Obstacle Course Race Training : Verulamium Park (Cathedral Steps)

It was the weekend after the OCR UK Championships and I was about to take part in a training session with two of the age category champions, a training session which promised us the prospect of steps, among other things.  In the group for this morning, along with Tony Leary and Will Harbour, the age category champions, we had Nick Day, Rebecca Cohen, Kirsten Whitehouse, Robert Boarder, Jake Barber, and another new face for me, Lee Jackson.

We started off from the museum car park, going out into the park, along the path on the right until the main group forked off into the next field to the right, running round the outer perimeter of the park while myself and Rebecca continued straight up the hill.  We were joined by Nick, who was feeling a little worse for wear after a late night out.  We reached the top of the hill and cut across to the woods to join up as a group again as the others curled round.  Suddenly Nick’s energy levels changed and he and Will were racing off into the woods ahead of everyone else.  I hung to the side to allow the rest of the following group to rush past, and soon was back running with Rebecca, as we noted how obscured the path was since the leaves had fallen.  We came to the bottom of the woods and then we continued straight through, down to the path, and followed that up to the Cathedral, and more specifically to the steps which run along the side of the Abbot’s Kitchen, steps which go down, along and back up the other side.

The group had already started the steps repeats by the time I got there, and I joined the back of the queue as they pounded along.  It must have looked fascinating to an outsider, this chain of people rushing down the steps before going along the bottom, then up the other side, then turning around and repeating in the other direction.  I kept going as best I could while listening out for the footsteps coming up quickly behind me, so I could make sure I was out of the way and not holding up any of the others.  They must have been set at least 10 repeats, and I reckon I got through at least 5 sets.  Certainly enough that I could feel it.

Then we were off again, coming down the hill away from the Cathedral, reaching the weir at the entrance to the lake area, carrying along the top track until we reached a point where we had a choice – either keep going along the track and turn right at the crossroads,  or go through a gap in the hedge and down a muddy slope.  This is obstacle course race training, so, of course, we launched ourselves through the gap !  We reached a grassy bowl by the side of the lake which lead up to a tree line and a couple of benches, and began hill repeats from the bottom of the bowl, jumping over both benches as we looped back down to do 10 push-ups (and later 10 burpees) at the bottom of the bowl, before setting off again, and completing 10 repeats.  I was already tired by this point (and I simply cannot keep up with these guys at the very best of times, which is why the circuit format Tony follows is perfect for me) and Tony asked if I was all right.  I reminded him that I had done the parkrun 5k of death the day before, and smiled as I pushed on to the benches again.

We gathered at the bottom of the bowl and set up off the slope, following the direction of the lake, before stopping on a ridge at the top of a slope.  Tony got us into pairs for piggy backs, remarking that I was lucky this time as we had an odd number.  I said I felt my partner was the lucky one, not being here to have to try to carry my 95k weight.  I ran down and back as the pairs did their piggy backs, which felt tough enough.  I was more than happy with the odd numbers.  We moved from there to the nearest goalpost and the spidermonkeys went from one end of the crossbar to the other, hanging down and going hand by hand.  Rebecca could not take part because she had a shoulder problem; Tony could not take part because he had an elbow problem; I could not take part because I have a bodyweight problem.  I did try, jumping up to get both hands over the crossbar, and then gravity came into play.  I got a nice stretch out of the movement, and remain very well aware of what I need to work on.  Just in case I was not fully aware, Tony took us over to the swings in the playground, and the spidermonkeys began to hang upside down using the metal chains holding the swing seats in place.  I confined myself to some core work on the rocking elephant.

Artist’s impression ultra core workout machine

We left the playground and took a couple of different routes to get to the stream on the other side of the lake, and then it was time to get in for some cold water training, just moving along for a short distance this week, before getting out and continuing along the pathway.  We ran over to the cars to pick up two beer kegs and rope, two sandbags, and two jerry cans, doing some laps with each of the different pieces of equipment before Tony got us into three teams for a running, carrying, dragging team relay.  We had moved into the field to the right of the football pitches at the far end of the park, and would be in teams of 3, running the boundary up to the top and back, then carrying the two sandbags and the two jerry cans round a closer copse of trees and back, before finishing by dragging the tyre down the hill by facing it and pulling on the rope, repeating until the bottom of the hill was reached. I was in a team with Will and Jake, and we would be doing it in that run, carry, drag order.  Obviously, nobody was feeling even the slightest bit competitive about this.  No, sorry, that should have read EVERYBODY WAS FEELING HIGHLY COMPETITIVE ABOUT THIS RACE, AND LET THE CHALLENGE BEGIN !!!  Tony set the rule that all team members had to stay together, which immediately put pressure on me as I was facing the long run as the first part of our relay.  Will and Jake could not have been better.  Not only did they slow down to my pace, but they encouraged me on every step of the run up the hill in a positive way.  I did not want to let them down so I kept on pushing, and tried to open it up a bit as we came back down the hill.  That was the point when Will noticed that Nick’s ‘team’ did not appear to be running together, so he very helpfully shouted across to remind them of the rules.  By the time I reached the bottom, Will and Jake were off with the jerry cans and one of the sandbags, so I picked up the other sandbag and set off.  The sandbags are not really ‘heavy’ in the greater scheme of things, and I have certainly carried weights heavier than that in events, so I can definitely manage something more than a plod as I move along with one over this distance and this terrain, which meant I was not losing any ground on the rest of my team.  Despite my very obvious pace, Tony still shouted at me to run as I came in to the end of this loop.  Just the tyre drag to go, pulling in the rope until the tyre came to us, then running out the full length of the rope and repeating, and with a little help from Will I brought us home just ahead of the other teams, although, to be fair, all three teams were coming in pretty much at the same time.  Although, to be even fairer, WE WON !!!  It had been good fun, a great way to get in some more running and some strength work.  Excellent training for so many of the obstacle course races out there.

Beer not included

We went back to the cars and everyone got out their flasks of tea or coffee, Rebecca had brought bacon rolls and peanut protein balls, Kirsten had brought sponge cake, and Robert had brought flapjack, which all resulted in a great quote from Tony, “Another great session this morning – even managed a little bit of a competitive team ‘race’ – think we also probably put more calories in with bacon butties and peanut poo cake,” although it has to be said that the picnic was absolutely delicious.  We will definitely all be back for more of that.

A very well-fed group

Away from the picnic, it had also been a very good session for me, picking up Strava segment PRs on verulamium park cathedral hill descent, St Albans Abbey Climb, and Verulamium singletrack running.  I had covered 8.3 kilometres, while Robert had covered 13 kilometres, and everyone else had covered a distance in between.

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Obstacle Course Race Training : Verulamium Park (Hill Repeats)

If you have been reading my recent blogs then you will know that I have been training with some elite obstacle course runners on Sunday mornings, in sessions organised by Tony Leary, and now we were back in St Albans at Verulamium Park for a workout which promised to have a focus on hill repeats.

It was a big turnout this morning, with the familiar friendly faces of Nick Day, Will Harbour, Robert Boarder, Rebecca Cohen, and Coach Tony Campbell (from Bigfoot Challenge), together with Tony’s son, and another new face to me, Neil Rainbow.  Coach Campbell travels some distance to join these sessions, so I feel a little sheepish arriving on the dot of 0730 from less than a mile and a half away.  I really should wake up just a few minutes earlier on a Sunday morning, or run down a little faster.

The weather was dry and mild as we set off, starting our run from the museum car park and making our way across the park and up the hill, the main group heading off to the right to loop around, with the rest of us heading straight up the hill, cutting across at the top so that we all met up at the entrance to the woods.  I was looking forward to putting in a strong Strava segment (now that I knew there was one going through the woods and then back up to the entrance alongside the outside of the trees) but this time we did not continue back up along the outside of the woods, and instead we did 20 push-ups at the point where we had made our exit.  As it was Remembrance Sunday I thought back to the 22 push-up challenge I had done in August to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder among military personnel and did 22 push-ups.  Tony kept adding more push-ups on to the total for Coach Tony Campbell for previous late arrivals, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I was always on time.  Just.

We went down away from the woods and carried on across the path, through a gap in the hedge which took us to the edge of the golf course, running round to a clearing where we jumped over fallen tree trunks, looping round to do that a couple of times, before carrying on up to a clearing where Tony had us doing bear crawls.  I was running behind the others, and need to work on my recovery time after obstacles, although it did get me out of some side-to-side bear crawling this time.  And then we were off again, skirting round the edges of the golf course, the main group heading off to the right on a wider loop, while some of us ran through the middle of a row of trees and carried on down to the wooden fence by the side of the running track, where we were joined by the rest of the group, and some stretching ensued while we got our breath back.

Then we were off again, running round the edge of the grass area in front of Westminster Lodge, to the far end and then back along the river and round by the weir to take us to the grass area below the Cathedral, where we were going to do the promised focus on hill repeats.  We would be doing rounds of 3 laps and a trip into the weir, with each lap going up the path to a bin at the top of the hill, down the path on the other side of the hill, and then back along the bottom.  It is a really good surface to be running on, so you can fully concentrate on the climb up and push it out on the way down.  I would be cutting across half way up to keep us going as a group.  I did the full lap and then two rounds of the half laps with a trip to the increasingly colder and deeper weir.  The others did it a few times more than me, and then it was time to head back to the beginning, with a number of the group making sure to not push it too hard in advance of the 2016 OCR UK Championships the following weekend.

Looking good at the end

Looking good at the end

It had been another excellent session, with Nick covering 13.9 kilometres, myself covering 8 kilometres, and everyone else doing something in between, as we got the hill repeats we had been promised.

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Obstacle Course Race Training : Aldenham

This was my second Sunday morning obstacle course race training session with Tony Leary, and you can read about the first one here.

This one was at at Aldenham, near Watford, which was only a short drive for me, and we were promised steep hills and cold water, so I took a towel and a change of clothes for afterwards.  I parked across from the church and looked around for the others, a little worried that no-one was to be seen as it was almost the start time – I definitely did not fancy having to run (sprint !!!) to catch them up !  Then Tony arrived in his car, checking for any stragglers, and he took me to the real starting point round the corner and just down the road.  Once we got to the small parking area at the top of a bridleway, I saw that as well as Tony there were Will Harbour, Ray Fletcher and Robert Boarder from last week’s session, and a new face for me, Rebecca Cohen.  So here I was, still well out of my depth !  It was a cold, clear morning, and once Will had returned from a toilet break we were all very keen to get going.

We set off running down the bridleway, very soon, and very naturally, splitting into pairs of Tony and Will, Ray and Robert, and myself and Rebecca.  The bridleway had an even surface, was pretty much dry, and was going downhill, so it was a relatively pleasant start to the session, even as I saw the first two pairings pulling away from us.  Rebecca and I were running at a pace which allowed us to chat as we moved along, and when the bridleway opened out into fields she told me we should turn right, as I watched Ray and Robert trailing Tony and Will as they carried on straight across the field in front of us.  We were running along a track under the cover of trees, and as we passed it on our right, Rebecca pointed out the area where we would be doing the hill repeats.  She explained there were three loops as you progressed up the hill, lower, middle and upper, and that last time they had been here Tony had made them go through the water at the other side of the field we had just avoided before doing the hill repeats.  We carried on along this track before Tony and Will came round the corner towards us.  Tony was very surprised to not see Ray and Robert with us, and I told him I had seen them following him across the field, so he went off to find them while Will, Rebecca and I went back to the point along the track where the hill repeats would start.  We waited for a little while, and I was happy to catch my breath before we began the hill repeats, and then Tony came back up the track alone.  He had not found them and headed off in the other direction to continue his search, and it was not long before he was back again, still without them.  During the course of his search he had passed a lady with her dog, and she came past us now, confirming that she had not seen the two guys, and would tell them to come to us here if she did, but almost as soon as she had carried on her way, and just before Tony set off again, Ray and Robert came round the corner, totally oblivious to our concerns for their welfare !

It was time to hit the hill repeats, and Tony described the three loops, A, B and C, and then ran us through  a practice lap of the longest one (C), with me cutting across near the top to take on B.  It was all in the woods, running up a steep slope on a narrow track, at best, although there was so much leaf cover that the track could mostly not be seen.  Once we all gathered at the bottom Tony allocated three laps for each of us, and we were off again.  I was set two Bs and an A, and it was good, hard work.  The surface was fine for climbing and just as good for coming downhill, with some fun twists and turns on the way down, but nothing too sharp, so you could really pick up speed if you were careful with your footing.  The first climb up was tough, and I almost made it to the top before being brought to a walk, picking up pace again as I cut across and then came downhill; the second climb up was harder, brought me to a walk sooner, and by the time I got to the bottom Tony, Will and Robert had finished their laps, so I had no choice but to push it all the way up to the turn on my lap A.  Once I had got back down (and lap A was definitely not a long one) we pretty much all finished at the same time, so Tony had got it spot on when allocating routes.

There was still much to do, and we ran back to the crossroads of the tracks and turned right across the field until we came to the river and a metal bridge across it, with railings down each side.  By the time I got there the others had already started crossing the bridge to the other side of the river.  Naturally they could not simply walk across the bridge, and instead were climbing along the outside of it, before coming back the other way in a squat position.  I bet it sounds easy.  It really was not.  And especially not when repeated a few times.  Then they all began to climb under the bridge and back on to the walkway.  I knew that was beyond me and was simply being careful not to be in the way of anyone when they appeared from the side.  Rebecca did come off and landed on her feet in the stream, which simply confirmed my decision to leave this for now to be the correct one, because I could easily see myself belly-flopping into the cold water.  I was not to escape the water entirely, because now we were set the task to cross the stream 5 times.  I managed it twice before having to stop and wait to get some feeling back into my feet, and then did it one more time.  It was very definitely colder than the weir at Verulamium Park in St Albans.

This was not time to be standing around so we began our run back to the cars.  Rebecca and I took the direct route up the track we had initially come down, while the others headed off to the right.  The track had not seemed to be very long when we had set off earlier this morning, but now it seemed to be going on forever.  One thing was very clear – both Rebecca and I were determined to run it to the very end, and we even picked up the pace when we saw the finish line.  We were busy stretching off when the others arrived a short time later.  This had been another excellent session.  I had covered 7.6 kilometres in the hour and a quarter we had been out, while Will had covered 9.7 kilometres.  Tony would have done a bit more than that besides.  If I was not already sold on this as a permanent fixture for my early Sunday mornings then Rebecca announcing that there were bacon rolls available certainly sealed the deal.  I dried off, put on some warm clothing, and drove home, happy that I had put in a good fitness workout before most people had woken up.

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Obstacle Course Race Training : Verulamium Park

It is not every day that you get to train with a medallist from a World Championship, let alone that you get to train with two of them, so when I saw a post on Facebook from Tony Leary about a Sunday morning obstacle course race training session at Verulamium Park which would include himself (silver medallist in the M45-49 category in the 2016 OCR World Championship 15K) and Nick Day (bronze medallist in the M35-39 category in the 2016 OCR World Championship 15K) then I jumped at the chance to join in.

Having said that, when I woke up on the Sunday morning, I was not so sure I had made a great decision.  I had spent 4 hours on Saturday sat on a Wattbike in the gym covering 60 miles as part of my commitment to The 100 Peaks Challenge, had then spent the evening at Mark Spencer’s 50th birthday party, and now it was looking foggy outside.  The Facebook post had promised technical trail running, wrec bag carries, hill repeats and cold water practice – not so inviting on a morning like this….who am I trying to kid ?  The weather just made it even more perfect !  However, being out the night before and the clocks changing had thrown me out, so I was late leaving the house and ended up having to jog down to the museum car park to make sure I was there on time.  It served to wake me up.

I got another wake up call when I saw the rest of the group – Will Harbour, Lee Pickering, Ashley Jones, Jake Barber, Robert Boarder, Ray Fletcher, Alex Juggins and Chris Hall – I was so out of my depth !  Nick introduced himself while Tony was off setting up a couple of rigs on the goalposts for later, and once Tony got back he gave us a quick indication of what we would be doing today.  He would expand further at each stage, and then we were off for a warm up trail run, Tony introducing himself to me as we got going, before we pushed up to a pace which was a lot quicker than my usual warm up pace.  We set off round the outside of the far side of Verulamium Park, making our way up the slope to the top before cutting across the ridge to the area of woodland, pausing while Tony explained this would be the location for the wrec bag carries, then running through the wood to the bottom, before running back up to the entrance to the wood.  It turned out this was the Mini 1.15km Verulamium Trail/Hill Loop segment on Strava, and by the end of this session the group occupied 6 of the top 7 places, with Nick just 1 second ahead of Lee.  I am sure we have not heard the last of that.

We need to get these through the fog to the top of the hill...

We need to get these through the fog to the top of the hill…

The others had started back along the ridge by the time I made it back to the entrance to the wood, so I followed them down to where we had started from and looped round with them as they made their way back up with the wrec bags and a couple of tyres on ropes.  I had nothing to carry and was still pushing to keep up with them.  So, the idea was to carry one of the wrec bags (or pull one of the tyres) through the woods to the bottom, leave it there for someone else to bring up, then return to the top and go again.  There were more of us than there were wrec bags and tryes, so there should be something for everyone on at least the down or the up route, and the idea was to get in at least three laps.  There was nothing left for me to carry down by the time I got there so I just took the run through the woods.  The surface was not muddy, but it was certainly not dry and there were lots of tree roots growing above ground level, which were slippery enough that you had to take care.  The route was undulating and now just a downhill run, and while the track itself was pretty even, it did slope to the sides at times, which all made it good fun to run along.  I came out at the bottom to find some wrec bags waiting for me, so I picked one up, which turned out to be a medium weight from what was available this morning.  I made my way back up the hill on the outside of the edge of the woods.  The track was a little muddier, but still easy enough to move along without slipping.  I was going as fast as I could, but I was not running.  I got to the top, dropped off the wrec bag, and went again.  This time I struck really lucky when I got to the bottom because the wrec bag I picked up turned out to be the lightest.  I had been worried when approaching it because it was a black wrec bag, and Tony had warned us about a very heavy black wrec bag.  Fortunately, this was not it.  I had been passed a few times in the woods, and had made sure I stepped to the side to let the much faster runners get past me, and now some of the guys were passing me as I made my way back up the slope with the wrec bag, each one giving me encouragement as they went past.  As Nick passed me while I was going through the woods again he said we were meeting at the bottom to move on to the next section, so I pushed on to bring this part to a close.  Very soon everyone was at the bottom with all the wrec bags and one of the tyres.  One of the tyres…  Tony decided to go and get it himself, while the rest of us made our way over to the grass area below the Cathedral, with me pulling the one tyre which had made its way down to the bottom.

Nick brought us to a halt at the edge of the park across from the Fighting Cocks pub, but of a lot more relevance to what was about to happen, next to the weir.  And by the look and sound of it, a very full weir.  Nick decided we had waited long enough for Tony and took us on to the grass area below the Cathedral for hill sprints to fill in the time.  Fortunately, Tony had arrived by the time I was coming back down that hill, but I knew there would be more hill sprints to come.  Tony arranged the kit at the bottom of the grass area so that we had a tyre at each end of a row, and two pyramids of wrec bags between them.  We would run in a group up the left hand side of the hill to the bin at the top, go round it, cross over to the other side of the hill to come down, meeting a tree near the bottom with a branch at a great height to clamber over, before coming along the bottom of the hill to the first tyre, crawling between that tyre and the first pyramid of wrec bags, doing a standing jump over the bags, crawling to the next pyramid, another standing jump, more crawling to the second tyre, then up and run to the far end of the weir, wade in, walk through the water to the top of the weir, climb out up one of the earth slopes, then return to the start.  We would be doing that three times.  We would run a practice lap to begin with, and Tony wanted to keep us in a group, so suggested that anyone who did not want to run the full hill should cut across about half way up, which was clearly the option for me.  I enjoyed going over the tree branch.  I am going to have to use this route in some way in my running training programmes so that I can keep going over that tree branch.  The crawling was good too.  All the time, I knew the weir was coming, and I was certainly wondering what it would be like.  I had done tabbing with Regiment Fitness in this park before, and been through the river (which was good) and the lake (which was horrible), and now I came to the weir and it was…freezing !!!  I got into the river and the water came up above my ankles, going higher still as I took a step up into the weir, and almost immediately I could not feel my feet.  I carried on, taking another couple of steps up and going underneath a metal pipe, before my legs had had enough and I clambered up the muddy slope to escape the cold.  I jogged round to the grass below the Cathedral to join the others, waiting for the moment when I would be able to feel my feet again.  The three laps were hard work, although I did get a brief interlude as I explained to a woman with her dog what exactly we were doing.  She found it all rather strange, in a good way !

A couple of rigs were waiting for us

A couple of rigs were waiting for us

We gathered up the kit and carried it over to the goalposts at the far side of the park where we had started off the morning, which now seemed so very long ago to me.  There to greet us was Coach Tony Campbell (from Bigfoot Challenge), who had set up a couple of rigs on two of the goals, featuring rope of different lengths and thicknesses, hanging balls, rings and nunchucks.  It all looked very difficult, and proved to be almost impossible.

A nice variety of problems

A nice variety of problems

From what I saw, Nick and Jake gave it a really great go, but the star of the morning was Will, who showed himself to be a total spidermonkey.  I knew this was way beyond me at the moment, so I stood back to allow the others to have their fun, and to marvel at their prowess.  Everyone was helping everyone else, giving advice and encouragement if someone got stuck along the way, and it was a great learning experience.  Teams were showing up to use the football pitches, so it was time for us to remove the kit and get out of their way, and I was able to help out with that.  Will was still climbing all over the goalposts to untie the various items, and once I had something to stand on I was able to provide some assistance, but the string attached to one of the balls was causing a lot of problems, having been pulled a lot tighter after a number of people had been hanging from it.  We were gradually loosening it off, but what we really needed was something to wedge between the rounds of the string to make that task a lot easier.  Tony got out his car key, and while it appeared to be working to ease off the tightness of the string, the next thing we knew it had bent !  Fortunately, Tony was still able to use it, plus we had managed to get everything down off the goalposts, so it was all good.

I had enjoyed a brilliant morning, a very tough workout (I had covered 10.9km), among a great group of people.  I would like to thank Tony and Nick for having me along, and everyone else for making me feel so welcome, and for encouraging me along the way.  I will definitely be adding these Sunday morning sessions to my training programme.

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The 100 Peaks Challenge : Launch Weekend Part 1

I should tell you something about The 100 Peaks Challenge.

The Goal is Simple, the Task Monumental, the Reason Inspirational.

The Goal is 100 Peaks for £100,000.00.  Since September 2012, Karl Rushen has made it a mission to try to raise as much money as he can for military charities, foremost the Parachute Regiment Charity (now Support our Paras) and ABF The Soldiers Charity.

The Task is to summit at speed 100 peaks in the UK, all above 610m (2000ft) – in Scotland, in England, on the Isle of Man, and in Wales.  The Challenge will begin in Scotland on 23rd May 2017, before heading south to the Pennines/Lakes, across to the Isle of Man, crossing the Irish Sea in kayaks.  The final leg in Wales will begin in Snowdonia and culminate with tabbing from Waun Fach in the Black Mountains, finishing at the summit of Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons on the 16th June 2017 – a total duration of 25 days….

The Reason is Karl’s brother, Lloyd (Lloydy) who was killed in action in Afghanistan on 16th June 2011 while serving with 22 SAS, and ever since Karl has used the fundraising events he has done as a means of trying to deal with losing him in a positive way.  Since Lloyd’s death, Karl’s wife has given birth to their son Charlie and before he gets much older, Karl would like to bring his fundraising efforts to an ‘epic’ conclusion !

Lloydy

Lloydy

So here we were, launching The 100 Peaks Challenge over the weekend, and what a location we were privileged to be using to kick it all off, the Corporal Budd VC Gymnasium on Melville Barracks, where a number of us were lining up to assist Barrie Williams with his attempt on the 24-hour indoor rowing world record.

Our location for the next 24 hours

Our location for the next 24 hours

I had arrived later than planned thanks to the traffic on the A12, and walked in to see everything had started, with 4 rowing machines and 3 cycles supporting Barrie.  I immediately spotted Karl, Alan Wilkins, Jason Prior, Steve Long (whose Lone Wolf Medical motorbike I had seen in the car park), Venessa Moffat (Ness), and also DS Stu Bigg from Avalanche Endurance Events, who is absolutely outstanding at supporting anyone from the wider AEE family who takes on a challenge, as I know myself from when I took on a charity boxing challenge earlier this year.

It had already started by the time I arrived

It had already started by the time I arrived

It really is a wider AEE family too, with so many crossovers with The 100 Peaks Challenge, and that is how I came across Barrie Williams, who reached out to me after my disaster at Ricochet (which you can read about here), so I was more than happy to be here now to support him with his awesome challenge.  We were also joined by Simon Ferrier, who had arranged these excellent facilities for us, and Bronagh McManus, both from the ABF.

I began on the rowing machine, remembering very quickly that as I had only previously been on one for about 20 minutes at most, that this was going to be substantially harder than that, although nowhere near to what Barrie was going to be going through, obviously.  I got into a good, comfortable rhythm, sorted out my breathing, and set out to keep to the pace suggested by Karl, 12,000 metres per hour, although, as he pointed out as I took my seat, I now only had 38 minutes left in this hour to achieve that.  As it turned out, I was more than fine at that pace for now, consistently coming in ahead of it in each five minute segment, and by the end of the hour I had managed 12,642 metres.  I left the machine and drank a bottle of my protein drink and a bottle of Mountain Fuel (tropical), but as I was doing that disaster struck proceedings when the main rower computer suddenly crashed, leaving Barrie with a blank screen.  Nothing he did would bring it back, and so that first hour and a bit was lost.  Barrie was adamant that he would simply begin again, so we switched rowers to give him the machine I had just used, and at 1850 Barrie started over.

In full flow

In full flow

The one niggle I did have after my first rowing session was an ache in the top of my back and specifically my left shoulder, and this really came through in my next row, so I decided to stop after 15 minutes and switched to one of the bikes, continuing on that for the remaining 45 minutes of the hour.  I had stuck to the pace on the rower, managing 3072 metres in the 15 minutes, but had no idea of the pace we were supposed to aim for on the bikes.  To be honest, given my experience of spin classes to date, I preferred to remain in blissful ignorance and just put in the time.  As with the rower, I was going to be in the saddle on the bike for a lot longer than I had been for a very long time, and even this first 45 minutes left me feeling saddle sore after 21.77 kilometres.  We could not believe it as the rower computer crashed again, and it must have been incredibly frustrating for Barrie, but he decided to begin all over again as we had the time available.  Having finished my own latest session, I drank more protein drink, ate a small pot of Ambrosia rice pudding, a Gold Bar, an original Chia Charge bar, and then drank a bottle of Lucozade Sport.  By this time Martin Ledge was also here, and he put in a marathon stint on the bike, and we were very soon joined by Barry and Kat Jones, and at around half past 8, James Nicholson arrived.  It is remarkable to think that without the Paras’ 10, Avalanche Endurance Events, and The 100 Peaks Challenge, I most likely would not know any of these remarkable people.  And just how very remarkable they all are was demonstrated this evening because the rower computer crashed yet again.  It was becoming obvious that there must be some general malfunction which was not allowing the rower computer to cope with the 24-hour measurement, and now every time Barrie stopped, the clock stopped, so it could not be used to verify the record attempt.  So Barrie decided to put in a 24-hour rowing training session, and the decision was taken by all present to keep going with him and also turn this into an extended training session instead.

At 2100 I put in another hour on the bike, covering 29.75 kilometres and putting my rear in a world of pain in the process.  I was wearing a pair of 100 Peaks cycling shorts with padding and while they seemed to have little positive effect, it must be said that looking around the gymnasium I was clearly not alone in this discomfort !  I had a chat with Barrie as I staggered off to sit down in a far more comfortable position.  Our previous conversations when he reached out to me were around nutrition, and now he told me about an app called Dr Greger’s Daily Dozen, which sounds brilliant and is definitely something I will try.  As I got back to my things DS Stu walked in carrying boxes of Domino’s Pizza, which I suspect do not feature in the daily dozen, but that did not dissuade us from tucking in.  I also drank some more of my protein drink, and bemoaned the state of my glutes.  I decided to drink some more Lucozade Sport and ate another Gold Bar as a comfort food, as Paul Southernwood, Lesley Kemp, Kim Treece and Charlotte Glass arrived after their evening with Ranulph Fiennes, one of the patrons of The 100 Peaks Challenge.

A full house

A full house

I took a good hour off before going back to the rower, partly because all the equipment was so busy, and partly because I felt I needed the rest.  As well as the Lucozade Sport, I had also begun to drink some of the blackcurrant flavour Mountain Fuel, so I now felt more than ready to go again, but this time disaster struck me because after only 15 minutes I did not feel good at all and was worried that I was about to throw up, which I am sure would not have gone down well with all present.  I stopped after rowing only 2790 metres.  When I was feeling better I began to eat the chicken and bacon pasta I had brought with me, and also a Rocky chocolate biscuit.  I wanted to get on to one of the bikes, rather than trying the rower again, but they were all taken and as people came off they were quickly replaced.  With hindsight, I should have taken the opportunity to go and get some sleep, but I really wanted to do another hour before that.  Still, by staying up I did get to see the ghost door on the upper tier opening and closing…  A bike became available just after 0100 on the Saturday morning, and I set out to ride for an hour.  I am pretty sure I fell asleep in the saddle, and am not sure how I kept going.  First of all I told myself I had to get to 30 minutes, then moved it on to riding for 15km, then determined to keep going until 45 minutes, then we finally got something decent in Jason’s playlist as Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor pounded out, and suddenly I had been riding for an hour, covering 24.90 kilometres, while sipping on some more of the blackcurrant Mountain Fuel.  I got off, drank some more protein drink, ate some more of the pasta, enjoyed a Gold Bar, and then considered what I had achieved in the first 9 hours – 1 hour 30 minutes of rowing, 2 hours 45 minutes of cycling, and 4 hours 15 minutes in total – so almost half of the time I had been there, and I was pleased enough with that.  I was also glad I had got off when I did as Charlotte tried picking off the riders with a frisbee…  Yes, it was definitely time to hit my sleeping bag as the time approached 0300.

I emerged at 0745 to the dulcet, ironic, tones of Enter Sandman by Metallica.  There looked to be a few people in the gym who would have welcomed the Sandman at this point.  I got back into the saddle at 0800, immediately realising that my sleep had done absolutely nothing for my saddle soreness, and rode for 30 minutes while drinking water, covering 12.41 kilometres, until it was time for breakfast.

Outside the canteen

Outside the canteen

Breakfast had been arranged by Simon and he took us over in two waves to the canteen, where I got a bowl of porridge and a mug of tea for just £1.33.  Breakfast did not last very long, and I was back on the rower for another 30 minutes at 0920, covering 5413 metres.  I supplemented breakfast with some more protein drink, and while I was definitely feeling fatigued, mainly it was my bum which was hurting, and sitting down was so uncomfortable.  Dale Mason and Stuart Twigg had arrived by the time we got back from breakfast, as had an interviewer, who spoke with Barrie and Karl while they continued with their rowing.  The next person to turn up was Dave Rigg, most likely checking up on all potential candidates for the core 100 Peaks Challenge team who were present.  I ate some more of my pasta, then got back on the bike at 1045, cycling for 30 minutes and covering 11.80 kilometres, really being slowed down by my posterior soreness, although I was also feeling soreness in my shoulders now as well.  I was drinking water as well as my protein drink, and ate another delicious Gold Bar, and a berry flavour Chia Charge bar, then enjoyed a chat with Simon before eating a tub of Ambrosia rice pudding and a Rocky bar.  I was tired and yawning.  I managed 15 minutes on the rower at 1215, covering 2631 metres, but now my back was hurting as well as my shoulders.  Caroline and Charlie Rushen arrived, and Charlie’s presence always gives everybody a boost at these events.  We went back to the canteen for lunch at 1315, where I enjoyed chicken pasta for £1.57 and a slice of chocolate fudge cake which had been left over from a Help For Heroes morning meeting, all washed down with a cup of tea.  Mike McDonald had arrived when we got back to the gym, and had brought his 24kg kettlebell with him, so he could keep his daily kettlebell swings going.  DS Stu filmed him in action.  I got back on the bike at 1400 and managed another 15 minutes, covering 5.6 kilometres.  It was impossible to find a sweet spot to sit on.  I had drunk 6 litres of water by now, on top of the protein and energy drinks.

I believe DS Stu can fly...

I believe DS Stu can fly…

Charlotte was skipping, an excellent way to burn off the chocolate fudge cake, and she was joined by DS Stu.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring my skipping rope…  Gadge Grocutt arrived as I was eating another Gold Bar.  At 1545 I managed another 15 minutes on the rower, covering 3056 metres, and that was it for me.  In total I had rowed for 2 hours and 30 minutes, covering 29604 metres, and cycled for 4 hours, covering 106.23 kilometres.  I went off for a shower, packed all my stuff away, and waited for 1700.  In fact, we all gathered to wait for that time, one eye on Barrie who continued with his rowing, and one eye on the clock as it ticked round to 24 hours duration.

That's it - 24 hours done !!!

That’s it – 24 hours done !!!

There was much clapping and cheering and congratulations for Barrie as the time passed 1700 – thanks to equipment failures he had not been able to set a mark for the world record attempt, but regardless he had kept rowing for 24 hours, which was a fine achievement in itself.

No medals, but Barrie does get to be in one of my selfies

No medals, but Barrie does get to be in one of my selfies

A big thank you to everyone who turned up to support Barrie, and my apologies if I have failed to mention you in this blog.  Anyway, you all have another chance to get mentioned because I have taken so long to type this up that we now have a date for a new attempt !  We will be meeting up at the David Lloyd Clubs in Colchester for a 1700 start on Friday 18 November 2016, determined to make everything happen smoothly this time, so that Barrie can break that record.  You might also notice some of us from the core 100 Peaks Challenge team putting in some solid hours on the rowers and the bikes, and we would all welcome the support and the company.

You can see more photographs from the 24 hours here.

Posted in Fitness Training, The 100 Peaks Challenge | Leave a comment

8 Weeks To SEALFIT : Week 3 : Stamina

As part of my fitness training I have decided to follow the programme set out in the book 8 Weeks To SEALFIT by Mark Divine, a Navy SEAL’s guide to unconventional training for physical and mental toughness.  I know this is going to be very hard work, and believe the rewards will be well worth the effort I put into it.

As time allows, I also intend to keep going with the other parts of my current fitness training – gym classes (Metafit, Go Tri and spin), boxing, kettlebells, rowing and swimming – so I will make it clear which parts of these blogs are specifically SEALFIT.

Monday 02 May 2016

Week 3, and the promise that “the stamina section increases intensity and pace”.

SEALFIT Week 3 : Stamina : Day 1

I am determined to keep that first SEALFIT session happening on a Monday because I can see I cannot avoid a slip in planning each week, and as the intensity of the sessions increases it will just become impossible to double-up, which makes catching up very hard.  Fortunately, this was a Bank Holiday Monday, so it was easy to create time for my session.  I began this session with a 400 metre run on the treadmill.  I am becoming used to running on the treadmill but I still do not really know how to operate the controls, which means I cannot programme it for a distance, so today I ran for 2 minutes 30 seconds on a setting of 7.  I really should get out on the track one day and actually time myself over these distances.  I continued with 10-8-6-4-2 repetitions of air squats and jumping pull-ups, before moving on to the strength phase with 5 x 5 repetitions of deadlifts with a 45kg barbell.  The work capacity section of the session was 5 rounds for time of 3 x deadlifts, 6 x dumbbell push presses, and 9 x burpees.  I used the 45kg barbell for the deadlifts and two 10kg dumbbells, and it took me 8 minutes to complete.

Training on a Bank Holiday

Training on a Bank Holiday

As I said last week, I am not going to describe what happens in the Kokoro Yoga sessions, and instead will simply inform you of the daily online headings and descriptions, to give you an idea.

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 8 – Zen Warrior: Being the Calm in the Storm

“Zen emphasizes meditation, practice, insight into your peaceful nature, and the personal expression of this insight into your daily life for service and the greater good of humanity. In this past week, we have started to introduce the essence of this practice and why Kokoro Yoga is a lifestyle and daily practice rather than a get enlightened quick scheme. One reason we train in a functional way is to get strong and flexible so that we can sit comfortably in meditation and cultivate a Zen state of being. In this video, Mark will guide you through a Zen meditation that will introduce some of the technique to this ancient practice.”

  1. SEALFIT (St Albans – gym) – Day 1 –  19 minutes
  2. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 8

Tuesday 03 May 2016

Metafit was more of the same, doing the Al Frego Matrix again, and I can definitely feel my performance improving.  I gave it everything, which is what you have to do with a class like that, while knowing that I was going to launch myself into my SEALFIT session straight after it.  I have sent my Garmin Fenix 2 in for repair or replacement, and cannot wait to get it back so I can start recording these sessions properly again, because my phone app reckons the class lasted 48 seconds.

SEALFIT Week 3 : Stamina : Day 2

I moved from the fitness studio to the gym and got straight into my SEALFIT session, 3 rounds of 200 metre run, 25 x jumping jacks, 15 x sit-ups, and 5 x hand-release push-ups.  I ran for 1 minute on the treadmill at a setting of 7 for the 200 metre run.  The work capacity section was a 20 minute AMRAP of 400 metre run, 10 x thruster, and 10 x knees to elbows.  I position myself between the treadmill and the pull-up bars, ran for 2 minutes and 30 seconds at a setting of 7 for the 400 metres, and used a 25kg barbell for the thrusters, completing 4 rounds plus the run in the time allowed.

My usual training space

My usual training space

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 9 – Recovering Warrior: Restore, Reset and Renew

“We all have times of struggle- it is a common thread of humanity. Stress on the physical, mental and emotional system can be challenging to bounce back from. Even if we logically understand a trauma, our nervous system does not operate that way, it needs reprogramming. Trauma comes in many forms; some of you have been to battle overseas, other people survive abuse or everyday events like a car accident. All 3 of these examples can create what is known as PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). To recover, we need support, tools, and patience. For recovery one of the best tools is a body scan which we will introduce to you in this video. Remember: to recover we need commitment, forgiveness, and compassion.”

  1. Metafit (St Albans – gym) – 30 minutes
  2. SEALFIT (St Albans – gym) – Day 2 – 32 minutes 30 seconds
  3. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 9

Wednesday 04 May 2016

The spin class this morning was with Chloe Charlton and was mostly sprinting, making it different to last week.  I covered 16.9km, but I am not sure that is important.  I still need to work on hitting the required rpm.

SEALFIT Week 3 : Stamina : Day 3

I carried on straight from the spin class, and the session began with a 500 metre row, which felt good, then 3 rounds of 10 x kettlebell deadlifts, 10 x 2-count mountain climbers, and 10 x push jerks.  I used a 15kg dumbbell (because I could not find a 16kg kettlebell), and a 25kg barbell for the push jerks.  The strength section was 5 x 5 repetitions of sumo deadlift high pulls, which are as hard to do as they are to say, and I used the 25kg barbell for them as well, but all of this was simply a prelude to an intense work capacity section of the session : 500 metre row, 25 x SDHP, 25 x wall balls, 25 x dips, and another 500 metre row.  I used an 8kg medicine ball, and as I did not have a suitable wall to use simply threw it into the air and caught it.  I was completing the set for time and it took me 10 minutes 11 seconds.

Kitted up

Kitted up

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 10 – Service to Your Community, Family, and Yourself

“Service is a big part of our practice and the yoga culture. How do we serve ourselves? Morning ritual, box breathing, eating nutritious whole food. How do we serve our community? Community service, impromptu litter clean up, getting to know your neighbors. How do you serve your family? Being present without electronics, cultivating loving and clear communication, and making sure you hug each other every day. These are a few examples of how to introduce service each day in some way. Being of service to something outside of ourselves it the path of the warrior and we invite you to embody this. In this video, Catherine will discuss ideas on how to be of service.”

I went into the gym while Debbie was seeing the osteopath, and happened to spot Andy Trevillion.  I had identified him as a Personal Trainer who could be very useful to me because his CV showed qualifications in Crossfit and Olympic weightlifting, and I wanted someone who would understand the programme I was following.  I talked him through what I was doing and asked if he could be available for a session to go through weightlifting technique with me.  I am very happy to say that he said yes, although I do have to wait until next Thursday to see him.  I then carried on with what I had intended to do in the gym, which was 5 rounds on the weight machines devoted to legs.  I did 5 sets of 10 repetitions on the leg extensions (32kg/70lbs), leg curls (36kg/80lbs), and leg press (80kg/175lbs), and also added in some sets with individual legs.  I am going to try to do these at least once a week from now on.

  1. Spin (St Albans – gym) – 45 minutes
  2. SEALFIT (St Albans – gym) – Day 3 – 30 minutes 41 seconds
  3. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 10
  4. Weight machines – legs (St Albans – gym) – 5 x 10 repetitions

Thursday 05 May 2016

Today was just packed with work, so I only managed to create an opportunity to continue with my daily Kokoro Yoga.

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 11 – Nutrition: Taking it to Another Level…it isn’t Just Food

“Proper nutrition is breath, whole food, water, sleep, thoughts, loving relationships, enjoyment of your profession, and time spent in nature. Today start to notice how you nourish yourself. Are your choices ones that assist you on the path to being the healthiest version of yourself or do they keep you in a cycle of suffering? Are you putting off better nutrition because you are comfortable eating crappy food, watching TV late into the night and sleeping 4 hours a night? We know you can do it, get uncomfortable with the bad habits and comfortable with change for a more powerful and thriving you!”

  1. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 11

Friday 06 May 2016

I think we all got taken by surprise when Emma Plunkett announced that Go Tri would be held outside today.  At least I had come prepared for that, and fortunately we were not going in the pool.  It was a lovely sunny morning, so it made great sense to take advantage of it, but unfortunately for me that meant a lot more running than could be done inside, and I still feel like I am not quite ready for that aspect in my training just yet.  My running was certainly slow as we did a number of sprints up and down the grass in front of the gym, with exercises in between, and I did most of it carrying an 8kg medicine ball.  The session was good fun.

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 12 – Grounding Meditation and Principles Introduced: The 1st Chakra

“This week we will be introducing you to the energetic aspect of your body. I know it may feel a bit far-fetched, but stick with us and try out the exercises we are introducing. We’re pretty sure you will have outstanding and potentially life changing experiences! So what is a chakra? Well… Chakra is the Sanskrit word for wheel. In the system of yoga, there is an understanding of 7 main energy wheels that run along the spinal column. Each of these wheels has different aspects of how we relate to the world, where we get blocked mentally, emotionally and physically. This is where if you are science minded looking into Quantum Physics research may help you embrace these techniques. Or just get curious like you are 5 years old and play and see what happens. In this video, Mark will guide you through a meditation on the base chakra.”

SEALFIT Week 3 : Stamina : Day 4

Once again I had some catching up to do with my SEALFIT sessions, so today would be Grinder PT.  I went to the gym and did 20 minutes of 10 x run and drop, 10 x 10kg dumbbell squat jumps, 20 x push ups, 20 x leg levers, 15 x burpees, 15 x 4-count smurf jumping jacks, 15 x tuck jumps, 20 x 10kg dumbbell thrusters, 20 x push ups (narrow), 20 x crisscross jumping jacks.  I improved to 3 rounds this week.  The session suggests 20 minutes of LSD run, ruck, or swim, and as I was too late to get into the pool, I decided to do 20 minutes of LSD run on the treadmill, on a setting of 4.  I got something of a stitch in my left side after about 15 minutes, but decided I would keep going for 30 minutes instead of 20, and it felt good to be doing that.

Still got no idea how to work the treadmill functions...

Still got no idea how to work the treadmill functions…

  1. Go Tri (St Albans – gym) – 39 minutes 53 seconds
  2. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 12
  3. SEALFIT (St Albans) – Day 4 – 50 minutes

Saturday 07 May 2016

I went for a swim in the late morning and managed 80 lengths in just over an hour.  I am very happy with that.

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 13 – The 2nd Chakra: Creativity- Why We All Have It and How to Unlock Your Hidden Desire to Play

“Creativity is a beautiful collaboration of inspiration, vision, trust, and play. Unfortunately, you may have been told you just weren’t the creative type. We are here to tell you that that is simply not true. We are all creative and how we express it comes in a variety of actions. On the path as a warrior, there may be obstacles that present themselves and creativity is your answer to operating from a place that will allow you not to only overcome but thrive. This is what we want you to want for yourself- to have a life where you feel the freedom and energy to create your existence that inspires yourself, family, and community.”

SEALFIT Week 3 : Stamina : Day 5

I knew I was going to have to improvise for this session because it requires a sandbag, and fortunately I had come across those Vipr things at one of the Go Tri sessions and knew it would fit the bill very nicely.  I used the 16 kg one.  I began with 10 x sandbag cleans left side, continued with a 400 metre run on the treadmill (3 minutes at a setting of 7), and finished off with 10 x sandbag cleans right side.  The strength part of the session was 5 x 5 repetitions of power cleans, using a 30kg barbell.  For work capacity I completed 5 rounds of 10 x power cleans, 100 metre run (45 seconds at a setting of 8), and 30 seconds rest.  It was very hard to keep going at that pace, so I pushed through and completed it, to make it a great way to bring Week 3 to a close.  The training today had really worn me out.

Tough session to finish on

Tough session to finish on

  1. Swim (St Albans – pool) – 80 x 25 metre lengths – 1 hour 02 minutes 12 seconds
  2. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 13
  3. SEALFIT (St Albans – gym) – Day 5 – 31 minutes 25 seconds

Sunday 08 May 2016

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 14 – The 3rd Chakra: Intuition Practice- Intuition is Your Gut Telling You Something

“Congratulations! You have successfully practiced the Kokoro Yoga method for 2 weeks. Can you feel a difference from day one? If not continue to stick with it! Depending on what your lifestyle was like when you first started it can take a while for the benefits of new practice and habits to really sink in. Today we are discovering the energy center of willpower. Willpower is like a muscle, we have to use it to get stronger and more flexible. Daily use of willpower and intuition are the best way to develop these life tools. In this video, Catherine introduces an extraordinary tool for developing willpower through meditation as well as the principles of being in balance while exerting your will in this world.”

I did my tabatta from June 2011 again, and I am hoping this becomes a very good habit.  I did it from home this time, so used a 12kg kettlebell instead of dumbbells.

  1. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 14
  2. Tabatta (St Albans) – 16 minutes

Positives from this week : the level of the SEALFIT sessions definitely went up, and I stuck with it.  I have a session arranged to go through my weightlifting technique.  It all feels like it is coming together.

Posted in Avalanche Endurance Events, Elan, Fitness Training, Long Drag, Paras'10, Ricochet, Swimming, The 100 Peaks Challenge, The Fan Dance | Leave a comment

8 Weeks To SEALFIT : Week 2 : Strength

As part of my fitness training I have decided to follow the programme set out in the book 8 Weeks To SEALFIT by Mark Divine, a Navy SEAL’s guide to unconventional training for physical and mental toughness.  I know this is going to be very hard work, and believe the rewards will be well worth the effort I put into it.

As time allows, I also intend to keep going with the other parts of my current fitness training – gym classes (Metafit, Go Tri and spin), boxing, kettlebells, rowing and swimming – so I will make it clear which parts of these blogs are specifically SEALFIT.  This week also sees me begin a 30 day KOKORO Yoga challenge, another aspect from Mark Divine to add to my training.

Monday 25 April 2016

I am going to mention a few ‘nutrition’ items this week.   As I mentioned last week, I am continuing with the lemon drink mixture from Matt Ollie Ollerton (of the Channel 4 television programme SAS : Who Dares Wins fame) first thing each morning, at least 30 minutes before any food.  It is half a grated frozen lemon, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil, a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and hot water.  It works for me, definitely kick starts my metabolism, and seems to hold my appetite in check !

Be interesting to see what this does...

Be interesting to see what this does…

SEALFIT Week 2 : Strength : Day 1

I have been playing catch up with my SEALFIT sessions up to now and decided to change that this week by making sure I got right on it on the Monday.  I ran down to the gym in a sub-9 minute mile time, without really setting out to run a fast time, and I am pleased my running is coming together again.  Now I need to work on the stamina.  I do like the time it takes me to get to the gym because it means that mentally I am ready to go with the session as soon as I get there and have gathered together the equipment I need.  I warmed up with 30-20-10 repetitions of jumping jacks, air squats and arm circles, then moved on to 5 x 5 repetitions of strict presses using a 25kg barbell.  The work capacity section was for time, doing a 1000 metre row, 25 x strict presses, and 20 x supine ring pull-ups.  I used the 25kg barbell for the strict presses and completed the section in 8 minutes 18 seconds.

That's the rowing done

That’s the rowing done

I am not going to describe what happens in the Kokoro Yoga sessions, and instead will simply provide you with the daily online headings and descriptions, to give you an idea.

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 1 – Engaging The Warrior Within

“We are so excited that you are embarking on this 30-day challenge of developing your Kokoro Spirit. What does Kokoro mean? For us, it means merging your heart and mind with your Inner Warrior. Kokoro Yoga is the practice that will get you there. We have combined ancient and modern techniques that are effective and powerful. So get ready for transformation and some fun in the next 30 days!”

  1. Run (St Albans) – 1 mile – 9 minutes 48 seconds
  2. SEALFIT (St Albans – gym) – Day 1 – 14 minutes 49 seconds
  3. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 1

Tuesday 26 April 2016

I ran down to Metafit, the first of three gym classes I would be taking on this week.  I had defrosted the car before running down to the gym, and it was freezing out there.  It is on mornings like this that I wish Garmin would just find a satellite…  Anyway, Metafit takes place inside, so that was good, and this morning brought us a new session, named the Al Frego Matrix.  We worked up and down two groups of four exercises, listening to the soundtrack for instruction and also following the lead of Sam Sage, who takes the class, doing lots of active movements like walking lunges, burpees and sprints, before finishing off with core exercises on the floor.  I enjoy the intensity and variety of the class, and if the blurb is to be believed it carries on burning some time after the class itself ends.

SEALFIT Week 2 : Strength : Day 2

Immediately after Metafit I went outside to brave the cold for my SEALFIT session.  I do like training outside, still preferring it to being inside a gym, and as the things I am doing at the moment do not often allow me to train outside I have to take the opportunity when it arises, even if it is a freezing cold, windy morning.  I ran from the gym to the Adizone in the park for the 500 metre run, then did 3 rounds of 5 walking lunges on each leg, 10 push-ups and 15 sit-ups.  This had me ready for the 20 minutes AMRAP of 25 metres walking lunges, 10 burpees, and 25 metres jogging back to the start.  I completed 7 rounds plus one extra set of the walking lunges.  My legs really felt like they had been worked after the Metafit and SEALFIT sessions.

Definitely needed the fleece out there

Definitely needed the fleece out there

I did all the companion sessions of the KOKORO Yoga before moving on to Day 2 of the Challenge.

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 2 – Developing Your Morning Practice – Overcoming Being Versus Doing

“We know with a busy life that carving time out for your daily practice can be challenging as we have heard from academy participants over the years as well as our own experience of juggling practice and schedules. If you have to wake up 15 min. early for the next 30 days to watch this brief morning practice transform your life, we challenge you to do it. In this video, Mark will guide you through a morning ritual that will anchor, inspire, and propel you forward into Kokoro Spirit.”

I went for a swim in the evening, which felt very good, and I managed 36 lengths in the time available.  I do believe I have got faster since my swimming in February, and now need to increase the amount I do each week.

  1. Run (St Albans) – 0.9 miles – 9 minutes
  2. Metafit (St Albans – gym) – 30 minutes
  3. SEALFIT (St Albans – Adizone) – Day 2 – 32 minutes
  4. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 2
  5. Swim (St Albans – pool) – 36 x 25 metre lengths – 26 minutes 42 seconds

Wednesday 27 April 2016

I started Wednesday with an early morning spin class at the gym.  I had never taken a spin class before now, so did not really know what to expect.  I was not expecting to get saddle sore so soon, though.  The class was taken by Sonja Hill and we spent a lot of time climbing.  I covered 18.8km through the class and was sweating buckets by the end of it.  I could not hit the required rpms, so that is something to work on.

My first experience of spin

My first experience of spin

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 3 – Connect to Your Fighting Warrior – Higher Purpose

“You might be feeling the tug of your unconditioned ego saying, ‘Forget this challenge, I have better things to do.’ We challenge you to fight! Don’t listen to that part of yourself that doesn’t serve your highest potential and resists change. Listen to the warrior within. The Inner warrior knows it can do anything for 30 days and overcome challenges like schedule, attitude, or social limitations. We want you to win because this world needs more people who are connected and present in their day to day choices. In this video, you will learn a martial arts breathing technique guaranteed to fire you up to strike down the negative thoughts and win in your mind.”

And then disaster struck – my Garmin Fenix 2 froze.  I tried everything to correct it but am going to have to send it back to either be repaired or replaced.  It has served me well for about 3 years, but I am expecting to get a few more good years out of it yet.  It is a real pain having to record everything on the Strava app on my phone.

I took Debbie down to the spa at the gym and decided to do some leg work on the weight machines, doing 3 rounds of 10 repetitions of leg extensions, individual leg extensions, leg curls, and leg presses.  I recorded the weights in lbs, doing 70lbs on the leg extensions, 60lbs on the leg curls, and 100lbs on the leg presses.

SEALFIT Week 2 : Strength : Day 3

I went back to the gym in the evening for my SEALFIT session, and I think it is good that I am doing different things at different times, because that should get my body used to reacting well whenever I need it to.  This session began with 3 rounds of 200 metres run, 5 x strict presses, 5 x dips and 5 x jumping jacks.  I ran on the treadmill, for 1 minute at a pace of 7.  I used a 25kg barbell for the strict presses.  I had not planned ahead for the dips, so I had to improvise on the fly, using the end of workout bench which had not been put back after use.  The strength part of the session was 5 x 5 push presses with the 25kg barbell.  For the work capacity I completed 4 rounds for time of 400 metre run, 10 x push presses, and 10 x ball slams.  I ran 2 minutes at a 7 pace on the treadmill for the run, pushed the 25kg barbell, and used a 10kg medicine ball with handles for the ball slams, not actually slamming it because I was not sure how that would go down in the gym.  I still felt it from the downward motion.  My 4 rounds took 17 minutes 02 seconds.

Time for another nutrition alert.  I have started taking a raw vegan protein powder after training, Warrior Blend by Sunwarrior.  I chose to go with something plant-based because I wanted to avoid gluten and dairy.  It is chocolate flavoured and does taste good, if a little ‘powdery’.  It definitely makes a difference.

Powdery goodness

Powdery goodness

  1. Spin (St Albans – gym) – 47 minutes 12 seconds
  2. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 3
  3. Weight machines – legs (St Albans – gym) – 3 x 10 repetitions
  4. SEALFIT (St Albans – park and gym) – Day 3 – 35 minutes

Thursday 28 April 2016

I jogged down to the gym for my SEALFIT session.  It was later than I had intended to get there, but I was determined to keep on schedule this week.

SEALFIT Week 2 : Strength : Day 4

This morning was Grinder PT.  I stuck to the same session and did 20 minutes of 10 x run and drop, 10 x 10kg dumbbell squat jumps, 20 x push ups, 20 x leg levers, 15 x burpees, 15 x 4-count smurf jumping jacks, 15 x tuck jumps, 20 x 10kg dumbbell thrusters, 20 x push ups (narrow), 20 x crisscross jumping jacks.  I completed 2 rounds plus the first 4 exercises.  The session suggests 10 minutes of LSD run, ruck, or swim, and I decided to do 30 minutes of swimming, again like last week, and improved to 42 lengths in the time.

Grinder PT does not get any easier

Grinder PT does not get any easier

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 4 – Train Like A Jedi

“When we think of Jedi Warriors we think of the light overcoming the darkness. The strength of knowing we can plug into something greater than ourselves. Use the force today in everything you do. Look for the silver lining in every aspect of your day today. Resiliency, discipline, and commitment to your mission are key components to being in sync with the force. The force is known as prana, chi or ki in the ancient martial and yoga techniques. You were born with the force and it is all around you. In this video, you will be introduced to a Qigong method of connection and rebalancing.”

  1. Run (St Albans) – 1 mile – 12 minutes 23 seconds
  2. SEALFIT (St Albans – gym) – Day 4 – 23 minutes
  3. SEALFIT (St Albans – pool) – Day 4 – 33 minutes – 42 x 25 metre lengths
  4. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 4

Friday 29 April 2016

I went to Go Tri again and this time it was taken by Sam Hart.  It is good to be getting to know all the personal trainers around the gym.  He had set up a series of circuits in the spin studio, based around the Vipr, mat work, and kettlebells, and I found myself using a 20kg Vipr and 12kg kettlebell as we spent 60 seconds on each exercise.  It was a full on session and I really enjoyed it.

A nest of Viprs

A nest of Viprs

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 5 – Cultivate Your Peaceful Warrior

“Being Peaceful is about knowing ourselves. For us to do this, we have to spend time in focused awareness. This is why concentration practices and meditation are so key to the Kokoro Yoga program. Inner peace is achieved through time and energy spent on connecting to your thoughts, actions, habits (good and bad), and learning how to navigate in a way that is compassionate and loving for yourself and others in all circumstances.”

SEALFIT Week 2 : Strength : Day 5

I began with a 250 metre row followed by 15 push-ups, and then another 250 metre row followed by 15 push presses.  Everyone else in the gym appears to stay in their appropriate sections of the gym, whereas I turn up at the rowing machine with a barbell and put in some push-ups in between.  I am not sure what they must think of me.  I was happy with the rowing, doing both in 58 seconds, and actually traveling 269 metres and 270 metres.  I used a 20kg barbell for the push presses because there was not a 25kg one available, and then used it for 5 x 5 push jerks.  I then completed 21-15-9 repetitions for time of 4-count mountain climbers, push jerks, and sit-ups, which was a tough session, causing some aching in my left shoulder especially, and taking me 7 minutes 55 seconds.  I can feel these sessions getting harder.

  1. Go Tri (St Albans – gym) – 36 minutes 06 seconds
  2. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 5
  3. SEALFIT (St Albans) – Day 5 – 18 minutes 55 seconds

Saturday 30 April 2016

Once again I came to indoor rowing not feeling at the top of my game, and once again I had to cut it short because I simply ran out of steam.  I had splits of 1 minute 56.7 seconds, 1 minute 56.1 seconds, 1 minute 56.6 seconds, 1 minute 59 seconds, 1 minute 59.6 seconds, and 2 minutes 0.2 seconds.  At least I am in the area below 2 minutes when I can hit the intervals.

I decided to do some leg work on the weight machines to get over that, doing 3 rounds of 10 repetitions of leg extensions, individual leg extensions, leg curls, and leg presses.  For some reason I recorded the weights in kgs this time around, doing 30kg on the leg extensions, 36kg on the leg curls, and 80kg on the leg presses.  I will have to compare the two sessions from this week and work out what weight I should be doing.  I have no idea of using these machines is of any use, compared to using free weights, but it gives me something to use up a little spare time.

Some extra leg work

Some extra leg work

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 6 – Fit Warrior: Feeling Good, Noticing a Positive Impact on Your Life

“Being fit is not just about being in good physical shape. Physical, mental, and emotional fitness is what makes a Fit Warrior. Developing the inner domain takes dedication and focus. Sometimes we have to work on the physical to access the inner space of our being. Our bodies, however, are a great teacher of our mental and emotional fitness. We breathe for the mental push up, we watch the mind and emotion as well as the story for the emotional burpee and of course we exercise for a fit body.”

  1. Indoor rowing (St Albans – gym) – 6 x 500 metre row – 14 minutes 42 seconds
  2. Weight machines – legs (St Albans – gym) – 3 x 10 repetitions
  3. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 6

Sunday 01 May 2016

I found the written copy of a tabatta from June 2011 which I used to do when I was training with Christianne Woolf, and decided to give it another go.  It is 4 x 20 seconds with 10 seconds rest, doing bicep curls with 10kg dumbbells, squat jumps, tricep dips, alternate lunge jumps, press ups, shoulder presses with the 10kg dumbbells, sumo squats, and full jump up sit ups.  It felt as good now as it did then, and I am going to keep it as part of my weekly training.

Wonder how many times I've actually done this...

Wonder how many times I’ve actually done this…

KOKORO Yoga 30-Day Challenge – Day 7 – Ageless Warrior: Staying Calm in the Storm and Living with Purpose

“Imagine yourself sitting in nature- healthy, content, and eternal. See your story written in the stars and the Book of Life. Know that as you become a master of your destiny you will learn to appreciate time and space the way the Ageless Warrior does, with a fluid and grounded presence of a Sage. Life is full of mystery and magic. Not Harry Potter magic but the kind like, ‘Wow, you are sitting here reading this and your body knows exactly what to do to keep you alive without much thought.’ What if we gave a bit more attention to the body, mind, and spirit and pondered our place amongst the perfect chaos of this world? What if you thought about death not to depress yourself but rather to inspire you to live more fully in this moment? Developing that Ageless Warrior is to look at how we can contribute to the world in a positive way so that our actions will affect multiple generations after us.”

  1. Tabatta (St Albans – gym) – 16 minutes
  2. KOKORO Yoga (St Albans) – Day 7

Positives from this week : I am really enjoying following the SEALFIT routine, feeling the progress, and adding in the other classes.  The KOKORO Yoga introduction is fascinating and I have a feeling that is something I am going to take a lot further.  One observation I have from the past two weeks is that I do need to organise a session with one of the personal trainers at the gym to run through the proper technique for the weightlifting I am now doing.  I have an idea of what I am doing, but I would like to have that confirmed, and also work out with them what weight I should be lifting for each lift, and what weight I should be aiming for.

Posted in Avalanche Endurance Events, Elan, Fitness Training, Long Drag, Paras'10, Swimming, The 100 Peaks Challenge, The Fan Dance | Leave a comment

8 Weeks To SEALFIT : Week 1 : The Baseline

As part of my fitness training I have decided to follow the programme set out in the book 8 Weeks To SEALFIT by Mark Divine, a Navy SEAL’s guide to unconventional training for physical and mental toughness.  I know this is going to be very hard work, and believe the rewards will be well worth the effort I put into it.

As time allows, I also intend to keep going with the other parts of my current fitness training – Metafit, boxing, kettlebells, rowing and swimming – so I will make it clear which parts of these blogs are specifically SEALFIT.

Monday 18 April 2016

There has been a gap, and so I will repeat a few background points in this blog, although I should make the point that I think the gap has served me very well.  I completed the Screening week, which you can read about here, then started the real Week 1, full in the knowledge that travelling would prevent me from completing it, then spent a week walking the hills on Raasay while looking wistfully at the Red Cullin on Skye, which renewed me in a way that only being out on the hills can do, and so came back home more than ready to hit Week 1 head on.

So energising and refreshing

So energising and refreshing

I am continuing with the lemon drink mixture from Matt Ollie Ollerton (of the Channel 4 television programme SAS : Who Dares Wins fame) first thing each morning, at least 30 minutes before any food.  It is half a grated frozen lemon, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil, a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and hot water.  It definitely kick starts my metabolism !

Be interesting to see what this does...

Be interesting to see what this does…

My working week was not going to make this easy for me, and my Monday began with a 3am wake up call and a trip on the Eurostar to Paris.  I had time on my hands once I got there so I walked from the station to the location of my meeting, and then took a walk around the park I found there.  I also walked back to Gare du Nord after the meeting.  I did all that carrying my work backpack, which once it has my laptop and papers in it is not light.  I was too tired to do anything more once I got home, so I was a day behind with SEALFIT already.

The Big Red Angel Bear

The Big Red Angel Bear

  1. Walk (Paris) – 4.7 miles – 1 hour 21 minutes 23 seconds
  2. Walk (Paris) – 3.2 miles – 42 minutes 33 seconds

Tuesday 19 April 2016

I had not managed to get booked on to Metafit this week, which turned out to be a good thing because equally I did not manage to get out of bed early enough in the morning after my tiring Monday.  We went for a walk at lunchtime, which was very pleasant, and while I am more than aware I now need to step things up from just walking each day, today was going to be dictated by my car needing to be taken in for a service.  I live in St Albans and the man who services my car works out of Chipperfield, which leaves over 8 miles between us, and I decided I would run home after dropping off the car.  I knew at my current level I would not be able to run the whole distance, not least because of some of the hills I would encounter, but I would speed march whenever I was not running, and I had a target finish time because I had to be home to join a work conference call.  So taking the wrong turning and going off course was not in the plan, although it did mean I got to add some trail running to the road running.  Coming through Bedmond I turned right too soon, then missed a couple of opportunities when I could have hit the correct route again, and finally found myself on the main road from Hemel Hempstead to St Albans, which was busy, so I was reduced to marching along the verge.  It had been a tough workout.  Welcome back to running !  I did manage three Strava segment PRs, on Chipperfield Hill, Chipperfield Road Push and Toms Lane Climb.

SEALFIT Week 1 : The Baseline : Day 1

I walked down to the gym, which I have previously mentioned is just over a mile away, and so I have a perfect warm up for my SEALFIT session, both physically and mentally, leaving me arriving at the gym ready to go.  I started with 5 repetitions of 5 back squats, using a 25kg barbell, which was the strength part of the workout.  I continued with the work capacity section, baseline for time completed for 500 metre row, 40 x air squats, 30 x sit-ups, 20 x push-ups and 10 x eccentric pull-ups.  My gym membership allows me to do a workout like this, although I do need to walk from the rowers to the general workout area, adding on some time to the total.  I managed the rowing in 1 minute 55.3 seconds, and the whole workout in 10 minutes 25 seconds.  I was pleased with my rowing time, which is steadily improving, and pleased with the workout overall.  I walked home.  I could not run.

Happy that my rowing times are improving

Happy that my rowing times are improving

  1. Walk (St Albans) – 3 miles – 1 hour 08 minutes 01 seconds
  2. Run (Kings Langley) – 9.8 miles – 2 hours 10 minutes 27 seconds
  3. Walk (St Albans) – 1.1 miles – 14 minutes 16 seconds
  4. SEALFIT (St Albans – gym) – Day 1 – 19 minutes

Wednesday 20 April 2016

SEALFIT Week 1 : The Baseline : Day 2

I walked down to the gym and past it.  This morning my warm-up would be done on the path running through the far end of the park, beside the football pitches, because I needed to use the football pitches to measure 200 metres.  I ran 200 metres, did 20 x 2-count mountain climbers, ran back the 200 metres, and finished with 20 push-ups, before going into the gym.  I did 3 rounds for time of 400 metres running, 10 x burpees, 10 x back squats, and 10 x knees to elbows.  I did the running on a treadmill, and as I have no idea how to work a treadmill, I ran for 2 minutes on a setting of 6, estimating that to be around the time it might take me to run 400 metres.  I used a 35kg barbell for the back squats.  I completed the 3 rounds in 12 minutes 45 seconds.

Making good use of the gym resources

Making good use of the gym resources

I then walked home the long way as a warm down, taking an hour and covering 2.8 miles as I went shopping for items for my daily smoothie.  More about that next week.

I went for a run in the afternoon.  I am not going to focus on my pace at the moment, and will instead focus on time spent running without having to stop.  To get that going, I will be running for 30 minutes at whatever pace it takes to achieve it without stopping to walk.  I should add here that I am absolutely useless as running ‘slowly’, and tend to just have one pace – whatever speed I can run at – so this should be interesting.  It was not easy running for the 30 minutes, which shows how far I have fallen off with my running, but I managed it, and at an 11 minutes per mile pace – which, while it is not fast, is hardly ‘slow’.

I was feeling good and wanted to do something more today, so I went back to the gym in the evening for some rowing, intending to do 8 x 500 metres with 30 second intervals.  I was feeling less optimistic after the first 500 metres took me 1 minute 59.5 seconds, but I was still below 2 minutes, so that was good.  The second 500 metres felt a lot harder and came in at 1 minute 58.8 seconds, which probably reflects putting in more effort, but it did not leave me feeling good, and I thought I was going to throw up through most of the third 500 metres, so when that came in at 2 minutes I decided to call it a day before I made a mess of the gym.

And that is enough for now...

And that is enough for now…

  1. SEALFIT (St Albans – park and gym) – Day 2 – 35 minutes
  2. Walk (St Albans) – 2.8 miles – 1 hour 00 minutes 53 seconds
  3. Run (St Albans) – 2.7 miles – 30 minutes 03 seconds
  4. Rowing (St Albans) 3 x 500 metres – 8 minutes 13 seconds

Thursday 21 April 2016

SEALFIT Week 1 : The Baseline : Day 3

I walked to the gym for my SEALFIT session, and warmed up with a 400 metre run on the treadmill.  I ran for 2 and a half minutes at level 6, because I reckoned that would cover me for 400 metres.  I then did 5 rounds of 5 air squats, 5 back squats with a 35kg barbell, 5 push-ups and 5 sit-ups.  The strength part of the session was a 5 x 5 set of front squats, again with the 35kg barbell.  The work capacity part of the session was a 10 minute AMRAP of 5 x eccentric pull-ups, 7 x push-ups and 9 x front squats with the 35kg barbell, and I managed 6 rounds plus the pull-ups and the push-ups.

That was a tough one

That was a tough one

I did another 30 minute run in the evening.  I was not trying for any sort of pace, but I did cover more distance anyway, which was nice, and also achieved Strava segment PRs for Alban Way Half Run In, Alban Way (Camp Rd Bridge to London Rd), and St Albans Way – Morrisons to London Rd Bridge, which was also nice.

  1. SEALFIT (St Albans – gym) – Day 3 – 23 minutes
  2. Run (St Albans) – 2.9 miles – 30 minutes 03 seconds

Friday 22 April 2016

There was a class at the gym which caught my eye so I decided to give it a go.  It is called Go Tri and I tried it.  Go Tri.  I Tried it.  Please yourselves – fitness training is not meant to be funny, anyway.  The class was taken by Emma Plunkett, one of the trainers down at the gym, and was designed to.  We began with a circuit of 5 stations – kettlebells, climbing on a Keiser bike, medicine balls, sprinting on a Keiser bike, and skipping ropes – before riding 1km on the Keiser bikes, doing 3 rounds of 10 repetitions of 4 floor exercises, then 500 metres on the Keiser bikes, doing 2 rounds of 10 repetitions of 4 floor exercises, before finishing with another 500 metres on the Keiser bikes.  I had never been on a Keiser bike before, so that was a new experience, and I enjoyed the great workout of the class.

Very glad I tried Go Tri - definitely in my schedule now

Very glad I tried Go Tri – definitely in my schedule now

I had to collect my car in the afternoon, so I ran over to Kings Langley.  I could make a joke about Kings Landing but after the way my Go Tri joke went down I just will not bother.  This was a lot more straightforward than my run back from dropping my car off, because I actually know the way going this direction.  I got some success with Strava segments, achieving a PR on Langley Hill and also on Descending Toms Lane, and a 2nd fastest time on A414 Bridge To Bedmond Road Junction.  I have no idea where any of these segments are when I am out on the ground, so I certainly do not just up my pace at times to hit them.

Where's the Throne ?

Where’s the Throne ?

  1. Go Tri (St Albans – gym) – 39 minutes 53 seconds
  2. Run (St Albans) – 8.3 miles – 1 hour 52 minutes 29 seconds

Saturday 23 April 2016

SEALFIT Week 1 : The Baseline : Day 4

I had some catching up to do with my SEALFIT sessions, so this morning would be Grinder PT.  I went to the gym and did 20 minutes of 10 x run and drop, 10 x 10kg dumbbell squat jumps, 20 x push ups, 20 x leg levers, 15 x burpees, 15 x 4-count smurf jumping jacks, 15 x tuck jumps, 20 x 10kg dumbbell thrusters, 20 x push ups (narrow), 20 x crisscross jumping jacks.  The session suggests 10 minutes of LSD run, ruck, or swim, and I decided to do 30 minutes of swimming because I just fancied a good swim.  I really got into it when I did my swimming the English Channel challenge back in February (which you can read about here) and want to put in some decent swimming time each week.

Who wants croissants ?

Who wants croissants ?

  1. SEALFIT (St Albans – gym) – Day 4 – 20 minutes
  2. SEALFIT (St Albans – pool) – Day 4 – 40 x 25 metre lengths

Sunday 24 April 2016

I had my children with me during the day so we went hunting for urban trig pillars.  I will tell you now that trig pillars are very much easier to find when they are on the top of the mountain.  Anyway, we enjoyed a nice walk in the bluebells of Cowcroft Wood, even if we did not find the trig pillar.  We did later find one on a bus route in Hemel Hempstead, and in a side paddock of a farm in Coleshill, Amersham, near the water tower which once featured on the Channel 4 television programme, Grand Designs.

Bit of climbing involved to bag this one...

Bit of climbing involved to bag this one…

SEALFIT Week 1 : The Baseline : Day 5

I ran down to the gym for my final SEALFIT session of the week.  The warm-up was 3 rounds of 150 metre rowing, 10 x air squats, and 10 x front squats.  I ended up rowing 514 metres, which took me 2 minutes 02 seconds, and did the front squats with a 25kg barbell.  The strength section was 5 sets of 5 repetitions of overhead squats, using a 25kg barbell.  The work capacity section was a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 repetitions circuit of overhead squats, step-ups and sit-ups.  I used a 20kg barbell because I knew I could not lift 25kg through the circuit, and the step-ups were meant to be on a 15-inch box, but they had all been taken so I adapted with a Reebok step and went faster because it was lower.

  1. Run (St Albans) – 1 mile – 10 minutes 14 seconds
  2. SEALFIT (St Albans – gym) – Day 5 – 19 minutes 21 seconds

Positives from this week : I completed my first real week of SEALFIT and am loving it, and already seeing some very positive changes as a direct result of what I am doing.  I also found a new class at the gym, and have plans for one more.  It was good to get a decent swim in, and I need to build on that.

Posted in Avalanche Endurance Events, Elan, Fitness Training, Long Drag, Paras'10, Ricochet, Swimming, The 100 Peaks Challenge, The Fan Dance | Leave a comment

8 Weeks to SEALFIT : Screening

As part of my fitness training I have decided to follow the programme set out in the book 8 Weeks To SEALFIT by Mark Divine, a Navy SEAL’s guide to unconventional training for physical and mental toughness.  I know this is going to be very hard work, and believe the rewards will be well worth the effort I put into it.

As time allows, I also intend to keep going with the other parts of my current fitness training – Metafit, boxing, kettlebells, rowing and swimming – so I will make it clear which parts of these blogs are specifically SEALFIT.

Monday 28 March 2016

I am continuing with the lemon drink mixture from Matt Ollie Ollerton (of the Channel 4 television programme SAS : Who Dares Wins fame) first thing each morning, at least 30 minutes before any food.  It is half a grated frozen lemon, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil, a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and hot water.  It definitely kick starts my metabolism !

Be interesting to see what this does...

Be interesting to see what this does…

We had a drive back from an Easter weekend in which took longer than anticipated due to the bad weather brought to us by storm Katie, so it was quite late on when I went down to the gym to do the SEALFIT baseline screening test.  It is just over a mile from the house to the gym, which is a good distance for a warm up or a cool down, which is convenient, and today I walked down and back.  The book is very clear that you must complete the baseline screening test before proceeding any further, and not only do I not have any issues with that, but I welcome it so that I can get an idea of where I currently am.  The test consists of as many perfect Navy SEAL-style push ups as possible in 2 minutes, 10 minute rest, as many sit ups as possible in 2 minutes, 10 minute rest, as many pull ups as possible “before you gas out”, 10 minute rest, a 500 metre swim or a 2000 metre row, 10 minute rest, and a 1.5 mile run.  I decided to really go for form on the push ups and sit ups, did eccentric pull ups, chose to do the row instead of heading off to the pool, and completed the run outdoors.  The row took me 8 minutes 28 seconds, which I was pleased enough with given it was the first time I had gone beyond 500 metres with my rowing.

Enjoying my rowing

Enjoying my rowing

  1. SEALFIT (St Albans – gym) – baseline screening test – 1 hour 08 minutes 56 seconds

Tuesday 29 March 2016

I started the day with Metafit, and as it turned out I was very glad that I did because once I had done that work got in the way of everything else.  I had planned to do the next SEALFIT session and go to boxing training, but that was not possible.  Anyway, Metafit.  Created by a former Royal Marine Commando,  Metafit is a 30 minute class which combines the latest High Intensity Interval Training techniques with traditional bodyweight exercises to set the metabolism on fire.  I have been to a few sessions at the gym now and I am enjoying them.  They definitely hit a full range of motion and I like the early morning start (0630), although it was cold running down this morning.  I should be thankful it was dry.  The session this morning was a new one, called 8 Shapes, and it was tough, and left me sweaty – perfect.  I come away from the classes mostly unable to remember all of the exercises which made up the session, or certainly their given names – I know there was crucifix plank, bouncing squat jumps, side lunges, and that we finished off with a series of sprints.  I think Metafit has been a good addition to my fitness programme and I only hope I can continue getting booked into the very popular class.  I run down to the class and walk back up (because I am incapable of running after the class at the moment), but my Garmin is pretty useless at locating satellites at the moment, so it rarely records the full run.

  1. Metafit (St Albans) – 30 minutes

Wednesday 30 March 2016

After missing the session yesterday, I needed to catch up so I decided to do an early morning SEALFIT session and then try to do another one in the evening.  However, I did not leave the house quite as early as I had planned and by the time I got to the running track it was light enough for me to be spotted and asked if I had a ticket.  I honestly had no idea that a ticket was required to use the running track, though it does not come as a surprise, so I moved on to the path by the football pitches, so that I could use them to measure my 200 metre runs.  This is Training Day 1 and I began with a practice of 25 air squats before continuing with the session, 5 rounds for quality of 20 x air squats, 20 x burpees, and 200 metre runs.  I did my first round at the beginning of the path by the football pitches, my second in the Adizone the other side of the football pitches, my third at the other end of the path by the museum car park, my fourth back at the Adizone, and my fifth again at the Adizone after running 100 metres away and 100 metres back.  The session felt tough, and my legs certainly felt like they had been worked.  My hands were less than pleased with having to do burpees on a path.  I had run down to do the session, I covered 1.1 miles during the session and I walked home.  I was staying at a hotel in Northampton overnight, but I did not get there in time to use the gym to catch up with my missing SEALFIT session, so instead I did a Bear Grylls Primal Power Stretch session in my room.

I did the Bear Grylls Primal Power Stretch Workout Two with the emphasis on spinal mobility.  I began with with the warm-up, 4 breaths in Mountain Pose, 6 Standing Side Stretches, 6 Sweep the Floor and Rises, 6 Extended Mountain Pose to Standing Chair, 6 Extended Mountain Pose to Standing Chair on toes, and 6 Forward Fold to High Plank to Down Dog to High Plank to Forward Fold.  Workout Two is in one block and I repeated it three times for a 30 minute workout (actually 36 minutes), holding each pose for 20 seconds and transitioning between poses for 10 seconds.  I did Extended Mountain Pose; Forward Fold (deep); Forward Fold (eye gaze); High Plank; Up Dog (which I definitely prefer to call Cobra !); Down Dog; Forward Fold (deep); Warrior One (right); Warrior Two (right); Standing Chair; Warrior One (left); Warrior Two (left); Standing Chair; Advanced Standing Chair (on toes); Extended Mountain Pose; Forward Fold (deep); Forward Fold (eye gaze); High Plank; Up Dog (Cobra !!!); Down Dog; Forward Fold (deep); Standing Chair; Advanced Standing Chair (on toes); and Extended Mountain Pose to Mountain Pose.

  1. Run (St Albans) – 1.1 miles – 12 minutes 19 seconds
  2. SEALFIT (St Albans – Adizone) – Day 1 – 1.1 miles – 28 minutes 07 seconds
  3. Bear Grylls Primal Power Stretch – Workout Two

Thursday 31 March 2016

I got up early and hit the hotel gym for the next SEALFIT session.  The gym is actually very good and although it does not have any kettlebells, I was able to use a 10kg dumbbell for the kettlebell swings instead, and I did my runs on the treadmill, which I have not really used before, so that was an interesting experience and I am not entirely convinced that I pressed all the right buttons correctly.  Having said that, I expect I ran a longer rather than a shorter distance each rep through my ignorance.  I warmed up with 10 reps of each exercise in work capacity and then completed 21-15-9 reps as fast as possible of butterfly sit-ups, dumbbell swings, push-ups and a 400 metre run after each set of repetitions.  I did not get home in time to catch up on that elusive missing session…

Hotel gym workout

Hotel gym workout

  1. SEALFIT (Northampton – gym) – Day 2 – 0.7 miles – 19 minutes 31 seconds

Friday 01 April 2016

I finally managed to catch up, doing one SEALFIT session at the gym in the morning and another at home in the evening.  I joined the gym because it was the cheapest way to do a swimming challenge in February, and without that membership I would not be able to do some of these sessions.  This is a good example as it includes both box jumps and rowing.  It was 5 rounds for quality and time of 15 x box jumps, 18 x sit ups, 20 x air squats, and a 500 metre row.  I completed it in 42 minutes 34 seconds, and my rowing intervals were 1 minute 56 seconds, 1 minute 56 seconds, 1 minute 58 seconds, 2 minutes, and 1 minute 57 seconds.

The second SEALFIT session was Grinder PT.  I did 2 rounds of 10 x run and drop, 10 x 10kg kettlebell squat jumps, 20 x push ups, 20 x leg levers, 15 x burpees, 15 x 4-count smurf jumping jacks, 15 x tuck jumps, 20 x 10kg kettlebell thrusters, 20 x push ups (narrow), 20 x crisscross jumping jacks, and could have completed the third round if I had had the time available.

  1. SEALFIT (St Albans – gym) – Day 3 – 42 minutes 34 seconds
  2. SEALFIT (St Albans) – Day 4 – Grinder PT

Saturday 02 April 2016

We went for a walk on Saturday morning around St Albans, and together with the other walking I did through the day I accumulated over 10 miles.

I also did a SEALFIT session in the afternoon.  It was as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 20 minutes of 5 x eccentric pull ups, 10 x push ups and 15 x air squats.  I managed 11 rounds.

Kept count of the rounds on my pacing beads

Kept count of the rounds on my pacing beads

  1. Walk (St Albans) – 4.3 miles – 1 hour 31 minutes 12 seconds
  2. Run (St Albans) – 1.1 miles – 10 minutes 41 seconds
  3. SEALFIT (St Albans – Adizone) – Day 5 –

Sunday 03 April 2016

I had the children with me for the weekend so we took a visit to Whipsnade Zoo and enjoyed a walk in the fresh air.  I did SEALFIT yoga in the evening.

  1. SEALFIT (St Albans) – yoga

Positives from this week : I have completed a first week of SEALFIT training, have enjoyed it, and can already see and feel positive results.

Posted in Avalanche Endurance Events, Elan, Fitness Training, London Marathon, Long Drag, Paras'10, Ricochet, The 100 Peaks Challenge, The Fan Dance | 1 Comment

Swimming the English Channel : Week 4

I have decided to swim the English Channel.

You can read about week 1 of my swim here.

You can read about week 2 of my swim here.

You can read about week 3 of my swim here.

Cumulative – 27475 metres – 15 hours 11 minutes 13 seconds

I bet I know what song is in your head right now...

I bet I know what song is in your head right now…

Swim 14 : Monday 22 February 2016

I need to push on and get this finished, with only 301 lengths left to go.  Except that another measure suggests that rather than 1400 lengths I actually need to do 1416 lengths, so just to be sure I still have 317 lengths to go, and just to be really sure I will do another 320.  It was a pretty easy session this evening and I managed the now usual 76 lengths in the hour, which leaves me with another 244 to go this week.

  1. Swim (St Albans) – 76 x 25 metre lengths – 1900 metres
  2. Strava – 1925 metres
  3. Time – 1 hour 00 minutes 20 seconds
  4. Cumulative – 29375 metres – 16 hour 11 minutes 33 seconds

Swim 15 : Tuesday 23 February 2016

92 lengths.  It was fewer than I had planned to do, but by the time I finished them I had had more than enough.  I started in the medium lane, and that felt right, but when the lanes were changed a lot of people from the slow lane moved across to what became the medium lane, so I decided to stay in what was now the fast lane, and by the end of my session it was packed and the people now in the medium lane were going too slow, so I called a halt.  Regardless, after this session I was always going to be left with the choice of doing one big session or two sessions of around an hour, so now I have to see what I can fit in before Friday and then make that choice.  152 lengths to go.

  1. Swim (St Albans) – 92 x 25 metre lengths – 2300 metres
  2. Strava – 2300 metres
  3. Time – 1 hour 12 minutes 18 seconds
  4. Cumulative – 31675 metres – 17 hours 23 minutes 51 seconds

Swim 16 : Wednesday 24 February 2016

This was a good swim and easy going in a lane which never got too busy, and in which it was easy to overtake when the need arose.  I had not managed to get down to London for an evening event so I took the opportunity to go for a swim while Debbie was at her rehearsal, and that meant I had a limited period of time available to me, so all I could do was try for as many lengths as possible in that time.  I was happy to get my final total down below the 100 mark, and now I only have 96 lengths to go.

  1. Swim (St Albans) – 56 x 25 metre lengths – 1400 metres
  2. Strava – 1450 metres
  3. Time – 43 minutes 41 seconds
  4. Cumulative – 33075 metres – 18 hours 07 minutes 32 seconds

Swim 17 : Thursday 25 February 2016

I got home from a business meeting in Manchester too late to get along to an extra boxing training session, so decided to finish my Swimming the English Channel challenge in a blaze of glory by pushing through 100 lengths.  The pool was not too busy and I was able to switch between the slow and medium lanes to keep my path clear, and my pace was spot on to finish the 100 lengths within the time I had available.  And not for the first time during this challenge my attempt at pride came before something of a fall.  Last week I had been steadily getting ahead of my schedule when Neptune didst smite me down with the most epic of colds.  Godflu.  Now I felt his trident impale my left calf in a fit of cramp.  I tried stretching it out but every time I set off to swim again it came back, so I had to call an end to the session with just 24 lengths left to go.

  1. Swim (St Albans) – 72 x 25 metre lengths – 1800 metres
  2. Strava – 1850 metres
  3. Time – 59 minutes 44 seconds
  4. Cumulative – 34875 metres – 19 hours 07 minutes 16 seconds

Swim 18 : Friday 26 February 2016

And so I returned to the scene of my previous evening’s disaster and finished off the remaining 24 lengths, soon arriving at Cap Gris Nez, between Boulogne and Calais.  I then continued swimming for another 15 minutes, just in case I had been short in any session.  I have seen the distance given as 35km, and I have completed 35,475 metres, and the website I have been using for my weekly graphic requires 1416 x 25 metre lengths to complete the required distance, and I have completed 1419 x 25 metre lengths, so by whichever measure, I have completed the challenge I set myself and swum the equivalent of the English Channel in February.

  1. Swim (St Albans) – 24 x 25 metre lengths – 600 metres
  2. Strava – 525 metres
  3. Time – 15 minutes 56 seconds
  4. Cumulative – 35475 metres – 19 hours 23 minutes 12 seconds
Who wants croissants ?

Who wants croissants ?

Posted in Fitness Training, Swimming, The 100 Peaks Challenge | Leave a comment