Saturday, 26 July 2014

My Journey to fitness

For a long time I have been meaning to write this article, but just never got around to it.  Lately I’ve been thinking about it more often, so here goes:

I grew up as a chubby kid, never fat, just chubby.  I was even a chubby baby, my Mum told me as a baby everyone said I looked like the Michelin man. I think it was about 2010 (age 22) when I decided I wanted to get fitter, although at the time I had no idea what I meant by that. I think I weighed about 80-82kg and I felt like I was reasonable strong (I have always worked on and off in an aluminium window factory so I was always lifting heavy windows).

Skinny runner
As is fairly typical with these things I first started getting fitter by running. When I first tried I think I only ran about 500 meters then walked the next kilometre home. Around the same time I began doing press ups, and using my brothers set of dumbbells at night. I wasn’t sure what I was doing with them; I would just do movements I had seen before (curls, tricep extensions etc.). I think I built up to running approximately 5km.  I have no clue on the strength gains, if any.

I think it was late in 2010 or early 2011 I was linked to Marks Daily Apple, and from there the world of fitness exploded for me. I started doing the body weight program Mark had on his site at the time and made really good progress on that. I quickly built up from push ups to one arm push ups, started doing one leg squats (though not breaking parallel), close grip pull ups, handstand push ups, sprints etc. By also following much of the eating guidelines I dropped down to 70kg.  I was lean and muscular but fairly skinny.

In mid 2011 I started recording my workouts so I could follow the progress and to motivate myself to never take a day off. At this time I was trying to up my volume in an attempt to put on some weight, and maybe get up to 75kg, but my workouts were all over the place.  I would do one set of Australian pull ups, then a set of pull ups then a set of chin up.  I kind of had a plan.  It just wasn’t a very good one.

Getting better
I had recently started using kettlebells (16kg, then 24kg) and found My Mad Methods, a website on unconventional fitness including kettlebells and sandbags. I jumped in and tried 3 or 4 of their 4 week programs. These were a lot of fun and I probably got stronger doing them, but since I didn’t really have a good bench mark to test I have no idea how much these helped. During this time I would often get home quite late but I always pushed to get my workout in. That might mean getting home off the train at 6:30 and doing 30 minutes before dinner and homework (No days off). Or I would break up my sets and do them in the ad breaks, push ups, bridges and abs lend themselves well  to this.

It was at this point (late 2011, early 2012) that I was starting to formulate my ideas on training and develop a better plan for myself. I had read Convict Conditioning (“CC”), and had bought Mathew Palfrey’s sandbag e-book.  Each week would include a body weight strength workout, a sandbag strength workout, a sandbag conditioning workout, some running and sprinting. This worked out really well for me.  I worked my way through many of the CC progressions, got stronger with the sandbag, and got much better at running.

In 2013 I went back to university and decided this was my year to focus on strength workouts since I could make these short and monitor my progress to make sure I was getting better. I focused on basic movements, continuing some of the CC progressions.

Through 2013 I got much stronger in weighted pull ups, going from around 5x5r with 16kg up to 5x5r with 32kg. I also moved from overhead pressing 24kg 5x5r up to the same reps with 32kg.

Significantly I was able to see how well my strength transfers over to barbells which I had previously never used.  At that point, having bench pressed maybe 50 reps total in my life, I was able to bench 100kg (at 80kg body weight).  While not amazing it’s pretty good for minimal training. I was also able to work up to squatting 150kg quite quickly (also not amazing, but respectable).

Now it’s mid way through 2014 and I’ve been doing the Gymnastic Bodies Foundation course for nearly 6 months. I feel I have been making really good progress on this and I am really enjoying having a huge mountain of progressions to climb.

My plan moving forward is to finish the Foundations course and to have started Rings 1 course before I’m 30 (currently 26). I would also like to get into some more powerlifting to get some reasonable numbers without going too far down that rabbit hole.

Through this whole process I have learnt a lot about training and have formulated my own views on how one could (should) approach their training. I’ll lay these ideas out in my next post.  

More recently some higher level progressions.

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