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.

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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

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