Row Series X Report:
When people look to join a gym or have personal training, the overwhelming reason given when asked the question “What do you want?” is along the lines of “I want to look good naked.” There are others too of course such as to become fitter, stronger and healthier but most of the time we get really excited if we start to look good. And with good reason! Looking good leads to self confidence and once we have confidence we can rule the world!
A challenge both coach and client face however, is to stay continually motivated and enthused once the initial 3 months of struggle comes to an end. We have watched so many trainers fail to keep a client interested with their incessant banging on about calories and fat loss week after week. It’s boring and everyone can feel it, but client with their inexperience in how a result is to be achieved believes that is what has to be done – restrict calories and do 3 sets of 10 reps of this, that and the other exercise. Week after week, month after month. Boring!
How do we retain interest? Ladies and Gentleman, today and for the rest of your life we give you….SPORT and Row Series X!
Sport gives us an ongoing interesting challenge and if you join our gym or train with us you will likely be encouraged to step outside of your comfort zone (remember the only way you will achieve is if you feel uncomfortable) and try something other than counting reps.
A very simple, easily accessible and non exposed way to get involved with sport was the latest Row Series X competition and Row Series in general; an online indoor rowing competition you can perform from home if you have a Concept2 machine or in the gym. This competition is open to everybody across the world and lasts 4 weeks. Each week a workout is released and you have one to complete it then submit your scores online. The person with the fastest scores wins.
Why did we encourage people to participate in Row Series X?
The reasons are numerous but here are a few that might help you with your fitness goals:
- Because this race series is online, it is 100% private. You race in the gym or at home either with your friends or on your own. No crowds, no public exposure. It is completely away from watching eyes so is a wonderful sport to introduce you to competition.
- You might think you work hard when you train in the gym. When you are racing however, you will go to new levels you never thought you were capable of because yours and the team’s pride is at stake.
- By studying the data from your performances you get to realise your limits. It feels incredible when you burst through plateaus.
- It feels good to see which people are placing close to you. You have your own private battles and attempt to beat your rivals who may come from anywhere in the world.
- Sport teaches discipline and commitment.
- It will take you out of your comfort zone and make you feel uneasy. I’ve said 100+ times, you won’t achieve anything unless you feel uneasy along the way.
- We work hard together for the team prize.
- When the 4 weeks is over you get to celebrate with your fellow team members who have all worked so hard too.
- Fitness and being healthy is for life, not for 12 weeks. This breaks up the year!
- You will row yourself into tremendous fitness. As well as racing, Row Series is also 1st class training.
So what happened in Row Series X?
So many outstanding results came from it. From our team, our own Andy Firth won the open male lightweight category. He beat athletes from all around the world to do this. It was an outstanding achievement.
But beyond winning categories there was so much more achieved by everyone who took part on a personal level. Two of our members who had not entered before gained their prestigious TEAM tops from not only competing in the full four weeks – but actually by pushing themselves to new limits of excellence. Both members are always amazing additions to any class, but by challenging themselves through this competition they both took themselves to another level.
Anyone who has ever taken part in a challenge such as this will know that the growth in self esteem and confidence that comes from achieving outside of your comfort zone is immeasurable in the benefits gained in all aspects of life going forward. Often when we work together through a competition such as this, the priority is that of individual growth, team bonding and confidence building. There is plenty of time to focus on technique and perfection for those who want to outside of the competition.
What made us even happier though, was that our own gym – Team Training Northwich came 3rd in the overall competition. We were the 3rd best team in the world. Little old us! This was amazing and it happened because everybody worked so hard to achieve it. Well done to our amazing team at Team Training Northwich.
Becoming champions of the world is not an unrealistic target and it is what we will be striving for next time.
YOU could help with that. YOU could be part of a team that becomes the best in the WORLD.
To conclude, this is what we talk about with sport. IF you become champion of the world, what do you think you’re going to look like? What do you think you’re going to feel like? Where will your confidence be? How magnificent will you become? Exactly!
First off, what is it? Well we have standard “walking” which I’m not going to explain what that is. Hiking – going for an extended walk in nature and then we have “rucking” which is going for a hike with a rucksack on but it is with the intention of loading that rucksack with weight for the purpose of carrying a heavy load.
At time of writing this article, I am a novice to rucking so what I write here today is by no means the bible. It is my thoughts on my new hobby plus what I know as an experienced fitness coach. I’ve only been out probably 10 times with weights ranging from 16kg to 35kg and times from one hour to 4 but in that time I’ve experienced a few things and I know this hobby is here to stay because of them.
On the 5th of June 2021 I met my daughter Fern by Tegg’s Nose Country Park, Macclesfield. I got there half an hour before her and parked at the bottom of Buxton Old Road in order to walk up and meet her for when she was due to arrive. Cyclists reading this will know the start of Buxton Old Road is steep! I heaved my 18kg rucksack on and began the ascent. After the first few steps I thought “Whoops! Might have made a mistake here!” Immediately ascending with a heavy load was certainly an introduction to this kind of walk and I knew the day was going to be tough. Those of you who know me though will know one thing – I like tough! Tough is where happiness lies.
After about half an hour I met Fern and we meandered our way, one direction or another up to the Cat & Fiddle, turned around, came back and stopped for a pint of Diet Coke in a pub we passed along the way. That was my first ruck and I learned several very valuable lessons that day. The first…
All are equal
All are equal in this case means everyone is on a level playing field. I wanted a workout that day and I wanted it to feel tough. I also wanted to see my daughter. If we’d have gone for a walk together it would have been very nice, but I wouldn’t have gotten all I wanted from the day. This way we both got to hang out and I had a workout. What I discovered here was that everybody can have it the same way.
You want to walk with your kids and you’re frustrated it’s too slow? Sling some weight in your pack?
You want to walk with your mum but she lags behind? Load a few more kilos in then you’re both the same!
You want to workout today but you feel mean not walking the dog? You guessed it!
This reasoning can apply to every single hike or walk you do from now on because rucking is extremely sociable. You can have great conversation with whoever you’re with above what you would achieve from other endurance sports; running, cycling, rowing, swimming etc. Yes of course you can talk during those (maybe not swimming) but conversation can get hard and groups can get split. With the ruck you can stay together easier and interchange between walking partners more frequently along the route depending on how many are out. This reason becomes especially important given our changing world at the moment and the amount of time many of us are spending isolated at home. Human connection is vitally important. It is actually a matter of life and death as many studies show people literally die from loneliness.
Almost daily I see people out walking for fitness and I can see a frustration on some of their faces. The frustration is that they want just a little bit more out of that walk but maybe running hurts or maybe they feel self conscious running or maybe running is just horrible. Now they can have more. As much as they want. The feeling of self consciousness is removed with this approach. Many people feel embarrassed running because they are breathless and slow and don’t look graceful. Another problem with running is if we stop we feel like we’ve failed and every motorist is laughing at us. When rucking a heavy weight, nobody gives two hoots if you stop or not, plus you will be less likely to stop because it isn’t as aerobic as running.
We “kind of” have two components (there are 8 more) to exercise which are strength and endurance. Power lifters have strength but lack the other, marathon runners the opposite. What often let’s us down running is our lack of endurance. Rucking gives a lot of structural strength but it isn’t so hard on the lungs which means you can go for longer. What I discovered though is if you ruck uphill you are able to put a jog in if you want and by golly! If you put an effort in there you’ll be blowing your heart and lungs out by the time you finish.
Since that day, another ruck session I’ve done is to visit a hill that takes around 5-7 minutes to ascend – Old Pale in Delamere Forest. I ran/jogged/rucked up it as fast as I could and walked down. After doing that 5 times I could barely watch tv the rest of the day! So aerobic junkies you can have a hit from this no problem!
Extra bonus! All this aerobic work is accompanied by permanently carrying a load. That interval session at Old Pale had me carry 18kg for 2hrs and 3mins, removing only 3 times for a drink for around 4 minutes each. Just think of the calorie burn going on here. I don’t have evidence to publish right now but look at it from a common sense standpoint. You can run up a hill unweighted and hit high heart rates blowing hard or you can run up a hill, reach the same heart rate AND be carrying an 18kg load! It’s another “6 Pointer”.
It’s affordable to everyone. I’m a cyclist. It frightens the hell out of me when I add up the money I’ve spent on bikes and the stuff that’s “needed” to accompany bike riding. It’s actually obscene at times.
Rucking: strong rucksack perhaps £40
20kg Bag of dry kiln paving sand £5
To begin with you already own enough clothes and shoes to get started so we can move right into this for £45. There isn’t a fitness hobby that comes cheaper. Let’s move on!
In my early days of rucking, the final benefit I can think of is to be outside. There is no argument that the world’s health is worsening. Despite improvements in medicine, we are becoming fatter, sicker and more depressed than ever. A large reason behind this is similar to I mentioned before, we are isolated in rooms with artificial lights, electronics and screens that are taking all our attention. Forget human interaction, even if you get outside on your own you will be improving your physical and mental health no end.
Vitamin D is a buzz at the moment. You don’t get it just because the sun’s shining and you pop to the shop in your car for a loaf. You get it by exposing large areas of skin to daylight for prolonged periods of time. Ruck!
And for mental health, try performing this experiment on yourself with the task of finding out what makes you feel happy and content. Walk or run on a treadmill indoors then walk or run outside in nature. You will find the latter makes you happy for reasons such as you are away from all stressors and are exposing yourself to clean air and seeing wildlife.
One major benefit of feeling happy is that you are then less likely to seek pleasure from other substances such as alcohol, sugar or drugs because you are content.
For now then, there we have it. Fill a rucksack, get outside and get marching. I guarantee you will love it. And if you don’t, you can always give me a shout and we’ll go together. You can’t fail to enjoy yourself after spending time in my company!
I think the first point I’d like to make is that everything I do I enjoy immensely. I wouldn’t do any of it if that were not the case. Exercising the way I do makes me FEEL amazing. The fact that I look good as a result is a bonus. Think about it – we do the things we do with our leisure time because they make us feel good. Where I win over overweight unhealthy people is that what they do to feel good, comes at a cost to their health and most importantly there is always a negative come down e.g. hangover or remorse from a binge.
Unfortunately, not enough people say the same as me when it comes to why they exercise and they do certain things because they feel they have to or have been told to. This is what I do and why I do it.
- I lift heavy stuff.
- I move fast over various distances.
- I combine lifting reasonably heavy stuff and moving fast.
Those 3 points above sum up what I do.
What is lifting heavy stuff?
Lifting heavy stuff is using as many muscle groups as I can to shift a heavy object. Squat, push, pull, lunge, bend and rotation are all the movements involved in moving heavy objects. The possibilities and number of exercises literally is endless. Not 30 minutes ago I finished a workout in my garden and invented 6 new exercises I’ve not done before in that workout alone.
Why do I lift heavy stuff?
- To build a lot of muscle and become strong. The more more muscle that is built, the more fat I will burn at rest. The stronger I am, the healthier I will be with a greater chance of increased longevity. The moves I do help by saving time on the amount of exercises needed to be performed. For example, if I perform a clean and press with a kettlebell, barbell or sandbag, the amount of muscles used is tenfold the amount used if sitting at a machine using one limb.
- To promote mobility. By lifting heavy objects in such a variety of planes of motion, I take my body into many different shapes. The human body was meant to get into lots of shapes. Believe it or not, we were built to do more than sit looking at a screen!
- It makes me feel good. By lifting heavy things multiple times, feel good chemicals such as endorphins are released and make me feel happy. There is a distinct difference between happiness and pleasure which I could go into much more in depth but basically if you are happy you do not need to seek as much pleasure. If you aren’t so happy, you are more likely to seek pleasure. Pleasure seeking most often comes in the form of eating and drinking.
So in summary as to why I lift heavy things: it makes me feel good, look good and it increases my health and lifespan.
Why do I move fast over various distances?
Here is should explain what that means. Rowing, cycling, running, swimming and cross country skiing are great examples. I like to get from point A to point B as fast as I can. It does not mean going as FAR a distance as I can although this is also good when I have time on my hands.
- To increase the strength of my heart and efficiency of my lungs. As with strength training above, the more heart healthy I am, the longer I am likely to live. It’s no good having a heart attack if you haven’t got a heart that isn’t ready to defend itself!
- To test myself and see if I can become better. Achieving a personal best or beating somebody in a race basically shows “I’m the man!” and “I’ve still got it!”
- It makes me feel beyond amazing. High intensity aerobic training feels so good because evolution designed it that way. Think about it – a lion chases you and you evade it. Wow! That felt so good I think the next time a lion chases me I’ll run fast again! The whole “cardio” system the world is sucked in by – to travel slowly for a long way is boring to so many. Look at children playing – they will race, not try to run a long way slowly!
Why do I combine lifting reasonably heavy stuff and moving fast?
- Camaraderie. It’s a type of workout we often do as a group. We may race individually or in teams and all these sessions are tremendous fun that leave us discussing what we’ve done at the end for a long time. They bond and strengthen our community.
- Variety of workout. The possibilities for these types of workout literally are infinite so there is never a chance of getting bored with a gym visit. This is such an important point as so many people hate exercising. The primary reason for this is because what they are doing is about as entertaining as watching paint dry.
- Makes me feel amazing. Yep! Here’s that reason popping up again. The one that has zilch to do with how impressive my chest and arms look but the more I do all of these things, the more the mirror rewards me!
So there you have it. That’s what I do and why I do it. It is the basis on how I coach everybody who comes into contact with me and is the foundation for our Team Training programme. This model delivers outstanding fitness results and virtually everybody who trains with us reaps the rewards for doing so. It is a system I am highly unlikely to change but continue to evolve and I would recommend it for anybody to try.
Give me a shout if you feel like having a go.
When you visit a gym, what do you honestly expect to achieve given the work you put in?
Here are two examples of what I mean and I will use a treadmill to illustrate.
You drive to the gym and you’re going to walk on a treadmill at an incline of 10 for 30 minutes and you’re going to hang on because when you don’t hang on it makes it harder but you want to walk uphill because you know the machine will tell you you’ve burnt more calories. You finish and drive home. You do that every single time you go to the gym because you heard somewhere that’s best for burning fat and expending calories.
The other example of a treadmill workout I’ll give is one that somebody might perform who wants to improve their race time over 5 kilometres. This person woke up feeling nervous because they knew this session had to be done today. Everything they ate and drank in the 5 hours preceding was geared towards completing the session successfully and the speeds, duration and rest time had been calculated three days before with the aim of this taking them to a PB in the race next week.
When this person got into the gym they went straight to the matts area to mobilise and prepare. The session was about running fast and so preparation had to be full to reduce the risk of injury. After 10 minutes mobilising they jump on the treadmill to run steady for 5 minutes and then for the next 5 minutes switch between faster runs and slow jogs alternating every 30 seconds. Walk for 3 minutes at the end of that and then the set begins properly. 5 x 1k at faster than race pace with a 2 minute slow walk between each.
The first one is completed and feels comfortable enough. At the end of the second one they know they are in a fight. The third is key because if that is completed then that’s the bulk of the work done. The third is completed but only just because the thoughts of quitting were strong in the last 400 metres. “Get through the 4th and you’ve every chance” says the positive thoughts on one shoulder. “You’re a bum and you’ll quit at 600m” says the demon. It’s a horrible set. It hurts like hell but it gets done. “One more. Just one more and I’m done” they say at the start of the 5th. With 500m to go our runner is flat out, lungs burning, heart pounding, legs shaking!
Boom! Job done! Completed with success. “Damn! I feel fantastic” they pant. “I’m confident for race day.”
Lets now return….
If we return to our first treadmill walker we can look at the risks and rewards for this session. The risks are driving to and from the gym. It is possible that a road accident could occur. Once inside the gym it’s possible there is a murderer in there who hates treadmill walkers. There’s also the risk of building collapse but apart from that I think that’s it. This session gets performed every time this person ventures inside the gym and because of that, the body is completely adapted to it. The body doesn’t worry. It knows exactly how intense it is and has primed the muscles and the cardio respiratory system accordingly. It knows exactly how many calories it burns, it has equipped our walker with the necessary food beforehand and will make them hungry enough to replenish afterwards. And because our walker has done this comfortable (and it is comfortable remember because they hang on to the bars and this limits the max speed of the participant) session so many times they do not experience a physical and mental high or sense of achievement. There is little reward apart from “going to the gym.” Ok I know I’m harsh, you know me by now. Just stick with it. I’ll leave you feeling good like I always do!
Onto our interval runner. All the same driving and building risks apply to this person too but we now have the added risks of strained muscles and sprained ligaments through new stimuli and exertion. We have the risk of cuts, bruises and broken limbs if falling off the treadmill happens and in the most extreme of circumstances I suppose it is possible to explode the heart! But seriously, don’t get hung up on that one. It’s a non exerciser’s wet dream and it never happens! Those are our interval runner’s risks but what are his or her rewards?
Sense of achievement from reaching a personal best. Our runner has never ran this fast for this long ever in their life and they are now a better person because of it. What comes from that? Extra strength, endurance and stamina. Possibly fat loss which could happen to our walker too but less likely.
Kudos. It’s been noticed by others in the gym, especially that one who our runner has been eyeing up recently. It’s definitely noted that our man or woman is of prime physical stock and at least worth talking to!
The best reward in my opinion though is belief and self confidence because with belief and confidence, anything else is possible! What greater reward could you want?
The take home from this then is to dare a little.
Doesn’t have to be great, just to push ourselves out of our comfort zone ever so slightly to reap the benefits from doing so. Whatever your exercise choice is, have a go! Let me know how you get on too if you want.
If you can be anywhere near as fit and healthy as my client Richard as he heads towards 70, then you have a great chance of reaching 100 years of age and beyond.
I’m 48 at time of writing. I seem to always be stating my age don’t I? I state my age at the start of this to let you know I’m not a kid and to let you know I haven’t finished growing up yet. I’ve not ‘made it’ and nor have I finished pushing forward. Neither’s Richard and if you want to grow old with fitness and health then you’d do well to take a leaf out of his book!
Who’s Richard then? Richard is a 66 year old client of mine who I see for fitness appointments twice a week almost every week. The only weeks we don’t see each other is when he is either on holiday or visiting his children and grandchildren. Never do we miss a week because he is sick and never do we miss an appointment because he is tired or hungover. He realises how important his fitness, strength and health are and he makes sure he prioritises them. If we do miss our sessions because he is on holiday or visiting, he makes sure he takes his kettlebell with him or he seeks out another trainer in the town in which he finds himself. I love that. I really love it. I’m not precious about trying to keep him for myself and to only train with me, I encourage him to spend time with other coaches and we enjoy talking about the sessions he’s done with them.
So what does he do with his life?
He gets quality sleep every night, going to bed and rising at the same time.
He physically trains hard twice per week, sometimes three.
He moves every day.
He goes outside every day and in the summer exposes himself to sunlight.
He stays within the recommended alcohol consumption guidelines.
He eats real food the vast majority of the time.
He always seems to have a project on the go.
He spends time with his family and people he feels enhance his life.
He competes in sport and regularly pushes his physical capabilities.
He doesn’t smoke. Not that I should mention that he doesn’t smoke but as I’ve just looked out of the window and seen someone who is around his age smoking and looking like they have zero zest for life I thought I’d make reference to it.
He lives without pain.
He lives without medication.
And here’s the big one…He’s happy!
What are the normal symptoms of ageing?
I wrote in a previous blog about Normal Symptoms of Ageing What Do You Think Are Normal Symptoms of Ageing and how it is now considered normal to deteriorate physically and to go on medication. It is actually often a surprise to many when they meet someone in their senior years who is NOT on medication which I find bizarre! I intend never to be on pills, same for Richard.
What does Richard do with his days that makes him lead an energetic life full of quality? Well he wakes up naturally, feeling refreshed because he hasn’t overdosed on wheat, caffeine, sugar or alcohol the night before. This puts him in a place ready to get the most out of the day rather than spending the first couple of hours getting started. He tends to his gardens a few days a week or when he’s not gardening he’s usually painting or renovating something. He is always doing something active, the highlight of that being our twice weekly sessions.
What do we do in our sessions?
There is this myth that as we get older we should reduce the intensity of our workouts. How many times have you heard or even said yourself – “You need to slow down Dad. That’s too heavy for you. Just go for a walk or do a little gardening. You’ll have a heart attack if you carry on like that.”
We have come to believe that physical exertion for older folks should reduce greatly in intensity as they age, but why? Once again let’s strip it back to our ancestors and the lion chase. The lion won’t chase you slowly because you are old, you’ve still got to sprint away if you want to live!
Sets, duration and recovery might change but the intensity of the single effort never does and Richard and I hugely enjoy watching him reach personal bests with weights lifted and times achieved indoor rowing.
Personally I don’t have my life perfectly balanced. It may seem like I preach my life is the best but it’s not. I’m working on it all the time but something I’m trying to do this year for example is dial back on frequency of exercise in my life. There’s other stuff that needs doing before it’s too late and if I don’t get a move on then all I’ll have to show for my time on this earth is a 6 pack when I get my telegram off the King!
As I move forward, I’m viewing the whole health and fitness game less and less about six packs, great arms and calorie deficits. Far too much disappointment and pressure is attached to superficial goals like these and they don’t bring health and happiness. Richard doesn’t focus on those and you know what he’s got? A six pack and great arms!
Richard’s got it right in my book! Don’t be like me. Be like Richard! He rocks!
Unit 4, Kingfisher Court, Denton Drive, Northwich, CW9 7TT