Introducing our December 2021 client of the month, Rob.
I first started training Rob in the spring of 2021. What initially struck me was how he enjoyed a challenge. Due to this determination to succeed and achieve targets, Rob is our natural choice for the December 2021 client of the month.
In Rob’s words, “2021 was about getting into the rhythm and making weight-training a habit”.
After a few lifting sessions, Rob became interested in building aerobic fitness to compliment recent strength gains. Conveniently, Rob has a Concept2 rower in his garage.
Dragging the dust cover off the rower, and after a few splutters from the dust, I went through some of the basic technical points of rowing efficiently, effectively and injury free. Fortunately, Ellie, his wife, is an ex-rower, so there are no excuses for poor rowing technique!
And as a result from chatting to his brother-in-law and cousin about his new regime of rowing, cycling and weight training, a new rowing challenge was created. The fastest over 5km on the rower.
Since this initial challenge, Rob has increased his training to counteract the quick scores being posted by his competitors. The challenge is ongoing so racing tactics, training programming and periodisation of training are being formatted into the programme.
And dare I say, a healthy diet to complement the workouts.
At 45 and with a ‘dodgy’ knee from playing squash, a desk job and in his own words, “zero self-motivation to lift weights”, Rob found himself in a physical doldrum.
His ever-encouraging wife sent Rob my details after reading about the benefits of regular weight-training and the positive impact on well-being. And as Rob is a financial trader, she thought I would be a perfect fit for Rob’s ‘number-oriented mind-set’.
Rob confesses that he is “no great athlete and up until last year, my most regular exercise was kicking a football with my 6 year old son.”
His greatest sporting achievement was beating the GB pool captain at pool (the sport with balls on a table rather than lots of water) which in his words “says it all.”
He’s run a few marathons and has achieved a personal best of 3 hours 41 minutes! That’s actually some going and proves Rob does have a good aerobic engine, despite self-criticism of athletic prowess. Oh, and he has played a few games of National League Hockey.
So despite Rob’s belief that he isn’t athletic, I beg to disagree. The man is a natural sportsman.
ROB’S NEW GOALS
Rob has enjoyed the benefits of weight training over the past 8 months. Two years ago, he had a knee operation to repair damage cartilage. Recently, he has been able to play squash which he loves. This is due to the strengthening exercises through weight training around the knee, leg and hip.
His sitting posture is also stronger despite hours working at the desk and his 5km rowing personal best has improved to below 19 minutes and 30 seconds having never previously beaten 20 minutes. The new target is 19 minutes 15 seconds even though Rob is secretly pushing for sub 18 minutes 30 seconds. Softly Softly Catchee Monkey!
And in his own words, “I even have the odd visible muscle on my upper body”.
“After 8 months, I am very happy with where we’ve got too so far and am very excited to push upwards and onwards into 2022 with some more ambitious goals.
When my younger and fitter cousin in Australia heard that I was going under 19 minutes 30 seconds for 5km, he decided to lay down a proper challenge. Having never sat on a Concept2 rower before, he’s now had 4 attempts at 5km and is down to 18 minutes 32 seconds” exasperates Rob.
So we are setting new achievable small goals on the rower and on the lifts.
Rob is targeting a deadlift 1.25 x his bodyweight, squat his bodyweight and bench press 0.75 x his bodyweight by May, the first anniversary of training. To give you some idea of his improvements in the past 7 months, Rob started deadlifting half his bodyweight and squatting and bench pressing less than a third of his bodyweight. Impressive gains!
And a new rowing regime of steady state endurance and speed work will help the 5km rowing time.
INCORPORATING TRAINING INTO LIFE
Incorporating exercise into an already busy lifestyle is difficult. Rob works full-time and has a family with three lovely children. However, he has managed to block off times each week which he dedicates to exercise.
Once recovered, his energy levels increase which enables him to spend quality time with his family and improve work efficiency. A win win solution.
But it does help to have a personal trainer turn up at your house. “I’ve found it harder to wimp out of a gym session when there’s an instructor with his van parked at my house!” says the December 2021 client of the month.
And he can take holidays guilt-free so he can fully emerge himself with his family for the duration of the break. “That’s one of the brilliant things about Tony – I can let things go with a family holiday and zero exercise for a fortnight but then we just take a few kilograms off where we were before and start climbing the mountain again” says Rob.
Rob’s summary of last year was “hugely pleased”. He has increased strength sessions to twice weekly. In addition, there are two aerobic workouts either on the rower or bike.
Our December 2021 client of the month is reaping the benefits of regular healthy exercise with his consistency of training.
On a final note, we know that post-exercise steadily lowers cortisol levels. Lower cortisol levels improves quality of sleep. Better sleep patterns allows you to perform better at work, enjoy family life and improve your health and well-being.
But, unfortunately for Rob, he is a Tottenham Hotspur football fan and his stress levels are constantly raised due to his under-achieving football team. There are some things that even a personal trainer cannot help!
Well done Rob and congratulations on your fitness and strength achievements and winning December 2021 client of the month. Shame about the shirt!
It’s been exactly 2 years since Ching was joint client of the month with her rowing partner, Mel. Fast forward to November 2021 and Ching has achieved more success on and off the water, winning races and achieving lifting personal bests.
Ching, a lightweight masters athlete from Bradford-on-Avon Rowing Club and rowing coach at Minerva Bath Rowing Club has been lifting consistently for two years. And Ching’s gains in the weights room have had a positive impact on her performances on the water and the bike.
After a horrendous windsurfing accident and a dislocated shoulder in 2010 at Club La Santa, Ching moved to Bath and joined a local rowing club where she learnt to row.
Making the transition from coxing to rowing was relative simple for Ching. However, she noticed that technique can only get you so far in the sport.
In 2019, Ching started to lift weights to increase her strength. In addition, she wanted to reverse some of the ageing processes that occur in our fifties by embarking on a structured strength and conditioning plan.
Fast forward to 2020 and Covid-19, Ching migrated to her bike and the focus of training became cycling due to rowing clubs being locked down during the pandemic. As Ching slowly built up distance and speed, she found she enjoyed cycling as much as rowing.
Ching’s spring training consisted of phase two base training which focussed on building fitness and endurance using the bike and rowing ergometer (Concept2 rowing machine). On top of that, she was lifting once a week.
However, after a few weeks in the spring, Ching’s improvements plateaued.
Ching and I had a discussion about increasing the frequency of her weights. “Tony said you can go faster and be stronger with another weekly weight training session” remembers Ching. So, we added another weekly lifting session into the programme.
As we age, being able to maintain muscle mass becomes increasingly difficult as hormone levels subside. Decreased range of motion due to changes in connective tissue and in some, arthritis, adds to a decline in muscle mass.
It have been reported that we lose strength by approximately 3-8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate increases after 60.
After 50, the rate of muscle atrophy is closer to 1% per year. Add in hormonal changes, declines in activity, an unbalanced diet, less sleep and the ageing process is accelerated.
One of the ways to combat age-related physical issues is to incorporate strength training into your life.
When you add strength training, the following benefits occur in the body:
- Increased bone density
- Increased muscle mass
- Increased mobility
- Improved body composition
- Psychological well-being
- Increased hormone production
Past 50, you must lift!
Autumn rowing racing highlights
Ching’s first rowing race of the Head season was in the single scull on her home stretch of water in Wiltshire. Ching had planned to race a mixed quadruple scull (two men – two women) and a women’s double scull.
Unfortunately, Ching’s doubles partner was unwell on race day. So, a quick chat to the organisers and Ching was entered into the single scull. Unprepared but fit and strong.
“My thoughts at the start, don’t fall in, find the stream and the racing line” said Ching. She surprised herself. “It was an amazing race. I remembered every bend, every tree to avoid. I felt in the moment and in control and more importantly, I was racing in the zone. High stroke rate 32 to 33 strokes per minute for a time of 7 minutes and 37 seconds.”
Her heart rate watch recorded an average at 95% of maximum heart rate for the entire race. Almost maxing out, Ching stayed strong and focussed to stick to her race plan.
When the results were out, Ching had beat younger and taller scullers. The nearest competitor was 15 seconds adrift and she had beaten some quadruple sculls and her old racing partner by 1 minute.
The training had paid off. At the age of 57, Ching was the fastest woman single sculler of the day. And as a lightweight, she beat taller, heavier and younger competitors.
And this success was repeated at Monkton Bluefriars Head race where she finished second in a quadruple scull loosing to a younger crew by only a few hundredths of a second.
In November, Ching raced at Avon County Head in a Masters Women’s eight finishing fourth out of fourteen women’s eights. Ching recalls this race as “a brilliant race in beating local clubs and university crews.”
The importance of goal-setting
Another factor in Ching’s recent success is goal-setting. Ching targets races. She says “targets like cycling and rowing events makes a difference. Challenging yourself on different courses focuses the mind and the competition pushes you in training.”
She is always nervous before races which I believe is essential for good performance. “Actually competing in the event is the easy part because you can’t do any more training. It’s the getting there that’s the hard part” says Ching.
Ching competed in September’s Women’s 100, a celebration of women’s cycling. She says “having an event or challenge helps motivation throughout the winter. I love a challenge. For the second challenge, I am going to ride 500km in 8 days starting Christmas Eve and finishing New Years Eve.
The winter races are much longer than events in the summer. The focus is endurance. We are currently focussing on building Ching’s endurance levels and increasing her base strength with low multiple rep sets and heavy resistance loads.
The races in the summer are four to five minutes and the emphasis is based around speed and power. The training will focus on intense short intervals in the boat and very low repetition lifts focussing on explosive lifting. The exercises are based on compound lifts.
As the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has made gyms and rowing clubs less safe, having the local parks open has continued to help Ching and my other clients lift and train safely.
“Having Tony and his mobile van with all the equipment you could want is like a sweet jar. It just gets better and better with more and more toys. This has kept me going in the snow, rain, mud and hot days. I’m surprised that the weights and training has paid off with amazing results” says Ching.
Rowing and Cycling
The sports of rowing and cycling are complimentary and are great for cross-training.
Firstly, they are low impact. Cycling also engages similar muscles to rowing. There have been numerous examples of athletes crossing over sports with great success.
In December 2020, German Olympic rower Jason Osborne shocked professional cyclists by sprinting to victory in the first-ever men’s eSports Cycling World Championships staged on Zwift. Osborne made light work of professional riders with Grand Tour victories and cycling World Championship titles on their palmarès. The 26-year-old, who is a former rowing world champion and competed in rowing at the 2016 Olympics was in fact racing from the German rowing team’s training camp in Portugal as he prepared to compete at Tokyo 2020. Despite his unbridled commitment to rowing training, Osborne’s ability to harness his rowing power when cycling on Zwift proved decisive.
In another impressive example in 2020, the New Zealand double Olympic gold medallist rower Hamish Bond, notably won the national championship title for both rowing and cycling in the same week beating several professional world tour cyclists in full-time cycling training.
British rower turned cyclist Rebecca Romero famously won world championship titles in both rowing and then cycling and competed in both sports for Great Britain at the Olympics, winning a silver medal for GB in rowing at Athens and then a gold medal in cycling just four years later in Beijing.
So if you are looking at taking your cycling or rowing to the next level or simply want to add some variety to your training, include indoor rowing, cycling and weight training to your training regime. Set goals and be consistent. Indoor rowing and cycling can be especially effective if you are short on time.
In terms of energy expenditure, 30 minutes of rowing can be worth more than double that on the bike.
And if you need more proof, look at Ching’s recent successes.
Another impressive client of the month. Use Ching’s story to motivate you to success in 2022.
Edward, the September 2020 client of the month has again achieved the client of the month honours 13 months later.
The October 2021 client of the month has been awarded due to his impressive increases in strength over the past 8 weeks.
In the beginning
In 2017, Edward weighed 94kgs and at 186cm (6 feet 1 inch), was heavy for a cyclist. He managed to complete his first LEJOG (Land’s End to John O’Groats) but it wasn’t comfortable, especially on inclines.
In 2018, his weight increased to 97kgs after spending 11 weeks in New Zealand and despite increases in mileage, his weight didn’t budge. It was after recuperation from a cycling accident in 2018 that Edward read ‘Racing Weight‘, a book by Matt Fitzgerald about weight management for endurance athletes that the penny dropped. The emphasis on reduced sugary processed foods and saturated fats worked. However, Edward’s body fat was still at the top end of his age group despite losing weight.
Beginning of 2020
At the end of January 2020, Edward started lifting with emphasis on body composition and strength improvements.
The first session outlined mobility issues from squatting and lack of upper body strength. Initially, lifting started with some technically easier exercises including dumbbell thrusters and TRX squats to enable mobility and strength.
Over the winter, a wider range of exercises were introduced including split jerk and deadlift. Edward was improving. Consistency of training was responsible for improvements in Edward’s strength and mobility.
Covid-19 put a stop to Edward’s strength and mobility improvements. With lockdown came the closures of gyms. This meant no heavy lifting. When lockdown restrictions eased, Edward resumed his strength programme in the park but some of his mobility issues had returned.
After buying a van and purchasing a few hundred kilograms of weight lifting and functional fitness equipment, I established myself as an outdoors personal trainer. This enabled Edward and my other clients to resume lifting in the parks and gardens around Bath.
So we began the process of strength and mobility training again.
Towards the end of 2020, Edward increased strength training from once a week to twice a week. This produced an immediate improvement in strength but a set back happened at the beginning of January 2021 when an old back injury resurfaced.
After three months with no lifting, Edward returned. He resumed a new programme eliminating exercises that aggravated his back. New exercises were introduced to help strengthen the injured area.
Edward was absent for 2 months of training over the summer due to cycling and family commitments. However, since August, Edward has consistently strength trained twice every week whilst keeping up his cycling.
And the result. Improvements in all of the big lifts. Edward has achieved personal bests on his squat, bench press, rows, deadlift and shoulder press averaging a 10% improvement over the range of lifts since August.
Consistency is arguably the most important component when working to accomplish goals, in or out of the gym. Without consistency, programs are unorganised, the body has a harder time adapting, and forming habits may be more challenging.
We are creatures of habit. The more we practice, the more natural it becomes. We experience this when we learn to walk as infants, when we learn to drive, and when we exercise. It’s normal to feel out of your comfort zone when you try something new, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel.
Current research suggests that to make a habit stick it must be performed for 68 consecutive days. The idea of sticking with something for 68 days may feel overwhelming. When taking on a new challenge, focus on each session. This will help your mindset. Aiming to create a lifelong exercise habit can be daunting; however, start by doing it for one day, and then two, and then three, and so on.
Once you feel comfortable with one small change, add another small change, and so on. Small changes are more sustainable over the long term and add up to big improvements. There will likely be days that your plan doesn’t work out how it was supposed to, but that doesn’t mean all progress is lost.
And to quote the 31st President of the United States, “Persistence Prevails When All Else Fails” – Herbert Hoover
Congratulations Edward on another client of the month award.
Back in June 2020, I discussed the benefits of 80/20 Polarised Training and how to implement the polarised sessions into a rowing training programme. David Harris, a masters rower from Washington DC contacted me after reading the blog. He wanted to incorporate a polarised model into his training regime.
Last month, David sent me the news of his new 500m rowing personal best on the Concept2 rower, at the age of 51!
David is currently the fastest man in the world in his age group (50-54) for 500 metres covering the distance in a blistering 1 minute, 21.3 seconds.
SEPTEMBER 2021 CLIENT OF THE MONTH – NEW PERSONAL BEST ACHIEVED THIS MONTH – 1 MINUTE 19.9 SECONDS! PHENOMENAL.
Previously, David’s personal best over this relatively short distance was 1 minute 25.2 seconds. After implementing a 80/20 polarised programme, David dropped his time to 1 minute 22.6 seconds. And recently, he improved by a further 1.3 seconds.
David’s improvement in wattage is an incredible 86 watts in 12 months over 500 metres and is the September 2021 client of the month.
As David’s 500m shows, 80/20 polarised training is not only recommended for long distance sports such as marathon running, ironman triathlons and cycling, but is ideal for anything lasting more than 60 seconds.
The Energy Systems
In high intensity exercise lasting fewer than 10 seconds (think 100m track sprint and lifting weights), the body primarily uses the anaerobic system – Adenosine Triphosphate-Creatine Phosphate (ATP-CP) which provides instant powerful energy. The body does this by breaking down two high-energy phosphates which are stored in muscles.
After about 10 seconds, the ATP-CP system is depleted and the glycolysis process takes over in which glucose is broken down into a substance called pyruvate through a series of steps to produce energy.
During glycolysis, when oxygen is limited, the body temporary converts pyruvate into a substance called lactate. Lactate allows glucose breakdown and thus energy production.
This method of high intensity anaerobic energy production continues for about 3 minutes during which time lactate can accumulate to high levels. A side effect of high lactate levels is an increase in the acidity of the muscles (lactic acid). This interferes with the breakdown and the body naturally slows down to allow aerobic metabolism to produce energy.
Polarised training to be faster
Polarised training allows the development of the aerobic system (80%) without fatiguing the body for the high intensity sessions (20%). This creates a bigger engine for all systems to operate in.
And importantly, polarised training avoids the ‘grey zone‘. That sweet spot long distance session which leaves you feeling depleted.
Remember, energy systems are not binary, as in 100% aerobic or 100% anaerobic. Energy systems operate simultaneously and the degree to which contributes to the level of output.
So, get the calculator out, work out the training zones and enjoy the process of developing your energy systems. You may even surprise yourself with a personal best.