How long has it been since the last post? Too long I think, time to get back to the keyboard.
What’s happening? How am I training? All these questions are about to be answered in this blog post. Today’s update is kind of split, in the first half, I talk about my approach to quarantine, whereas in the second half I talk about a new idea I’m implementing in my training this year.
While I may have spent the past month confined to Whistler, it has been anything but boring! Rather than dwell on the lack of freedom, I’ve taken this “opportunity” to take a step back catch up on… life.
Odd as it may be, being stuck at home has actually been a positive experience. People can become incredibly creative in peculiar circumstances, I’m sure you’ve witnessed this happen around you—if not in yourself! We’re resourceful when push comes to shove, we always find a way to make things work.
Roundabout metaphor incoming: A little while ago, I finished reading (listening actually) to Tim Harford’s fascinating book “Messy” that talked about the strange phenomenon of finding creativity, through disorder. A powerful point is made when he describes the unique story of Keith Jarrett, a jazz pianist who played a very famous concert in Cologne, 1975.
Unfortunately for Keith, he was presented an “unplayable” piano mere hours before the start of his 1,400 seat concert. This piano came with a plethora of limitations including worn-out felts, sticky keys, a dreadful upper register, hardly concert material.
Yet, here’s the twist in his story. Despite the piano’s many limitations, Keith played one of the world’s most famous solo-jazz albums in history that night!
What? How did that happen?
You see, this was no normal piano. Therefore, a normal performance wasn’t possible. Instead, by using the piano’s limitations as a guide, he created something entirely new, and rather genius. A popular example is the unplayability of the upper register, so he simply didn’t use it. He stuck to the low notes, used them to create new patterns, and adapted his style to his new medium. The result? Novelty, creativity, innovation. Something unheard of.
But how does this relate to anything? We don’t have to look at the quarantine as a roadblock, we can use it as our guide. Our guide to new projects, life changes, it can be the source of innovation.
I’ve benefitted personally from this paradigm shift, and this past month, I’ve taken on challenges that would have never been possible in normal day to day life! From graphic design to online business, there’s nothing you can’t learn with an internet connection and a computer. And so in a way, having gone through this quarantine makes me feel better off than I would have been if life stayed… normal. Imagine that!
Training wise, April is normally our “off month” where we cut our training hours critically to focus on rest and recovery. This doesn’t mean we completely give up on sport, we just do less. Most days, I was able to relieve my athletic withdrawal by running on the local mountain bike trails or swinging myself around the house through an improvised strength routine. Ironically, by focusing on the basics of staying fit or moving properly, I feel stronger than I’ve felt in ages! Funny how that works out.
During our month of isolation, I also had the time to build on my plans to attack this new season in full force. While there’s always more learning to be done, I feel confident that I have a strong starting point to kick things off right. To keep this blog post on the shorter side, I’ll talk about my favourite new tactic, I call it: Primordial Strength.
When I hear the word “primordial”, I usually envision a harsh jungle-like world populated by primitive humans and fraught with danger. That inspired me. I’m starting to think that despite training hundreds of hours a year, repeating very specific training patterns, we just aren’t tapping into our predisposed potential to be great athletes.
In my mind, every human is genetically programmed to adapt to the environmental stresses we face. In pre-agricultural revolution times, this was manifested through hardy hunter-gatherers who possessed the natural strength to survive with minimal technology. This trait wasn’t earned through long hours in the gym, it was just a fact of life.
If Grog the caveman “wasn’t really into it” and didn’t adapt physically to his world, then Grog probably starved or got eaten by a tiger, and died. History tells us, it’s best to avoid being like Grog.
Every day, early humans spent countless hours “exercising” at critically intense levels, except for them, this wasn’t unusual. They were not the specialized athletes that we are today, but I can’t imagine them being far off. We’re animals, we’re meant to move, to use our muscles, to travel tens of kilometres each day, every day. This is the gift of our design, and we’re taking it for granted.
My plan? Bring myself back to a level of physical literacy and equilibrium that resembles the daily grind of our primordial ancestors. Of course, we don’t lead the same lifestyles they do, but we’re still the same beast under the genetic hood. We have modern minds, but ancient bodies. For this reason, I’m implementing a basic strengthening routine to my mornings. Ideally, this will raise my physical baseline and unlock new potential for me in my sport!
Upon waking, I try and move straight from the bed, to the floor, and then back up. Push-ups. Once my chest is activated, I grab the ab roller. Now thoroughly engaged, I can focus on the legs, how about some overhead squats? Right, back to the arms, then the core, then the legs. I try to use a different exercise (or variation) with each set completed. This cycle usually continues for 30-45 minutes, or until I’ve run out of muscles to target or exercises to do.
This mini strength routine is by no means meant to substitute a real gym workout. Most of my exercises are performed without weight, or with some milk-jugs filled with water. Instead, I’m using this routine to raise my baseline strength to greater levels, and target the neglected muscle groups we rarely use. Through this, my time in the gym can be more efficient, better structured, and I can spend less time focused on the basics.
In the end, we aren’t our primitive ancestors. There’s nothing to glorify about being hunted by a tiger or fearing other apex predators at every moment. We’ve made advances, great advances, but this shouldn’t lower our guard. After all, even if we no longer fight real tigers, our body was made to, and our health is tied to it.
All in all, my latest strengthening approach has already shown me amazing results in my movements. Who knows where this will lead me? Hopefully, I won’t end up like Grog 😉
Well, that wraps things up for this post. The next update is soon to follow, I can’t wait to explore new topics, innovative tactics, and see how my training evolves throughout this quarantine.
Until next time, progress march on!