Tag Archives: Strength training

C25K Week 2 Day 1 – Hills

Hill running session by Andrew Gills
Hill running session, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

It’s 29’C at 5:15am and the humidity is climbing. I’m awake and sweating while doing my pilates exercises. I’m getting better at them but am still only doing three sets of six repetitions for each exercise. I figure it’s better to have good form than to do more repetitions. And right now, it’s difficult just getting my form right. I can really notice the lack of stability in my right hip but I can also feel the improvements in my core.

At 6:10am I set off down the road for my Couch-to-5k session. I might as well be swimming I’m so wet except that it’s smelly sweat, not deliciously clean-smelling chlorine. I am up to Week 2 Day 1 and my session is:

  • 5 min brisk walk
  • 20 mins x 90 sec running, 2 mins walking
  • 5 mins brisk walk.

Hills used to be my strength as a junior runner and triathlete but over the past eighteen months they’ve been my weakness. But now that I’m starting from scratch, I am going to address this weakness. I am inspired by Run Nature’s blog and a post she wrote about joining her friend on hill sessions. So Tuesday is hill running day. We have some nasty steep climbs in the bush near my home and I want to be able to run them comfortably. They are not mountains by North American or European standards, but they rise sharply from sea level to about 70m above the sea.

After my C25K session, I came home and did a push-up session using an app I downloaded from Exercise for Pink. I’ve set the app for the easiest level and just five minutes but still I can’t yet complete the whole circuit, which contains nine different pushup exercises. At just five minutes, the session is short but it’s intense. It felt good to do it. I think it would feel great to actually complete it one day.

Total: 5km run/walk, 40 mins pilates, 5 mins push ups

A solid gym session

Image coutesy of idea go / Freedigitalphotos.net

I never thought I’d like going to the gym to do weights but I have to say I am enjoying it. I feel strong when I pump iron. I don’t lift big weights because I don’t want to get huge but the weights I lift are a suitable size for me right now.

I am not a big fan of stationary aerobic equipment but I am learning that they can be beneficial. For example, I’m sure my road cycling will improve through my use of the stationary bike. The stationary bike encourages me to spin. There are no obstacles, hills or corners to negotiate so I can teach my legs to keep up a higher than usual cadence without complaining. I’ve always been the type of cyclist who pushes big gears and breaks bottom brackets. Perhaps a few months watching the cadence metre on the stationary bike will encourage me to become a cyclist who is able to spin efficiently all day long instead of being the guy who keeps having to stand on the pedals up every little hill and then rest my legs on the way down.

The rowing machine also has good purpose for me. I can use it as an alternative to cycling and swimming to recruit more muscles to the aerobic exercise. It’s not all that exciting sliding back and forward on the spot but I do get a kick out of watching the measurements on the display. There’s an instant gratification to being able to see that I’m rowing at 43 strokes per minute or passing each 500m mark. Also, rowing is a sport I just don’t have the equipment to do out in the real world. Not only do I not have a boat, but even if I did it would quite difficult to get it to the water on my motorbike. I can feel my back and thigh muscles toning as I use them to row.

And, of course, there’s always the guilty pleasure of checking myself out in the mirrors as I lift weights in the free weights room. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Today I started with 10 minutes on the triathlon-style stationary bike, riding at 110-115 RPM and covering 5.4km. I followed this with 10 minutes on the rowing machine, stroking at 43 strokes/minute and covering 2,180m.

I completed 3 sets of 8 repetitions in the weights room:

Exercise Weight
Incline dumbbell bench press 12.5km / dumbbell
Leg curl 45kg
Seated row 35kg
Bent arm pull-over 7.5kg + barbell
Chin up 6 + 4 + 3
Dumbbell bicep curls 10kg / dumbbell
Back ext Body weight
Decline crunch Body weight

I completed my workout with a 5 minute cool-down on the reclining stationary bike, riding at just 90RPM and covering just 2.1km. I usually try to do 10 minutes after my weights workout but I didn’t have time today because I was getting a lift to work.

Total: Weights +

  • 10 mins stationary bike @ 110-115RPM covering equivalent of 5.4km
  • 10 mins rowing machine @ 43 s/m covering equivalent of 2,180m
  • 5 mins reclining stationary bike @ 90RPM covering equivalent of 2.1km.

It’s fun to play at the YMCA

Image courtesy of chrisroll / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I intended to do a yoga class at my local YMCA today but I misread the class time. It didn’t matter though because I enjoyed the workout I ended up doing.

I started with 10 minutes on the fancy triathlon-inspired stationary bike. I rode fairly hard today, sitting in the 110-115 RPM range for the whole set. The bike computer said I covered the equivalent of 5.25km.

I followed that with 10 minutes on the rowing machine. I haven’t used a rowing machine in years but always like them. I rowed at an average of 40 strokes/minute and covered the equivalent of 1,997m in the 10 minutes. I could cheat and call it an even 2km but I would only be cheating myself.

After my 20 minutes of cardio I had a nice light sweat going. I then did my weights sets. I got most of the workout from the Outdoor Athlete book I’m reading but couldn’t do two exercises. I added back extensions and bicep curls to the program to replace those two exercises. I completed three sets of eight repeats with 90 seconds rest between each. I kept the weights moderately light because it’s the first time I’ve done this routine.

Exercise Weight
Incline dumbbell bench press 10kg / dumbbell
Leg curl 40kg
Seated row 30kg
Bent arm pull-over 7.5kg + barbell
Chin up 5 + 3+ 3
Dumbbell bicep curls 10kg / dumbbell
Back ext Body weight
Decline crunch Body weight

After my weights set I finished my session with 10 minutes on the reclining stationary bike. I rode at an average of 110RPM and the computer said I completed the equivalent of 5.2km.

My foot felt good during the stationary bike sets so perhaps I will try cycling a real bike sometime this weekend to see how it holds up.


  • 10 mins stationary bike
  • 10 mins rowing machine
  • 30 mins weights
  • 10 mins reclining stationary bike.

Getting back up again

Last night I joined a gym for the first time in years. This foot injury seems like a good opportunity for me to work on my strength and flexibility; things I’ve not paid much attention to since I started this whole ‘get fit again’ thing last year.

It felt familiar to walk into the gym this morning to do my first session. I have a book The Outdoor Athlete in which are listed a range of strength programs specifically suited to outdoor athletes, like mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners and mountaineers. The programs are separated into phases from ‘return after absence from gym work’ through to ‘strength and endurance’.

I am starting out with the easiest two routines for the next 2-3 weeks. It will allow me to assess where my muscular strength is at and build on it safely. My goal is not to bulk up but to strengthen my body to help reduce the risk of further injury after the ones I have are healed.

I started my session with 10 minutes on the stationery bike. The gym has some nice triathlon bike inspired machines complete with tri bars and fully adjustable saddles. While it was boring, I was able to settle into a nice 105RPM cadence for the full 10 minutes and didn’t once have to worry about a traffic light or idiot in a car trying to kill me. So there were some benefits.

After my aerobic warm up I hit the weights. I started out light today because my body’s not used to doing repeated strength movements and I don’t know what my limits are. I did 2 sets of 12 reps for each exercise with a 60 second rest between each set.



Barbell back squat


Dumbell overhead press




Dumbell shrug


One-arm dumbbell row


Ball leg curl


Lat pull down


Leg extension

30kg / 20kg

The barbell back squat put a bit too much pressure on my injured foot so I need to find an alternative exercise; I’ll do some online research today.

After pumping iron I returned to the aerobic machines. I started out trying the eliptical machine but it hurt my foot too much so I swapped to the reclining stationery bicycle. I cycled for 10 minutes at 115RPM. I wanted to keep my legs spinning, rather than pushing heavy loads because I’m currently not allowed to cycle uphill due to the strain I put on my calf at the weekend when I aggravated my shin splints. I think the high RPM cycling is probably really good for me though because I got a good sweat up and it will help me increase my cadence both when cycling on the road and when I get back to running.

Total: Weights + 20 minutes stationery bike.

Gardening as training


I did a lot of gardening this weekend. I did the 8 hours on Saturday then did 5 hours Sunday after volunteering as a course marshal at the Brisbane Running Festival.

This morning (Monday) I didn’t have any running on my schedule so I did some serious weeding. For about 2 hours I pulled out years of weeds that have been growing in a neglected part of the garden. There were so many weeds that I filled the back of Mum’s ute.

It was a solid full body workout. Pulling and carrying weeds worked out my upper body. Repeatedly pushing the full wheelbarrow uphill was a good leg workout.


This photo above shows the area before I started this morning.


And this is after. I can’t wait to turn it into a native garden.

Tough Mudder training session 4/37


As the full moon sank into the horizon and the day dawned, I was out doing my Tough Mudder boot camp training session.

There’s not much more I can say.

Tough Mudder Training session 2/37 (12 weeks to go)

I had to skip my three Tough Mudder training sessions this week due to illness. But I am pretty much all better now so this morning I decided to do yesterday’s Tough Mudder session so that I only missed two sessions. While I could have gone running or cycling, I know that I need the core and leg strength work that’s included in the Tough Mudder boot camp sessions.

I started the day with a light 2km walk and jog around our neighbourhood then rode my mountain bike 1.6km down to the park with my 5kg dumbell in my backpack. At the park I found a sport where I could set up to do the 60 minute Tough Mudder boot camp session. After a week of rain the park was quite boggy so I set my exercise list and mobile phone on a table under a shelter that had a concrete floor. Though, by the end of the session, my feet would be wet.

By the end of the five minute warm up I knew that I still aren’t at full fitness. I did one minute each of running on the spot, grapevine, side shuffles, high knees and butt kicks. I was suffering at the end of the warm up so decided that I should practice pacing myself so that I got through the session.ย When I say I was suffering, I don’t mean that I felt sick (though my stomach wasn’t happy with the fact that I’d eaten a piece of chocolate cake after breakfast).

I decided to pace myself for the five circuits in the session, rather than doing them flat out like I did last Friday; partly to get through them and partly because I have a duathlon race tomorrow morning and don’t want to be too sore for that.

My first circuit was ten minutes of running, spider pushups, jumping jacks, squat press with the 5kg dumbell, jump rope (without actually having a skipping rope) and ‘rest’ position (aka stress position). That session went alright. it was tough but I managed to get through it. I ended with one minute rest,

The second circuit really hurt. I did ten minutes of burpees, Turkish get-ups, skates, crawl outs, ski jumps and side plank. It was the burpees that really caused my stomach to complain about the chocolate cake; I got serious acid burn. But I guess that’s what happens when your diet isn’t quite as healthy as it should be. Again, I ended with one minute rest.

I started to feel good during my third circuit. I hit my stride as I completed ten minutes of standing climb, leap frogs, high knees, pull-ups (I completed a set of 5 followed by a set of 3), quick feet where I dropped to the ground every 20 seconds and lunges. As with each set, I ended with one minute rest.

Set four was okay. The ten minute circuit consisted of standing on each leg, plank, running, jumping jacks and scissor jumps. By the scissor jumps I was glad that the fifth set would be my last. Like the previous sets, I completed set four at about 65% capacity. I ended with a one minute rest.

Set five was a real test of endurance and commitment. The ten minute set consisted of burpees, chin ups (I only managed 5 this time), skates, squat jumps onto the bench, ski jumps and lunges. I was so glad to see the back of the set and the session.

I finished the whole session with five minutes of stretching and cooling down before jumping back on my bike to ride the 1.6km home.

While the session was tough, despite only doing it at about 65% capacity, it felt good to complete it. I have fresh new goals for the 2012-13 season and I know this strength work is going to prepare me to achieve more than just Tough Mudder. I know it’s going to make me strong enough to achieve what is now my ultimate season goal: to run the NorthFace 100 within 20 hours so I can qualify for the Cradle Mountain Run in 2014. That’s good incentive to keep at the Tough Mudder sessions too.

Tough Mudder Training session 1/39 (13 weeks to go)

There are two things I’m not good at: structure and strength training.

Given that Tough Mudder is about overcoming fears and challenges, it seems appropriate that I try to discipline myself to stick to the Tough Mudder training program for the next 13 weeks. I’ll talk more about the fears element in a later post but today I’ll talk about the first challenges I need to overcome: structure and strength training.

This morning I completed the first of 39 Tough Mudder training sessions. It was the toughest training I’ve done in a long time. For a full hour I did exercises like star jumps, planks, jumps, squats, burpees and high knee running. After a five-minute warm-up the training consisted of 5 x 10 minute circuits. Each circuit included six core and strength exercises. By the end of each circuit (well, actually, by the end of each exercise) my legs, core and arms were burning.

I felt good completing the session. I know it’s going to help me develop strength that will also help me once the triathlon season starts again.

In addition to these strength sessions, the Tough Mudder training schedule also includes three aerobic sessions each week so I can still continue my aerobic adventures at the same time.

Total: 60 minute Tough Mudder training session

Byron Bay Triathlon preparation week 3

This week is the third week of my Byron Bay Triathlon preparation. I’ve been quite disciplined at following the training program that I downloaded from the Triathlete Europe website. The program is split into four 3-week sets, which focus on speed, strength, race-specific preparation and tapering. Each 3-week set is split into two hard weeks followed by a recovery week.

I’m currently in the recovery week for phase 1 (speed). I found the first two weeks incredibly tough because I was stepping up from training 5-6 times a week to training 8-10 times a week at a much higher intensity than I had been used to.


Before I started the program I was swimming sporadically (I only did 4 swim sessions between December 5 and February 18). When I did swim I was only swimming about 1km, with at least half my sessions being breast stroke. I didn’t do any speed work, kick board or pull buoy training. It’s quite shocking really that I swam 20:45 for my 1,500m at Kingscliff Triathlon.

Under the training program I am swimming three mornings a week. My sessions range from 1.5km to 2km. I am now doing a structured warm up, main set and cool down. Many of my sessions include speed work, kicking, pull buoy or all three. I’m actually using the timing clock at the pool now to limit my rests between repeats and, sometimes, to time my speed. I am feeling strong and confident in the water, and will be starting my last two races of the season at the front of the swim start rather than all the way out at the back.


Before starting the training program I was cycling once or twice a week. Most sessions were just social rides with either my mum or my running friends. I was riding 25 – 40km at about 22 – 26kph with the odd 27 – 30kph effort thrown in for good measure. My race speed at Kingscliff was 34kph, which is astounding given the training – I think I really brought it on the day.

Under the training program I am cycling 2-3 times a week. My sessions are much more structured, including time trials and hill work. As the training program progresses the time spent cycling at higher intensities will increase. I am enjoying the hard bike work and can feel a significant difference in both my strength and speed. I am finding that my warm ups and cool downs are faster than my training rides used to be (that being said, I never used to do warm ups and cool downs).


Before starting the program I spent most of my training time running. I joined the Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers in about August last year and found myself enjoying their company a little too much for a triathlete. But while I was running quite a few miles, they were also relatively slow. The great thing was that I went from struggling to complete a 5km training run to knowing I can run any distance I choose if I pace myself appropriately. But my speed suffered (I ran a 54 minute 10km at Kingscliff).

Under the training program I am running 3-4 sessions a week. The training is structured and focused on increasing my 10km pace, which is what I need for triathlon. For the first few weeks I was still going to parkour training, which I included as my weekly speed running session (we run 5-7km at parkour plus activities). However, in the coming months I might be knuckling down to focus more on triathlon training and leaving parkour until my partner’s days off change again (she’s currently off work on Thursday and Friday, which means I like to be home with her on Thursdays). While I miss my running friends I know the absence is temporary and that I am on the verge of a significant running breakthrough that will probably come in the next two phases of the program, which include more hard training at race pace. I know I’m about to go from running 6min/km pace to 4:30min/km pace over 10km, and that I’m about to crack the point where I can confidently set off on a 30-50km trail run and pace myself to return home safely (even if at 7:00 – 8:00min/km pace).

Adaptations to the training plan

I have made some slight adaptations to the training plan to make it better suit my lifestyle.

  • I do not train on Sundays unless I have an event. I have learned that my body and soul need a day off every week. I need a day for my garden, for my family and friends, and for my body to recuperate from the effort of the week. I am pushing myself quite hard when I do train and I don’t want to injury myself or become ill.
  • I also do some of my running on trails and will be doing some of my cycling on my MTB. Being in the bush is food for my soul and I prefer it to pounding or rolling along the pavement. Also, after the Byron Bay Triathlon on 12 May, all my events (starting from 20 May) will be off-road until at least April 2013. So it’s good fro me to start mixing my preparation to finish this road season strong and have some sort of base for my off-road future.
  • I have been doing basic strength exercises most nights while I’ve been watching television. I just do plank, push ups or crunches during add breaks. I don’t enjoy strength work and hate going to the gym but this is one way that I can manage to squeeze it in without feeling like I’m ‘doing strength’.


I’m confident that the new training program will do wonders for me. I’ve already noticed some changes in my body – my arms and chest are more muscular from the swimming and strength work. The last bits of belly I had have disappeared though I am definitely no Ryan Gosling and doubt I’ll ever have a six-pack (I like food too much). I feel more confident about entering different types of events, such as the Adventure Race Australia (20 May), Dawn Attack AR (September) and the 50km Washpool World Heritage Ultra Trail Run (October). And I think I’m going to really have a good crack at breaking 2:15 for the Byron Bay Olympic Distance Triathlon.

I do admit, though, that I’m excited about this week being a recovery week ๐Ÿ˜‰


An eventful night at parkour

The night started like any other parkour training night. We ran, climbed steps and practiced techniques. Tonight we focused on vaults and tic tac. It was hot tonight and I was sweating from the exertion. My sore toe / ball of my foot is still giving me trouble but I’m not letting it stop me because I’m enjoying my training particularly parkour.

Then, when we were about 90 minutes into our 2 hour class one of our classmates fell and broke his arm. We weren’t doing anything particularly dangerous, just vaulting over a rail – something that many people do in their daily life. But, unfortunately, our classmate slipped and fell with a loud thud. I only heard the accident from where I was, vaulting over a different rail.

When the incident happened our instructors did everything right. They cleared the area around the injured person, leaving only his friend and a first-aid trained classmate with him (and an instructor of course). The rest of us were directed to take our bags and move to a safe location out on the main road (we were in a small alley) where we were to do some strength exercises while we kept lookout for the ambulance with our other instructor. The strength exercises were safe activities such as plank, push ups and squats. The two instructors stayed in phone and visual contact until the situation stabilised. Their ability to both maintain control and prevent hysteria or panic was admirable, particularly given their youth.

After the ambulance arrived those of us not directly involved in helping our injured classmate returned to base. Our instructor made sure everyone was okay with what had occurred but also kept us busy rather than allowing us to speculate about what had happened or focus on it. We quadripedalled hundreds of metres to give our strength to the classmates and instructor who couldn’t continue our training – it seemed like a good way to ‘help’ them at a time when the rest of us felt helpless wanting to do something to help our classmate.

While it is never good to see someone injured, it’s comforting to know that our instructors knew exactly what to do to keep both the injured person and the rest of the group safe. We debriefed afterwards and I know it won’t scare me away. Freak accidents can happen anywhere and anytime. I could fall of my pushbike or motorbike anytime, or could just slip on a wet floor. The accident wasn’t ’caused by’ parkour but was an everyday slip that could have happened jumping a fence in normal daily life.

Our class is becoming quite close and supportive of each other and together we pushed ourselves to work hard on our strength for the last half hour of the class – pushing out for our team mate. I’ll be back next week to continue my Tough Mudder training and to become strong to be useful.