Keeping it Real: Outdoor Strength and Conditioning

There is no good time for disruptions, but sometimes it seems as if an evil fairy arranges for them to occur at the worst possible moments. It’s been a week full of disruptions (and it’s only Thursday!), so tonight the last thing I felt like doing was commuting and having to interact with other people in the gym in order to get my strength and conditioning training done.

Fortunately, I’ve been working on a program which emphasises body-weight exercises, and I’m now able to chin and pull my own body-weight (albeit not very many times.) So I really needed very little in the way of equipment – just some bars for pull-ups and dips, and a bench for back extensions and box jumps.

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Fitness Boxing

“I’d really like to get back to boxing,” she said. “It was my favourite form of cardio. I think if I could do that, then I’d really feel like I’d made some progress.”

I have a strained relationship with what passes as “boxing” in the fitness industry. I almost feel visceral pain when I see inept personal trainers having their clients spaz out on pads or on the bag with horrific technique. When I see them getting their clients to soccer-kick the bottom of the bag, or kick the pads when they’re being held on the wrong side of their body I feel like I die a little inside.

I’ve deliberately moved away from the “fitness boxing” or “women’s kickboxing” scene. While at first I saw it as my “point of difference” and marketed myself as a PT who could hold pads, I quickly became disillusioned by the clientele it attracted. Once upon a time, Muay Thai meant everything to me, and it pained me to whore it out and see it reduced to a calorie burner for people who only saw technical instruction as an impediment to the flailing of limbs that was making their “fat cry” in their quest for the perfect “bikini body.”

But I’ve gotten to the point where I may no longer be able to contain myself. Today, an intelligent, educated, driven, successful client with balanced, healthy, realistic goals asked me to start holding pads for her again because it was something that made her feel strong, healthy and powerful. If I say no to that, I’ve really missed the point.

Why I Do My Job


Nothing makes me happier as a personal trainer than seeing a client make progress. The most meaningful progress can’t be neatly summed up with a before-and-after pic on social media. The most meaningful progress from my perspective is an improvement in quality of life. Today I was privileged to witness a long-term client able to push herself to near-failure on the lat pull-down machine. This is significant because, in the space of a few months, she has gone from being in constant pain due to muscular dysfunction in her upper traps and exercising purely to rehabilitate this dysfunction, to being able to explore the limits of her strength with functional, integrated muscle recruitment. In simple terms, it means no more sleepless nights with headaches and back pain, not needing to see a physio multiple times a week, and being able to consider exercise goals beyond pain management.

Moments like these are the reason I do my job.

Staying Hydrated

Something that I have had trouble with in the past has been staying hydrated when my training load has been heavy. Sometimes it can literally feel like if you’re not training, you’re showering, sleeping or trying to fit enough food in your stomach to fuel your next session, and amidst all of this is can be surprisingly easy to neglect to drink enough. Couple this with a failure to replenish the electrolytes that allow your body to actually retain the water that you drink and fairly soon you’re dealing with dry skin and eyes, muscle cramps, headaches and reduced performance.

My training load today was quite heavy, but I managed to avoid these side-effects of dehydration by:

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Effective Goal-Setting

Are all goals created alike? Setting goals effectively can help you to reach your destination and develop a sense of competence, where setting them ineffectively can set you up to feel overwhelmed.

Part of my work as a specialised exercise trainer requires me to help people to identify their values and define, refine and specify their goals. Here are some basic tips that I often use in this process.

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Preventing Neck Injury

I get some strange looks when I do my neck exercises in front of BJJ and especially Muay Thai folks. It looks strange to see someone apparently running around on their head, but there a solid method and extremely sound reasoning behind this activity.

Leo Frincu is a former wrestling world champion, successful entrepreneur, and has been strength and conditioning coach to champions like Ronda Rousey, Diana Prazak and Romulo Barral. In the video above, he demonstrates the carousel, and some regressions of the front-to-back bridging sequence.

I started looking for effective neck exercises while trying to return to training after spraining my cervical spine during BJJ training in 2011. Previously, my neck had been strengthened through the process of Muay Thai clinching, which had given me very strong and active upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles, but had not prepared me at all for the myriad of positions in which one finds oneself while grappling – falling or being dropped on the mats head-first, posting and bridging on the head, being stacked, and resisting chokes and neck cranks (intentional or otherwise.)

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What is Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction, and What are its Implications for Exercise?

Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction can have very uncomfortable symptoms, such as sharp or hot pain in the lower back, as well as a referred pain which feels like it is shooting down the buttocks and legs. It can make being active very unappealing, but with the right treatment and co-operation between your physiotherapist and/or chiropractor and a qualified exercise specialist, certain types of physical activity can play a key role in managing and alleviating this condition.

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