Quick Sticks: A 30 Minute Holiday Workout

Today was the first workout I had done in 7 days. It was quite an experience so I thought I would share it with you.

We headed out into the crisp, -1° Celcius morning to find a place to do our workout. The cool air seemed to find its way into every exposed crevice, feeling kind of like you were sniffing up small shards of ice.

Seeing as we hadn’t done any formal exercise since we left – other then a whole heap of walking and some exercise of the mouth in the form of tasty eating – we decided that we would keep this workout simple.

The Workout – Quick Sticks

Warm up with a jog to a nice flat area for sprinting along. Follow up with some mobility exercises and dynamic stretches.

Complete five rounds:

  • 40m Sprint immediately followed by…
  • 10× Squats
  • Then walk 40m
  • 10× Push Ups
  • Rest for around 30-40 seconds.

Walk back home and have a good stretch. This should take around 30 minutes total.

Below are some lovely pictures of our training location at the lake near my Auntie and Uncle’s house in Ames, Iowa.

Confessions of a Barefoot Shoe-aholic. Your barefoot shoe questions answered.

A have a problem. I like to buy shoes.

Not just any shoes though, I like to buy shoes that allow for as close to a barefoot experience as possible. That statement alone seems ridiculous right? Why wear ‘barefoot’ shoes when you can just go barefoot for free?

Like I said, I have a problem. Let me tell you why a like them and why you might too.

To be fair, some of these are Zoe’s

What are barefoot shoes?

Like I said above, barefoot shoes are designed to emulate barefoot movement while still protecting your feet from weather, gravel, glass and other terrain issues.

They usually offer no support (unlike a traditional runner), have very thin soles and a slightly larger toe capsule to allow some movement in the toes while wearing.

But, aren’t shoes supposed to give me support and padding?

High heels no, runners yes.

But why do you need all of that support? Have thousands of years of evolution failed our bodies so much that we really need a supportive shoe to run and walk? Is not running and walking a basic function of the human body? It’s hard to imagine how we got around before Nike came along.

Excuse the sarcasm in my writing but there are some things in life that we don’t question that we really should.

Ok, no need to be an asshole about it. So what is so good about barefoot shoes?

That’s good, you are starting to rethink why you wear runners, well let me lay down for you what are so good about barefoot shoes.

During summer I love to just go barefoot although wearing shoes all my life has left me with rather delicate soles. Wearing barefoot shoes rather than going plain barefoot allows me to give my feet a rest and also stops me from looking like a bogan. Although my Vibram Five-Fingers do still attract some strange looks.

Barefoot shoes also make my feet and ankles strong. I meet a lot of active people in my passion and rolled ankles, flat feet and sore knees are all way too common. Barefoot shoes force me to use my entire foot when I walk and run. The lack of cushy padding and stability has also increased my ankle strength and balance.

I suffered my first knee injury at 11 years old. A chronic overuse injury that baffled the doctors caused by a combination of soccer and athletics. I had to stop both or else I would wind up with my left knee inflating to twice the size of my right.

From then on every time I would run or even go for a long hike there was a 50-50 chance I would be nursing a swollen knee for the next few months.

Correct weight training as a young adult improved this condition a lot. But since I ditched my runners, adapted to bare feet and changed my running style my knee hasn’t so much as given me a twinge. I went from pretty much guaranteed knee arthroscopy in my 30′s to no problems at all in 6 months. This is a big deal for someone who makes their living being active.

Wearing an oversupportive runner that encourages bad running and exercise technique is like putting on a full head helmet everytime you leave the house. It’s bulky and unnecessary.

I wear orthotics, can I use them?

I’ll let the guys at Vibram answer this question.

Vibram FiveFingers® are designed to promote better foot mechanics—naturally. As such, they’re meant to be worn directly against the sole of your foot, allowing your foot to move as if barefoot. An orthotic is an assistive device to support your foot’s function and help you compensate for any biological aberrations. Attempting to utilize an orthotic with Vibram FiveFingers® would defeat their purpose. If you have an extremely flat foot, you will need to work into wearing your Vibram FiveFingers® gradually, as your muscles will need time to adapt and strengthen.

My advice – and this is just advice that in no way constitutes as medical advice. I am not a doctor or medically trained so you should take my advice with a grain of salt – would be to do two things. And this only applies if your condition is not structural. Strengthen your feet rather then use a crutch (Would you keep using crutches for a broken leg after getting the cast off?) and possibly lose some weight. Both of these things will put you in a much better position for long term healthy feet.

But why so many shoes?

Ah, back to hassling me about my problem again. There are lots of different brands out there, I like to try them out and see which ones are right for me. As a result, I can give you a little advice if you are planning on getting some.

Vibram Five Fingers – Great if you like a bit of attention. Also the only shoe that will give you use of your toes when training. You will be amazed at how much your toes can improve your balance and performance.

Merrell Barefoot Gloves – My favourites. These shoes really hug your feet (like a glove) giving you excellent control.

Vivo Barefoot – These guys make the best looking casual shoes so you can go barefoot to dinner without looking like a hobo (no shoes), a freak (Vibrams) or like you are about to go for a run (Merrells). They also make nice running shoes with loser fit.

No funny looks when I wear these with jeans

I’ve heard about these shoes that aren’t quite as supportive as a runner but aren’t as minimalist as a barefoot shoe. Should I get them first?

Short answer. No.

In the time it would take you to wear through a pair of these, you could have well and truly adapted to a pair of barefoot shoes. To be honest, this is just the big shoe companies trying to get you to buy another shoe from them before you leave them forever. It’s like buying a sugar-free energy drink rather than just stopping drinking the damn things.

Then again, it’s your money and your feet. So if you feel like you need to take a two step to get to bare feet, I’d rather see you do that then just stick with your runners.

Disclaimer: Adapting to bare feet and barefoot shoes after a lifetime of other shoes will take time. Play it smart buy slowly integrating them into your life. Remember, your feet and legs will be working harder than normal to begin with so they need time to recover before they can handle hours upon hours of use.

Got some more questions on barefoot shoes? Ask me in the comments below.

Zoe and I have a huge line up for you this summer, including a series on how to keep fit on long holidays so make sure you sign up to our email updates so you don’t miss out!

No More Sit Ups: Five Less-Conformative Ideas For Training Abs

If I told you to go train your abs, what would you do?

Some sit ups, or crunches or maybe some fancy machine at the gym that makes your legs go one way and your head go the other?

You wouldn’t be wrong, you would indeed be training your abs, just not as effectively and safely as you might think.

First, we need to understand our abdominals

To get strong abs or a correctly functioning core (ie. a midsection that stabilises and supports your lower spine) you need to train your abs the way they were designed to be used.

Your abdominals consist of four main muscles, your internal and external obliques, your transverse abdominis (or TVA for short) and your rectus abdominis. Of course, other muscles in your lower back and pelvic floor play a part in keeping your midsection stable too.

The easiest way to picture your abs function is to think of straight parallel lines drawn on a piece of paper. Oblique muscle lines are going diagonally, rectus abs lines are going up and down and TVA lines are goining horizontally.

Now when you look at just one set of these lines, you see alone they don’t do much. Therefore isolating and training them by themselves (like what sit ups and machines do) is fairly ineffective and can potentially cause imbalances. However, when you lay all of these lines on top of each other you are left with a wonderfully complex cross-hatching pattern.

Training your abdominals muscles together makes for a much stronger and balanced core.

So how do I do this?

I have four exercises here that will not only whip you into shape but will also give you a mad strong ab region.

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Gluten-Free Healthy Anzac Biscuits

The one thing that I have been looking forward to in Autumn and Winter is baking. Hot weather and hot ovens don’t make a great mix.

Anzac Day today has been particularly bad weather so of course it made sense to create a delicious almond meal Anzac Biscuit alternative. Lucky I found this Paleo recipe which I unhealthified a little to make it more Anzacy (not real words, I know).

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/8 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup butter (or coconut oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

  1. Mix together almond meal, oats, shredded coconut and coconut sugar.
  2. Combine and heat honey and butter together.
  3. Mix the baking soda and water and pour it into the honey and butter mixture.
  4. Pour liquid into dry mixture and combine well.
  5. Cover and store in the fridge to soak.
  6. Once mixture has hardened use an ice cream scoop to make 15-20 cookie dough balls.
  7. Pre-heat oven to 120°C.
  8. Cover a baking tray with baking paper.
  9. Place the balls on the paper and squish flat with the (clean) palm of your hand.
  10. Pop in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

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Full Body Crosstraining Workout For The Park (or home)

Got 15 minutes?

Great!

That means you have time to do this workout.

Before you start set up 4 markers in a line 10 metres apart. Don’t know how far 10 metres is? Just take 10 big steps in between each set of cones.

Don’t know what to use as markers? You can use little disc cones or you could just use some makeshift markers like your keys, phone, drink bottle and jumper.

If you are aiming for the harder variation of this workout then you will also want a step or a fence near one of your markers.

This workout is very simple, you are going to do 10 reps of a different exercise on each marker. Once you get to the end you will run back to start and do it again. Go through the whole thing 3 times.

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Jump Squats

Begin a regular full squat by lowering your hips towards the ground. Once at the bottom position of the squat explode up wards allowing your feet to leave the ground in a jump.

Break your fall by bending your knees and hips as soon as you land allowing your body to travel back down into another squat. Explode up and and jump again. Keep repeating and you’re doing jump squats!

Tip: You want a quite landing with no thumping. Bend your knees as you land.

Reverse Crunches

There are a few different ways to do reverse crunches. This method works well for not only strengthening the core muscles but also for mobilising the lumber spine through flexion. In plain English that means it helps loosen up your lower back.

Start by lying on your back with your arms by your side. Lift your legs to create a right angle at the hips. Tuck your heels into your butt.

Start the movement by engaging your core and rolling the lower back up off the ground. Tuck your knees into your chest and keep the heels tucked throughout the movement.

Keep rolling up until your knees reach your shoulders. From this point reverse the movement keeping control until your lower back touches back down on the ground again.

If you can keep your shoulder blades on the ground and perform this action under control find a weight or something else to anchor your hands down with.

Jet Stars

These are Star Jumps on steroids. To get the hang of it start with a few regular start jumps.

In a regular star jump you jump the legs out and bring the hands out into a ‘star’ shape. Then you jump them back in. This exercise combines both movements into one jump.

In a single jump spread your legs wide and bring your hands out into a ‘star’ shape then bring them back together before you land.

Suicide Push Ups

These are a tough exercise but are great for your shoulders and core muscles when done properly.

Start in a push up position on your hands and toes. Keeping your hips level lower yourself to your elbows. You should now be in a plank position.

From here keeping your hips straight push back up into a push up position.

Tips: To keep things balanced alternate which hand you lower yourself with and push up with each rep. If you are finding it too difficult to keep your hips straight, spread your legs wider.

Decline Push Ups

Find a step or fence or couch or table or anything higher than ground level. The higher the step the more challenging this exercise will be.

Pop your feet up onto your chosen platform. Pop your hands on the ground and assume a push up position.

Tense your core and lower upper body towards the ground. Once at the bottom push yourself back up to the starting position.

Tips: Be careful to not allow your mid section to sag towards the ground. If you can, have someone watch you.