How to get your ass kicked by a kettlebell

October 30, 2013 in fitness, health

Kettlebells are one of my favourite pieces of exercise equipment. Mostly because they’re so versatile and if you use them properly, they give you a kick-ass workout.

However, while I’ve often done my own kettlebell workouts and I’ve done many short workouts at Cape Crossfit with the kettlebells, I had never been to a kettlebell class. Which is why I was so excited when Laura Munro of Glow Pilates, invited me along to one of her kettlebell classes.

If you don’t know what kettlebells are, read my article on it here.

The class began with a nice long warm-up of rowing, skipping, bear crawls and squats and step-ups. Doesn’t sound like much but trust me, after a few rounds we were all sweaty and plenty warmed up.

Warming up on the rower

Then the kettlebells came out. I felt like a kid at Christmas, the not-so-secret exercise nerd in me was bubbling with excitement.

I picked a 20kg kettlebell for the ladder swings. Sounds like fun already huh? What it means is that you start with 3 two-arm swings, then your partner does 3, then you do 6, then 9, then 12, then 15… then you count back down. May not look like much on paper but if you do it right it’s quite a good workout.

Kettlebell swings

Then we moved onto goblet squats with the kettlebells. This involves holding the kettlebell with both hands at your chest and then lowering down into a deep squat. The weight of the kettlebell is perfect for getting you nice and deep in the squat and making those leg, hip and bum muscles work. We did ladders with these too and by the end my hip flexors were twitching their distaste.

Goblet squats… trying to go to my ‘happy place’

After that we switched over to lighter kettlebells for some push-presses, which involves holding a light kettlebell in each hand at your shoulders and then dipping down slightly and pushing them straight up overhead as you stand up. Also quite a taxing workout.

Push-presses

However, Laura was not done with us yet. And as she headed back to the board to show us the finishing workout I was reminded again what an awesome workout kettlebells can give you. I was pretty much soaked with sweat and could feel every muscle in my body had been woken up and was feeling the effects of the previous exercises.

The workout we finished with, finished me. It wasn’t hard, but it was tough, if that makes sense.

It consisted of 5 rounds of:

5 pull-ups

20 kettlebell swings

30 seconds of air squats

Come the end of the second round my hip flexors were screaming at me, those squats were deadly! And by the end of the last round I collapsed on the floor. A sweaty, heaving, totally fried version of the person that walked into the studio an hour before. But I was happy. Those feel-good exercise hormones were coursing through me like fireworks, and as I washed them down with Laura’s complimentary freshly-juiced carrot and lime drink all I could think of was “I HAVE to do that again…”

With Laura (top left) and the other lovely ladies I worked up a generous sweat with at Glow Pilates.

If you haven’t tried a dedicated kettlebell class yet I would highly recommend it. Laura is a certified kettlebell instructor. Find her at Glow Pilates here or visit their Facebook page here

Squat baby, squat

August 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

How long can you squat for? I mean REALLY squat? Not the hovering-above-a-public-toilet type… the real ass-to-grass deep squat? You’d probably be surprised.

Me? I can now last a staggering 2 minutes 30 seconds… although that’s with either a kettlebell as a weight to keep me balanced or lightly holding on to something. Sounds like nothing though right? But it’s 100% better than last week when I could only manage to squeak out one minute before my hip flexors started screaming obscenities at me and my shins and ankles felt like they’d been set on fire.

Why am I doing this, you ask? It’s a good question, with an equally good answer – I’m trying to get better. Not just better at squatting, but better at everything. Have you ever seen a toddler squat? It’s perfect, and it’s effortless. They just drop down into it and can chill out there for as long as they want. But unless you’re one of the lucky few who has good flexibility and mobility, you probably struggle as much as I do.

Squatting should be effortless for us all. But since we went to school and started spending more time sitting on our asses rather than walking, crawling, running, climbing and squatting, most of us have lost the ability to do it properly. I can’t remember where I read this, but basically when you’re tired of standing, you should be able to drop down into a squat and rest there.

Yes, I said ‘rest’.

At the moment though, with my screaming muscles and achey joints, squatting does not feel at all restful to me.

This is why I have taken up the 30 minute squat challenge with some of my coaches. Basically it involves practicing your squat for 30 days. Every day you try to sit in a squat position for as long as you can, working your way up to 30 minutes for that day.

Right now I’m only on 10 minutes a day. So I might be doing a 90 day squat challenge :D But the point is that I’m squatting. I’m making an effort to get into that position and stay there for as long as possible. I’m getting my body used to what is essentially a very natural position. And the more I do it, the more natural it is feeling and the longer I can hold it for.

It’s tragic that we have to retrain our poor bodies to do such basic movements that we were born to do, but such is the way life has changed in the Western world. Perhaps one day i will be able to write an entire blog post while comfortably resting in a squat. For now though, my goal is to increase the time every week until it is effortless.

I asked my coach Carla from Cape Crossfit to demonstrate some of the different ways you can sit in a squat and the different progressions you can use, check it out:

 

Carla shows the basic squat. It’s effortless for her (see how she laughs so merrily while in it). This is what I aim for – and to look so happy while doing it :D

 

If you can’t squat unassisted yet, it’s perfectly fine to hold onto something. Just try and make sure you depend on it less and less as you go along. And keep your back straight.

 

This is my preferred method of squatting at the moment – with a kettlebell. It helps keep me balanced and in the right position and the weight of it gets me into a nice, deep squat.

If you can’t get into a proper squat just yet you can also try putting something under your heels to give you a little extra help.

 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to find a place to go and squat…

#happysquatting

It’s always about the shorts…

August 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

Carla Costa Da Nunes is a crossfit coach and winner of the African Regionals Crossfit Games 2013. She recently competed in the Crossfit Games in the US. She is strong, she is beautiful and yet like all women, she has body insecurities. 

Read this extract from her blog (which you can read in full here) about how, even at the fittest and strongest she has been in her life, about to compete with her peers, she still found herself worrying about body issues:

So there I was, I made it. Los Angeles, Carson, THE CrossFit Games baby!

Athlete’s dinner: check. “Wow, look at all these people I have only known via Internet. Gorgeous people! look at those muscles and so lean!”
Registration: check.
Interview with ESPN: check. “That’s funny. It is the first time that I do a kettlebell swing with makeup on!”
Try out new gear: “Oooo, look at all this stuff! Love the tops, the pants!” Tinny shorts and bathing suit: “uh oh” (gulp).
So there I was at the CrossFit Games, I was about to embark on a massive journey, and one of my stumbling blocks is a pair of shorts I was given. After all “who wants to see those chunky legs and that cellulite! There will be cameras!”
Really Carla? Really?!

Carla in the ‘offending’ shorts during one of the grueling workouts at the Crossfit Games.

I grew up a skinny girl in Angola and was made fun of for it. “Dressed broom” they called me. Add to it a background where the only feedback I received was that pertaining to “negative”  behavior. I heard what I did wrong, so much for what I did well. Not the best way to lay the foundation to a high sense of self I’d say. Ah, I suppose they did the best they could.
Now, if you want to mess it up even more, add a first love who used to tell you were fat and pinched your stomach as he said it.

Oh no wait!, it gets better: chip a front tooth, get the worse acne as a teenager and have people call you ugly duckling. Now that should do it! No? How about a religious parent who chose your clothes for you? Oh, the pictures, the pictures!
No? How about failed relationships?
Oh and and by the way and before we proceed, let me clarify that I am not asking for pity, I am just giving you a bit of a background to what I am about to tell you.
As a child in Africa I was physically active. I ran, I jumped. No sitting still.
It all changed when as a teenager I decided that I was too cool to sweat. (oh silly girl).The only exercise I did was ride my pink skate board and follow Jane Fonda’s buns and tights workout (oh, Lord help me!) in my parents’ living room. The doors were always locked because God forbid anyone would see and ridicule me!
Mind you, the exercising to Jane Fonda only started after said boy started telling me I was fat at the age of 16. Up to that point in my mind I was a Dressed Broom Tom Boy who really wasn’t too concerned with her looks.

Things changed and for years I struggled with how I saw myself. There was always something “wrong”: too soft, too big, too skinny, too little fat… it was never quite right. (come to think of it, how boring).

Even when I became a competitive kayaker and became so lean that I  had an 8 pack (yes you’ve read it right) I was still unsure about my body. there was always something not quite right with it. Oh the self judgments, worse yet, the judgment of others, their figures, their lifestyle choices. At first I thought it was all about them but no, I learnt in time that it was me projecting my own fears and insecurities on them.
Throughout the years, I did a great deal of (internal) work on myself and things did change. I stopped judging others and what peace it brought me. I could finally see the human, the soul in its full intricacies. How beautiful to just see, to just observe. No background noise!

There is so much to every single human out there. It goes from the six pack man or woman, to the African mama who is big by anyone’s standard yet so confident in her stride that she walks down that street like she owns the world. How I admire and envy her.

Beauty to me also means watching a woman come into our gym and see her change her idea of self. Her walking changes, her clothes change, heck how she stands and looks at the world changes too! I also see it in music, in the nerd who pulls a computer apart only to put it back together again while they tell you all about each piece. The way someone laughs. I love big belly laughs. Or even how someone is capable of writing a closing argument so beautifully, the words just flow. Random perhaps? Maybe not if I told you that I have legal background.
For years my demons lay dormant and I figured that as I had stopped judging others, it meant that deep inside I was also at peace with myself. But was I really?
How does one, after all these years find oneself having trouble putting on a pair of shorts at the CrossFit Games because “I am not as lean as all the other amazing ladies” and ” who wants to see that?!”. How on earth is it still about that? Does it make me a hypocrite? Does it disqualify me from wanting to help others?
I guess these are good questions. I don’t know the answer.

What I do question is how it is possible that after all these years of work with myself and others, when taken out of its comfort zone, my internal dialogue goes crazy and just as I am about to embark on a massive journey, one of my stumbling blocks is a pair of shorts I was given as part of my competitor gear.  Because God forbid someone saw these “chunky legs and that cellulite! OMG There will be cameras!”

How can I  show love and compassion to others yet be so rigid and hard with myself? How about some self acceptance miss Carla?
Oh and those legs you were moaning about, how about recognizing that they get you places, that they can drag heavy things around and that you can walk thank you very much?
How ingrained is this “not good enough” message?
I read somewhere that “what you do not own, owns you”.
So I guess that the first thing to self acceptance is to own that I, Carla, after all these years, do in fact judge my body and say things about it in my head that I would not say to a friend.
My first step that day was to wear those darn shorts, and then I wore them again.
Read more of Carla’s musings here

Supplements: The what, when and why

August 5, 2013 in fitness, health

Supplements are not something that have been a big feature in my training programme, but lately I have started to feel that I’m at the point where I might need a little something extra to help me with recovery as my training sessions are getting more intense.

But what to take? I remember going to a talk with Professor Tim Noakes where he claimed that the most effective ‘supplement’ was caffeine and that nothing else has actually been scientifically proven to work. But that was a few years ago, and as we know, the supplement business is booming. Mostly from people who either have no idea what to take so just take anything, which can not only be dangerous, but also super expensive. This stuff isn’t cheap.

So I figured if I was going to take a supplement it would have to be something that I could trust, something that wasn’t full of all sorts of crap, and something that wasn’t going to kill me financially every month.

What I started with

At first I took hemp protein powder. It’s a rather vile tasting green powder which I mixed with a banana, some water, a little cacao and some green powder from The Real Thing. All natural stuff and while it looked pretty gross and often didn’t taste very good, it was really the only thing I could take as I was still breastfeeding my child and his safety was far more important than my need for muscle recovery.

However, as my child is now almost two and although I’m still breastfeeding, it’s less frequent and I figured it’s now safer to take a basic whey protein drink in the morning after my workout as I only breastfeed in the late afternoons now. Also my workouts have become more intense as I have become increasingly stronger and fitter. Which also means my poor muscles need a little more TLC.

So I spoke to my coach to get some advice on what I should/could take and what would benefit me the most. And while he was adamant that good nutrition is first and foremost the most important thing, given that I rush to work straight after gym and don’t get a chance to eat, he said in my case a supplement such as a whey protein drink would be OK.

Coach Chris Oman from Cape Crossfit during one of the CrossFit Games regional qualifiers.

According to Coach Chris Oman, head coach at Cape Crossfit, “Real food is the best supplement you can take. Clean out your diet first and make sure you get enough of all the good stuff you need from unprocessed food sources and your results will be amazing.”

He is of course right. Because if my diet is a mess then that will affect my training and my recovery. Vicious cycle.

So while whey protein is the only supplement I am taking at the moment, I wanted to find out a bit more about what the others are. And who should take them. And when.

This is what he said: “ For improved performance and recovery when everything else is in place supplements can have a place in a hard working athletes diet.”

This is his top list:

BCAA’s: Take them before training. It works as a precautionary effect to stop your muscles from breaking down too much, and also provides a little bit of extra energy for the workout. Drink about half the serving before the workout and then sip on the rest during the workout.

Whey protein: Keep it as clean as possible, “100% whey” is hopefully exactly that, only protein. It’s important to take immediately after training and is a great way to rebuild your muscles from the inevitable breakdown that happens during exercise. Be aware that even though the lactose content is low, it is a dairy product.

Glutamine: Most of the whey protein shakes contain L-Glutamine already, but if yours doesn’t or you don’t use whey protein it could be something to think about as post recovery and before sleep to prevent muscle loss. It is one of the more active amino acids in terms of saving muscles from breaking down.  A lot of athletes  also note improved sleep while using Glutamine.

Creatine:  If you eat a lot of red meat you actually get fairly high doses of this already. It is for people who are looking for strength increases and to add on muscles. Creatine binds water so don’t get scared if you gain a couple of kg’s the first week or two.

So there it is. Those are the basics and there are loads of other supplements out there with fancy-schmancy names that sound like they’re going to make you lean and mean all on their own. Which they won’t. Be careful of them – it’s a booming business for a reason.

By all means use them to supplement your diet and assist you in your training, but do your homework first. They cost a pretty penny and if all you’re going to get out of it is expensive pee then it might not be worth it.

I am going to give it a bash with the whey and see how it goes. I am not looking to lose weight, nor to bulk up. But I would like to continue to get stronger, and to do that I need my muscles to be able to recover from the previous workout. But I will be dialing in my nutrition a bit tighter and trying to get some extra sleep  - and for anyone with a toddler/baby, you’ll know that’s probably my biggest challenge :)

Coach Chris’s ultimate advice for anyone looking to get fit, healthy and strong?

“Eat real food. Drink a lot of water. Sleep eight to nine hours every night. And train, hard.”

Do you take supplements? Which ones work for you?

What’s your excuse?

July 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

Exercise is not always about losing weight. Or getting ‘toned’ abs. It might start out like that for some people, but for a lot of people exercise often becomes a lifestyle. It changes the way you live your life – how you eat becomes important, what you drink, how much you sleep, how your family eats and exercises.

Check out this video from a backyard gym in Strand, Cape Town, where with just a few weights and a little motivation one man is changing the lives of drugs addicts and gangsters – one rep at a time. Exercise is definitely the healthier lifestyle option for these guys, and if they can do it under such depressing circumstances, with such basic equipment…. what’s your excuse?

Aerial yoga? Yes please!

June 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

Aerial yoga – just think about that for a second. Sounds weird right? Well it is. But it’s also a ridiculous amount of fun and a great workout. Not since I was a child on a swing have I felt so free and giggly.

When The Silk Workshop invited me for a class to see what aerial yoga was all about I was intrigued. I love yoga, but aerial yoga? What the hell was that? So armed with a vague, nagging image of downward dog in the air I headed off to their Greenpoint studio to see what it was all about.

I was greeted with massive purple silks hanging from a very high ceiling and lots of very supple women in leotards effortlessly draped from the silks from one leg, or an arm. They de-tangled themselves and gracefully disembarked from the silks to greet me and talked me through a brief warm-up and stretch.

Note: This is NOT me. This is the professionals.

Have you every stretched with someone who does professional ballet? Or who is a former circus acrobat? No? Well if possible avoid it at all costs. Unless you are super-flexible yourself. Otherwise you’ll feel like a 90-year-old granny with brittle bones and muscles as pliable as leather. Seriously, it’s freaking ridiculous what these women could do. And effortlessly too… one of them was halfway through describing how she literally ran away to join the circus when she was a teenager in the UK while she was basically in the splits with her chest on the floor. #noreally

So after establishing that I was about as flexible as a ruler Junaid Rahim showed me how to get into the silk hanging from the ceiling. It looked so graceful and easy. So up I hopped, silks in hand, bum wiggling backwards desperately looking for a little bit of silk to call my seat and… nothing. I couldn’t even get up without causing a scene.

I may be smiling now but it took 10 minutes for me to get into it ;)

Fortunately I’m not the first novice they’ve seen so after a few more attempts and a little assistance I was shown how to get into it. And then told to just swing, like I was sitting in a swing. Like kids do. Like kids do ALL. THE. TIME.

But my brain shut down and my stomach lurched like I was being violently thrown around on a roller coaster and not gently swinging from a gorgeous purple silk in a yoga class. Silly stomach.

Seriously though, when last were you on a swing? I have clearly forgotten how to do that stuff. It’s so simple and yet my brain refused to accept this as something pleasing.

Anyway, after Junaid decided I had the hang of that (or the shade of green I had turned was off-putting) he showed me some of the different moves that make up an aerial yoga class.

Wow. Just wow.

They are some hectic moves. And yet, I managed to do them. #noreally #notsuchadumbass

No starfish jokes ok?

He would show me something that looked equally fabulous and difficult, inverting himself upside down and without any hands and just dangle with a bit of silk hugging his bum and then I’d do it and… I did it! It took a few times till it looked anything near what he had done, but the point is I did it.

Check it out:

Beware the Flying Ginga #whatevernext

#justhanging

There’s something very serene about hanging like a bat

Look ma, no hands!

Lunges with a difference

Such a nice stretch

By the end of the class I was exhausted. It was a real workout and I couldn’t’ believe how much it had taxed my muscles. Those circus girls are strong!

I believe the actual group classes go a lot faster through the moves and at a much more intense pace, although anyone from beginner to more advanced is sure to get a workout. Junaid even said he has a lot of guys who do the classes too for the upper body strength workout it gives them.

Apart from the sore abs the next day this was one of the msot fun things I’ve ever done. It made me feel graceful and beautiful and at the same time filled me with a real sense of childish joy just to be swinging from the ceiling and flipping upside down with my legs in the air and back again. I would highly recommend this to anyone wanting to try out something different, it really was too much of fun!

Thanks so much to Junaid and the flexible ladies of The Silk Workshop. 

Feel the power with Vinyasa Yoga

June 18, 2013 in fitness, health

Yoga. It sounds so serene, so calming, so…. so not a workout, right? Not quite. Not if you do certain types of Yoga. I tried out Power Vinyasa Yoga with Lauren Mensikovas and lemme tell you something, that was nothing short of a hard workout.

I sweated. And it wasn’t Bikram-style heat-induced sweating… it was OMG-this-is-tough-sweating. My arms were shaking and really tired afterwards, my legs were a bit wobbly and my abs took a few days to forgive me. Even some deep muscles hidden way back in my hips and pelvis were a bit otherwise with me for a few days after the class.

But was it fun? Hells yeah. It was so much of fun. As much fun as you can have silently contorting your body into different positions in a room full of strangers doing the same thing and quietly sweating and gently huffing. It was also ridiculously invigorating, and it set the tone for my whole day afterwards.

This is one of those poses that you glance at and go “meh, looks easy enough”… then you try it… eish…. (BTW this is Lauren, my version of these poses is not really printable)

The nitty gritty

But what IS Power Vinyasa? According to Lauren it’s a “dynamic style of yoga blending steady poses and flowing sequences, linking breath to movement and opening you up to more energy, vitality and flexibility in your life.  It is an invigorating form of yoga that works for all body types and physical abilities working at your own level of fitness, doing just what you can”.

Couldn’t have put it better myself. I had a young man of about 13 next to me on one side and a rather supple granny on the other side of me… and there were a lot more men in the yoga class than I have ever experienced before. Which is fantastic, perhaps more men are finally realising the amazing benefits yoga has to offer.

If I could do this I would SO watch TV like this…

The flowing style of Power Vinyasa made the class really interesting, just when you were getting comfortable the position changes and becomes more challenging. Lauren says she finds this form of yoga “the perfect blend of endurance, strength and freedom to play”. And she’s right. I consider myself quite strong, but I found a lot of the positions very challenging. Not that I didn’t try the harder ones (there is always an easier option), cause where would be the fun in not trying the hard stuff… it looks so cool….

Why you should do yoga

The list is endless with regards to the benefits of yoga, and listing them would take forever. Suffice to say it’s good for mind, body and spirit. Although Lauren adds that she finds yoga improves physical strength, improves concentration, is great for stress relief and has a positive impact on overall physical, mental and emotional health.

Again… looks easy but it really isn’t.

“Yoga can help us all in many ways, and with a regular practice, we can see improved muscle tone, flexibility, strength and stamina as well as helping with weight loss.  It improves circulation and stimulates the immune system.  It reduces stress and tension as well as improving concentration and clarity. It can help to boost self esteem and help us find a sense of well being and calm.”

Learning from yoga

Unlike many other exercise programmes or fitness regimes, once the yoga bug bites, it bites hard and deep and it’s very hard to shake off the feeling of accomplishment once you’ve finished a class.

This one I could almost do. I am a little worried I’ll face-plant into the floor, but every sport has it’s injuries right? ;)

Lauren, a self-confessed yoga addict, says that it’s had such a profound effect on her life in many ways.

“From a physical perspective, it has helped me change my body enormously. I am the strongest I’ve ever been.  I also used to be a lot heavier and through yoga, I’ve learned to respect and care for my body and by being kinder to my body and enduring the physical intensity of the practice, I’ve managed to keep my body in much better condition, helping the weight to come off.

When looking at Table Mountain gets boring try it from this angle :)

“My yoga practice started to take me much deeper than just experiencing a physical change – I became more aware of how I treated people and most importantly, how I treated myself.  I saw how important it is to practice non violence towards yourself, your body and towards others.

“It had a huge impact on my body and the connection to my daughter while I was pregnant.  I practiced right till the very end of my pregnancy and believe it to be a huge part of why I had such a healthy, easy pregnancy and that it prepared me to be able to have a relatively easy, beautiful home birth.

“Yoga encouraged in me, an appreciation towards community and connection to others.  It re-awoken my inner curiosity about myself and about my world and was a powerful way for me to develop & maintain my physical vitality, mental clarity and be joyfully engaged with my life.  Most importantly, yoga helped me to find that subtle connection between my breath, my body, my mind and my emotions.”

I think she sums it’ up pretty nicely when she says that “ yoga gives us the power to have a better relationship with ourselves and through this,  a better relationship with others and the world we live in.”

All that and a damn good workout?! How could you NOT want to do it?

Check out Lauren’s Facebook page here for where she teaches classes in Cape Town.

Reform yourself with Pilates

June 5, 2013 in fitness, health

Pilates has been one of my favourite forms of exercise for a long time, although I don’t get to do it often, I always feel awesome after a session. However, until now I have only done mat work and Pilates classes with the Pilates ball. Which were always challenging and fun, but when I heard about Pilates Reformer classes I just had to try them out.

I met up with Garith Flood of Cape Town Pilates for a one-one-one session to find out what it was all about.

Meet Garith Flood. He’s sitting on top of the reformer machine which he later used to torture confessions out of me with. Fortunately I don’t know any very important secrets.

If you’ve ever read this blog you’ll know that I’m very much a fitness fiend, I’ll try any workout at least once. So I do consider myself relatively fit and strong. But man, this reformer machine totally kicked my ass. Just the warm-up Garith put me through had me trembling, and that was before I even moved onto the contraption.

Like I said, I have done Pilates before, but never in such a personal setting, usually in a class where the attention is less individual. And it would appear I had been doing it wrong in many respects, because the small corrections Garith made to my form in certain positions made it even more intense.

Garith illustrating a move on the reformer – it’s tougher than it looks. When I did this my arms, abs and back muscles were working overtime!

Once I was on the reformer Garith put me through a few different exercises, all with different resistances on the springs. In a few minutes every muscle in my body was screaming at me. It was breathtakingly tough but equally amazing at the same time.

I was once again reminded how inflexible I am and how much work I have to put in to increase my mobility and flexibility. Both of which are vital for basic daily living let alone any exercise programme.

Garith illustrating one of the basic moves on the Reformer. From this position you push yourself backwards and then he made me ‘pulse’ in that position. It was murder on the calves :)

I would highly recommend this form of Pilates to anyone – from beginners who are just venturing into the wonderful world of exercise, to the athlete who needs to focus on increasing their mobility. And in such an intimate setting, with either a private class or a class with 2 other people, you will get the attention you need to get the most out of this exercise.

A very advanced move on the Reformer which fortunately Garith didn’t introduce me to. I can only imagine the muscles this position would work.

Here’s a bit more about Reformer Pilates from Garith:

A: What’s the difference between ‘normal’ Pilates and Reformer Pilates?

G: Mat based and reformer based Pilates works the same core muscles and the basic Pilates principles are the same for both. The difference comes in with added resistance and an unstable surface to work on when working with the reformer. When doing Mat based Pilates exercises the only resistance is your own body weight but on the reformer this is multiplied by adding extra resistance in the form of springs. The same with the surface , mostly in mat based pilates you work on a stable surface where the body is stable whereas on the reformer the carriage part moves and therefore requires more control and stabilization of the core and stabilization muscles

A: How is Pilates different to Yoga?

G: The main difference is that in Pilates you have to focus and think on which muscles to contract. Pilates principles is based on science whereas Yoga’s origin and principles are based on spiritual and meditative roots.

A: How often should someone do reformer Pilates?

G: It is recommended to do 2 to 3 sessions a week

A: What are the benefits?

G: Pilates build long lean muscles and focuses more on the core and stabilizing muscles (muscles that stabilize joints) than the mobilizing muscles (muscles that move joints) With the added benefit of extra resistance and more focus on control, the Reformer has better results than the basic Mat Pilates.

So there you have it! Reformer Pilates FTW!

Give Garith a shout at Cape Town Pilates, you won’t be sorry!

 

Prancercise: Taking the fitness world by storm

May 30, 2013 in fitness, health

Forget everything I’ve ever said about exercise and fitness. Apparently I was wrong. So put down that heavy barbell and step away from the treadmill…. right here is the next big thing in fitness…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-50GjySwew

I mean who DOESN’T want to prance like a pony? Personally I think not ENOUGH pony prancing is done both in the gym and out.

So grab a friend, strap on those ankle weights and let’s get prancing y’all!

#Iamofcoursejoking

 

Get ripped with callisthenics

May 9, 2013 in fitness, health

It might be getting cooler and less appealing to workout outdoors at the moment, but that doesn’t stop the guys from Cape Calisthenics from hitting the outdoor gym in Sea Point every evening for a very eye-catching and visually pleasing workout.

Three of the guys behind Cape Callisthenics: Adrian Alberts, Alwyn Marx and Matthew Kriel. Enough six-packs between them to make anyone blush…

Outdoor gyms are very popular overseas and although they are few and far between here in SA, they are gaining popularity and hopefully soon the right people will take notice of how providing outdoor exercise equipment for free will inspire people to exercise and perhaps even curb the growing obesity problem.

But what Cape Callisthenics do isn’t just gym. It’s something else. Something far more primal and manly. It makes you gasp in awe as you watch them swing from the bars, hoist themselves effortlessly into the air and hold impossibly difficult positions at extremely difficult angles for an ungodly amount of time.

According to one of the group, Matthew Kriel, the Cape Callisthenics project was started “in order to promote awareness of the sport and fitness movement of callisthenics in South Africa”. He says that although he has only been with the group for a few months, he has seen such progressions in his fitness and strength in that time that he could previously never have done in an ordinary gym environment.

“When I started here in December I could only do like 3 push-ups, now I’m popping out muscle-ups,” he says. And for anyone who doesn’t know what a muscle-up is (trust me, it’s a tough move) check this pic out:

This my friends is a muscle-up. They make it look easy but it’s actually a very difficult move to get right.

The guys (and some girls) meet at the outdoor gym every evening where they do their inspiring callisthenics workouts. However, they have taken this one step further and have a following of people who now join them in the evenings to learn how to do what they do. And they gladly offer advice and assistance where they can – all for free too.

Matthew says that there has been so much interest that half their time is now spent helping others at the outdoor gym.

Alwyn Marx, another member of Cape Callisthenics says it’s all about finding out how well ur body can perform what it is is designed to do. They may use some of the bars for pull-ups and dips, but the exercises are primarily bodyweight exercises that require a lot of muscle strength and a tonne of core strength.

“Anyone is welcome, any fitness level,” says Alwyn, adding that the classes aren’t ego-driven at all. “We don’t compete against anyone else. Here you compete against yourself and be inspired by others.”

They popped up into this position while still talking to me. That takes a mighty strong core!

So if extravagant gym fees are putting you off going to the gym, or you just feel like a different challenge, why not get in touch with these guys and see if you can’t learn a little something from them?

They’re not experts and none of them have any fitness or gymnastics qualifications to speak of, yet watching them in full swing you’d swear they’d been at it their whole lives. And given the number of six pack abs between them, taking a few pointers from some guys who have built their bodies doing very difficult bodyweight exercises with very little equipment.

I’ll leave you alone now to ogle the pictures. What’s nicer than watching three strong, shirtless men working out on a warm winter’s day by the beach? Stumped? Me too… enjoy….

Adrian Alberts holds this insanely hard position in rings for what felt like at least a minute, if not more. This my dears, is how abs are built.

What’s this you ask? Why it’s one guy doing a push-up while the other does a handstand on him. Duh!

Matthew Kriel demonstrates a dip with a kick-through and hold. I don’t know if that’s what it’s really called but that’s what it looked like :)

Just when I thought my 5RM pull-up was impressive I had to meet this guy – who does a muscle-up INTO a handstand. I got some way to go….

I know right? Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better this guy pops out this lever move. He must have triceps of steel I tell ya!

However, while the pics may show off their muscles and strength, a video goes even further to illustrate just how strong these guys are. Check this out:

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