Sunday, 31 July 2016

Gymnastic Bodies Review

An interesting variation for me
I have a few different posts I want to do around gymnastics training but I think the best place to start is an overall review of Gymnastic bodies, the system I have been using for about two and a half years now (I have spoken about why I chose this style of training and some more about my goals here). Currently I have foundations 1 and 2, handstands 1 and the three stretching courses (link to them here). I will layout some pros and cons of each of these and some over all pros and cons. As always, I’m not getting paid for this, not making any money or otherwise.


I’m really enjoying the course I have of these; I’m being exposed to a huge range of new progressions for strength, mobility and strength in different ranges of motion. It is an amazingly vast resource but not like other E-book type deals that just show 10 different grips for each normal exercise. It exposes your weaknesses and crushes you with them. In particular most of the starting levels are strength endurance based, which I really struggle with, this is both good and bad. I thought I had quite strong abs yet the simple levels were a struggle for me, but I get a little stronger every week and I’m still enjoying the basics over two years on, and still progressing. The course is set up to slowly build to some very impressive feats as a side effect of incredibly strong abs. On the other side I found it extremely difficult to progress with the bent arm strength elements, since I’m not really built for strength endurance I struggled to make progress. I ended up sneaking in some extra strength work to help me along, but I will expand on that in another post. I think this attention to strength endurance will really pay off later, but it is still a major struggle for someone like me who does better on something like 3-5 reps. (Maybe I’m just crying about being a unique snowflake). Where I have broken into more strength work (passed the strength endurance phase) I am flying through getting stronger and loving it.

Not a bounce down and back, this is a sustained hold
Now a note about my slow progress. The forum which you get access to when you buy the program is a pretty good resource with helpful coaches who will do a form check for you. I really haven’t utilised this at all, and I have spent a long time spinning my wheels because of that. I really have no one to blame but myself that. I am also planning a post about some of the hurdles in gymnastic training.


This one looks amazing but I’m stuck not being able to progress due to a lack of shoulder mobility. Now part of this is what I mentioned before about not utilising the form checks, for instance I was using a 5-7kg bar for one of the movements, which was really much too heavy. If I have asked on the forum I probably would have switched to a lighter bar much sooner and been able to make progress but I didn’t, I spun my wheels for 6 months or more and made no progress. Now using a 2.5kg bar my mobility is progressing slowly, but well. For me with tight shoulders I really can’t do many of the exercises and progress, which is annoying, but it points out a huge hole that I need to work on. Foundations also has something like this where one of the elements requires quite a bit of mobility which is taking me a long time to gain (more on this in my post about hurdles in gymnastics training).


Now a cynic might say that the mobility blocks in foundations and handstands are just to sell the stretch courses, I don’t believe this, but buying the courses is defiantly helping to accelerate my progress. Now you could buy someone else’s mobility course, or just do your own stretching, but for myself I had no idea where to start so buying these courses seemed like a good place to start. They have been really good in that someone tells me exactly what to do, how long to do it and how often, this is great for me. It is also set up quite well in that it builds up slowly so you can drop out when you can no longer keep up; this is kind of good and bad. The way the scaling in shown isn’t great (in my opinion for what it’s worth), that said I find within a few sessions you can do more and more of the work until you can work on everything in a reasonable manner.


Yes, these courses are somewhat expensive, but I would say they are either on par with or slightly cheaper than similar alternative programs. I think they are worth spending the money on, not just for someone like me using it as my main training, but for most people who either train themselves or train others. I think if you got just one good piece of information per course which you then added to your own training, or someone else’s, it would be worth the money. One piece that pushes you further or that you use over and over; you will likely find more, but just one should be enough. (I might write another post on this, maybe focusing on seminar type learning).

Again, not bouncing down, but a sustained hold
So to wrap up

Foundations: Really good, but you might need to sneak some strength work in if strength endurance isn’t your thing. Also you might need more mobility.

Handstand: Looks like if will be great but you need some serious shoulder mobility.

Stretch: I really like and recommend this program, it will probably be the single biggest factor in speeding up your progress. Now you don’t have to buy this course, but I think you need a really serious plan that you stick to, could be this, could be something else, could be your own, but you have to work on it.

Overall: I think the price is totally worth it and I started buying these when money was really tight for me. Also you have to stretch.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Technology that gets us outside

The fallen fawn, outside the tropical garden

With Pokemon Go taking over the world I thought I would do a post on technology that gets people outside. So here are just a few apps or pieces of technology I have found enjoyable in getting myself and others outside, exploring and exercising. 

Note: The photos in this post are from today’s walk around Auckland Domain, amazing parts of the domain I never knew existed.

While I don’t play Pokemon Go myself, my wife does and the game has been a great excuses to go outside for a walk around the park, or to take our dog (Jasper) to a larger park and wander around for 2-3 hours. We often used to take Jasper for a walk along a local beach, but we never walked down to our local park for a few laps. Today we went to the Auckland domain, and explored places I’d never been and others I never knew existed. Without there being Poke stops there we never would have gone. I had a lot of fun exploring some of these areas, and just walking around with my wife.

Incredible pitcher plants in the tropical garden
Geocaching is another activity/app which gets people out exploring their neighbourhood and others. If you have never heard of it, people hide small (or large) caches with trinkets and a book to sign somewhere and list the cache on an app which uses the GPS to mark the area. Then others use the app and GPS to find the cache. I have done a little geocaching in the few blocks around my home and it was really fun but I never quite got into it. I have however seen families out exploring looking for caches which I think is awesome family time.

Zombies Run! is the (free) app I use every time I go out for a run. This app maps my run, times it, gives me time splits and tells me pace, but that’s all boring stuff. The fun part is that it tells a story: you are runner five, sent on missions to scout, collect supplies, run experiments on the zombies etc all under the watchful eye of your radio operator who talks you through the missions (in between songs on your playlist). You also collect materials and supplies which you use to build your base. I really enjoy this app, the story is great, I really enjoy building my base and needing to get supplies pushes me to run further. Running would be so boring for me without this app.

Lastly I have recently bought myself a fitbit, I bought the surge because I really wanted the GPS but that’s not important. The fitbit has been great for pushing me to more around more during the day, and to see how much I can do in the weekends. I am really keen to see how far I walk and how many flights of stairs climbed on a big hike, but for the purpose of this article the daily step count has been great for getting my out wandering around. Often times I have been at 7-8 thousand steps, so I’ve walked a lap or two of the block before dinner to hit my 10,000 step goal.

The Valkyrie fountain

The point of this post wasn’t to get anyone into a particular app or piece of technology, just to show that these things can be used as a positive force. Technology is just a tool and we can and should use it wisely.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

I decided to read this book not for my love of running (I find it boring) more to see what the book is about since so many people speak quite highly of it. So when I started reading it felt like a little bit of a chore to get though, but once I go into the book it kept me hooked and I really enjoyed it.

The book is McDougall’s investigation of running, why his feet hurt and how to run without pain. It starts with stories of the Tarahumara, a Mexican Tribe knowing for distance running feats and McDougalls search for information about them. The first half on the book is mostly about ultra marathons, It them moves into commentary on running shoe design and running style, goes into a section on the endurance running hypothesis (that humans evolved to run long distance) and finishes with a race between the Tarahumara and some of the best names in ultra marathons.

The flow of the book is much more like a novel with a central story, with side stories which add more information and background to the main story. These side sections were laid out pretty well and felt much more natural than in McDougall’s other book Natural Born Heroes (my review here).

With a book in this style I think it is important to take it with a grain of salt, people, places and actions are possibly exaggerated to make for a better story, but over all I really enjoyed the central story of this book. It kept me engaged and reading wanting to know how it all turned out and more background on the various characters. It also has further inspired me to train towards a marathon and an ultra marathon. I would defiantly suggest this book as an interesting and inspirational read.

That said I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the book. It glorifies endurance running, in particular ultra marathon distance. If also supports the endurance running hypothesis. It is my belief that longer endurance running isn’t particularly healthy, it can be done by healthy individuals, but in and of itself endurance running is rough on the body. I’d like to run a marathon as a challenge, but I don’t think it is healthy. As for the endurance running hypothesis, my counter argument would be that we are evolved for endurance walking, that the endurance running is a side effect of that. You don’t have to agree with me that’s just how I see things. As for things I agree with, I defiantly agree with the running style he suggests (fore foot running), and in ditching the fancy super-tech shoes.

So to sum it up, the book is well worth reading, the story kept me coming back for more. I would take his claims with a grain of salt and investigate them further for yourself.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Rolling plate storage

So I finally finished my plate storage, if you want to see the first part of the build click here.

The plan was always to add the last partition for a pair of 5kg plates and my plywood technique plates. It was a fairly simple build, and the sizing was based on the room I had left over so I won't be listing any sizes here.

First step was to add the last partition, for which I had a board already cut from the original build.

Last partition is in
This just happens to be a good fit
After adding the last partition the space that remained was the perfect width for my 2.5kg plates, however I didn't want to store them facing that direction. I used this width, to inform the width of the partition for these plates. This would allow the plates to sit high for easy access. I was lucky in that the space left over at the end of the rolling rack gave enough room for my 4 - 2.5kg plates and 4 - 1.25kg plates, with a partition. I added some more plywood on the 1.25kg side so that they would also sit high in the rack.

Note the extra plywood on the last section.

For strength I removed the last main partition, which I had just set up, so that I could screw the change plate partition from that end. The then put the whole thing back in an screwed it all off. I haven't screwed these from the bottom, but it all seems strong enough for now.

For now my smaller 5kg plates sit in the back section, but the plan is to buy more for my dumbbells, so I will likely build another rolling rack for just 5kg plates, this would leave that back section for clips, fat grips etc.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Into the wild by Jon Krakauer

Warning: This post contains spoilers

I first saw the movie of the same title, and didn’t know the story so it came as quite a shock. The story is of a young man (Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp) who gives away his life’s savings, turns away from his family and spends his life hitch hiking around America. Like most who see the movie I was inspired to do some hiking as the movie casts the story in a romantic and inspirational light. The book is similar though more raw.

The book is really interesting in that it expands more deeply into the motives of Christopher, the type of person he was and some of his home life. It paints an even more confusing story of the young man that the movie does.  It helps to read the book to get this extra information, though it brings the reader no closer to understanding the motivation behind the man’s journey. It is worth noting that the book still doesn’t give a complete story, and attempts to fill some gaps, particularly in Alaska. Supertramp’s diary of the time was numbered, often consisting of only one word entries. Krakauer has extrapolated from these in a way which may or may not be true. This makes for a more coherent book, which is more or less true, though may not be considered strictly factual.

Now for the spoiler, there seem to be two camps on Supertramp, some find him to be an inspirationally tale of someone searching for adventure but getting more than he bargained for, or maybe just got out of his depth. While others see him as overconfident and arrogant walking into the wilderness with no skills, no real plan, improper equipment and ultimately dying needlessly. The movie makes many people lean towards the former. I however side with the latter.

As a quick aside, the movie makes it seem like he ate a poisonous plant by mistake while Krakauer later wrote an article claiming Supertramp may have eaten the correct plant, but what most do not know is that while this plant is generally save, when people are underfeed and working hard it becomes poisonous to the system. Sadly the way I see it, either way he starved to death because he was not properly prepared. Either way, he was already starving and poisoned or not he was going to starve to death. Many people, particularly Alaskans were angry about his death because it was so needless. I feel the same way because so many find his story a source of inspiration. But it’s a story of being intentionally ill prepared leading to death.

There is a line in the book “a challenge in which a successful outcome is assured isn't a challenge at all “. This struck such a chord with one reader they underlined it (I borrowed the book from my local library). While this may be true, having the proper equipment, even just the addition of a map, still would not have assured a successful outcome for Supertramp, but it would have been a more humble sign, a greater respect of the danger he put himself in.

The book is a good read; Krakauer is quite a good author so the odd personality of Supertramp doesn’t affect the reading of the book. I suggest giving it a read to make up your own mind; maybe you’ll think I’m being far too harsh.