All the fun of the gym
This week I restarted my strength training regime, complete with crawling, Maasai jumping and hula-hooping
Last week I shared my training diary for the week. Underneath I got a comment from patron Petra, which was interesting. She said: “Any strength training in your week? I hope there is and you just didn’t write it down.”
Hmmm, well, there wasn’t, but she’s not wrong. Hours into an ultra marathon, when everything is straining and coming apart at the seams, a robust, functioning body can be the difference between staying the course and breaking down completely. Of course, a lot of that durability comes from running, but really, to make sure everything is fully oiled and primed, an element of strength training is crucial.
People often ask me if the Kenyans do strength training or go to the gym, and the answer is: not much. Eliud Kipchoge’s camp have recently started a sort of bouncing fitness/aerobics class in the early part of their training cycle, while Brother Colm’s group do some strength-based drills. But most of these athletes became good before they ever did any strength training. I spent time in running camps where the gym was a metal bar with two paint pots filled with concrete stuck on either end, which lay on the ground unused most of the time.
Yet the Kenyans grow up living incredibly active lives, carrying water from the river, climbing over things, rarely sitting on chairs even, let alone working on computers or driving around everywhere in cars. A natural physical strength comes from their lifestyle. For most of us in the west, however, (unless we're farmers or labourers), if we want to become a bit more Kenyan, and catch up a little in the strength and mobility departments, then we need to be a bit less Kenyan when it comes to strength and mobility training.
So last week, even before Petra’s comment, I re-started my strength training regime. I used to do a weekly class with Joe Kelly, who is an absolute maestro at this stuff. He believes in functional strength, rather than pure strength. So, for example, he says doing a plank gets you strong for doing a plank. Great. But it doesn’t necessarily help you to move better. To move better you need strength exercises that move you.
Joe doesn’t do his classes in my town any more, since he moved away, but I’ve done enough of them now to be able to put together my own session. So together with Marietta, who may not be a runner, but who always loved Joe’s classes, we did our own “Joe’s class” at home this week.
“Wait, she 'loved' strength training? Huh?”
One of the keys to Joe’s way of thinking is that exercise is more effective, and you’re more likely to engage with it and improve and keep it up etc, when it’s fun. So, yes, this is fun strength training. Let me take you through our routine this first week.
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