Emerging from winter

Finally the weather here in the normally dull and grey city of London is turning. The birds are singing, annoying the crap out of me whilst I try and sleep, the sun’s shining (in my eyes) and us Brits are ready for the three days of the year when the weather is excellent, and prepared for the rest of the season when we generally moan about the fact it’s: too hot, too humid, too full of other sunburnt Brits, or any number of other things that just aren’t quite right.

However, I, for one, am pretty damn excited about the prospect of scorching days, muggy nights and have already bought two pairs of sunglasses to shield my delicate eyes (and hide the fact that I am staring at that ripped dude on the bar three metres away).

I don’t think I ever wrote about my new years goals, particularly my winter goal. It could pretty much be summarised as “develop internal strength”. By that I don’t mean lats that make it look like I belong in the sky, or forearms that would be better suited to Popeye, but developing the muscles within my body, particularly around the lower back and abs, which would then allow me to start working on things like levers and planche and other skills that require a lot more intense muscular contraction.

The main strategy I had for achieving this goal (actually, the only one) was learning to deadlift. So I read the relevant parts of Mehdi’s StrongLifts program, recommended by my part-time training buddy Chris, then got one of the guys who works at the gym to teach me to how do the lift. As time went on I ignored what the latter taught me and spent some more time watching Mehdi’s videos and reading articles to clean up my technique. All the while racking up the weight. I started doing 5×5 at 40kg and every week (I did them once a week) I added 5kg. That was until I hit 70kg and shit started getting serious so I decided to slow down so went for 2.5kg increments. Then when I hit 80kg I realised that 5×5 is actually quite a lot of deadlifting so dropped down to three sets of five. I’ve hit my weight every single week without a failed rep (on Thursday I did 87.5kg) so I’m on target to hit 100kg by June. Pretty sweet. The only other weights I’ve been doing is some targeted lat work to ensure I didn’t lose too much strength as a result of stopping pull ups, push ups and dips as a result of my shoulder problems.

It sort of feels like I’ve spent the winter doing the same old thing in the gym every week, stuck in a sweaty box with the same faces and just not having that much fun compared to the summer months. It’s also hard to get an perspective on your gains in that kind of situation – the creative freedom of putting together routines in the park and learning new moves is a cool way to see progression, doing the same ole shit day-in day-out really isn’t.

However, I feel like the emergence of the sun has also heralded the emergence of a new stronger version of me. I’m not sure I would classify myself as strong yet, but I’m pretty damn close. Although I’ve lost the endurance I had at the end of last summer it’s been replaced with the ability to do some pretty cool stuff – a solid elbow lever, a solid tuck planche, decent explosive pull ups, and just the feeling that I am capable of harnessing and generating much more power than I was when summer drew to a close back in October.

Last week it hit about 15 degrees here – veritably boiling by the standards of English springtime, and I couldn’t resist stopping off at Kennington on the way up to the studio to have a little play. I’d done about five muscle ups over winter – they really exacerbate my shoulder pain – but my urge to see if I could finally do them on a straight bar rather than the squat rack at the gym (with angled “bars” with a big gap in the middle into which you can pitch your chest to make it easier to get up) overtook my desire to be sensible. I also wanted to start putting together some sets, rather than just doing straight reps, plus see if I could get up the balls to do an elbow lever on the top of the bar (I couldn’t). Shot some video:


That weekend it was time for the first trip to Primrose Hill for my first of the regular Saturday sessions. It wasn’t far off a year since I first went up there, and some of the same faces were there again. Amazingly it wasn’t busier, but was still a fun session

Now, two weeks later, the weather seems only to be showing signs of getting better (it actually hailed today so I’m pretty damn sure it can’t get any worse) and I can’t wait to shift my training into the land of fun and variety instead of graft and rep(s)etition.

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