Because I’m flying standby and the flights to Europe this weekend are booked solid on American Airlines I’m pushing my departure date back to Monday. On the bonus side my sister Shannon is coming into Denver tonight so we’ll get to hang out for a day or two. In the meantime, since I don’t have any travel news to report (other then scouring websites and reading my new Morocco guidebook). I’m going to post an article that I started writing on May 4th on Koh Tao, an island off the west coast of Thailand but never finished until today.
In the two months since leaving the States I haven’t touched a single weight. In fact, in the first month, during the trek in Nepal the only exercise I did besides trekking long distances up steep slopes was a couple push-ups here and there. When I got to Thailand I started climbing about 4 days a week and swimming most days, but I still hadn’t done any “conventional” exercises. I was on the beach in Ton Sai playing around with front levers on a wooden bar hanging from the roof with climbing cord when a friend asked if I could do a single-arm pullup. I told him that back when I was training to do them I could but I seriously doubted I could at that moment. I gave it a try though and to my surprise, lifted right up. My point I guess is that you can get/stay pretty damn fit just from hiking a lot/traveling/and a few days of climbing and swimming.
Since leaving Ton Sai/Railay I haven’t had access to climbing like I did so I’ve started doing a workout that I would do occasionally back in the States that basically involves going for a run but mixing lots of various different exercises in while doing it. Unlike the typical high intensity style workouts that are very popular right now (just don’t tell my high school wrestling coaches that it was invented in the last 10 years) in these workouts the run is like an active rest. Like the recovery portion of repetitions during a track workout. There’s never any standing around rest but the jog is as slow as I feel like going. This doesn’t gas you like doing 20 minutes of 6 different super intense exercises but it does a very good job of working all the systems of the body. Like I said, I did this type of workout occasionally back home, in Thailand however I’ve started putting a twist on it. Back in the States it would work something like this: Run a mile, do push-ups, run a mile, do pull-ups, run a mile, do squat jumps, run a mile home, do a little stretching. Sometimes I would mix some parkour type stuff or some kettlebell swings in but overall it wasn’t that dynamic. What I’ve been doing recently is mixing a ton of different styles of exercise into a single session. Overall I think this is a really excellent way to workout. It works you aerobically, anaerobically, hits the muscles real hard and burns a ton of calories. For the most part it doesn’t involve any equipment (in the workout I describe below a tree branch, a boulder and a piece of driftwood are all I used). It also is basically whatever you feel like doing so if you’re creative it can stay really fresh and not boring. The downside is, you have to know all the exercises and ways to link them smoothly, also for many, like the deadlift, the handstand push-up and even some of the yoga poses, if you don’t know the form or work up to the exercises in progressions you could easily hurt yourself. That of course is one of the great things about working with a trainer. Maybe I could make one of those goofy infomercials I’m always making fun of. Though I like to think if I did that it would look more like this one.
Here is the workout I did yesterday as an example (note:this is May 4th yesterday).
I started on the beach with some active-Isolated stretches and some easy yoga (down dog, childs pose, cat/cow pose). After finishing that I ran very slowly (about 9min mile pace (keep in mind I used to be a sub-four miler)) on a dirt road adjacent to the beach for about 10 min. I then did 10 pull-ups on a tree and a few slow really slow push-ups as a warm-up. I then jogged for another 5 min, this time on the beach to an outcropping of boulders. Once on the boulder I did some more light yoga stretches, standing this time (standing crescent, tree pose, scapular retraction). This was very nice because I did them balanced on the top of the 10ft boulder looking out at the beautiful Thai ocean. I then dropped down and did a max out set of handstand push-ups, vertical with my feet balanced against one of the boulders. I managed to get 10. After that I climbed around on the boulders (aka bouldering) in my running shoes for about ten min. I then jogged real slow again for about 5 min. After that I did my first really intense exercise which was modified pyramid of pull-ups/push-ups with no rest. To do this do 10 pull-ups, immediately drop down and do 10 push-ups, immediately pop up and do 9 pull-ups. Continue until you hit zero for both. This is harder then it sounds, the push-ups should be easier but situated right after the pull-ups they get real hard. Like any workout this can be modified in a ton of different ways, and if you can’t keep good form don’t force your way through it. After the PU/PU pyramid (I know they have the same abbreviation) I started jogging again. This time I ran all the way back to my bungalow (about 15 min, maybe a little over a mile and a half). I did a second set of max out handstand push-ups, this time only getting 6 and switched over to legs. First I did 20 step-ups really slow on each leg on a bench about halfway between knee and hip height. I then found a large stump of driftwood that had convenient ridges on the side I could fit my fingers into and did 10 push-presses followed by 20 deadlifts. I estimate the stump to be about 70lbs which is very light for deadlifts but by 20 reps my fingers and hamstrings were feeling it. After finishing this I jogged right into the ocean and swam around lazily for about 5 mins. I then popped out and started doing a modified yoga/capoeira/stretching thing that I’ve kind of formed on my own. It involves down dogs, rolling into ponte, hopping up into handstands, dropping into pigeon, doing some more Active-Isolated stretching and finishing with some good old fashion relaxed static stretches. Most of this was unfortunately on the beach in front of the bungalows at the dive school I was at so I’m pretty sure most of the people there thought I was fully crazy. The whole workout was around 90min (I think just a little less) which is admittedly a little long for the average workout. With the exception of holding a few of the stretches/poses and stopping a couple times to drink water there was no compete rest or staying still for the entire duration of the workout, the jogging and swimming counted as the rest.
I’m not really advocating that anyone do this exact workout unless they’ve been doing this type of exercise already but it was very enjoyable and I felt it for several days afterwards. Like I was saying it’s easily modifiable and I will often do a similar version that only lasts about 30min but is either easier or still very hard and a little more intense. This is not a sport specific workout so if you’re trying to improve at any one thing it’s not your best bet, but for an occasional workout to boost your overall fitness it’s great.
Anyways, I’m sure other people are doing similar work but being in the industry for over a decade now I haven’t really run across it. If anyone else has feel free to let me know, or if any of my fellow trainers/physiologists want to argue why this style of training done occasionally wouldn’t be beneficial I would love to hear that as well. Most of the exercises/poses I mentioned can be googled but that is a dangerous way to learn form. If you want a better description email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can see if I can help or point you towards someone who can.
Final note: As earlier stated I wrote some of this on May 4th and some of this on June 8th. Sorry for any disjointedness that came along with that.