So. An update on some actual training. I have chatted a bit about strength and conditioning which is the focus (although not the only focus) over this first part of the winter. There is not an area of my body that is not in need of strengthening. Or indeed conditioning. This will help my later training/performance not only by improving my muscle tone and strength, but most importantly by helping my increasingly decrepit body avoid injury (hopefully).
We had begun to address this earlier in the year. Whilst aware that we were sadly lacking on the core workout side of things, we simply couldn’t find space in the week to get to any classes to address this. A chance discussion after a club swimming session where I was lamenting this fact, led to the introduction to Yoga Jess, a marvellous young woman who now comes to our house and teaches us yoga there. When we first started this, it was a little sporadic due to our schedules, and indeed Jess’s (she works for the University and needs to travel a bit), but we are now pursuing this with renewed vigour and managing an hour most weeks. And it’s brill. We push our table to the side and set the mats on the floor, select a ‘yoga mix’ on Spotify and off we go. It’s often on a Saturday morning when Jamie and Holly are out at various classes of their own so we’ve the house to ourselves and we have Jess’s full attention. The only slight issue is that Lola keeps trying to join in with the class or jump on our knees when we’re concentrating on breathing which can be a little off-putting. But she does a mean downward dog. I find these sessions hugely beneficial, not just from a core strength point of view, but actually for a wee hour of serenity and mindfulness and some proper stretching. And you get to have a lovely wee nap at the end which is tremendously welcome. It’s not the cheapest way in the world to do yoga, and clearly not an option for everyone, but we love it. And it still makes me giggle a little bit when I glance over and see Paul struggling to touch his toes (he can’t really get past his knees). This is the only part of our entire training/racing program that I can do a bit better than Paul. It’s the little things.
Project 3 Circuits
We are very lucky at GTC to have been joined recently by Crawford Whyte, an experienced triathlon coach, who also coaches with Triathlon Scotland and is the founder of Project 3 coaching. Crawford runs some early morning strength and conditioning circuits (I say early morning, but really they are in the middle of the night as far as I am concerned) which Paul and Jamie initially tried out and reported back that they were excellent. These sessions involve rotating through a number of different exercises, working on strength, core, fitness and plyometrics. And for a little over a month now I have found myself attending the weekly 6.30am Monday morning session. To say this is a slight shock to the system would be on a par with suggesting the current Brexit negotiations are progressing well. Anyone who knows me, will know that I don’t do things early in the morning. My own family know not to approach me before lunchtime unless it’s an out and out emergency. However, I must acknowledge that I can see some benefit already. And I do feel rather smug when I get back home after the session, before I would normally even be up, knowing I have had a good workout already. Although admittedly after my first session, an alarmingly large number of people asked me throughout the day if I was OK.
Fit and Fabulous Strength and Conditioning
I’ve mentioned Fiona already in my ‘Thrilled to have a personal trainer‘ blog. And really we have been focusing on increasing by ability here. Before we started, Fiona got me to do a number of short tests as a benchmark of my baseline strength and fitness before we started my training and lets just say there is much room for improvement. I’m delighted to report that my plank hold fell in the ‘above average’ bracket, but all the other tests were decidedly less impressive (mostly average at best, to below average, verging on poor). My press-ups are particularly hopeless. But with Fiona’s enthusiasm and encouragement I feel like they will all be fantastic before long (that’s not an actual category but I might make it one). Fiona has given me a set of exercises tailored specifically to my needs, and each time I do them I need to up the level a notch. That could be either in the number I do, or the length of time I do them for, or by decreasing the rest period between each exercise. I have a handy app on my phone now which pings at me so I know when to start and stop each exercise, and then move onto the next one. This is a really good way of keeping the intensity up when doing them yourself.
And after about six weeks of all this work, I can proudly report that some differences are becoming apparent. Having previously been barely able to hold my own weight from a pull up bar, I can now do two, yes TWO, pull ups in a row. And I think my bottom is quite possibly the firmest it’s ever been. I’ve never done so many squats in my life. I’m a little bit nervous about the next fitness test I do with Fiona in case all the improvement is just in my head but we’ll see. And indeed I shall report back with my progress. I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats. But I am quite determined to keep this bit of my training going – I think it is often the part that is most neglected, or easiest to fall by the wayside, but if it can stop us getting injured, maybe the dawn starts will be worth it.