100km partner ski – welcome to the pain cave!

On Thursday 29th March, myself and my friend Jack will be taking on 100km on the skierg. If you have used this before, you will know how much harder it is than a rower. If you haven’t, the way to describe it is an upside-down rower which mimics cross-country skiing. Simply – it can get really bloody hard!

Joshski1

Although the 1000 burpees felt long, this challenge will most likely take double the amount of time and as such our goal is to finish in under 8 hours. We will be switching every 1000m, resulting in completing 50km each by the time we finish (for any fitness nerds, we are aiming to hold a pace at under 2.10 mins per 500m). This will be one of the biggest mental challenges I face this year, especially with the burn and lactic acid build up that the skierg creates.

One of the biggest lessons I learnt from the burpee challenge was getting my nutrition nailed down, both in the week but also during the challenge itself. This is why I’m excited to announce I will be partnering with Awesome Supplements for the rest of the year, a company whose vegan protein has hooked me ever since I read their ethos and tasted the product. I am really excited to trial some of their other products, including their performance blend and electrolytes + carbs, which I’ve already used in one session and instantly felt I had more sustained energy and far less issues with hydration.

After a month off in February with limited training after some personal challenges, I have picked up the training and I’m excited to re-start the 12/12 challenge. Just like anyone, I have an ideal training week and a realistic training week which often is dictated by work and last-minute plans. The below training routine is typically what I’ve maintained over the last 2 weeks since getting back into training and will aim to continue up until Thursday 29th March.

Example training week:

Monday

PT session at W10 Fit: this session tends to always include compound lifts, single leg & arm accessory lifts and conditioning. Having 2-3 of these sessions a week helps keep me accountable and ensures even if work is busy, I am getting the strength and injury proofing sessions in that will help bulletproof my body for the whole year.

Tuesday

Long ski session: this tends to be interval based and always 10km or more broken down into 4 minute or more intervals. Recent sessions included:

  • 5 x 10 mins (4 min rest between intervals)
  • 8 x 2km intervals (3 min rest between intervals)
  • 30 min time trial – max distance ski

Wednesday

Strength and conditioning: this session will generally include some bodyweight single leg and core work to act as a recovery session from the big ski the day before, and to help bulletproof my body.

This session will usually end in short intervals on the airdyne, usually 30 seconds on/30 seconds off or 1 minute on/1 minute off.

Thursday

Interval session or run: dependent on my work week, this session tends to be more flexible. If I can make it to the gym, this will tend to be a mixed interval session, either combining different pieces of equipment or hitting shorter intervals on the ski. Recently this has included:

  • 15 x 45 seconds on/15 seconds on: on both ski, airdyne, and row (45 minutes work)
  • 10 x 500m ski (1-2 minutes rest)
  • 10 min ski, 9 min row, 8 min ski, 7 min row….2 min ski, 1 min row

Friday

PT session at W10 Fit

Saturday

Ski challenge practice: this tends to try and mimic the ski challenge, and the distance hit by the session has increased each week. I started at 10 x 1km (with 4 min rest) and last weekend I hit 25 intervals. This allows me to build up my exposure to the full event, whilst also testing out nutritional strategies and how I react to different foods.

1/12 – 1000 weighted burpees

On Saturday 20th January, I took on the first event of the 12/12 Challenge – 1000 burpees wearing a 10kg weighted vest.

Going into the event I had no idea how it would go or how long it would take. I had seen someone previously complete it in 4.5 hours, so my initial aim was to shoot for under that. I even set the goal of completing them in 3 hours. Optimistic to say the least.

The strategy going in was to break the burpees into sets of 5 right from the beginning. I would do 5, rest 10-20 seconds, do 5, rest slightly longer, and keep this pattern going for the whole thing. The first 250 felt good and I moved at a consistent pace. The next 200 I started to slow down, taking longer rest between sets. I had a break at 500 just to change my t-shirt, get some fluids on board and try and eat some food – although the last thing I wanted to do was eat. From 500 to 750 my pace had slowed down significantly and I was starting to reach muscle fatigue, having to rest far longer between sets and often resting at the bottom of a burpee!

When the last 250 came into sight I decided to push as much as I could, picking up a more consistent rhythm again all the way to the end.

Final time – 3 hours 25 mins

Mentally the hardest part of the challenge was between 400 and 750. This is where my body felt like it was starting to fatigue and I often had no energy left to push up from the floor. Despite the near physical breakdown, mentally I knew I was never going to quit, whether it took me 3 hours or 6 hours. I’d made myself accountable by telling people I was going to do it, I had a huge motivation in the cause that kept me fired up, and I’d already got so far through that it would have been stupid to stop!

Going into all these challenges this is going to be the fundamental piece of self-belief I need to maintain. I’m doing these challenges not only to raise money and awareness, but also to show that an averagely fit person can push themselves to achieve far more than they thought possible. It doesn’t matter if you run a marathon in sub 3 hours or 6 hours, or can swim the channel or four lengths of a pool. Embracing something that is a personal challenge is where we grow as individuals and learn that we are far more capable of what we may think. This is what I hope to prove during this 12/12 Challenge.

The two big lessons I learnt from this first challenge were:

  1. Support is essential – I was lucky enough to do this event at my gym W10 Fit, and roped a few of the coaches and my girlfriend into joining me on the condition they didn’t have to wear a vest! Although initially promising to do 500, Amy (@darchfit) ended up joining me for the whole thing and without that moral support and someone keeping me focused during the pain, I’m not sure I would have completed it anywhere near to the time I ended with.
  2. Nutrition is key – going into this event my diet hadn’t been great. Halfway through the burpees I really started to fatigue and a big part of that was not eating enough and fuelling myself sufficiently. Going forward I’m going to start experimenting with my diet, focusing on getting enough fuel in the days before the event and during the event itself.

Example Training Week

Leading up to the first event, I thought it would be good to highlight what my training weeks have looked like. My focus for training since Christmas has been to hit as many sessions as possible to bring up all areas of my fitness following the long christmas period. Ahead of the burpee event, there has been limited structure to my programming with a greater focus placed on improving general muscular endurance (vital for 1000 burpees!) and my general fitness. Before the next events, there will more of a singular focus and progressional training structure but for tonnes of burpees after a 2 week christmas break, the two things that will get me through is a base-level of fitness and my mental fortitude – something you can’t train!

Monday

Conditioning – aim was to get heart rate up after Christmas and just move

a) Intervals – 10 x 30 seconds on/ 30 seconds off on the treadmill and airdyne

b) 100 burpees – focusing on technique, breathing and pacing

Tuesday

AM session: Small group personal training at W10 Fit – great way of keeping me accountable and these sessions help me maintain strength and prevent injury through quality supervised coaching, total body and single/leg movements that also challenge my core.

PM session: 30 minute max distance ski – testing to see where I’m at ahead of the 100km partner ski I am doing in March. From this I will develop a more structured programme and then re-test in 8 weeks. 

Wednesday

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): a class at W10 where the session is based on our heart rate and takes you through all different intensity levels with rest periods – doing a class like this keeps me accountable and HIIT is a great way of boosting my overall fitness in a short space of time, which is vital when I’m working.

Thursday

Rest – some basic stretching

Friday

AM session: Small group personal training at W10 Fit

PM session: Conditioning workout (5 min airdyne, 50 weighted burpees, 4 min airdyne, 40 weighted burpees…down to 1 min airdyne and 10 weighted burpees) – the aim of this workout was to get some weighted burpee volume in whilst working my fitness. Adding a cardio piece like the airdyne helped me work on burpee technique and breathing under fatigue. 

Saturday

WOD class: another session at W10 Fit which incorporated various training elements from barbell complexes to metabolic conditioning

Sunday 

Rest

 

CHALLENGE 1 – 1000 burpees

So it’s now just over 2 weeks until I take on the first challenge – 1000 burpees with a 10kg weighted vest. It’s taking place on Saturday 20th January at W10 Fit, and I will be starting around 9am with aim of finishing within 3 hours.

Physically this may be one of the toughest challenges I face this year. Coming off the back of 3 weeks on holiday will mean my fitness will be at it’s lowest level compared to any of the other challenges. The break has been worsened by the fact that those 3 weeks involved eating everything in sight and drinking like I was back in fresher’s week.

That means this challenge will be all mental fortitude. I’ve spent the last week trying to get as many sessions under my belt as possible to try and gain some fitness back, and will continue building my fitness as much as possible in the next two weeks. This does mean that not hitting the challenge in peak physical condition will mean my mental game will have to be strong, to push through when my body might start wanting to give up.

For all those reading this and thinking ‘This is great Josh, but what is a blimmin’ burpee?!’, take a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TU8QYVW0gDU

No straight arm burpees here. Each one will be chest to floor, touching a target about 2 inches above my head. Anyone who has done a burpee before will know how quickly  these jack your heart rate up and make it hard to breathe. However, instead of being realistic and taking on 1000 burpees as it is, I’ve decided to make it even harder by putting on a 10kg weighted vest – something I may live to regret! The vest is constricting in itself so will make it even harder to control my breathing.

There is a good reason behind this. One of the biggest aims for taking on the 12/12 Challenge is raising as much awareness as possible for CALM and the amazing work they do, as well as the issues surrounding suicide. Part of this is the emotional weight that those feeling suicidal carry on a daily basis as they feel they can’t open up and reach out for support before it’s too late. As a symbol of this, I will be doing a number of the events, including this one with a 10kg weighted vest on. You can read more about my reasons for taking on this challenge, and the other 11, in my first blog post here.

Any support would be amazing, whether you want sponsor me, share the event with your friends, or even come and join me in doing either the whole 1000 or just 20 burpees! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the event and getting involved.

TRAINING

 

I‘m tired. I’ve had a long day at work. I don’t have time. I can’t get up that early.

I’ve often been guilty of these excuses. Finding ways to let my head get the better of me, rather than pushing through and finding a way to fit training in.

However, one of the biggest motivations for me has always been finding something to focus on. Sport, an event, even a holiday. This has always helped focus my training, giving me a point to work towards. The difference with the 12/12 Challenge will be I can’t finish an event and then relax. Sure I’ll take a few days to recover, eat a few doughnuts and not set foot in a gym! But these breaks will be short-lived to ensure I am hitting each event in the best possible shape, which will require a consistent training programme, limited excuses and holding myself accountable!

To achieve this, a big part of my training for the year will be based at W10 Fit. I trained there in April for 8 weeks and during that short period I became the fittest I’d been in a long time. Having knowledgable and quality coaches running a few of my sessions a week will keep me accountable, especially when after a long work day the last thing I might want to do is an hour of conditioning! I will also be completing a few of my events there, so I will hopefully be able to tap into the awesome community atmosphere W10 have created and rope a few crazy fitness fanatics into joining me for some of the events.

To keep me more accountable, I am also going to be posting updates on my training and progress, as well as any tips or tricks I learn a long the way to help anyone else mad enough to set themselves a similar challenge!

 

MY WHY

CALM logoIn 2013, a close friend of mine committed suicide. It came out of the blue and was the last thing I expected when I picked up that phone call. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that such an easy-going and likeable guy, like Andy, could see no other solution to the problems he was facing. One of the ways I dealt with what happened was looking for ways to support other men facing the same battles to help them to realise there are other solutions. It was during this process that I heard about CALM.

Over the last four years, I have set myself two physical challenges to raise money for CALM: 5 duathlons in 5 days and the Stockholm Marathon.

This time around I wanted to set myself an even tougher test, a year-long goal, which would require commitment, perseverance, a willingness to push my body and mental toughness to the very edge.

I’ve picked 12 challenges to complete across 2018 (see more here), covering over 900 km, 145 hours of exercise (probably a lot more!) and burning 106,000 calories (any excuse to eat more doughnuts). I want to prove that an averagely fit person can set themselves goals far bigger than they thought possible, and embrace challenges that often make us nervous and scared – pushing my body and mind to places it will want to quit and stop moving.

For me, the mental test sits at the very crux of why I’m taking on this challenge.

Although as a society we’ve become better at talking about previously taboo subjects like suicide and mental health, we still have a long way to go. There is still reluctance for people to talk about the internal battles they face on a daily basis, often keeping everything bottled up instead.

CALM is dedicated to preventing male suicide, a hugely prevalent issue, as young men (under 45) make up 75% of total suicides in the UK. One of the causes behind this is the stigma associated with talking about our emotions, especially amongst men. Phrases like ‘man up’ are still thrown around, leading many men to believe that taking about mental battles, life challenges or emotions is somehow not manly.

I saw what this stigma can lead to in 2013 as the scale of the challenges faced by my friend only came to light after it was too late to help him. He felt like he couldn’t open up to anyone and the weight of the demons he tackled internally was overwhelming. This is often the cause of why people see suicide as the only way out. As part of this challenge I have decided to add a 10kg weighted vest to some of the events I complete, as a symbol of this emotional burden.

As well as raising money for CALM, I want to use this challenge as an opportunity to raise as much awareness about this issue as possible.

I spent a long time wondering whether I could have changed Andy’s mind, if I could have said or done anything differently. But I realised that only by encouraging people to start talking more openly about suicide and mental health, will we remove the stigma surrounding these issues. Only by raising awareness of the incredible support networks that exist, will we be able to allow young men to reach out before they see no other option.

So please do donate, please share, but please also think about what little things you can do in your everyday life to break down this stigma and help those around you open up.