As is painfullly obvious when I look back at the irregularity of my posts to this blog over recent months I haven’t been focusing on either my writing or my training.
This Summer hasn’t been great on either the training front and I’ve let both lapse considerably. It’s difficult to know what to pin the cause of this down to but on reflection I think that it’s down to a combination of a number of small things rather anything particularly major. General fatigue, undoubtedly mild depression all mounting to a general lethargic malaise.
Managing this has been tricky, and I’ve been careful to take the time to relax and just work through it periodically, I haven’t felt particularly unhappy or low, just very tired.
I’ve managed to get a few training sessions in as and when I’ve been feeling OK and gradually I’ve felt better as this has progressed.
It’s only this in the past couple of weeks that I’ve started to look at getting back into a more structured training and eating programme, I need to drop about 8-10 Kg and up my training regime to increase my muscle mass and general cardio fitness to boot.
As such I’m starting to look at setting some goals which I’ll post about soon. Around 10.0 on the beep test is one that I’ll be aiming for, as well as making some improvements on my bench and squat weights.
Kettlebells will play a major part in this regime and as I start to plan the programme I’ll be incorporating a significant amount of time to my Cardio and endurance with these. I’ll keep a track of my progress with regular beep tests on the Cardio front and a record of my gains in respect of my general training and weight management.
I’m not sure as to my eating plan at the moment, a variation of The Warrior Diet has worked for me in the past so I may have a look at that again.
I’ll keep you posted more regularly from here on in.
It’s taken me a couple of weeks of recovery to steel myself to writing about the challenge that is The Bear Routine.
To say that the programme is tough is not only an understatement, but is also failing to take note the significant psychological and emotional input required to go at the Bear Routine sessions day after day, in particular the Work Capacity Building sessions are some of the most gruelling Kettlebell workouts that I have ever undertaken.
Having completed the programme, which has led to significant strength and fitness gains for me I can categorically say that this is not a routine to be approached or undertaken lightly. The demands of the work capacity builders are such that the thought of the workout would have me feeling nervous for several hours in the build up. This trepidation didn’t ease throughout the period of the Routine.
I’ve cheated slightly by incorporating more rest days into the routine to allow for the significand fatigue and muscle stiffness encountered post workout.
I’ll have another go at this routine next spring, I’ll be better prepared for the heavy psychological toll that this routine demands in order to maintain the necessary comitment to complete the routine.
Onwards and upwards towards the start of the next phase of training.
I’m just at the end of almost a fortnight off heavy training. This has been down to a couple of factors but mainly fatigue and lack of motivation. The fatigue has taken me by surprise as I’d spent three months preparing for the start of The Bear Routine which was obviously not enough! Saying that however, I think that the fatigue I’ve felt has been as much about my mental approach to this and it may well be that I expected to deal with the excercise load more easily than I have as a result of having put the preparation in beforehand.
The strength building sessions, whilst demanding, haven’t caused me too many problems. I’ve been able to maintain a steady progression adding more weight to my Front Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press totals every week and I’ve seen a real improvement in my performance and I’ve started to see changes to my body shape as a result. It has been the Work Capacity Builders that have led to feelings of anxiety and dread as the workout time approaches!
The Work Capacity Builders in this routine are a set of 20 repetitions of a two hand kettlebell swing, thirty seconds of rest, 20 repetitions each arm of a kettlebell clean folllowed by another thirty seconds of rest and finishing with 20 repetitions each arm of kettlebell swing cleans followed by sixty seconds of rest. As you can probably see this is a demanding set and the aim is to complete sixteen of these sets, for me however it has been to complete to failure as I haven’t managed to get past twelve sets yet, at the end of which I have been a total wreck.
This is where I have to give every credit to Stan Pike who devised this routine, aged fifty in preparation for a John O’Groats to Lands End cycle. Just to be able top come up with such a demanding routine is one thing, to be able to maintain it is something else.
The situation arose a couple of weeks ago where I noticed that I was dreading the days that I’d planned to do the Work Capacity Builder sessions and on a couple of occasions I noted that I’d missed a session due to ‘work’ or ‘being tired’ or some other excuse. It was at this point that I realised that I was just tired and needed to rest and have a few days of recovery to get myself back to a point where I could approach the training with a refreshed and more positive outlook. This has taken just over a week during which I’ve just rested, completed a few weights sessions and done some cycling, running and swimming to keep moving and now I’m back to a frame of mind where I can get back to the Bear Routine proper.
Initially I was disappointed in having to step away from the routine for some rest but I’ve come to realise that I needed to spend some time to recover properly to avoid injury and to make the most of the training benefits. I’m not on any particular timescale with my training, nor am I training for any specific goal other than to improve my strength and fitness. Indeed, completing the fourteen week Bear Routine was goal enough and the fact that this will now be a sixteen week routine isn’t a major issue for me personally.
So I’m back to the Work Capacity Builders this afternoon and whilst I can’t say that I’m exactly looking forward to it I’m approaching it without any anxiety and with renewed and improved focus. I’ll keep the updates regular and I’m confident that the improvvement will continue.
After a week of settling in to the Bear Routine I can now say that as well as aching and being sore and tired I’m full of admiration for Stan.
I’ve done three Work Capacity Builder sessions now, the latest one being this evening. I’m definitely seeing some progression, not much, but I’m getting further into the sets each time.
The weights sessions have been a revelation and these have been tough as well, partly as a result of the DOMS I’ve suffered after the Work Capacity Builders, a good warm up has been enough to address that however. The ascending/ descending ladders make for a tough session and aren’t to be approached lightly.
I’m glad of the rest day tomorrow, it’s needed, but I’m looking forward to week two, albeit with some trepidation…
About four years ago I realised that I needed to improve my overall fitness and conditioning. I’d reached my late thirties and with two young children and a highly committing job time was limited to say the least. I was spending my time chasing between work and home trying to balance my work and family life and it was and continues to be a struggle sometimes, I’d realised that whilst I was a regular runner, cyclist and swimmer my health and condition were ok but I’d gained some weight and wasn’t finding it as easy to shift it as I may have done some years earlier.
Whilst losing weight wasn’t a priority for me, being stronger and generally fitter was. I was finding that whilst my runs of about five miles, three times a week were improving my running ability I wasn’t feeling particularly stronger or more agile so I started to look around at different ways to improve my strength and condition.
Initially I used traditional bodyweight conditioning exercises such as push ups; burpees; squats etc which made a real difference to the way I felt generally and I’ve stayed with these basic exercises to try and keep in some shape. I considered joining a gym but with my schedule I’m generally out of the house at around 7am and often not back until late afternoon and sometimes later, I don’t want to compromise on my time with my girls so by the time I get any time to do anything it’s after 9pm most days so getting close to closing time for most gym’s. (I’ve since found a gym that I can use 24hrs a day which has made a huge difference!) It wasn’t long though before I started taking a bit more interest in what was available with regards to simple and relatively cheap equipment that could supplement my training and provide a different challenge. It was around this time that I found Kettlebells.
I have to say at this point that I’d never heard of kettlebells before and it seemed to me that such an uncomplicated and simple piece of equipment couldn’t be that difficult to master could it? I soon found out…
I made the leap and ordered my first kettlebell, a 16kg kettlebell and started to do some research in relation to using it as safely and effectively as I could. A great help to me at this time was Stan Pike and Rob Beauchamps book ‘The Kettlebell Bible’ which is a comprehensive reference book detailing the history and exercise science behind kettlebells as well as an exhaustive compendium of exercises that can be achieved using a kettlebell as well as a number of exercises that complement and support kettlebell training and use.
Like most people starting with kettlebells I focused on the Kettlebell Swing to start, a simple hip dominant snap swing, which seemed easy enough at the outset but which provides a really challenging cardio vascular and strength training workout without resorting to any other equipment and movements. The relative simplicity of the ‘snap’ movement required belies it’s effectiveness as a total body conditioning movement. It takes time to get it right though and it’s well worth taking time to pay attention to every part of the Swing process in particular the hip dominant aspect of the snap that creates the power in the movement.
Below is a video of Phil Scarito demonstrating the swing:
The mastery of the swing was a great leap forward for me and I was pretty much hooked from the start, I stuck with the swing and it’s variations using a single 16kg kettlebell for about a year and a half. During this time I realised that my kettlebel sessions were becoming more frequent and playing an increasing part in my regime.
If you’re new to Kettlebells, or even if you’re not I think that the best kettlebells available in the UK are those produced by Stan Pike. If you’re at all serious about doing anything with kettlebells then The Kettlebell Bible by Stan Pike and Rob Beauchamp is essential reading. It really is the only book you’ll need in relation to kettlebell training. An excellent condensed version has been published under the title Kettlebell Genesis which is another excellent book. Please note that I have absolutely no affiliation to either Stan Pike or Rob Beauchamp other than I’m a very satisfied customer. I’ve read almost all of the major publications relating to kettlebells and these are the best by a long way. You can see Stan and Rob’s products and publications here: Intense Fitness – Highest quality Kettlebells made in the UK.
(Next time a breakdown of the Swing and Moving on to Snatches and Cleans.)
My seventh session of the month. I was hoping to have trained more this month but a week and a bit’s break hasn’t helped me get anywhere near the number of sessions that I wanted to complete this month. Better luck next month!
Tonights session then:
Split Hang Clean 5×5
1 leg Swiss ball SHELC 5×5
Barbell Row 5×5
Cable Pull Down Combo 5×5
Windshield wipers 8×5
barbell Straight leg sit up 30/30.
A set of finishers to complete:
Bent Row- Back Extension- Neider Press (Timed sets)
Hang Clean – Lunge Press ( Timed sets)
This was a good session and the first time I’ve done the single leg ball SHELCS, blimey, they are tougher than they look so definitely feeling it today!
Right, after a week of loafing it’s time to get back to some work!
It’s late, but I’m lucky that the gym I use is a small members only place, not flash and with no thought towards comfort, you go there to train and then leave is pretty much the attitude of those who go there. It’s a friendly place though with plenty of help and advice for those who need it. It’s mainly older blokes that use the place, ex rugby players and power lifters in the main.
There’s plenty of equipment and bars though and it’s never so busy that you’re fighting for space. As I usually train later in the day I often have the place to myself which is great as long as I don’t do anything daft with on a loaded bench press!
So, tonights session is as follows:
Hang Cleans 5×5
Front Squat 5×5
Dumbell Alternating Bench Press 5×5
Push Press -Strict Form 5×5
Barbell Torque 5×5
Complete the session with 5 sets of 45 seconds of 1 arm straight leg sit ups.
Then do some timed sets of a finisher complex routine:
High Pull – Push Press – front Lunge
Hang Muscle Snatch + O’Head Squat + Row + Good Morning + Neider press.
By that time I probably won’t have much left in the tank!
This week has been flat out. A couple of big projects to complete to a deadline has meant some long days at work, early starts and late finishes. This has left me feeling sluggish and dull so I’m itching to get back to the gym.
Currently I’m nine weeks into a twelve week preparation phase of barbell based training before what will be a demanding ski trip in a few weeks time. Upon returning from the ski trip I’ll be starting a programme of kettlebell and barbell training based on Stan Pikes ‘Bear Routine’ ( see www.intensefitness.co.uk ) . This is a pretty brutal regime of high rep kettlebell excercises alternating with a complicated barbell lifting routine. It looks like such a tough approach to excercise it must produce results. Both Stan Pike and Rob Beauchamp are two men that I have a very high regard and respect for in the field of developing kettlebell and weight training programmes, their work and knowledge backed up by years of experience and training are a real inspiration. No cutting of corners, just hard work and effort producing great results.
As this page isn’t an advert for Stan and Rob I’ll save my enthusiasm for their work for another time. I’ll post my views on the Bear Routine as I go through it.
Back training tomorrow, I’ll post the routine and you can let me know what you think of it