A workout for 12/12/12

December 12, 2012

Ooh, look at the date. 12/12/12. Alexandra Burke, surely the greatest philosopher of our age, gave us all something to think about when she posted on her Twitter today that this will be the last repeating date of our lifetime.


Anyway, on this very cold and rather frosty evening, I decided to pay homage to the visually-pleasing numerical date by designing a 12-themed home conditioning circuit. I have a few items of kit at home (shout out to Wolverson Fitness), including kettlebells, a Bulgarian bag (my new favourite), a weighted vest, a wall ball and a slam ball.

My choices of toys today were a 16kg kettlebell, 12kg kettlebell and 8kg Bulgarian bag.


This is how it went down:

Set a timer for 12 minutes

Do 12 reps of the following 12 exercises (do you see what I did there?). Rest after each circuit.

Repeat as many times as possible until the 12 minutes is up.

1 KB swings (two handed)
2 KB swings (right hand)
3 KB swings (left hand)
4 Bulgarian bag spins (I think that’s what they’re called) left
5 Bulgarian bag spins right
6 Bulgarian bag cleans
7 goblet squat
8 squat jumps
9 KB cleans (right hand)
10 KB cleans (left hand)
11 burpees
12 press ups

Did you mark 12/12/12 by doing a 12-inspired workout? Tell me all about it thankyouplease!

Oh, and… only 12 sleeps til Christmas-Eve-eve! 😉

A workout for 12/12/12 is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

The Conditioning Chronicles: The Training Lab

August 21, 2012

With now less than three weeks to go until my first bodybuilding competition of the year, it’s time to step up the conditioning and get shredded! I’ve called in various favours and asked some people in the biz to blast me, beast me and generally put me through my paces.

As you’ll remember from thefitdog’s post last week, I recently visited The Training Lab (run by Andy McKenzie of Ironmac Fitness) as part of an article I’m writing for Muscle & Fitness magazine. I can’t say too much about the whys and wherefores of the article yet, but I can report back on the session, which most definitely makes it into the conditioning chronicles. In fact, Andy felt that I hadn’t been able to work hard enough on the day of the magazine shoot (due to stops and starts for photos) so invited me back again to experience the session as it was meant to be done…. start to finish, with no stops, no photos, no baby oil and no makeup!

(These photos, however, are from the day of the shoot, in case you think I am in the habit of wearing a full face of make up and a salon tan for everyday training!)

The session was structured by:

– mobilisation and movement prep
– jumps and plyo work
– strength work supersetted with cardio intervals
– a push/pull circuit finisher

And here’s why Andy created it that way. The mobilisation and movement prep is crucial, for obvious reasons. Every training session we do should make us move a little better (whether in our athletic endeavours or in everyday life) and preparing properly by mobilising, strengthening and stabilising the big joints including the hips, shoulders and ankles will allow us to do this.

Jumps and plyo work was done firstly with a 10kg weighted vest (to prepare the movement) and then without the vest (to do the full movement). This approach gradually loads the joints, and once you remove the vest you’ll move faster and develop the neurological system more. It’s a good way to do things if you’re tight for time. Jumps and plyos excite the nervous system and encourage muscular co-ordination. (Vest from Wolverson by the way – who I can highly recommend for all sorts of kit)

The combination of classic strength moves (we did front squats) and cardio intervals (we used a Wattbike for sprints) is a great way to ensure your session works on muscular development and strength but also has a strong cardio benefit (really elevating the heart rate) and encourages a good hormonal response.

Finally, that push/pull circuit allows you to really max out on the effort (it shouldn’t exceed six minutes), crank up the intensity, increase release of growth hormone levels and work harder, achieving more in less time!

Here’s how it went down. It should be noted that, whilst I personally wasn’t sick on the floor, my dog was. Sorry Andy! (Thankfully he’s a dog-lover, although possibly not so enamoured of my actual dog right now!) If you want an explanation of any of the moves, just ask – happy to go into more detail in the comments section…

– mobilisation and movement prep (repeat circuit x 3)
Rear band-pulls
Band rainbows
Band dislocates (much less painful than they sound, in fact I love these now!)
Body weight squats
Reverse lunges
Clock press-ups
“Sternum” pull ups (ie the first element of a pull up, with straight arms)

– jumps and plyo work (this circuit x 3)
“load and explode” jumps with vest on (x 6)
then vest off, and jump over 3 hurdles (there and back)
then straight into 2 minutes Ski-Erg work at 20 seconds effort, 20 seconds rest

– strength work supersetted with cardio intervals (can’t remember how many times – x3 I think!)
Front squat (at about 60% of max) x 8 reps
then straight onto the Wattbike for 2 minutes at 20 seconds effort, 20 seconds rest

– a push/pull circuit finisher
bent-over row using the glute-ham raise (don’t try this unsupervised – or with baby oil all over your knees…. !)
ring dips

Verdict: phew! A really challenging mixture of strength, power, cardio… and elements which pushed me right out of my comfort zone (the jumps and hurdles!)

Thank you Andy and The Training Lab! You can follow Andy on Twitter here and The Training Lab on Facebook here.

The Conditioning Chronicles: The Training Lab is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

The Conditioning Chronicles: Five Star Health and Fitness

August 4, 2012

With 6 weeks to go until my first bodybuilding competition of the year, it’s time to step up the conditioning and get shredded! I’ve called in various favours and asked some people in the biz to blast me, beast me and generally put me through my paces.

Yesterday, I popped over to Five Star Health and Fitness, a new (opened this week) gym and training facility in Windsor. Wow, what a place! Tim Benjamin (locals may know him from his other gym – The Fitness Space in Ascot) and his team have done an amazing job with the building, transforming it into a light, bright, welcoming gym kitted out with the very best in CV cardio machines, functional training and conditioning kit, free weights, kinesis resistance technology and an entire MMA room with a cage and everything!

I urge you to take a look at the Five Star website to get all the info about what’s there (including the 51 classes on offer!) but in a nutshell:

1) strength training area
2) functional training kit
3) MMA (mixed martial arts) area
4) 51 classes
5) CV kit from Technogym’s high-tech Excite + range

There’s also a sauna and steam room… what a blissful bonus extra!

I asked Tim to put me through my paces in a conditioning session using some of Five Star’s “toys”… and he delivered!

A bit about Tim: the son of a Professor of Anatomy, Tim was always interested in the human form, strength and performance. As I mentioned in my Olympic-inspired “track starts” post yesterday, Tim competed as a 400m runner at a very high level, coming 2nd at the World Grand Prix final in 2005. He’s a Poliquin S&C (strength and conditioning) coach. His own values – of inspiring confidence and getting results – are evident at Five Star. The facility’s five steps to success (discover, design, deliver, reflect and achieve) have been put together with the aim of getting results for every member who walks through the door, whether it’s a 71 year old woman recovering from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (I met her as I came in!) or an elite athlete.

Or me for that matter! Here’s what Tim had dreamed up for me in the depths of his strength and conditioning mind….

First we worked with a Bulgarian bag. I’ve seen these bits of kit around but never used one. Like all the best bits of kit, they look so innocent… until you use them. They can be used in many ways but we started off with one of the most common – and effective – movements which is swinging the bag around your head, keeping the arms close to the head and incorporating the entire body, driving from the hips and rotating the torso. We also did snatches.

Then we moved on to the TRX (other suspension trainers are available) I’ve used suspension training before and, again, it’s deceptive. You think “how hard can that be?”… the answer is – as hard as you want to make it!

Then came kettlebell swings (I was OK with these as I have KBs at home) before Tim asked me to do something which I feel is neither natural nor necessary, quite frankly. Namely, to lift both my feet off the ground at the same time. Otherwise known as “jumping”. Yep, I had to sling the Bulgarian bag around my neck like a yoke and “bunny hop” (a massive insult to bunnies across the world) down the gym and back again. Not easy, particularly when you lack grace, explosive power and agility.

Finally it was off to the rowing machine where I had to blast through 200m as fast as I could.

That little lot… three times through. With just 90s rest between circuits (no rest between exercises). This is what it looked like in my notepad:

– Bulgarian bag swings x 10 each side
– Bulgarian bag snatches x 10
– TRX atomic press ups (press up into pike) x 20 (!)
– TRX row (at an angle – killer) alternate grip x 20
– TRX squat jump (at an angle – quad dominant) x 20
– Kettlebell swings x 20
– Bunny hops with Bulgarian bag on back – there and back
– 200m row
– 90s rest

3 times through.

Whoaaaaah mama!

All of that probably took no more than 20 minutes, but it’s not the length of the workout which matters with this kind of training, it’s intensity and effort – and what happens to your body afterwards!

What I liked about this circuit was that it was really challenging but great fun too, because it used a lot of “toys” and was fast-paced, changing between kit all the time. There were some things I was OK with, some I thought I’d be OK with (I told Tim the TRX rows would be like a recovery for me – he couldn’t contain his giggles when this turned out to be anything but the case!) and some I was most definitely not OK with (the jumping!)

Here’s what Tim said about this conditioning session:

“As you have just a few weeks to go until your competition, I wanted to design a session for you which would really ramp up your basal metabolic rate. So, the point of this session wasn’t so much the calorie burn achieved during it (although that’s not insignificant) but the increased metabolic rate once you leave the gym. In fact, this increase in BMR can continue for up to 37 hours after a session like this. The session was anaerobic, used big compound multi-joint movements and avoided targeting any particular muscle group (as I know you train your muscle groups separately). You’ll get a massive metabolic boost from this session and it will also hit your core, your shoulders, your back, your quads, your posterior chain….”

Yes yes, thank you Tim. 😉

I can report that I was knackered and already a bit sore by the time I left the gym – in particular, I could feel it in my lats (probably due to the rotational movement of those Bulgarian bag swings?) By the time I’d got home (30 minutes later) I was shattered. I slept like a log. This morning? I’m hungry, sore but full of energy.

Verdict: a success! Fun, challenging and a kick up the backside for my metabolism.

Thank you Tim and all at Five Star Health and Fitness. You can follow Five Star Health and Fitness on Facebook here and on Twitter here

The Conditioning Chronicles: Five Star Health and Fitness is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

The Conditioning Chronicles: Barnes Fitness

August 2, 2012

With 6 weeks to go until my first bodybuilding competition of the year, it’s time to step up the conditioning and get shredded! I’ve called in various favours and asked some people in the biz to blast me, beast me and generally put me through my paces.

Today’s installment of the Conditioning Chronicles needs a bit of background.

I used to be a swimmer. I wasn’t much of a speed-demon in the pool but I could grit it out through hell and high water – and did, swimming the English Channel twice (and the length of Windermere once, and round the Channel island of Jersey) with all the long, long training such swims demand.

So, when I approached my good friend Ellie Barnes of Barnes Fitness with the familiar plea of “get me lean!” (the battle-cry of every Conditioning Chronicle), I did so with a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach (nothing to do with my fibre supplements). Because I knew that Ellie would either put me on a turbo trainer, make me sprint round a track or – worst of all – pop me in a pool.

Ellie is a Personal Trainer at Reading-based Barnes Fitness, and a very accomplished athlete in her own right. In fact, she has been selected to represent Great Britain as an age-grouper at this year’s World triathlon championships in New Zealand. You can support her here, and I urge you to do so if you can.

I met Ellie at a local pool (outdoors – lovely!) and I’m not joking when I say I was really apprehensive. It was a fear and dread which ran much deeper than “this is going to hurt” or “I’m not sure I can even do this sport”. In fact quite the opposite – I know I can do it, and I know because I’ve done so, so much of it. Hours and hours of training in the cold sea (I’m talking 7 hours on Saturdays and then 6 hours on Sundays) does build up a kind of trepidation on a cellular level. It wasn’t just my brain which was nervous. It was my body. Don’t get me wrong, I love swimming and will always adore it. We just have a tempestuous history and needed a bit of time apart. We haven’t spoken for a while and it was going to be… awkward.

I also had no idea if I could even swim any more. I haven’t done it in ages. I sometimes have anxiety dreams where I’m swimming through glue, or can’t lift my hands out of the water for the recovery phase of the stroke.

Hopefully by now you have some idea of the frame of mind I was in before today’s conditioning session! 😉

Ellie is a great coach and a good friend and put me at ease in no time. We did some mobility work before I lowered myself into the water and set off on a 200m freestyle warm up. My arms worked! My hands didn’t get stuck in the water! I was actually moving. This was OK. I could even tumbleturn still (well, sometimes).

After that I did:
– 100m for time (more on that later)
– 1x200m (this was meant to be 4x200m but I wasn’t feeling the love and asked if we could do shorter intervals instead) – 3:38. We did this using paddles and fins (flippers) to work on power.
– 4x50m – 44s, 47s, 50s (oops), 47s
– a kick set (100m with fins/flippers, 50m without)
– 100m backstroke cool down (ahhhh)

For the amazing, earth-shattering, flabbergasting total of… 1150m. Haha!

Here’s me during the 200m with fins and paddles

And me barely moving during the bit of kickset where I wasn’t wearing fins! This was truly agony (I did a very heavy squat session yesterday).

Ellie said:

“When you asked me to help you with a conditioning session, I wondered whether you’d feel more comfortable with longer intervals of 3-4 minutes (aerobic) or shorter bursts which would call on your anaerobic energy system. I think we can see from today’s set that you find anaerobic efforts easier, hence cutting the planned 4×200 short and turning it into 50m repeats instead. This isn’t really surprising since your weights work is probably quite explosive and, even though you might do a lot of volume and several sets, you’ll be taking a recovery after every set. So you don’t often ask your body to work at a relatively high level for 4+ minutes.”

This is definitely true – even my longest weights set might only be 20 reps (even when I sometimes do a very high rep squat set of 40 reps, it certainly doesn’t take me 3 or 4 minutes to complete the set) so most of my “intervals” or work periods are short, with a recovery. Even when I head out for long cardio, on my road bike for instance, there are still long periods of recovery between efforts like hill climbs.

I was interested in the effects of a short swim session on “pump” so did a bit of posing (I have no shame, bodybuilding has seen to that!), here we go:

Verdict: tough during the intervals but I recovered quickly. Will be interested to see effect on metabolism (hunger?) later today…

Thank you, Ellie at Barnes Fitness! 🙂

The Conditioning Chronicles: Barnes Fitness is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

The Conditioning Chronicles: Locker27

July 30, 2012

With 6 weeks to go until my first bodybuilding competition of the year, it’s time to step up the conditioning and get shredded! I’ve called in various favours and asked some people in the biz to blast me, beast me and generally put me through my paces.

First up: Locker27.

Remember when I had a session at Locker27 last year (I blogged about it here)? Locker27 is a fantastic facility in Weybridge, Surrey, which began life two years ago as an academy to coach kids in the technical side of sport, proper movement patterns and the basics of gym work. That’s still where owners Matt and Steve do a lot of their work, but now the Locker offers lots to the regular gym-goers, amateur sportsperson and general public, too: classes, PT, small group training and programmes.

I emailed Steve with the simple plea: “get me lean!”

This is how he rose to the challenge:

First up, warm up and mobilisation work including foam rolling (nobbly foam rollers – nice), hurdle work (for hip mobility), various “crawls” (for shoulder strength, hip mobility, hamstring stretch and general warm up).

Then a bit of pad work/boxing with Alex. Now, I usually really dislike boxing training, I don’t feel I do it properly, I feel unco-ordinated and general like a bit of a dork. I loved the stuff I did with Alex! It was a revelation! Thanks, Alex.

After that, a core and activation circuit: band pulls, Russian twists, band walks and sledgehammer work (ay caramba, I’ll feel those in the morning!)

Then we were on to the first of the circuits Steve had devised: supersets of deadlifts and burpee/chins (which were actually burpee-press up-jump to a chin up, drop and repeat). Steve explained that this is a mini version of a session they do as a group class, and is typical of the kind of structure and content of all their hybrid conditioning sessions. Mixing upper body and lower body, concentrating on movement and the process/outcome – performance training.

10 x deadlifts (all at 50kgs) + 2 burpee/chins
8 x deadlifts + 4 burpee/chins
6 x deadlifts + 6 burpee/chins
4 x deadlifts + 8 burpee/chins
2 x deadlifts + 10 burpee/chins
I did that for time and took 05:55 – no idea if that’s good or bad.

After that, we did some work with the prowler, much to my delight! I’ve never had a go on one before and I couldn’t wait. I did:
– 1 length back pedalling (walking backwards)
– 1 length squat to pull
– 1 length “truck pull”
– 1 length pushing the thing
3 round of that, with 50kgs on the prowler

Then (!) for one more thing, I did two rounds of another superset: 150m on the SkiErg (er…. ow!) and pulling the prowler the length of the room via a rope (er…. ow!)

Then I sat down, tried to interview Steve and couldn’t actually write. Seriously, you should see my handwriting, it’s barely legible.

Verdict: beasted!

Thanks Steve and all at Locker27. If you’re in the Weybridge area then lucky you cos you get to go to Locker27 all the time. What’s that? You don’t? Well why not – go!

The Conditioning Chronicles: Locker27 is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Conditioning training at Locker27

March 14, 2011

I mentioned last week that I’d been invited to train at Locker 27, an athletic facility in Weybridge, Surrey. It’s about time I told you about the session (and the facility). It’s a fantastic place to train and I only wish I could get over there more often. Two sessions a week at Locker 27 athletic development and I’d be in tip-top condition for my comp, I can tell you!

Locker 27 is what I’d call a proper “old school” training facility, although there’s nothing dated about it. On the contrary, the equipment is fantastic and the knowledge of the three coaches is bang up to date. But the Locker 27 guys have built the facility, and the training they offer there, around the solid foundations of real athletic conditioning. Everything they do is functional and aimed at increasing sporting performance. They focus on the basics: of technique, of programming and of progressive training. The training they do looks simple, but is tough. The Locker 27 guys know that if it ain’t broke, there’s no point trying to fix it, and so they underpin all their training sessions with all the good stuff – Olympic lifts, bodyweight movements, intervals, conditioning circuits.

Here’s the blurb from the website as written by its founder Matt Church:

At Locker 27 we provide the basis and foundation for athletes/sportspeople/fitness fanatics to achieve their goals and increase their performance. The pathway from physical competency to performance training is tailored to prepare the individual for the complicated, comprehensive, robust skill set required to reach their potential.

“The Locker” provides a very different training experience compared to a commercial gym. All components of sports conditioning are combined and can be applied to anyone who wishes to push the boundaries, whether for sport or for healthy living.

Locker 27 was born 31 years ago. It is a culmination of experience and lessons from the sporting world both positive and negative that have shaped the philosophy and services received at the “Locker”.

The name Locker 27 comes from my first ever locker at school. I have very fond memories of these early stages of my sporting development. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who ignited my passion for all aspects of sport and exercise. At Locker 27 we want to be part of that ignition process.

So, what about my session? I met with Steven Rudkin, a co-director of Locker 27 and asked him to put me through my paces. On my training programme for the day was interval training, and I was secretly hoping Steve would get me to do a variety of things I just can’t do in the limited space available to me at my local gym. I wasn’t disappointed!

Steve devises my session and writes it up so he can count my reps

After a fantastic warm-up which focused on mobility and glute activation (hurdle walks, band side-steps, crawls, lunges, medicine ball woodchops and ball slams, skipping, etc), Steve revealed my circuit...5 exercises, working for 45 seconds with 15 seconds rest, and a bonus 60 seconds rest between after the completion of the fifth exercise. I was to do the sequence 3 times. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? That’s what I thought…until he told me what the 5 exercises were:

1) “wall ball”: essentially a push/press, squatting down and then launching a 5kg medicine ball up against a wall in front of me, over and over again

2) sledge hammer: whacking a massive tyre with a sledge hammer over and over again as hard as I can

3) burpees jumping straight up into wide-grip chin ups (then down again into the burpee…and so on)

4) rope slam: continually ‘slamming’ a 2inch rope up and down for the 45 seconds

5) flipping a 44kg tyre across the room, running back to the start line after each flip

If that still doesn’t sound too bad, here is some video footage of me doing some of the exercises. I’m a bit embarrassed about these as 1) I didn’t know Steve was videoing and 2) they’re from the end of the session when I was tired – hence the complete inability to do any real chin ups (I’m just jumping up and lowering myself down by this stage).

I asked Steven to explain why he chose the five exercises for my circuit. He said: “These kind of athletic movements mimic the way we need to move during sport and help us build power in those big movements. Two things are often neglected in traditional gym-type training: triple extension (at the ankle, knee and hip) and the posterior chain. They’re both really important for athletic performance, no matter what your sport is. After all, every sport demands ground reaction forces from those three leg joints so we need to learn how to transfer power from the ground up and drive it through the legs and hips.”

After I’d recovered from this short but killer “raw conditioning” session, I asked Steve to assist me with just one set of dumbbell chest presses, because I never have anyone to help me during my own sessions, and I wanted to see if I could actually press more than normal if I had someone there to help me get the dumbbells up in the air. Sure enough, I was able to go up to 2x20kgs (I can usually only manage 2x18kgs because I can’t lift anything heavier to the start position!) I think I could have gone heavier but 20kg is the biggest dumbbell they have at present. Steve then checked my squat and deadlift form and said it was all good, which was great to hear.

I absolutely loved my session at Locker 27 and would like to thank Steve for inviting me and taking me through the session. If you are able to get to Weybridge to train, I strongly recommend you try the facility out.

Triathlon readers – you could try Locker 27’s dedicated Computrainer sessions (you can take your own bike) – at the moment, only Locker 27 and the triathlon centre in Manchester offer the sessions.

Conditioning training at Locker27 is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Have your pancake and eat it too

March 8, 2011

Today is “Pancake Day” here in the UK. Yes, I’m 16 weeks out from a figure bodybuilding show. No, I see no reason to avoid Pancake Day. Growing up, it was one of my favourite days of the year. My Dad threw some means shapes as he flung pancakes around the kitchen under his pseudonym “Roger the Tosser” (I can’t believe I just wrote that on the blog. Luckily, I don’t think he reads it!) Sista, remember Pancake Days when we were kids? Hang on, I have a picture of R-the-T in action….here it is!

I digress. You may think Bodybuilding contest prep+Pancake Day=big no no. I say think again! Contest prep just means a bit of lateral-thinking when it comes to pancake batter.

What’s in normal pancake batter? Eggs, milk, flour, oil, and butter, right? Come on, those things are all so easy to find healthy substitutes for. So easy, in fact, that I’d celebrated Pancake Day before 8am this morning.

OK, so I’m not the best food photographer, and an iPhone is not the best camera in the world. But you get the idea.

Into your trusty blender, pour about 4 eggwhites, 40g or so oats and about 75g light plain cottage cheese. Blend. Add a pinch of baking powder and blend again just for a second.

Heat spray oil (or, if you’re me, a bit of coconut oil) in a good pan. Pour some of the batter in and cook just like a normal person’s pancake. Flip and cook the other side.

Plate up and top with whatever you want. I’d suggest good ol’ lemon and sugar isn’t the best choice if you’re in contest prep. I went with sugar-free syrup (yes, it exists and it’s lovely) and strawberry slices.

It should be noted that the recipe amounts above made three further pancakes. The photo above was not my entire breakfast!

Four oaty pancakes like this fuelled me up for my training session today which was a “raw conditioning” (their words) session at the simply fabulous Locker 27, a training facility in Weybridge, Surrey. I’m going to blog about my session later this week but if you are in the area, I urge you to go and try it out. You can contact Steven and the other chaps on info@locker27.com.

PS I also had pancakes for my afternoon snack. I made them out of egg whites, cottage cheese and protein powder. They tasted great but looked awful so I didn’t take a pic. 😉

Have your pancake and eat it too is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

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