You’re Never Past It – Let These People Inspire You

Russian kettlebell maestro Sergey

Russian kettlebell maestro Sergey

Last week I had the honour of training with kettlebell world champion Sergery Rachinsky. He’s one of the strongest men in the world, holding multiple world records for strength and endurance such as his 100kg back squat for 180 reps.

His feats and mental toughness are mind-blowing on their own but one thing I found particularly inspiring was that he’s still smashing strength records at 42 years of age with plans for many more to come.

A has-been by 30?

About 10 years ago whilst working in a bank in England I remember a conversation with a colleague about fitness and exercise. I’d just started training and was really getting into it. I recall him holding his belly and telling me how it all goes downhill when you hit your late twenties. The weight just piles on, he told me. And besides, with a wife, kids and job there’s no time left to look after yourself. He basically said that he was on a steady decline towards ill health, powerless to do anything about it.

At the time I was concerned for my future and his words stuck with me.

Of course, I now realise that he was externalizing all his reasons for not looking after his health in an attempt to convince himself that his poor state was due to factors beyond his control. He felt better thinking that yeah, he was unfit and in bad shape, but what more could he do? It was all because of his age/job/kids/schedule etc.

Sadly, by relinquishing responsibility for his health he probably never did anything to change it.

The truth is, you can achieve incredible feats of fitness, strength, endurance and skill at any age.

I’m not talking about a 50-something who does a leisurely jog in the park twice a week – I mean elite athletes, world record holders or sportsmen and women dominating people their children’s or grandchildren’s age.

Here are some incredible stories of strength at all ages:

Herschel at 48

Herschel at 48

Not content with being a top NFL player and world class sprinter, Herschel Walker has gone on to become an MMA fighter into his 50s. Here he is fighting at 48. Seriously, scientists should study this guy.

Dara Torres was still beating records going into her 40s and at 45 she narrowly missed out on the 2012 Olympics by 0.32 seconds. Here she talks about her lifestyle.

In 2011, 54 year old George Hood set the world record for the longest plank hold at 1 hour 20 minutes. Not content with this, he smashed it 2 years later with an incredible 3 hours 7 minutes.

Canadian strongman Kevin Fast, 46, set the World record for pulling the heaviest object, a C-17 cargo plane. This is undeniably a cool record, but he outdid himself when he set the world record for most people lifted at once, with 22 girls on his back.

Kevin lifted 22 girls to set a world record
Kevin lifted 22 girls to set a world record

Just shy of her 50th birthday, tennis legend Martina Navratilova won a mixed doubles championship at the U.S. Open. This was an all-age full event, not a masters.

Sportsmen who didn’t just compete, but played in the top flight of their sport during their 40s: Jeff Carney, NFL player aged 45, Teddy Sheringham and Brad Friedel, football players in the English Premiership aged 40 and 42 respectively. Dikembe Mutombo and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, two NBA legends who played at the highest level until they were 42.

On a personal level, my uncle serves as a great inspiration to me. He’s 53 and in great shape, runs a few marathons a year ranking high in his age group, goes rock climbing every week (he outclimbed me when I tried it) and often beats me at tennis. He fits in all this training and competing while running his own company.

This guy ran a 3:15 marathon at 80 and smashed my 5km target time by almost a minute #noexcuses

This guy ran a 3:15 marathon at 80 and smashed my 5km target time by almost a minute #noexcuses

I’ve had many friends who’ve run marathons. Most go for sub 4:30 hours, or perhaps 4:00. Occasionally I have a very fit and active friend who trains hard and goes for sub-3:30. Ed Whitlock recorded a time of 3:15:53… at age 80 (no typo, that’s eighty), a respectable time for a man his great-grandson’s age.

Fauja Singh was running marathons at 100 years old. He finally hung up his running shoes aged 101, with a 10km race in Hong Kong. He ran for premature babies charities, being billed as ‘the oldest running for the youngest’ – what a beautiful and inspiring goal!

Olga Kotelko is a 92 year old athlete competing in numerous track and field events, such as high jump, long jump, javelin, shot put and sprints. She holds 23 world records and 17 records in her age category. She told the NY Times that she has more energy now than when she was 50.

Olga at 91

Olga at 91

The World Masters Athletics records page is a huge inspiration to me not only as I age, but also now. I set some 2013 running goals of a 20 minute 5km time and a sub-1 minute 400m time. I was a little embarrased to discover that the oldest person to record a sub 1:00 400m was 74 years old. Our marathon running friend Ed Whitlock (pictured above) hit a 19:07 5km time aged 75, a time I would be massively proud of.

Equally impressive are the 100m world record times. Some inactive guys my age would struggle to hit a 17.5 second 100m time. A time of 17.53 was recorded by Frederico Fischer when he was 90 years old. 90 goddamn years! Please record your 100m sprint time, and if it’s not as fast as Freddy then let it be the biggest wake up call of your life.

I’ll leave you with this video from the Veterans Athletics Championships in the over-95 category. Seeing Emiel power through like Usain Bolt in lane 4 brought a tear to my eye. I sincerely hope that’s me in 65 years time.

Advertisements

5 Reasons You’re Not Getting The Results You Want

Gaining the perfect physique and optimum health is often not as straightforward as simply popping into the gym a few times a week. Getting great results can take time, perseverance and perhaps some experimentation and thought towards the kind of training you’re doing, food and drink you’re consuming and lifestyle you’re leading.

If what you’re doing isn’t yielding the results you want do not get disappointed  Embrace it and see it as part of the learning curve towards finding out what works for YOU. Remember, everyone is different and what gets me results may not work for you.

Below are five reasons why you aren’t hitting your health and fitness goals.

You’re not lifting heavy enough

You may not be gaining the muscle or tone you desire because you’re not lifting heavy. Male, female, old and young should include strong lifting into their training schedule. An obsession with cardio, calorie equations and core exercises is stunting people’s development and stopping them from getting the results and look they desire. Spending hours on the treadmill and not getting the look you want? Then add some heavy-ass weight to your routine, or try sprinting as fast as you can over 100 meters instead of bouncing along for hours.

She deadlifts heavy, and you should too

She deadlifts heavy, and you should too

You’re eating too often

The often-repeated ‘eat many small meals a day to keep your metabolism burning strong’ is unproven and false. 50 years ago snacking was frowned upon, people ate a few meals a day and obesity was almost unheard of. Now we’re told that we must be constantly eating all the time or we’ll go into ‘starvation mode’ – more wild, unproven claims masquerading as fact in health magazines and diet guides. If you’re trying to lose weight (or perhaps you would like to give you digestive system a break from constantly working), try having longer periods between eating. Your body will thank you for it.

Other sub-reasons would be ‘you’re eating too much’ or ‘you’re eating foods that you’re body doesn’t respond well to’. More on that another time.

You’re not moving enough

Training hard in the gym is sometimes not enough – you need to grab every chance possible to move. Our bodies were designed to be active and you need to take a dynamic approach to making movement part of your everyday routine. The old cliche ‘take the stairs instead of the lift’ is a little tired now, but very true. Walk instead of taking the bus, stand up and do some dynamic stretching a few times a day, play football instead of watching TV. Don’t see this as a chore – make it a habit. You may find that this additional exercise gives you the extra boost needed to hit your goals.

Start by walking home from the gym – the perfect cooldown. To go from a great, active workout with big movements straight into collapsing in front of the TV or jumping in the car and remaining static is not good for your body.

You think looking good is all about diet and exercise

Don’t get me wrong, diet and exercise are two huge pieces of the health and fitness jigsaw, and for some people this gets them looking and feeling 100%. However, the hormonal effects of things such as lack of sleep, stress, exposure to sunlight and happiness can play an essential part. Sleep and relaxation is essential for your muscles and body to repair and grow; sunlight gives us a healthy boost of vitamin D that leaves you looking and feeling energized; stress and tension can negatively impact your endocrine (hormonal) system, which needs to be running smoothly to give you a radiant, strong and healthy body.

Do not dismiss these factors. They are often underestimated and should be strongly considered if you’re not looking and feeling how you want.

You don’t want it enough

One of the most common questions I’m asked is “how do I lose this”, whilst pinching an often minimal amount of body fat around their stomach. Sometimes I’m not sure how to answer… Are they looking for a magic exercise? A five minute routine they can do before bed, perhaps?

The truth is often a sacrifice beyond what some people are prepared to do – lift heavy and regularly, mix in some HIIT training, pay close attention to your eating patterns and diet and experiment with how your body reacts to different foods, make sure you get 7-8 hours sleep a night, reduce alcohol consumption, eat very little processed food, do hill sprints/ kettlebell training/sled pushing etc, and so on.

Of course, some people embrace all this and get insane results, and some opt to strike a balance with the kind of lifestyle they enjoy and so don’t look like a fitness model. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, it’s just about finding out what’s important to you and being realistic about what it takes to achieve it.

How much do you want it, and what are you prepared to sacrifice to achieve it?

How much do you want it, and what are you prepared to sacrifice to achieve it?

So there are a few reasons why you might not be getting the results you desire. I hope it helps you make some positive changes and understand more about the complete fitness picture. If you would like help overcoming a plateau or need some inspiration and help to get strong, please contact me.

Yours in strength,

Jack T

Top 10 list of home workout kit

Working out at home can be equally as effective as training at a gym

Working out at home is becoming an increasingly popular way to keep fit. Gym memberships can be expensive and often provide an uncomfortable or intimidating environment, especially during peak hours when they can be overcrowded.

Working out at home can be fun, time-efficient and equally as effective as going to a gym.

If you’re considering training at home you may not be sure of how to approach it. Home workouts require a little more effort in constructing your workout and getting motivated.

You may be wondering what home workout kit you’ll need. This can be difficult to decide as the fitness market is flooded with gadgets, supplements, ab machines and expensive kit, all claiming to be the ‘next big thing’ and the only way to lose weight or get an impressive physique.

With all these over-priced gadgets and gimmicks, knowing what to get for home workouts can be a minefield.

To help you out, I’ve compiled a top 10 list of home workout kit. Each piece of kit is ranked for effectiveness, cost and ease of use, each given a mark out of 10. I’ve also given a mark for how fun and travel-friendly they are, in case you want to take them on holiday or on a business trip.

Kettlebells

Kettlebells are awesome. They’re versatile and work your body in a way that traditional gym workouts can’t.

They’re pretty cost-effective at about 30USD (1,000THB) per kettlebell and they last forever. However, if you’ve never used kettlebells before or you’re not used to the type of ballistic movement they require then we’d advise getting some guidance from a professional and progressing slowly until you’re used to the moves. Don’t let this put you off though – Kettlebells are absolutely worth learning!

Kettlebells are pretty heavy though, so not easy to travel with unless you only use a light one.

Check out our Kettlebell article for more info and videos.

Effectiveness 10   Cost 7   Ease of use 3   Travel-friendly 2   Fun 8

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are another great piece of kit that are easy and fun to use and are super-light. Every muscle group can be worked with the bands by hanging or hooking them onto something sturdy or by standing on them. For example, standing on the resistance bands and lifting your arm straight out in front of you works your shoulders (see pic). Hook the bands around a tree or pole and pull the handles towards you for a ‘row’ back exercise.

You can stand on the bands or hook them around something to do a variety of exercises

Resistance can be changed by shortening the band length or using different tension bands which come in different colours.

Resistance bands are cheap, costing around 30-50USD (1,000 – 1,500THB) for a set. They can easily be thrown in a suitcase so you can keep active while away and they’re easy to get the hang of. However, if you’re used to using heavy weights these may not provide the intensity and level of workout you’re used to.

Effectiveness 7   Cost 9   Ease of use 8   Travel-friendly 9   Fun 7

Swiss Ball

Aka stability ball, balance ball or exercise ball. Swiss balls are essentially large inflated plastic balls. They can be used to make standard exercises harder, for example, if you perform a press up with your feet on a swiss ball, your body and core muscles will have to work harder to stabilize and stop your feet from falling off. There are thousands of exercises that can be done on this versatile piece of kit which we’ll look at more closely in a future article.

Dumbbell chest press on a swiss ball

They are a bit of a hassle to deflate and inflate, but could be packed up reasonably easily. Some people advocate sitting on a swiss ball when on a computer, the theory being that your core and abdominals will be engaged to ensure balance and correct posture.

Swiss balls are cheap and most department stores and sports shops in Bangkok and elsewhere should stock them.

Effectiveness 7   Cost 10   Ease of use 7   Travel-friendly 6   Fun 7

TRX

TRX are pretty new on the fitness scene and use a concept that’s simple, but very effective.

Marketed as ‘suspension training’, TRX is essentially a non-elastic band made of strong nylon webbing with two handles at each end of the band. The TRX can be hooked onto anything or onto a door support which leaves the handles suspended. By gripping the handles or hooking your feet into them a huge variety of exercises can be performed.

Workouts can be made easier or harder by adjusting body position and the height of TRX handles. By adjusting the way exercises are performed it can be suitable for light rehabilitation, hardcore workouts or anything in-between.

Row with suspended TRX to work the back and biceps

TRX is not cheap, but is very light and travels easily. Some beginners would probably need guidance from a trainer or DVD/manual, but once you’re used to it you can make your own exercises up.

A great piece of versatile kit, but pretty expensive with prices starting at about 180USD (6,000THB) for a basic set.

Currently they cannot be purchased in Thailand but some gyms in Bangkok, such as Total Body Fitness, have them in their studio.

Effectiveness 9   Cost 3   Ease of use 6   Travel-friendly 10   Fun 9

ViPR

If you tried a ViPR workout in your home you’d probably end up smashing the place to pieces, so it’s fair to say ViPR is more suitable for a garden workout.

ViPR stands for Vitality, Performance and Reconditioning and is essentially a hollow rubber tube with handles (see pic). It’s this shape that makes ViPR incredibly versatile for lifting, explosive exercises, ballistic movements and CV work.

Dynamic ViPR movements prepare you for sport

ViPR is hugely popular with everyone I know who’s tried it. They’re great for a beginner or someone who finds working out monotonous, and they are genuinely used by many sportsmen and athletes to improve functional fitness. But like TRX and kettlebells, a lot of people may not quite know what to do with it without some guidance.

Their size makes them not really suitable for taking on holiday and the cost is pretty steep, starting at about 140USD (4,000THB) for the lightest 4kg ViPR. However, If you can afford it and you have the room, they’re definitely worth it.

Effectiveness 10   Cost 3   Ease of use 5   Travel-friendly 1   Fun 10

Medicine Ball

They sometimes come with handles to facilitate certain movements

Medicine balls are football sized balls that weigh anything from 1kg – 15kg+ and can be used to make exercises harder. For example, you can hold a medicine ball whilst performing tab crunches, or you can twist your torso from side to side while holding the ball to work your obliques (side abdominal muscles).

They’re quite well-known for being used in boxing training with the medicine ball being thrown into the stomach by a training partner whilst doing ab work, forcing him to tense his stomach and to simulate taking a punch.

Medicine balls are a quality piece of kit, but if money is capped then you’re better off spending it on some of the other more versatile items.

Effectiveness 7   Cost 6   Ease of use 7   Travel-friendly 2   Fun 5

Dumbbells and barbells

The more traditional home workout accessories. Hundreds of exercises can be done with dumbbells and barbells but many people are bored of using them which has led to the huge explosion in popularity for more versatile and fun items such as TRX, kettlebells and ViPR.

You can pick these up in any sports or department store but their weight would make them difficult to travel with. Prices are dependant on quality.

Effectiveness 8   Cost 8   Ease of use 8   Travel-friendly 2   Fun 3

Aerobics Step

Aerobic Steps are simply steps that can be height adjusted. You’ll find them in any gym studio as they’re often used in circuits and aerobics. Many things can be done with step ups but they are essentially just a step, and its use can be largely mimicked with a park bench or a stair.

Effectiveness 7   Cost 7   Ease of use 8   Travel-friendly 2   Fun 4

Ab Roller

The ‘abs’ (abdominal muscles, six-pack) have more pieces of ‘revolutionary’ kit than any other body part. Most of them are horrendously overpriced and packaged with empty promises of a couple of minutes work for a washboard stomach. In summary, a waste of time and money.

One superb product which targets the abs and is cheap, highly effective and can be stored under your bed is the Ab Roller (also known as an Ab Wheel).

The ab wheel provides a great core workout

Consisting of a wheel with two handles, the ab roller is used by kneeling on the floor, taking grip of the two handles and then the wheel rolling back and forth, using the core muscles to power the movement.

It is quite hard to begin with, and you must ensure you are tensing, engaging and using your abs to power the movement, as otherwise it can put pressure on your lower back. Start with a small range of movement and when you’re comfortable increase the range to make it harder.

They start at about 12USD and can be taken apart easily. The Ab Roller is my favourite piece of kit for working your abs.

Effectiveness 8   Cost 8   Ease of use 6   Travel-friendly 8   Fun 7

You!

A great and effective workout doesn’t need anything other than yourself. There’s a lot you just using your bodyweight, such as the squat thrust pictured below. The things we’ve mentioned in this article just help make things more interesting and test your body in different ways. We’ll have a look at a workout you can do using just your own bodyweight soon.

Home Workout Kit

There’s a whole host of ideas here that can make training at home much more interesting and varied. Have fun, and let us know how you get on!

Swiss ball and medicine ball combined