Most resistance training equipment can be used outdoors. But some still require a solid and stable ground (like Olympic Barbells). Advantages of kettlebells over other resistance training equipement is that it requires very minimal maintenance cost. It can be used at the beach and would have minimal damage (a very thin rust) if not wiped clean after getting wet with sea water. You can practice juggling with it too. Here is a sample workout when you want to have fun at the beach.

 

Here is another routine which you can build upon. You can copy it as it is or modify the repetitions of each exercise. Three tips are given at the end of the video. Try it and don’t forget to comment!

Here is a quick warm-up routine for your kettlebell training. Some would want to add some more calisthenics and stretches which is great.

The nice thing about kettlebells is that they are very versatile. You can train your whole body almost anywhere. Sometimes I do it outdoors. It adds to the fun. Here is a routine which is quick but offers enough challenge. You can add reps per exercise or do more than one set. Enjoy! And don’t forget to leave your comments.

Late last year, I had the honor to support a runner from my beloved city. Sandi Menchi came all the way to Hong Kong from Baguio city, Philippines to participate in “The North Face 100- Hong Kong 2016”. She was endorsed by Sir Jonel Mendoza, our editor – in -chief at frontRunner.

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The finish line finally! (Photo courtesy of Andre Blumberg)

Just to make it clear, I am not a dietician nor a nutritionist. I am a Strength and Conditioning coach. So I may not be very technical in my approach to nutrition. But I try to be practical and to make things simpler. It would be useless to make a detailed and complicated chart that computes the minute nutritional and energy requirements of an activity if it cannot be implemented.

Our muscle tissues are our “engine”. We need glucose, stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver, for fuel when we run races. We need our body fat to keep us insulated, as well as a steady energy source for low level activities. Running 100 kilometres requires a lot of energy and fluid. Our muscles store energy in the form of glycogen which will be broken down to glucose when needed as fuel. Our liver and muscle cells are able to store glycogen but is only able to fuel around 20 to 30kms of running. After that, the body will have to rely on body fat for fuel- which takes a longer time to break down. It may even start to break down muscle tissues as energy source, which is not good.

So in order to keep you going, you have to take in food- and not just food, you need to take in carbohydrates. Here are some tips we used during the TNF 100:

1.Make sure you eat well 1-2 days before the event. Not only on the night before. Eat a lot of carbohydrates and food which does will not upset your digestive system. This is where the term carbo loading comes from. It is basically filling your muscles and liver with glycogen days before the actual race. Of course, drink a lot of fluids especially water. Refrain from alcoholic drinks though.

2.Prepare snacks pre-packed in single servings. Better to have with you one to two servings of food that you like. Even though there are aid stations where you can eat, or where you expect to meet your support crew, it is better to prepare for the worst. In Sandi’s case, we boiled camote where were then wrapped in bite sized portions. I made sure she has them the night before the race, not during the start of the race. Kamote, for those who eat it often, gives you that sustained energy, plus the “turbo” effect (for those who know what I mean!)

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A refill bag of kamote in the checkpoint just in case she needed them. One piece is just enough size for a quick snack and individually wrapped for convenience. (photo courtesy of Amornphand Hanrpanichphand)

Kamote is what we handed Sandi to bring with her. Andre was her main support crew but I informed them that I will meet them at CP5 with warm siopao. Prior to the race, I learned she loves siopao so it is one of the foods that was prepared for her. There were also some chocolate bars, chips – to replace sodium lost through sweat; energy drinks; and some more siopao. Another kababayan, Sir Bong, also prepared a delicious meal for her and was also waiting for her at another CP at a later part of the race. For the support crew, it would help the runner a lot if you would also provide encouraging news and prepare all other things the runner may need in order to minimize time spent at checkpoints.

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She likes siopao so we also prepared some. It has carbohydrates, sodium, and amino acids- which helps in the feeling of satiety. Better to run not feeling hungry! (photo courtesy of Amornphand Hanrpanichphand)

 

3.Make sure you also have adequate sodium intake, but not too much. I also prepared chips- yes- the junk food. It has lots salt. If you are fine with it, it is also a way of ingesting sodium without overloading on it since you cannot eat that much bag of chips on the checkpoints. But it may be easy to overdose yourself with salt tablets or salt sticks. (In case you were wondering, Sandi did not eat the chips. She had the siopao instead).

4.Use energy gels which you like. During the race, do not try a brand which you are not familiar with. Some do not like the taste which makes it harder to swallow. Make sure you take gels, energy bars, rehydration salts and drinks which would not upset your stomach. If you estimate that you will be at the last stages of the race at night time, better prepare some gel with caffeine or arrange to have coke or coffee. It helps to keep you alert so hopefully you won’t miss trail marks.

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Andre really prepared very well! (photo courtesy of Andre Blumberg)

5.In relation to number 4, do not rely only on energy gels for fuel. That is why it is good to bring bite sized snacks to eat in between checkpoints (e.g. the Kamote). Bring some chocolates, bread, fruits which would not get squashed. And again, carbohydrates require a lot of water to digest so drink water as you eat to make sure you can absorb and metabolize your food on time.

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an apple a day! and oh, that is a nice looking sweatshirt! (photo courtesy of Amornphand Hanrpanichphand)

6.For those who have upset stomachs, prepare your medicine a few days before the race. You may take them the night before just to make sure your stomach doesn’t bother you. One or two tablets is not heavy so bringing some during the race might help.

7.Have a good meal after the race. It is good to have some protein with that meal to help in your recovery. Have a good rest after and keep drink a lot of fluids too. It is very basic but sometimes it is what we tend to neglect.

8.Finally, these tips will work best if you practice your eating plan during your training so you will discover how to make it work best for you. Some of these tips may not work for you but may work for others. So it is better to make mistakes during your practice runs so that you will not repeat them during the race.

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A job well done! (photo courtesy of Andre Blumberg)

 

Young past forty

Posted: February 26, 2017 in From my vantage point

Slowly, the world seems to be telling me I am older. Or that I should be older. In a few months time I will be a grandfather to my niece’s child. More like a great uncle. And I will be turning forty two years old this year. Forty went by but I did not notice it. And I still think I am thirty. Maybe I am in denial.

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An early morning hike makes things interesting.

Around 3 years ago, I visited an eye doctor since I felt my eyes are having a hard time adjusting after I use my office computer. After checking, he told me my eyes were fine and still 20/20 vision. That’s great to hear! But he said I may need glasses when I will be 40 or 41. I wasn’t looking forward to it. Back in the office I found out that the extra protective screen over the monitor was slightly off. This caused the slight distortion. I taped it firmly in place and my eyes were fine since then. And I know they will be for a longer time, so I haven’t visited the eye doctor since then.

It seems the world is getting older. This year I went back home for a short visit to the city where I grew up. Some friends commented that I still look fit, while they look at their round belly. I thought my belly is not that flat anymore so I hope their comments are sincere. The city also changed. It is not the same city anymore. It grew older. It now overflows with people and their houses and cars. It still has lots of pine trees, but not as much as before. Like a man who is slowly losing his hair.

Lately on facebook, I learned that a classmate when I was in elementary school had died due to cancer. And that one of my best friends has just recently had surgery for a benign growth in his head. Another one has a benign one on his spine. Are men designed to deteriorate by age 40?

I used to be the newest guy in the department where I work. But now am one of the “oldest” both in age and years of service. Last week, I had to be a guinea pig in the physiology lab for a dry run for the series of tests for the athletes I train. I thought it would be easy. But I ended up almost fainting. On the actual test, the athletes fared better than me since they did not feel dizzy. I almost accepted that I was getting older. But when I looked at the results, I felt a lot younger since I still beat them in peak power! Now I plan to beat them still on the post test. If I can still beat guys half my age maybe I am not growing older. Maybe the world is growing older but I choose not to.

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Spending some time away from the noisy city refreshes the mind.

Forty is just a number. It is a good reference point. It doesn’t make us older. It is we ourselves who will decide if we become old. I hope to grow but not to grow old. I choose to grow young. How? I try not to “work”, I want to “play”. That way, I feel less stressed. Join a competition once in awhile- just make sure your fitness level is able to support you. If not, then aim to make yourself fitter. I also do not buy much clothes. In fact, I still have clothes I wore a decade ago. Which means I have to maintain my waistline. Although I have to admit I noticed a round belly while looking at my photos 4 years ago. I trimmed it down a bit. Maybe by age 43 I will have my 6 packs again. Hmmn… yes, that will be a great idea.

There are many factors that will make a strength and conditioning training program successful. Some of it are controllable while some are not.

One factor is the willingness of the athletes to carry out the program. It now seems that this is hugely influenced by social media. And guess who controls the social media? It is the big businesses who have money to pay public relations firms, advertising companies, and similar entities who can make people believe in something just by constantly feeding them the information about products they are selling. They present it in a very entertaining way. Ideas can be presented as scientific facts even if it is only partially true. Or worst, not true at all. Observe the advertisements and ads on TV and social media.

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The Split jerk is a very quick lift but it takes a few sessions to get it right. Sometimes you have to be good in 2 or more exercises  in order to do the split jerk well. It takes time to learn this.

 

I feel that as a Strength coach, I am fighting an uphill battle. Athletes sometimes come to the gym with a lot of preconceived notion of what is strength training. Some of them are grossly misinformed. It takes time to explain to them the process that they are undergoing. The worst situation is when their coach and even other support staff are also misinformed about strength training. It takes even longer to notice lasting effects. But not everyone is patient enough.

Sometimes I hear remarks that the strength training program is boring. Isn’t there a more fun way of doing it? I guess this is where science has to be blended with art. Sometimes the strength coach would make things entertaining. But only to a certain point. A very fundamental principle is that if we are to excel in anything, there should be consistency of effort. That needs consistent stimulus which is progressive in nature. Translated simply in strength training as: lifting consistently with gradually increasing intensity or volume. You have to train with the same exercises for a considerable amount of time, like months to years, in order to elicit a significant change. If we keep changing the exercises every session without having established a good lifting habit, skill, and strength, we end up doing an inefficient training program. This is because positive adaptations, if any,  would be minimal.

A strength training program would lead an athlete from their current zone into uncomfortable levels so as to make them adapt and perform better. It is mostly not fun. It is usually boring. Even intimidating at times.  Egos get hurt.

These training programs usually make use of the same free weight exercises. The may take many weeks before there seems to be some change. But they also change the athlete into someone who is stronger, and more resilient. Sometimes the athletes themselves may not notice the change. But if they have been writing down their training loads, they would realize it.

So if your strength training program uses almost the same barbell, or dumbell, or kettlebell exercises for weeks to months at a time; and is hard and boring, stick with it. It will make you stronger. You are in the gym to train. You are not there to be entertained.

The Bottoms up grip is applicable to the kettlebell. As its name implies – you hold the kettlebell with its bottom side facing up. This makes it more challenging. You need to be able to balance it and then have a firm and strong grip to be able to maintain the aligned position. You have to keep your eyes on the kettlebell so that you can react on time when it sways.

You can use either the cast-iron type or the competition grade kettlebells. The heavier the kettlebell, the more challenging it is. For the cast-iron type, difficulty also increases with the increase in grip thickness.

How to do it:

  1. Be good in the Turkish Get-up first. (How to do the Turkish Get Up)
  2. Be good in Bottoms-up press.
  3. Combine these two skills and you get the Bottoms-up Turkish Get-Up (TGU)!

Uses:

This exercise is done for the same reason why you do the TGU and the Bottoms-up press, but of course with the combined challenge. The main objective of the exercise is to practice a deliberate asymmetric movement that helps you control torso, hip, shoulder, and elbow stability. Hip and shoulder mobility also benefits from this exercise.

The end result will be better core or torso as well as shoulder stability which is essential to health and well-being. Needless to say, athletes rely on strong and healthy torso and joints for better performance.

Grip strength and endurance may also be enhanced depending on the relative weight of the kettlebell in relation to your gripping abilities.

When to do it:

Know when not to do it first: when you are really exhausted or when you are not able to use your upper limbs well for any reason. Concentration is important so do not use free weights when you are drunk or in a similar state of mind. It may sound like plain common sense and it really is. But there are a lot of posts on social media about people getting hurt in the gym simply because of lack of common sense. So do not enter the gym when you are sick or drunk.

Depending on your training program for the day, do it after your main lifts. Or if you are doing mainly core or torso or midsection exercises, whichever terminology you prefer, you better do it first or early in your training program for that day. Obviously, it demands that your mind is fresh, your muscles should not be fatigued, and that you can react on time. Especially when you lose control and the kettlebell falls down while your other arm is on the ground supporting your weight! It is better to do it on your non-dominant side first. That way, your concentration is still fresh and you are not that tired.

As a Strength Coach, I would use it to illustrate the advantage of having sufficient strength, mobility, stability, as well as focus. Some athletes are inspired by the desire to do the exercise. It inspires them to build a good foundation with their lifting skills and abilities so that they can attempt these type of lifts successfully.  They understand that developing good strength, stability and mobility is important. So they train well with the fundamental lifts like squats, presses, and some calisthenics.

On the other hand, some athletes always think of “fancy” training, or some exercise which does not bore them. I get tired convincing them that the fundamental exercises like squats, deadlifts and presses will be in their training program most of the time in the year. And if they still insist that they are already very good and want something fancy to show off, I let them do exercises like these. If they cannot do it, we regress to Bottoms-up press. If they still cannot do it, regress further to the press. Then hopefully by then, it would have dawned on them that they still have lots of work to do. 

If you can do it, congratulations! You earned it. But still, it will not take the place of your main lifts. It is just like dessert. It is not your meal. It is done to complement training but it is not the main bulk of training. Train Better! Live Better!

When we were young, we tend to be impatient. We wanted quick results. Some are able to espouse the “train hard or go home attitude”. Take advantage of this to establish a good foundation in health and fitness.

After training hard for a few years or so, we naturally would want some rest. Which is fine. Our circumstances in life may have changed and we have to adjust our priorities. Our health and fitness may be great and we would not worry about it.

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Then complacency sits in. Days turn to weeks, then months. Bulging muscles slowly deflate. Belly begins to inflate. And it is so insidious that even if we notice it, we tell ourselves we can easily take care of it. Then we let another week or more pass by. We gradually became used to a comfortable life. Then we find it hard to get back into shape.

This is the strength of our “weak”enemy. It is so slow that we rarely take notice. By the time it gets our attention, it is already so far ahead of us.

So we decide to fight back. But as we age, our ability to recover is not as good when we were young. Yes, we can easily run as fast, or lift as heavy in a short period of time. But since we are not able to recover quick enough, we may get injured. Another trap by our enemy!

We should be smarter. Let us refocus. What is our goal? Do we need to rush? Are we ale to put in enough time for it? If not, can we have shorter training sessions but more frequent ones instead? Can we do a combination of low intensity-longer sessions on some days and high intensity-short sessions? What have we learned from our younger days?

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A wise warrior is the one who knows when to attack hard and when to retreat. They last longer in battle. They learn from mistakes and adjust strategies to defeat a cunning enemy. Men usually have to fight against ego. Our ego is hurt when we have to lift lighter than before. But sometimes, we have to take a step back in order to move forward. It is not “Train hard” mentality that makes you survive. It is training smarter. Train Better! Live Better!

Working in the gym can be quite interesting. I probably do not see as much drama as other Fitness Professionals but I still have observed quite a few incidents…fb5b66564a7852a7ddb53e4c2c04e64a

gym maskAthletes want to improve performance, people want to be stronger. The Strength Coach would assess, design a training plan, and then implement it. But from what I observed and experienced, a lot of people want something fancy. They want fancy exercise names, fancy equipment, they want coaches on their left side, right side, front and back to tell them how good they are. Let them do squats and they say the upper back is painful, or it is not sport specific enough. Let them do the squat in front of a camera and they would be squatting before you can even say “S” of the squat. Have them undergo a circuit and they say it’s tiring. Then, one day this kid saw an advertisement of a “hypoxic” mask which is quite expensive. It is no different from the cheap industrial masks worn to protect against some fumes. But the advertisement must have been really convincing. The athlete thinks he is so cool when he wears those contraptions since he sounds like Darth Vader. He does the circuit plus other circus exercises because he thinks he is so awesome and special and he feels like he is training hard.gay leggings I was about to ask him to quit it when another guy comes in wearing skin tight tights that it divides his testicles left and right. He probably thinks he is a ballerina but it is what makes him come and train. I was out of words when another guy comes in, hair in disarray with “jewels” unplucked from his eyes. Ok, it’s either he is in his morning look but he looks more like a zombie in the gym.zombie in the gym

Then there are those who have rock star fantasy. They wear those big, electric blue shades in the gym with matching hair. I have to turn off some of the lights, it must have been too bright.

Sometimes a guy comes in, loads the olympic bar with 2.5kg on each side, then does something which a cross between a dance move and a convulsion. It’s as if he was bitten by a zombie and is turning into one. Or them and their outstanding coaches who load the bench press with 40 kg total, and attach some weights with elastic bands… So out of this world training. They have not even developed maximum strength and they are doing those training tweaks to squeeze out max strength- which is not even there. They must have watched too many youtube videos.

There is also this guy who comes in using a Loftstrand crutch. He then goes to the side, prepares the plyo boxes, then does box jumps! Amaaazing…

And then this is one of the worst… As I was about to babysit, (I mean train), some kids, their sports coach comes and chats with me. Some parents were complaining that when I started teaching the kids how to lift, they were sore the next day. That probably I should take it easy. A paleo zombie must have eaten my walnut sized brain! I cannot understand what is going on. I was told to squeeze in 30 minutes to “train” some kids. I made clear to the management that I am coaching a senior team at that time who are supposed to be having the attention of the coaches, but I was told to squeeze in the kids. I told them the kids are a lot better off practicing their sport, or just let them enjoy and play. But the management has decided to agree with a big potato’s idea of adding some more training session for the kids in the form of weight training. Nothing wrong with weight training for kids, but in this city where I work, they bombard their kids with a very high volume of school work, and too many after school activities. Bedtime for them is 11:00 or 12 midnight. I was supposed to do my job. Yet when I do it, I was supposed to agree with something which is out of line. And when I actually teach the kids what they are supposed to be learning and experiencing in the gym, they should not be sore… WTF??? it stands for Where’s The Fart?

Now I am starting to think this is a costume party of some sort. Then what should I be? Oh, I forgot. I must play my part as the babysitter – cheerleader – grim reaper… Just great.. I need more coffee..

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