Paleo Training: The Strength Project

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If you hate gyms, try training here

I’ve been training pretty consistently for the last 12 years, and the amount of effort and time I’ve wasted during this time is astonishing. I used to judge a gym by the amount of machines they had, my program stayed pretty much the same for years on end and I thought that what I was doing – long distance running and what basically amounted to bodybuilding – would help me excel in football and sport.

My workouts still had value and were far better than doing nothing, but my outlook towards exercise and health has changed pretty dramatically since then.

Looking back, the worst thing about my old routine was how boring it became. I often found myself yawning in between sets and working out became a real chore.

Now, I can honestly say that I love training and look forward to it. Everyone should. I really believe, perhaps naively, that everyone has a way of moving that they enjoy. They just might not have found it yet.

You never see a 3 year old lethargic and lazy, making excuses not to go and play or run around. Sadly, along the way somewhere we lose this natural zest for movement.

Another drawback with my old ways was that I didn’t really know what I was training for and when I did have a goal, I wasn’t really sure how my training, diet and lifestyle would impact it.

My approach to training has taken a massive u-turn since then. I still lift weights, but no more of this ‘2 seconds up, 2 seconds down’ bull. I lift, jump, twist, shift, flip and sweep in every possible plane of motion, and I make it as fun as possible. Some days I try and invent a load of movements I’ve never done before; other days I’ll focus on the big lifts.

One of my new years goals was to try new things, and I’ve recently been doing this through a series of dietary experiments. This goal, along with a couple of minor injuries in the last few months gave me the inspiration for my latest project.

For two months, I will lift no weights, and will only use my own bodyweight for exercise. I can’t get away from demonstrating exercises with light weights but all my own training will be using only my body.

I’m pretty excited about this one – it will force me to get super creative with my programs and it will prove that you can get in good shape and maintain optimum fitness levels without equipment or an expensive gym membership.

I’m currently on some well-deserved R&R in Sri Lanka, and I think there can’t be many better places in the world to start this ‘strength project’ than the beaches here.

I’ve trained every day and have had some of my most intense workouts for a long time. I’ve been beach running , done bootcamp style exercises such as burpees, lunge jumps and press ups, I’ve used palm trees as pull up bars, have climbed rocks, been stair running and have been smashed around by the violent waves of the Indian Ocean. All with a healthy dose of sunshine.

People often talk about the paleo diet but I think we can also learn a lot by thinking about how we moved and used our bodies as we evolved. Did our ancestors use a bicep curl machine or an elliptical trainer? Hell no. Many people train in a way that has no real life equivalent. Our ancestors would’ve climbed, run, pushed and pulled themselves around, squatted and lifted heavy shit. I think we should base a large chunk of our training and movement around this for top results, not in just how we look but also how we feel. It’s my belief that these kind of primal movement patterns trigger a positive hormonal response that promotes muscle growth, fat burning and optimal health. If it’s done in natural surroundings then all the better.

For my following write ups on this I’m going to refer to these natural movements as Paleo Training – use the term and I’ll get my lawyers onto you ; )

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for other types of training for specific goals, but for general health and the athletic, lean look that seems to be most desired at the moment, you can’t go far wrong with Paleo Training.

As with my diet experiments, I will let you know how I get on with my 8 week bodyweight program, and I’ll give you guys a few sample workouts for the next time you’re at the beach, or you want to make the most of a sunny day at the park.

My experiment will consist of sprints, running, jumps, pushes, pulls, calisthenics and gymnastics. If you have any training ideas or opinions about this approach versus other training methods, I’d love to hear all about it.
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Organic coconuts, or ‘coconuts’ as the locals call them

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This awesome view was my reward for hitting interval sprints up some stairs I noticed by the roadside

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This tree was my bootcamp finisher pull up bar. Tore my hands up a bit, but that was part of the fun

7 ways to get healthier in Bangkok TODAY!

Bangkok is an awesome place to live, but the hectic nature of the city and its expat lifestyle means that you have to make an effort to stay strong and healthy. It can get on top of you, if you let it.

We all know that we need to eat well and exercise to stay healthy, but beyond that here are a few quick fixes that will help you to counter some of the impact the city can have on your body and mind.

1. Leave at least once a month

This amazing place is only a few hours from Bangkok – go there!

Being constantly surrounded by people, tall buildings, noise and concrete is not natural or good for you. Too long in this environment can impact you in ways you don’t realise. Bangkok has so many awesome nearby getaways – Khao Yai, Samet, Kanchanaburi and Hua Hin are all just a few hours away – so treat yourself and recharge at least once a month, preferably more.

2. Order your smoothies, shakes and delicious Thai iced teas and drinks without sugar

Bangkok’s fruit shakes and smoothies are awesome, but with all the sugar syrup that’s added they’re not a million miles away from drinking Coke. Years ago, I remember seeing a woman prepare my Thai chai manow (lemon tea) by loading tablespoon after tablespoon of pure sugar into the drink. Tasted damn good, but it made the beverage a huge source of the worst kind of calories. Get your shakes with no sugar by politely asking “mai sai nam dtan loey krup/ka” (please don’t add any sugar).

3. Spend time in the parks

If you struggle to get out of the city, at least spend some time in the city’s parks. They provide a nice respite from the chaos and are a great place to relax or move around. Check out my guide to Bangkok’s parks for more info on where to go.

4. Be wary of eating out and cut out MSG

Bangkok has some of the world’s most amazing street food, and a whole array of fantastic restaurants. But just be aware that restaurants will do whatever they need to do to make their food super-tasty, which usually means lots of added fat and sugar.

One big culprit is added MSG, which is very commonplace. I love som tum, but if you watch it being prepared you’ll often notice that bucketloads of MSG is added (to make it more aroi, of course). MSG is best avoided by everyone, and a lot of people are actually allergic to it. Politely ask “mai sai pong choo rod krup/ka” (please don’t add MSG).

Ultimately, to be sure of what you’re eating you have to buy and prepare the food yourself.

Implement these 7 things into your life to help you survive in the Concrete Jungle

5. Move around as much as possible

Many of my clients are expats with desk jobs that require minimal physical exertion. Bangkok expats commonly sit down at a chair all day, get driven home by their driver and then sit down to watch TV or eat. All that time sat down and not moving is going to destroy your body and health. Some high intensity exercise helps, but it should also be complimented with as much movement in everyday life as possible. Take the stairs, walk around the office, stand up and roll your shoulders back and stretch out, walk that skytrain stop, jump out of your chair and do some jumping jacks (probably best if you work from home). In summary, our bodies were designed to move, so try and be conscious of moving them as much as possible.

6. If you’re going to a function/event/birthday, then eat perfectly in the daytime

This point is so important I think it’s deserving of its own article. Many people I speak to here talk about how hard it is to lose weight and eat well when they have so many functions, meetings and events to attend. All with obligatory drinks with clients, large buffets etc. The solution is simple, exercise some balance by eating perfectly (lots of vegetables, a little fruit, perhaps some lean meat) and sparingly in the daytime leading up to the event. This will produce a large calorie deficit which you can happily fill by eating and drinking what you want in the evening, within reason. More on this soon.

7. Read BangkokFitness.com once a week and set some goals!

OK, I admit it – reading my blog isn’t going to magically transform you into a warrior or a Victoria Secret model ; ) … but it might provide some inspiration to improve yourself or find out about a race or event that you can aim for (article on goal setting coming soon!)

Develop and progress by implementing these 7 things into your life today.

Good luck!

Break from Bangkok = TRX workout on the beach!

One of the great things about living in Thailand is the ability to easily escape to the beach for the weekend, something that I think should be done at least once every two months. However, it had been over a year since my last beach visit, which is criminal given how easy it is to get to paradise!

It’s amazing how being surrounded by nature and fresh air can help clear and refresh your mind. I always have positive thoughts and ideas on work and life when I’m at the beach or countryside, and with all the fresh fish and fruit around it’s pretty easy to compliment the break with a delicious paleo diet to truly revitalize the body and mind.

Don’t get me wrong – Bangkok is a fantastic, lively place to live, but sometimes you have to remove the smoke, concrete and distractions to fully think clearly.

So, on the beach and with my phone switched off for two days I decided to squeeze in a quick TRX bodyweight circuit on the beach. Here I work through a few basic upper body exercises that most people should be able to do – body position can be adjusted easily with the TRX to make an exercise harder or easier through all ability levels.

If you’re trying out this circuit I’d recommend doing 3-4 rounds with a minute’s rest between circuits – which should bring your workout to about 20-30 minutes overall.

Enjoy!