Catch up

According to the screen in front of me, I’m currently travelling at a speed of 508mph at an altitude of 34000 feet and I’m approaching the halfway point of my flight from London to Toronto. I’m on my way to Canada where I’ll be staying for seven weeks on a work secondment. Truth be told I’m looking forward to it. Even though I’m working, so this isn’t a vacation, a change of scenery is good once in a while. 

It’s been a while so here’s a bit of a catch up. 

Last time I wrote, my training was frustrated because my right shoulder was suffering from an impingement which meant I couldn’t lift anything. I went to a regular NHS physio, and while the guy was really nice and very knowledgable, I don’t think he was used to dealing with patients with sports related injuries. In his waiting room all his patients were old, which I think is telling. Anyway, once we got to a point where I had full range of movement with no pain then he signed me off, saying my shoulder would be fine in a few weeks. Anyway a few weeks came and went and my shoulder was not fine. I had full range of motion but I still couldn’t lift anything. It seems the NHS is not interested in getting people back to a position where they can perform, they are only concerned with getting their patients back to a ‘normal’ quality of life (whatever that is) with minimal pain. Not what I was after. 

After a further six months of training frustration, I made an appointment with the guys at Kettlebell Fever in Bracknell.  These guys are really knowledgable and the person who dealt with me, Roger McCarthy is a wizard. I had 5 sessions with them at £90 a session. You might think this is expensive, but it depends on your point of view. I think it was worth every penny. Instead of dealing directly with my shoulder (which is what the physio did), he looked at things like my posture, my hip mobility, my squat and deadlift form. By doing this we introduced more mobility into my thoracic spine, more stability into my scapular, and identified a deficiency in my right hip which was probably linked to the issue with my right shoulder. Anyway, after these 5 sessions over a period of 3 months my shoulder was much better and I had moved from a position of despair of ever being free of pain and lifting again, to one of hope. I wasn’t fixed completely, but I was on the road to recovery. This set me up for the next stage which was simple and sinister.

Simple & Sinister is a book written by Pavel Tsatsouline and it outlines a very simple training program that has one aim, to get you stronger. The program is very simple indeed, everyday you perform 100 one arm kettlebell swings and 10 Turkish get ups.   Once you can do the 100 swings, in sets of 10, in 5 minutes then you start moving up in size in the swings, and once you can do all 10 get ups in 10 minutes then you start moving up in size in the get ups. You start with a 16Kg kettlebell and work your way up to the 24Kg and then on to the 32Kg. This is the simple goal and is good enough for most people. If however you’re a bit of a beast then you can aim for using a 48Kg bell. The program is simple, but the results are sinister, hence the title of the book. I started the program in December. With the work I had done with Kettlebell fever I could perform getups with a 16Kg bell without pain (previously I couldn’t) so that’s where I started. It felt good to be able to follow a program properly again. Very soon I started adding reps in with 24Kg bell, and by Feb/March I was performing all get ups with the 24Kg and I was also homing in on getting all swings done with the 24 in 5 min. This was really good progress and my shoulder felt amazing. I even had days where it didn’t hurt at all and I stopped thinking about it constantly. Around this time kettlebell fever released their own brand of kettlebell so I ordered  a 32Kg one. It took a few weeks to arrive but when it did it felt like Christmas! Man that thing felt heavy, and the amazing thing was, that even after a handful of swings with the 32, the 24 seemed really small and light. 
It’s now July and I’m currently performing 80 of my swings with the 32 and I’ve recently started doing all of the Getups with the 32. Still way longer than the target time, but once I’ve got all the reps I can work on decreasing the time. The result is that I’ve never felt stronger nor more mobile. I get a slight twinge in my shoulder now and then but nothing much, my posture is greatly improved, I move better and don’t have any nagging pains anywhere. This is down to Simple & Sinister and Original Strength. 

Original Strength is a book written by Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert and this book literally rocked my world. It describes how we can regain pain free movement and become strong by regaining our original strength, and we do this by training the same way a baby does. This sounds strange but it really works. If you look at a toddler, they have a perfect squat pattern, they can also run around, fall over and bounce back up again without any issues. It’s only when we send our children to school and force them to sit for hours on end that they start to lose this. They lose there original strength. We all have the same movement patterns hard wired into us, so by training in such a way as to strengthen them, even remind ourselves of them again, means we regain that original, or reflexive strength we had as a child. The result is a loss of pain and huge strength gains. Basically, if your small stabiliser muscles are doing their job properly, then your big prime mover muscles don’t have to compensate and they can do their job properly (it is slightly more complex than that but it’s not too far off I think). The way to do that, as I said earlier, is to train like a baby. Head nods, rolling on the floor, rocking on hands and knees, and crawling, lots and lots of crawling. Crawling forwards, backwards and side to side. Crawling on hands and knees, crawling on hands and feet like a leopard or Spider-Man. I’ve been doing these exercises (or resets as they are called in the book) mainly as a warm up before my kettlebell training and it’s been good. But you can also use Original Strength as your main training program on its own if you want, which is what I’m planning on doing whilst I’m in Canada. A 32Kg kettlebell kind of messes with your luggage allowance so I needed a body weight program to follow for a few weeks, and as I was using Original Strength anyway, it seemed only natural to use that. The plan is really simple, instead of lifting weights for 30-40 minutes in the morning before work, which is what I usually do, then I’m going to rock, roll and crawl for that time instead. Sounds easy but it isn’t. Try crawling on your hands and feet with your hips lower than your shoulders for one minute solid and I guarantee your heart will be racing and you’ll be feeling it in all sorts of places. So I’m going to start with 1min on, 1 min off for twenty minutes to make 10 minutes of crawling time and see how far I can go with reducing the rest time. The aim is to get to crawling for 10 minutes straight without resting. I’m looking forward to it and I’m interested to see how it affects my strength when I get back to the UK. The benefits of crawling aren’t just physical either and hopefully I’ll get round to writing a post about that. In the meantime you could order their book. I can’t recommend it enough. 

Since my last post I’ve also changed my diet a bit and started making sure I get enough fat, rather than just reducing carbs. I’m also trying to be completely gluten free. I’m also still intermittently fasting during the day. I enjoy it and I seem to be doing well on it. If anyone asks what I do or what diet I follow then I say I’m on the paleo diet. Strictly speaking I’m not, it’s just that it’s easier to explain and is close to what I do. I haven’t measured anything but I feel good. My typical day looks like this : get up and spend some time praying and reading my bible, go down stairs perform Original Strength resets followed by Simple & Sinister training. After that I have a bulletproof coffee, which is coffee made with butter (yes butter) instead of milk, and MCT oil. I have a shower and then a protein shake made with one scoop of powder. At work I’ll have no food until lunch time where I’ll have some salad leaves and a hard boiled egg or some avocado. In the afternoon I’ll have a handful of nuts. In the evening I’ll have my main meal which is usually some form of meat like chicken or burgers or sausages with veg and a carb like sweet potato. I’ll also have a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate. I may also have some dessert which could be some fruit (berries mainly but also bananas – too sugary I know!) with cream, or if my wife has made any, then I’ll have some gluten free fruit scones. Like I said earlier I’m kind of paleo but I’m not strictly following it, however having a diet that has a high percentage of fat, and avoiding processed food is as far as I can tell probably the best way to go and everyone should do it. Not only have I pretty much maintained my body fat ratio without a struggle and endless cardio, I’ve gained some muscle even though my training isn’t really a muscle building program. I feel alert during the day, I’m not hungry and I don’t suffer from cravings.  It’s all good. 

So that’s where I am at the moment. I’m looking forward to my time in Canada, especially the middle three weeks when my wife and daughter will be coming out to stay with me.  The people in Canada are really polite and nice, which is good because it means that strange guy crawling around like Spider-Man in the Burlington lake shore park area won’t get too many funny looks. 

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