Fitness tests: the 12 minute run

The 12 Minute Run test

If you have 12 minutes spare, plus warm up and cool down time, you can find out: how aerobically fit you are, a theoretical VO2 Max figure and how well you do for your age. Run, walk, crawl as far as you can in 12 mins.  Then compare here.


If you want a VO2 Max “figure” try this (very crude) calculation:
VO2max = (22.351 x kilometers) – 11.288 =         mL/kg/min
Then look yourself up here:


Try not to kill yourself. You may need to build up running times, and possibly get medical clearance. Some need to walk. It doesn’t matter if your first go is a poor result. Use it to motivate you to get better.

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The 2 “successful” diets

If we believe history  there were 2 great successful diets: The Paleo diet, and the World war 2 diet (true, we have never been so healthy). Both were dramatically different in  the types of food they used. Both relied on one thing for success, You couldn’t  get hold of anything to eat. Paleo is about running around the savanna trying to catch something with  a pointed stick before you died of starvation. World war 2 meant rationing.

If it helps there are 2 possible  approaches to healthy eating ;

  1. you get inspired about  a healthier future ( imagining better abs, less cancer,  healthier pregnancies, lower blood sugar)
  2. You get so  fed up with your present life style that you just have to change.

Both of these concepts feed into habit creation, and picking  the right battles.

Let me give you the common story among  successful weight managers. It happens to be  the same for  our  top Crossfit performers. There is nothing spectacular! There is no running around the streets, collapsing on your knee and praising God screaming out your new found goals

” I’ll never be fat again…….” “ill never eat  cake again”

Time and time again, religious revival campaigns have converted thousands,  only for them to relapse days ( sometimes minutes) later.  The more people tell you their extreme, detailed,  diet  plans , how much weight they intend to loose,  the more absolute rubbish the ideas and the more appalling the results.

Results come from  deciding on long term goals and plodding towards them. Result then come from building in habits, enjoying set backs, picking the right battles but keeping on the road. Ask any of our  olympic lifters, crossfitters and gymnasts.

Dramatic,  greedy , short term goals are deadly, stupid, destructive and of no value. You can as much  meaningfully change your weight in 2 weeks as you can become a lawyer in  a weekend (although I’m sure there is an online course somewhere that claims you can do that)

The 20 squat programme.

Once all the fuss goes, the 20 squat programme is doing 20 squats, with your ten rep max.

It’s one of the oldest lifting programs there is. It was introduced by John McCallum in 1968 and was originally coined “Squats and Milk” because old school lifters would drink a gallon of milk a day (GOMAD) while on it. According to the Jacked factory “This routine is not for the mentally weak individual. It will test your will power and bring you to a threshold that will either make or break you. One of the reasons why this routine works so well is the “breathing squats”. Generally around rep 15 or so you’ll be out of breath, legs burning, telling yourself this was a horrible idea while you stand there with the weight on your back. At this point the reps come few and far between as you muster up the strength to squat out another rep”.

Strossen publishes a well-marketed book, assuming you fancy doing this for 6 weeks:

Hanlon’s Razor

Once you start seriously training you begin to come across all sorts of  negative and weird stuff.

Most of it, generated by other people.

As its often generated by people its all too easy to  imply the motive of malice.

It’s too easy, for example, to feel that  your strength programme has been designed just to make your life difficult by a coach who doesn’t like you. In a metabolic conditioning class you can genuinely feel hatred in the voice of the trainer who enthusiastically screams ” 10 more burpees” at you. The inclusion of running if you hate running, rowing , if you get sea sick  and pull ups if you have weedy arms can seem as conclusive evidence that someone is out to get you.

Speaking personally I’ve been to a class where someone else stands in my favourite place, while someone else grabbed my favourite bar. In the changing area, people have intentionally  changed where  I wanted to change and have left their bags where I wanted to leave mine.

At the same time this was happening, and god knows, that was enough,  that instructor forgot that  I liked to do that weird hip stretch, and then skipped out  the rope climbing.

I love a rope climb. The guy must have hated, no, loathed me,  to deprive me of the rope climb I’d been so looking forward to.

So, you can see my plight. I was stuck at a gym where everybody hated me! Their malice stood out like a beacon declaring “we hate Andrew, trip him up if you can, make his life difficult”

One night I tearfully  confessed this to my beloved partner. I was a bit down and depressed because everybody hated me. She carefully listen to my points ( or, “whines” as  she later described them ). and then told me about Hanlon’s Razor

Hanlon’s razor is an aphorism expressed in various ways, including: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”.

It isn’t that people hate you. It’s just that they are stupid.

Cut them some slack.

Emergency One Day First Aid at Work course

My next emergency First Aid at work course will be on the 20th August  at Crossfit London in Bethnal green, E2 . It’s only £45 for 6 hours of  fun, practical learning.

Book your place here


A  fantastic range of subjects are covered including:

  • Responsibilities and reporting
  • Assessment of the situation
  • Dealing with an unresponsive casualty
  • Basic hygiene in First Aid
  • Burns
  • Epilepsy
  • Resuscitation including AED
  • Minor injuries
  • Bleeding control
  • Choking
  • Shock

There are no spooky exams. I assess and support you in the practicals during the day. This means if you mess up a bit I can tweak and  support you meaning get you to the required standard with no fuss

My job is to send you home, or back to work,  with a range of skills that really can save life.


This is a fully accredited course, ( by OFQUAL)  and is ofcourse, compliant with HSE

Grit: The secret of success

Success is quite a difficult concept. It’s incredibly personal but whether you measure success by wealth, quality of service, or your relationships with other people, it seems  that the ability to stick at a task is crucial. Some people call this grit. In assessing the success or failure of West Point graduates, researches identified “grit” as one of the required characteristics. Grit is about having what some researchers call an “ultimate concern”–a goal you care about so much that orders and structures almost everything you do. Grit is holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.

I suppose an issue with this is you can be gritty in the  pursuit of a goal or an idea, but be a lazy total toss pot in other areas.

Angela Duckworth is acknowledged as a leading grit researcher

Here are  some of her ideas in her own words

This little test may  help you consider how gritty you are. Im not sure if you should see this as an overall personality test, or consider a specific aspect of your life. Maybe try both.

I have some of my clients use this scale when assessing their commitment to fitness, olympic weight lifting, gymnastics, diet and first aid provision.

Short Grit Scale


Directions for taking the  short Grit Scale:

Please respond to the following 8 items. Be honest – there are no right or wrong answers!

1. New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.*

  •   Very much like me
  •   Mostly like me
  •   Somewhat like me
  •   Not much like me
  •   Not like me at all

    2. Setbacks don’t discourage me.

  •   Very much like me
  •   Mostly like me
  •   Somewhat like me
  •   Not much like me
  •   Not like me at all

    3. I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest.*

  •   Very much like me
  •   Mostly like me
  •   Somewhat like me
  •   Not much like me
  •   Not like me at all

    4. I am a hard worker.

  •   Very much like me
  •   Mostly like me
  •   Somewhat like me
  •   Not much like me
  •   Not like me at all

    5. I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.*

  •   Very much like me
  •   Mostly like me
  •   Somewhat like me
  •   Not much like me
  •   Not like me at all

    6. I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.*

  •   Very much like me
  •   Mostly like me
  •   Somewhat like me
  •   Not much like me
  •   Not like me at all

7. I finish whatever I begin.

  •   Very much like me
  •   Mostly like me
  •   Somewhat like me
  •   Not much like me
  •   Not like me at all

    8. I am diligent.

    •   Very much like me
    •   Mostly like me
    •   Somewhat like me
    •   Not much like me
    •   Not like me at all


For questions 2, 4, 7 and 8 assign the following points:

5 = Very much like me
4 = Mostly like me
3 = Somewhat like me
2 = Not much like me
1 = Not like me at all

For questions 1, 3, 5 and 6 assign the following points:

1 = Very much like me
2 = Mostly like me
3 = Somewhat like me
4 = Not much like me
5 = Not like me at all


Add up all the the points and divide by 8.

The maximum score on this scale is 5 (extremely gritty), and lowest score on this scale is 1 (not at all gritty)


Grit Scale citation


Duckworth, A.L, & Quinn, P.D. (2009). Development and validation of the Short Grit Scale (Grit- S). Journal of Personality Assessment, 91, 166-174.

Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 1087-1101.


This blog article was drawn from an uncredited online PDF “Grit-8-item.pdf”


My name is Andrew Stemler and I’m a london based personal fitness and first aid trainer. You can contact me here

90/90 Hip lift and balloon fun: the beginning

Most hardcore breathing athletes do “Balloon Breathing”  hanging off a pull up bar. As a matter of history, here is the original 90/90 hip lift breathing drill that’s discussed by Boyle et al ( 2010)

  1. Lie on your back,  feet flat on the wall, knees and hips bent at a 90- degree angle.
  2. Place a 4-6 inch ball between your knees. I’m tough so I use a nice cushion.
  3. Place your right arm above your head and a balloon in your left hand.
  4. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, performing a pelvic tilt so that your tailbone is raised slightly off the mat. Keep your back flat on the mat. Do not press your feet flat into the wall instead dig down with your heels. You should feel your hamstrings “engage”
  5. Breath in through your nose and slowly blow out into the balloon.
  6. Pause three seconds with your tongue on the roof of your mouth .
  7. Without pinching the neck of the balloon and keeping your tongue on the roof of your mouth, take another breath in through your nose. ( the first few times you do this is slightly tricky)
  8. Slowly blow out  into the balloon again.
  9. Do not strain your neck or cheeks .
  10. The original instructions say “After the fourth breath in, pinch the balloon neck and remove it from your mouth.Let the air out of the balloon”. Frankly, i just open my mouth and let it fly around the room ( I have a pile of balloons to hand so I don’t have to move to get another one. My girlfriend says this is  annoying.
  11. Relax and repeat the sequence 4 more times.


You can checkout more materials at the Postural Rehabilitation Organisation


90/90 breathing was designed to optimise breathing and enhance posture and core stability. The idea being this would improve improve function and/or decrease pain (Boyle et al., 2010, ).

The 90/90 rests on a concept  called the zone of apposition (ZOA) of the diaphragm, which is the part of the muscle shaped like a dome.  In simple terms “MORE DOME GOOD”

If the ZOA is decreased the ability of the diaphragm to inhale sufficient air in a correct way is diminished.  This affects the diaphragms ability to build up  intra abdominal pressure.  If the ZOA is decreased The transversus abdominis activation also decreases with a smaller ZOA (Boyle et al, 2010), which again affects lumbar stabilisation ability .

The set up of 90/90  aligns the pelvic floor and diaphragm in parallel. This combats any upper and lower cross syndromes, and lumbar extension. This results in  the core muscles being fired which increases the ZOA and adds to core stability. As an exercise in the obvious,  dysfunctional breathing and physical activity  takes up the main breathing muscles and throws the load on to smaller muscles and makes life harder. However, according to Lukas  (2018) there is little evidence in terms of studies to support this, although it sounds like a reasonable assumption. However,  the Lukas  study does seem to caste doubt on 90/90 as core stabilisation method

“Taken together, the 90/90 breathing seems rather ineffective as a general core activation for a normal workout.” (Lukas , 2018 page 35). but checkout these drills by Buteyko and these other breathing drills

I think some attention to basic breathing drills is probably useful, but its more relevant if you obviously have a breathing disfunction .

Why not practice on the tube  (not with the balloon ,obviously)



Alverdes, Lukas  (2018) .Short-term effects of 90/90 breathing with ball and balloon on core stability. Halmstad University


Boyle, K. L., Olinick, J., & Lewis, C. (2010). The value of blowing up a balloon. North American journal of sports physical therapy: NAJSPT, 5(3), 179.