DWF: a morning in the gym and a pasta meal

Today, it looks like I’m in the gym in the morning, so I’ll probably do a basic deadlift, squat and press strength workout. Kate (my beloved) will either join me or go for a jog. Your choice, go to the gym, or go for a run ( or a mono structural cardio activity like a row, or a bike, or a Cross-trainer). btw, do go to the bottom of this post as there is a free kettlebell guide

The food I want to analyse is this spaghetti bolognese .

As a general point, when you decide to blend protein with other stuff ( be it a sauce or tomatoes or whatever), you’ll need to make judgement as how you divide the end product. So this is 255g of protein to be divided among 3 people( the zone block is 28g of beef , so Im slightly over allocating the required 84g to make 3 blocks). I’ve added a pepper, some garlic, some herbs, an onion, a glass of wine. I threw in a block of kidney beans (sorry, I had them, and I accidentally defrosted them). Ive not really counted in, but it is among 3 people. If I start obsessing about a pepper or onion, I think I’m screwed!

When I came to serve, i just divided it into 3 portions!

Here is the killer. Spaghetti is pure carb. To make 3 blocks I put in 36g of dried spaghetti, that I think gives me three blocks of carb.

Knowing how sparse this would be, Ive added some green beans ( and ignored the minimal carb content)

It was a nice meal, although kate demanded a sprinkle of cheese.

Back to the exercise component

I constantly use kettlebells in my morning workouts. This old guide I wrote years ago may be useful. Have it for free!!

Introducing the Daily Food and Workout:DFW

Most days I’ll post a workout you can do with minimal equipment and no gym access. It be will be on a 3 day on, 1 days off rota

The “gym-less” workouts only assume you has access to 1) some dumbbells 2) a kettlebell 3) a skipping rope 4) a car park and some benches.

Obviously a full Crossfit or exercise regime requires more stuff and more variation, and ill encourage you to practice and train in weightlifting and gymnastics and other forms of cardio, but doing these workouts as bits of intensity (hard and fast) should help most people

So todays workout is

With a running clock set for 15 minutes as many rounds as possible of

20 lunges, 20 double under’s, 100m run.

Feel free to tweak everything: 10 lunges, 10 single skips, walk 50m for 7 minutes 10, or 12 minutes. If there is an exercise you cannot do or tweak, feel free to switch it with one you can do, or just leave it out and practice it later if you can.

If you are in chronic pain take it easy, feel free to limit the range of motion, feel free to rest if you must, but it’s simply about pushing you on a bit or a lot, depending on where you are

For food, ill be recommending the Zone diet . For now this is a TWO BLOCK snack, or “brunch” if you prefer.

This snack had 2 blocks of carb in the form of a slice of bread, 2 blocks of avocado (In the form of 2 (overly generous) teaspoons ) 42g of ham (as one block of protein) and 28g of cheese (as another block of protein).

I sneaked in a tea spoonful of chia seeds for extra fibre and a mini scrap of butter as an old habit

and ended up on toast like this

I’ll be explaining in great details how the zone block system works, but its intention is to ensure that each meal or snack has a balance of the main 3 macro nutrients: carbs protein and fat.

Ill be a launching a free ” how to zone course” some time in the next few months so do join my mailing list and ill tell you when you can get it

To keep up to date with fitness, physical therapy and mindfulness tips join my mailing list here:

So you want to take part in one of those TV military fitness programmes, or actually join the army?

Maybe you like the idea of being a reality Tv star, or you want to meet Ant Middleton, but lots of people want to get onto programmes like SAS: Who Dares Wins and Special forces Ultimate Hell Week.

Interest in military fitness regimes has also been stoked up by books such as “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins and our relentless diet of war films.

Having been involved in the training of a few wannabe participants, chatted to a contestant who got a good way through the process, and having analysed the challenges, I thought it would be helpful to offer some general training and preparation advice.

I have a motto, stolen from an ancient greek warrior. In a crisis, you do not rise to the challenge, you sink to the level of your training. Success in these types of programs , and indeed success in applying for a position in the army, and their elite corps, requires you to be properly trained for the challenges you can anticipate.

Lower down in this article you find details of how military fitness testing goes, and the standards they expect. However, here is your take home message. To successfully survive one of these regimes, I say you need a good back ground in being “outdoors”. Do you love going for hikes in the rain and getting soaked. Do you know how to manage wet clothing. Are you ok with sleeping outside, and essentially are you ok with operating on limited sleep and getting up at 2, 3am and going for a run. Do you love camping. Would you turn down some super sex for a 10k run?

If your preparation only involves going to the gym, at sociable times, the chances are you’ll be screwed.

Let me rephrase this. You need to be able to put up with crap they don’t even have names for. Are you used to insect bites, going for a pooh in a bush, stinking and running in boots. Have you had blisters on your blisters, and can you work through the discomfort of a wet pant band working their way into your crotch.

Do you like the cold? Well you better like those morning cold showers and going out in all sorts of weather. On the plus side, getting used to the cold has benefits. A few years ago, “Thermal loading” was all the rage!

There is another type of training you should consider. It’s mindset. Doing a lot of mindset work would probably help; learning how to break big tasks into little task: it may be 4 am in the morning, you may have run 8 miles, you may be at the end of your tether but, maybe you can get to that tree thats 50m away. Ok, now let’s try that house 40m away. Not letting the enormity of the task overwhelm you is important.

This involves dealing with fear The science fiction fans amoung you will recall this monologue from Dune

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

To be successful you probably need to distinguish the difference between fear and recognising danger. Fear is often described as False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear is an impractical emotion. Recognising danger and taking appropriate action is good. Being paralysed by fear, isn’t.

Lord Moran, ( Winston Churchill’s physician, and a trench doctor in WW1) said “Courage is a moral quality; it is not a chance gift of nature like an aptitude for games. It is a cold choice between two alternatives, the fixed resolve not to quit; an act of renunciation which must be made not once but many times by the power of the will. Courage is willpower.” (The Anatomy of Courage).

This is part of working out how you think . Are you already looking for your excuse, or are you thinking, “I’m going to give this 100%”. Having a victim mentality can quickly bring your performance to an end. Combating a perfectionist mindset is also part of the magic. You’ll be slower and feel like you cannot succeed. Ignore that and just continue.

It’s worth remembering that 90% fail (the real) SAS selection, and most of these simply give up. The instructors rarely have to fail people.

The last thing you need to prepare for is lack of sleep. This is truly awful. Here are the consequences of not sleeping (Ref):

Humans can bear several days of continuous sleeplessness, but it screws everything. It may lead to deteriorated functioning, impaired perception, reducing concentration, vision disturbances, slower reactions, as well as lower capabilities and efficiency of task performance and to an increased number of errors.

It screws with your thinking which means wrong decisions, and emotional disturbances such as deteriorated interpersonal responses and increased aggressiveness.

Being woken up at 2 am to do a run or burpees is really, really awful. It is however a reality that soldiers at times need to operate in a sleep deprived state. There are some interesting tips and hints here but, it seems that you’ll need to set yourself some middle of the night exercise sessions. “Exposing soldiers to fatigue in a training environment teaches them how it affects them and their performance. Learning the consequences in a protected environment will help them identify the issues caused by sleep deprivation, so that they can know how deal with them before reaching combat. Likewise, understanding why you’re tired can help you power through the day”(National Sleep Foundation)

If you are from a farming background, you probably have some experience of sleep disturbing work like lambing, milking and chasing poachers. I knew a financial broker who got up to trade at 3am. I think after a few years he went a bit mad: but that could have been the drugs and the booze.

David Goggins, the navy seal, suggested an interesting task. It’s called a 4x4x48. In other words you go for a 4 mile run every 4 hours for 48 hours. That will give you a very good idea of what sleep deprivation feels like, although, I’d start at something like 2 x 4 x 12, and build up!

So, thats the background . What follows are the physical tests along with some official guidance from the military like this US Navy Seal training guide. Download and read it. Its free and useful

With these points in mind, you need to prepare for the actual standards. Either you have the knowledge to develop an effective training regime to master these, or you need a PT /or a coach

  • 4km loaded march with 40kg within 50mins followed by 2km with 25kg in 15 mins (Infantry/RAC). The times allowed for 16 AAB/Paras are shortened to 35mins and 12.30mins respectively.
  • Fire and movement tactical bounds, followed by crawl and sprint ( 20 x 7.5 m bounds , or mini sprints. Then crawl 15m, sprint 15 m in 55 seconds
  • Casualty drag (110kg bag) dragged 20m in 55 seconds
  • Water can carry (simulates stretcher carry with 2 x 22kg cans) over 240 meters in 2 mins.
  • Vehicle casevac (70kg lift with 3 second hold)
  • Repeated lift & carry (20kg bags over distance) 20 x 30m in 14 minutes

I say you should not only be familiar with these challenges. You should do them, often, as part of your training. I think you should see these as the absolute minimum standards. Whilst I’m not sure, I’d prepare to do these tests with boots on.

The Royal Marines’ Pre-Joining Fitness Test allegedly involves completing two 2.4km runs on a treadmill that is set to a 2% incline. The first run must be completed in less than 12 minutes 30 seconds. You will then have a one-minute break before completing the second run in under 10 minutes and 30 seconds. This time is the absolute minimum requirement, and the expectation is that you will record the best time possible. You can use this chart to assess where you are

There are 4 body weight challenges. You should aim to ace them all. Why would you humiliate yourself on TV if you can only do 10 push ups if you know that 60 is the standard.

  • The VO2 Max bleep test (also known as the ‘bleep test’.) Minimum pass score is level 10.5. Shoot for the max!
  • Press ups are carried out immediately after the bleep test. A maximum score is achieved for 60 press-ups are conducted to an audible bleep (listen to the video below). Arms should be locked into side, shoulder width apart. The partner puts his fist on the floor facing away and counts one repetition for every time the chest touches his fist. If you put your knees onto the floor you will be told to stop.
  • Sit-ups come straight after the press-ups. 85 are needed for maximum points. Sit ups are conducted to an audible bleep. A partner holds the feet, elbows must touch top of knees and then the shoulders and elbows must touch the floor on the way down for a repetition to count. Knees must remain together or else reps will be deducted.
  • Pullups follow situps. A minimum of 3 are required to stay on the course but any less than 5 will be looked at critically and 16 will gain the maximum score. The over-grasp grip is used, the candidate is required to pull and hold the position until told to extend the arms; pull-ups are performed to the “bend” and “stretch” commands. The candidates chin must pass over the top of the bar to count and on the way down our body must be straight hanging down from the bar. Your legs must not cross. If the chin does not satisfactorily pass above the bar, or candidates cannot keep up with the commands, the candidate will be told to “drop off”.

The pool assessments include jumping off a high diving board (3m) in normal swimming kit and swimming a maximum of 4 lengths (approx 100m) of breast stroke followed by retrieving a brick from the bottom of the pool which is 3m deep. Train these skills. That brick retrival can be tricky. Learn to swim outdoors, in the cold, in clothes. For God sake have a life guard nearby. I think there are some outdoor swimming places like this one in the Royal docks in East London.

Other testing includes
  • The “Tarzan Assault Course” conducted up to 30 foot off the ground. Deal with your vertigo issues, or don’t apply!
  • The bottom field assault course which involves team games and other arduous physical activities.
  • An endurance course lasting 90 minutes and covering 2.5 miles undertaken on Woodbury Common
  • An over-night exercise which is intended to promote team building.

To train these, you’d better be a regular at your local Tough Mudder or Spartan Race. You need a t-shirt that says “I do love an obstacle race”. As I have said else where, if you don’t like getting wet, feeling cold, being woken up in the middle of the night, you really don’t want to apply for one of these programs, or the actual army for that matter. Familiarity with rope climbing and ab-sailing can probably be obtained at your local climbing centre. In the East End we have the Mile End Climbing wall

If you want to apply to be on SAS Who Dares Wins click here

If you are insane enough to want to do this, feel free to ask me for some in real life (if you are in the East End of London) or Online PT sessions.

1 mile running task

If you can run 1 mile in sub 8 minutes: run 1 mile (1.6k) to equal or beat your last 1 mile time. Rest that amount of time, then  run 1 mile (1.6k) . Attempt to keep the same pace ( or faster). ( this amounts to 2 miles (3.2k) in total.

If it takes you  longer than 8 minutes to run a mile,  run  1K   as fast as you can; rest the amount of time it took you to do the 1st  1k. Then run 1 k again. ( 2k in total, not miles)

If your 1 mile (1.6k) time is between 8 and 9 minutes you can choose  which task  you feel will benefit you more. But we are looking at pace and speed if possible.

(new runners feel free to pick 400, 600, 800m as your distance)

Run 400m, then rest, then go again!

This doesn’t seem that difficult a task.

400m, is, after all, 400m, but there are several interesting questions: what race are you actually training for, and what energy system do you want to train.

Let’s talk about energy systems

Whoever invented the human body was a bit of a ‘worry puss’– they felt that one energy system just wasn’t safe enough. Rather like the householder who has a real fire place, electric storage heaters and gas central heating. Some would call that greedy, but a cautious person would call it prudent..

The human body has three energy systems.

One for fast reactive movement (diving under a car to save your three-year-old toddler),

A slower, more extended, but still, a pretty snappy system (for running 350 metres, then diving under a car to save your three-year-old toddler).

Finally, there is the long-term ‘trickle’ energy system (the one you use while shoe shopping, running 5k, miles away from any toddlers)

For people who have little experience of toddlers, these ‘metabolic engines’ are known as the:

 

Phosphagen pathway,

Glycolytic pathway,

Oxidative pathway.

■ The first, the phosphagen, dominates the highest-powered activities (100-metre sprint), those that last less than about ten seconds.
■ The second pathway, the glycolytic, dominates moderate-powered activities, those that last up to several minutes (400-800 metre run).
■ The third pathway, the oxidative, dominates low-powered activities, those that last in excess of several minutes (5k run, walking, shopping).

They all use slightly different energy producing mechanisms, which isn’t the subject of this article.  The subject is, how long do you need to leave it between goes?

Think of 100m, you can run that “balls to the wall” or you could jog it.

Fine.

 

Here is the question. How soon could you do it again at the same pace?

So let’s say you run 100m (flat out, the fastest you’ve ever done) in 20 seconds* and collapse in a hysterical sobbing heap as you hyperventilate, and drool. If I make you go straight back, you’ll possibly stagger back in 30/40 seconds, while whining annoyingly!

 

So if you used the phosphagen pathway, I suspect you’ll need  11 times your time to recover. If you run 100m in 20 seconds, you probably need 220 seconds to recover to attempt the same pace again.

A simple principle is this, the slower you go, the less recovery you need, so, if you were to run 400m in 2 minutes, you probably want a 1-2-1 work rest period, so run 400m in 2 mins, rest 2 mins.

This helps you monitor consistency, otherwise, so some argue, you are not training or developing pace and capacity.  If you run 400m in 1.40, mini/erratic rest 1.50, mini/erratic rest,  2.00 mini/erratic rest 2.10 the argument is that you are simply surviving, not training.

So 2 take-home points

  1. Training needs non-emotional work and consistency to be successful
  2. It’s always the distance, plus the time it took you, plus the effective rest periods

.

( *for the sports pedants among you, if you run 100m in 20 seconds it’s not really phosphagen is probably a mix of what some call Anaerobic Alactic Endurance/ capacity, but the principle will hold for now)