Sunday May 5, 2019, Glen Iris

I spent the afternoon at a trampoline gym with one of my kids. We both had a glorious time, bouncing, flipping, landing awkwardly, trying not to crash into other people.

The place was filled to the brim with kids, being a Sunday. A handful of adults were bouncing too, but the vast majority were patronising the cafe selling overpriced coffee made by teenagers and looking at their phones. Some of them were working on laptops.

I found this all terribly sad.

While I understand that trampolining isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it should be plenty of people’s. It’s super fun. Judging by the number of non participating adults of child-bearing age, I guessed that probably some of them had a medical (orthopaedic) reason for not joining in, which is sad in itself.

But I suspect that the rest of them had some combination of fears – fear of lack of fitness, fear of looking silly, fear of being not very good, fear of hurting themselves.

I think that these fears are probably rubbish. One of the great gifts of adulthood is understanding that most people don’t care about you, they barely even notice you most of the time. Why not exploit that and have some childlike fun?

I mean, really. Do it now before you get old and die.

Unless there’s something on Facebook that can’t wait.

Things I’ve learned after a year of lifting at home

It’s been nearly a year since I set up my home gym in my garage. I was originally motivated by a desire to free up more time to attend the gym by removing the commute, assuming you don’t count walking across my overgrown backyard as a commute. I wasn’t originally able to have more equipment than a barbell and some weight plates, so that has limited the scope of what I can do. However as I’ll discuss that has turned out to be beneficial in some ways.

IMG_6566
Very close to running out of collar space

Given that, here’s what I’ve learned after a year of barbell training in my garage gym, as a 30-something, somewhat sedentary person with a demanding family and work life.

  1. It’s easy to squeeze in a quick session.. but sometimes I don’t. Although the commute is pretty straightforward, I should be able to punch out a quick 30-minute session on a regular basis. It doesn’t always work like that though. Often the only time I have available to me is at 8:30 in the evening when the kids are in bed, and my general lack of mental organisation at the end of the day means that I often seem to stretch these sessions out. Some days it’s super hard to even put on my training clothes and I collapse into the sofa. I should probably be more diligent, but I’m prepared to accept 2-3 times per week.
  2. The quick lifts seem to be the most beneficial. In the past I’ve mostly trained the powerlifts, but without a bench or squat rack I can now only deadlift. However I’ve not found that to be a problem. I seem to get a lot of benefit from the quick lifts from the floor – clean and jerk, and the power snatch. Something about the opening out and stretching of the snatch in particular seems to refresh me physically and psychologically.
  3. Forced simplicity delivers results. The limitation of my equipment means that I can’t waste time doing things that aren’t contributing to my improvement. My snatch, press, clean and jerk and front squat have all come up because… there’s nothing else that I can train. No doubt there’s a synergistic effect as well – a better clean is likely to translate to a better front squat.
  4. I’ve fallen in love with the overhead squat. Snatch a weight, then squat with it held overhead. I could never do these in the past, but I’ve had some time to fill and I find them very satisfying. They’re a great balance of strength, balance, power and core stability, but are nowhere near as fatiguing as normal back squats.
  5. Cardio still sucks. It just does.
  6. Sometimes I have to train in shitty weather. My garage is cold in winter, very hot in summer, and stinks all year round. It’s far from the optimum training environment, but in many ways that makes it perfect. Life isn’t an optimum training environment and I’m happy to sacrifice a few gold medal performances if it makes me generally tougher and more resilient.
  7. Guinea pigs make bad training partners. George, my kids’ pet, lives in the garage in cold weather. He’s bad conversation, can’t lift for shit, and is terrified by the sound of me dropping weights.

    IMG_2407
    World’s shittest training partner

After a year, I can wholeheartedly recommend a simple garage gym. I haven’t missed having a rack of dumbbells or cable-based machines even a little bit. If I were going to add anything, it would probably be a squat rack and a bench, but I’m in no particular hurry.

Simple works.

Food is fashion… sort of

If I asked you what “good food” is, I can guarantee that your answers would be different to those of people in other times and places. But human physiology doesn’t vary that much – why would good food for you be bad food for me? Clearly there are some people with allergies or other intolerances who have to avoid certain foods, but that’s a given.

Consider the humble cabbage. Not many people get excited about cabbage, despite it being highly nutritious and very cheap. If you’re an Anglo Australian, there are too many associations with boring old British food, and it smells sort of funny too. Definitely not a cool vegetable, like kale.

However if you ask my Korean friend, she’ll tell you that cabbage is a staple in her diet and is considered to be a foundation of Korean food. It’s important in her culture and highly valued. Her family eats several heads of cabbage per week.

What does she look down on? Potatoes and sweet potatoes! They’re cheap, easy to grow vegetables that fill you up – in other words, poor people’s food. Compare that with the paleo/crossfit crowd who can’t get enough of sweet potatoes in particular due to their relatively dilute carbohydrate component and high micronutrient content.

None of these foods changed from place to place – a Korean potato is much like an Australian potato, just as Korean people and Australian people are basically the same physiologically. The difference is fashion, or as we like to call it, culture. Rich people (us) don’t like to be seen eating “poor people’s food”, and connotations of certain foods vary drastically from culture to culture.

The ultimate irony: kale and cabbage are virtually the same plant and have very similar nutritional profiles having, along with brocolli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts been bred from an ancient ancestor.

But you can’t go down to Boost juice to get a cabbage smoothie.

 

Hospital – the least fun way to spend a week

I’ve had the misfortune to spend a lot of time in hospital as a patient in my life, and have also had my fair share of visits as a dad of young kids. Everyone thinks that the worst thing about hospital is the pain and suffering, and I suppose that if you’re severely injured or unwell that might be true.  However for most people, for whom a hospital visit is mainly about stabilising a condition, the worst thing about hospital is the boredom.

Sure, it seems like a holiday – time off work or school, no responsibilities, mushy food on a plate.  But it begins to pall surprisingly quickly.

The bed isn’t as comfy as your one at home.  There is constant noise, even at night. Light seeps in around the doorways and under curtains. Other patients are unworthy jerks with unwholesome personal hygiene.

And the boredom! No Netflix. No video games.  No sports or outdoor entertainments.  Books are much less interesting without the option to get up and make a cup of coffee.  One day may be a semi-pleasant disruption to normal life.  A week is torture.

It would (and I know I sound insane here) almost be preferable to be really really sick.  That way you have a project – getting better. If all I’m doing is hanging around, I’d much prefer to do that at home thank you.