on death row and hormone free just means that the hormones are out of the animals system.

All I can advise is to speak to your locals and find a good source, they are out there.  If you are serious about your meat source I can suggest you get your hands on a book by Jonathan Safran Foer called 'Eating Animals' (Not pro vegetarianism) but it will give you some fantastic direction and some great options.

Eat your salad and eat your vegetables,  support your locals and buy seasoned goods. The darker the produce, the better for you.  Beetroot and spinach outweigh button mushrooms and lettuce tenfold.

I try stick to non wheat wholegrain as in my opinion now a days the wheat available has been mutated to far along for safe human consumption.  In fact bread and its derivatives are an entire blog post on its own... yawn.

I am allergic to nuts, so if I cant have it, you cant hear about it.

Your body needs fat to survive, don't think for a moment that cutting every type of fat out of your diet is going to do you good, I live on olive oil, if I could order it on ice I would, olive oil goes everywhere, including my home made ice cream - try it, black pepper and a drizzle of good Italian olive oil, you will never look back.

Organic sugar, fruit sugar, date sugar, invert sugar...the operative word here being sugar, get rid of it.

I have a sweet tooth, I love chocolate, I can make love to chocolate, sometimes I wonder if my purpose here is for the chocolate, however I stick to 85% - 90% cocoa, the list of benefits are overwhelming - google it.

Salt is my weakness, I sometimes put it on my toothpaste to improve that taste.  If you share my sentiment get rid of the white salt its highly processed and coloured salts contain more trace minerals, I use Himalayan, its affordable and available almost everywhere.  Sodium is low in high protein users so the higher the protein intake the more salt you may need.

I don't drink calories, I drink water.  People are so quick to cut out what they perceive as bad in their diets but they'll quickly chug down an energy drink, a soft drink or a low fat milkshake.  Vital mistake.

I don't get too excited about fruit, the body converts fruit to fat if you eat to much of it.

My biggest rule of all, don't ever reward yourself with food - you are not lucky enough to be an animal.

Tuesday, 08 May 2012

What I've learnt in the last 6 months

A guest post by Terence Mitchell

1.   I love the prowler.  I think it's a great conditioning tool.  However after almost a year of combining hill sprints with prowler sprints, I've made up my mind.  Hill sprints are superior.  
They tax my body, my legs and more importantly my mind.  Yes, I know anyone can load a prowler to 200kg, push it for 25 meters, then collapse in a heap, but that will do little for them.  Hill sprinting builds champions. The history books have many examples so I don't need to go into them here.  I also really wish I could get more ladies into hill sprinting.  So far I have got one of my clients into sprinting hills consistently and her results are awesome.

2.  Pull-ups can mess up the shoulders.  Chin ups are more user friendly.  I get more carry over to my pressing movements and deadlifts via chin ups then pull ups.  Pull ups I suppose are more 'difficult' per se but they are just not as biomechanically awesome as chins.  Well, at least in my opinion and I have been doing both non stop since I was 12.  If I could go back in time I would have never done a single pull-up and focused all my efforts towards chins.

3.  I think an agility ladder is gay and a joke.  If you think hot stepping' through one of those things is going to make you a better athlete I pity you.

4.  Jumping is everything awesome.  A client of mine who is a pro boxer has done jumping specific training with me twice a week for almost 6 months and this guy is becoming a freak!!  If I could go back in time to when I was a young athlete, I would of jumped like my life depended on it.

5.  Medicine balls are awesome if you have the right weight for the right athlete AND you are not doing lame shit with them like over head presses or using them for push ups.  These things are meant to be thrown!  So make sure you throw them!

6.  If you can lift heavy stuff and jump and sprint, you are about as functional as you can be as a human.  Let this be the end of the debate!

7.  We are all more or less the same, so therefore all the basic principles of strength, speed, conditioning, mobility, nutrition and recovery apply to all of us.  Stop thinking that you are some special snowflake!

8.  It is possible to drop ten kilos and get back to your previous lifting maxes BUT it will be difficult and it will require tremendous patience and you will have an initial drop of strength by at least 20% if you are lucky.  It has taken me a full 10 months to do this.  I was expecting it to take a year because I am not naive about shit.  So I'm delighted it only took me 10 months.

9.  You become a better trainer by training people as individuals.  Weird hey.  It does not count if you train 50 people at once.  That just becomes a chaotic gang bang of a boot camp.  It counts when you program for over 50 people individually day in and day out for over 5 years.  Ten years being ideal.

10.  If you cannot save 10% of your salary when you earn peanuts what makes you think you will be able to save 10% of your salary when you are a high roller??  Shit is relative.  Another example:  If you can't get results with the the most simple bits of equipment, it will count for naught if you have the chance to train in the most perfectly equipped facility.

11.  When men pussy out on their responsibilities as men, women take over and step up.  This is serious and something that is happening more and more in the modern age in which we live.  With this comes a legion of estrogen dominant men who become full time child minders and casual joggers (relax, I just love taking the piss out of joggers) while their wives go out and take charge and make their decisions for them!  Remember Men were born to take charge and lead.  Countries, armies and families!!

12.  I urge you to write a training manifesto.  Something that keeps you aligned to your goals and more importantly your training values.  A manifesto is cool during the good times when you rollin' BUT when you become unstuck, hit that frustrating plateau and need some motivation to kick your own ass, this is when a manifesto becomes essential as it will remind you why you do what you do and what needs to be done in order to forge ahead and stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Remember a training manifesto is not a list of goals, that is also important and a good idea but a manifesto is more of a mission statement.  Goals can become loose and lofty without a detailed plan and a detailed manifesto will ingrain that plan into your mind-set.

13.  The better I eat and the more money I spend on quality foods the better I feel.  This is profound because the graph so to speak does not flat line after a period of time!  It continues to climb!  Better is better so much better is MUCH better!!

14.  Sex is a funny old thing.  The more sex I have the more natural testosterone I produce so therefore the better I feel, the faster I recover, the stronger I lift and more body fat I burn.  This is not me trying to be funny this is scientific fact so hate the game not the player.

Wednesday, 02 May 2012

Face Plant Syndrome

About three weeks ago I set myself a challenging physical goal.  I have had this goal stored in my bank for some time now as something long term. A 'one day when I grow up' kind of goal, and three weeks ago I decided to make a 'one day', a 'today'.

Once I have made a decision to achieve something, I give it my everything, all else begins to play second fiddle.

My goal requires solid, consistent training in its field.  Devotion, commitment and dedication, and hell I threw every aspect of my being at it without altering my current regiment around it.

My job is based around developing people, physically, yet the mental side of personal development goes along with it.  I program, I structure, I plan and I put people into action.  I have the methodology, the skill and the attitude yet I struggle to put the pieces together in my own personal puzzle.

Having an addictive personality, and having battled a dependence in the past the natural endorphins released by exercise can be an addiction, and have been.  I look past the science, I look past the signs and I look past the advice to my own detriment, every time.

Three weeks in and I have literally hit a wall. Game Over, do not pass begin, do not collect R200.

Enter the 'overtraining syndrome'.  As a professional, I know that as far as exercise goes, less is more.  I preach the importance of rest and recovery so often to my clients.  When your volume of exercise exceeds your recovery capacity you are going to lose strength and you are going to lose fitness.

Yet applying it to my own story was a different story all together.

The fact of the matter is that strength improvements occur after your rest period, and sometimes if you have been hitting it excessively hard it is going to take more than just one day to recover, it can take a few days depending on the intensity.

What most don't realize is that overtraining is a very real danger for those that are engaging in a physical culture.  It is no secret that in order to improve your performance in something you have to work hard at it.  Hell, in order to be the best, in order to beat your opponent you are going to need to put in the time.

Hard work will however break you down, putting in the time to be the best also means putting in the rest. Its the recovery period that makes us stronger, without it your performance will just plateau.

Not only have I repeated these very things to my clients, but I have instilled it into their way of thinking.  However, now actually experiencing the signs and symptoms from first hand experience can I better apply my teachings.

I have been personally HITTing it hard everyday, not having any down time, my rest days have been spent actively resting, where I should have had my feet up and allowed my body recovery, I have chosen to instead of shifting heavy objects around hit the hills at ridiculous hours in the morning, in the rain.

Before you burn yourself out, before you hit that wall, look out for any general aches and pains in your body,   signs of fatigue, drowsiness, decreased appetite, a notable drop in your performance, insomnia, and anything outside of your normal superhero capabilities, are generally signs of 'face plant syndrome'

Wise up, feet up and slow down.