Run For Your Lives

For the past month or so I have been running a Sunday S.O.A.S Session, S.O.A.S standing for $#!t off a shovel. This delightful phrase come from the days of steam powered rail. For the train driver and his fireman, the fella shovelling the coal, leaving their designated workspace was not an option. So if one needed to answer the call of nature in a big way, they would do it on the fireman’s shovel. The fireman would then, for politeness and hygiene reasons, quickly toss the offending substance in to the fire. The shovel being coated in coal dust avoided any adhesive issues, further speeding up the process.

And thus the adage $#!t off shovel was born as an expression of awe inspiring speed.

So what is S.O.A.S training? Quite simple it is just moving as fast as you can.

This will of course conjure up images of the  Olympic sprinter, hurtling down the track at breakneck speed. And whilst I am more of an Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards type rather than a Usain Bolt when it comes to running, I still love to sprint.

the eagle

The Eagle

Human beings are designed to run. A whole host of physiological adaptations have brought about this ability. The Nuchal Ligament extends from the base of the skull to the spine and is there to stabilise. It only exists in animals that run. Deer, yes; sheep yes; humans, yes; other apes, no.

The plantar arch of the foot and the Achilles tendon are all perfectly formed to convert kinetic energy to elastic energy. We are coiled springs made flesh.

Then there are the Vestibulo-ocular reflexes. Shake your head from side to side whilst looking at this. You can still read it right? A perfect adaptation for the constantly shifting motion of running. For more fascinating incite into this check out Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run.

The ability to run really fast had obvious benefits to our ancestors. The need to to evade that sabre-tooth stalking up to you and your neighbours would be pretty good incentive to shift into high-gear. You wouldn’t necessarily need to be able to out run a sabre-tooth either, only your neighbour.

Sprinting towards prey in order to catch it could also have been a matter of life and death for our ancestors.

But thankfully life for much of us in the western world has few of theses issues any more. Sprinting for prey now is reserved only for Black Friday and the new  iPhone 7. And our predatory feline population generally are the dealers of pissed off disdain rather than death.

pissed of cat

Sabre-tooth

But despite our relative modern comforts and threat free lives, sprinting is still of great benefit to us. There is of course the obvious advantages to moving quickly. Avoiding danger, rushing to someone’s aid, or for the pure damn joy of it.

There are a whole host of other positive outcomes from sprinting including the following:

Improves insulin sensitivity

Increases energy and alertness

Helps delay ageing process

Improves cognition

Promotes muscular development

Enhances fat loss

Improves blood lipid profiles

Helps increase bone density and strength (when performing high impact sprints, like running)

 

Several scientific studies have confirmed  that high intensity sprint sessions are more effective at promoting fat reduction than other forms of exercise, due to the acceleration effect of fat metabolism and improvements to insulin sensitivity.

Sprinting helps to increase levels of positive adaptive and anti-ageing hormones into the blood stream and enhances protein synthesis helping both men and women build or maintain lean muscle mass.fitness_pyramid_bw

The other advantage? It take very little time to perform.

 

So how do we go about a S.O.A.S session?

This is my general sprint session protocol –

For the sprint session to be optimal we need to be sprinting for between 8-30 seconds. Any less than 8 seconds and it won’t be intense enough, any more than 30 and the effort needed can’t be sustained. We usually do 100m, but this will be too much for many, so scale it back.

We start warming up with some light jogging back and forth at out chosen location, usually on grass.

This is then followed by some dynamic stretching, ie active stretches that move through the whole range of motions. Movements like high knees, walking lunges, walking knee grabs, kicking the heels up to the bum etc. We do a couple of theses forwards and backwards each for about 20m. Stop before you start getting tired.

Next up are ‘wind sprints’. These are runs over our designated distance that start at about 50% intensity and increase to about 90%. we do between 2 and 4 of these.

Now that we are primed and ready to go, we can start our full sprints. These will be focused at around 90% maximum intensity, just short of an actual sabre-tooth attack. We do anywhere from 4-6 repetitions of this. Don’t start from a dead start, give yourself a few metres run up. Definitely don’t come to an abrupt stop! Slow down gradually over at least a 10m distance. Walk back to the start line.

The important thing is adequate recovery between each sprint, enough to bring breathing back to normal. Pay attention to how you are feeling throughout your session. Any pain (as opposed to muscle fatigue), especially in the hamstring area, stop.

Also, this is not a session where we keep going until we’re spent. As soon as your form starts to falter, or the time taken for each sprint starts to increase, then it’s time to call it a day.

It doesn’t matter how fast you are going as long as you are going as fast as you can (90% max or more). So even if this is ‘only’ brisk walking, it will still be doing the same work.

Knee pain or any other previous lower limb injuries may call for some modification. Up hill sprints are probably a safer alternative to running on the flat as there is far less impact to the legs.

Not in to running? No problem. Sprints can be done in a number of ways:

Swimming pools – either swimming or aqua running

Cycling – Road or stationary bike

Rowing

Elliptical cross trainers

Don’t sprint on treadmills though as it can increase the risk of injury.

Check out Mark Sisson’s article on injury prevention for sprinting.

 

And that’s it. I repeat this session every 7-10 days. It really feels like a total body workout. I feel tired but invigorated by it, and whilst I can’t always say I’m looking forward to it, I’m always glad I’ve done it.

So give it a whirl. Reconnect with your hunter gatherer ancestors and try perhaps the most primal workout in history.

 

 

Primal Pancake

DSC02904Who doesn’t love a pancake? That thin edible canvas is just waiting for the next culinary Van Gogh to create a short-lived masterpiece.

The options are endless. Sweet or savoury (wars have been fought over this one), thick or thin, turned or flipped? The myriad fillings available are only limited by the imagination and the human gag reflex.

But one thing that most pancake recipes have in common is the use of wheat flour and milk.

 

So what about those of us that want pancakes yet don’t want to, or can’t have wheat and/or dairy?

Enter the Primal Pancake.

This is my go to recipe based on a load of other recipes and tweaked so that I could get a repeatedly good pancake. Alas, it’s not a foldable/fillable variant, but I love them. As a non cereal grain eater, I use these in place of breakfast cereals, and these puppies fill me up till dinner time.

Ingredients:

For 5-6 servings

4 eggs

Aprox 200g Ground Almonds or enough added to make the right consistency

4 Bananas

1-2 tbl sp of Almond Butter (optional but thickens the mixture)

Liberal sprinkling of crushed seeds (again optional but gives it some bite)

 

Put eggs, bananas and almond butter into a container and blend them up. Slowly add the ground almonds whilst continuing to blend until you reach a thick liquid consistency, similar to a fast food ice-cream  milkshake, i.e. it will pour out of the container in slow motion. Add some crushed seeds for a bit of texture. We use a shop bought packaged variety (with goji berries).

We then stick this in the fridge and dip into it each day.
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To cook them, heat up some coconut oil in the a pan on a medium heat and spoon in a couple of good dollops when the oil is shimmering.  Flip over when the underside is golden brown.

These are fairly sweet to start with from the bananas, so I have never tried them savoury. My favourite way of having them is with berries and thick double cream (I’m okay with dairy) and sprinkled with toasted flaked almonds. But feel free to do what ever you like.

 

Two of these bad boys keeps me fuelled for most of the day. I used to have 3 until I linked my inability to move with excessive pancake consumption. That said I had a third today, purely for photographic reasons, of course.

No sugar, no grains, gluten free and immensely satisfying. Enjoy.

Lá na bPancóg shona duit / Happy Pancake day

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The dark days are over (well, in theory)

sunriseWhilst out walking at the weekend we spotted our first snowdrops (plúirín sneachta in Irish). This for me is the true indicator that Imbolc has arrived. This ancient festival signifying the start of Spring is the light at the end of the tunnel, leading us out of Winter and into the light half of the year. You can really see the stretch in the evenings now, the bird song is louder, and even the plants seem poised to make the most of the coming sun.

Why was this time so important for our ancestors? For one, it was simply the acknowledgement that they had made it through another winter. Sure, there may still be bad weather to come but they were surviving through it. Winter has always been seen as a time of death. The trees lie dormant, the animals are scarce, hunting is more difficult, we were reliant on what foods we had stored, and people were/are more prone to illness in the dark,colder months.

Living here, in Ireland, the coming of the sun feels as important now as ever. Some years it seems to forget that we exist at all and visits this island so infrequently that confusion and shock ensue…quickly followed by raging sunburn.

We all know that a drop of sunlight makes us feel uplifted and revitalised, but its benefits go far deeper. Whilst we don’t consume sunlight directly, our skin contains a substance, 7- dehydrocholesterol which manufactures Vitamin D when exposed to the UV-B rays of the sun.

Vitamin D is vital for sustaining a healthy human being. It is crucial for supporting the body’s immune system, where it activates the killer T-cells responsible for fighting off serious infection. It aids our bodies in maintaining the balance of phosphate and calcium in the blood, and promotes mineralisation and growth of bones, whilst working in conjunction with cofactor mineral and vitamins. It also helps to trigger the release of hormones such serotonin and beta-endorphins, which account for that feel good sensation.

Vitamin D is also known to activate the P53 or ‘spell-checker’ gene, so-called because it regulates healthy cell division and prevents cancer. In fact there is increasingly more research linking Vitamin D deficiency to many cancer forms.

The best source of Vitamin D? Sunlight. And were are perfectly evolved to obtain it, big hairless apes that we are. For our ancestors living around the equator, getting adequate sunlight (and therefore Vit D) was easy. But as our ancestors moved further north, away from the sun, they needed to become more adept at obtaining UV-B. The answer? Lighter skin.

And who, in general, has the fairest skin? Red-heads.

joe glor

This is Joe. My ginger brother from another mother.

So it should come as no surprise that Ireland, with all it’s glorious variety of rain, has the highest proportion of red-heads than anywhere else.

Whilst this is great for all those red-heads, what about the rest of us, especially those with darker skin? Vitamin D production from sunlight only really kicks off when the UV level gets to 3 or higher on the UV scale. For this kind of latitude, that means that we may only be getting enough sunlight for a quarter of the year if we are lucky, and for those with darker skin pigmentation, Vitamin D production may struggle.

For the darker months Vitamin D supplementation may be incredibly useful for maintaining a healthy level throughout the year. Over the counter  D3 supplements could go a long way to helping with this. The dosages vary from pot to pot, as does the recommended daily intake. The current UK recommendations are to take no more than 25 micrograms (1000I.U) per day, whilst other countries may have higher recommended doses. It is still much under debate, with some researchers suggesting massively higher doses needed to sustain optimal health. The Vitamin D we get from supplements sadly last for about half the time of sun-obtained Vit D.

Food is our other source of Vitamin D. Many cold water fish, cod liver oil, and eggs all contain Vit D, and are a good source of nutritional health. The amounts of Vitamin D vary from around 200-1000I.U. in a typical serving. Great to top up the levels but on their own is far from enough.

If you decide to go down the supplement route, then do your own background reading on dosages, and consult your own doctor as to their recommendations and opinions. As with everything, not everybody will react the same way, medication may have an effect on supplements and vice versa.

sheep

This is Dave. Don’t lick Dave!

Maybe the rural solution is to head up into the hills and find yourself a friendly sheep to lick. Much of the shop bought Vitamin D3 is actually derived from sheep’s wool.

Below is a great info-graphic from Information is Beautiful

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Personal Training

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For anyone interested, I am now offering one-one, and small group personal training sessions to anyone wanting a tailor-made approach to fitness and healthy living. I can cover a wide variety of techniques and practices to get you to your individual fitness and health goals, including:

Functional strength and conditioning

Flexibility, Mobility and Movement

Primal Blueprint approach to health

Nutritional advice and guidance

Complete health and fitness tests

Guidance on personal goals

 

Sessions can take place at your own home, nearby location/gym, or alternatively with me at Drumnaph Community Nature Reserve.

Example costings:DSC02466

One off session (or pay as you go) £22/hour.

Bundle of 6 sessions £110

Bundle of 10 session £150

All personal training plans start with a detailed health and fitness assessment to allow us to work out the type of schedule best suited to your personal goals.

As individual needs all differ please feel free to contact me to discuss them and to work out an individual plan.

Discounts may be available to small group bookings, but please be aware that you will not be able to get the same individual attention or personalised plan as a one-one client.

Online Personal Training also available.  Please contact me to find out about this and the prices

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