I have been so excited about coming back to London to study and hopefully qualify as a personal trainer – it is the culmination of several years hard work, life changing decisions, and listening to that little voice deep inside me. As exciting as that is, I knew I was going to be missing Chamonix, the mountains, and the training that being based there enables. Not one to be dissuaded, I have managed to keep on top of my training with the awesome help of some people.
Strength training in London
It’s no secret that I love kettlebells and one of the top reasons is the ease of training; with just a couple of kettlebells you can create a really amazing full body strength and conditioning workout. With my new career about to launch, I thought I’d treat myself to some new kettlebells.
I was introduced to Dan John, a pretty awesome strength coach, about a year ago and have started reading his many books. The guy knows his stuff. Really knows his stuff. While checking out his various programmes, I discovered his 10,000 kettlebell swings programme: 20 workouts over 5 weeks with 500 swings each, all supersetted with another strength exercise – overhead presses, goblet squats, chest presses, and dips . 500 swings. Yes, 500. a lot. I didn’t know if I could even get through that many!
He recommends men using a 24kg bell which is roughly my working bell weight but that volume would be really challenging so, for the first few sessions I dropped the weight to 20kg.
The routine is 5 clusters of 4 sets so:
- 10 swings
- 1 strict press each side
- 15 swings
- 2 strict presses each side
- 25 swings
- 3 strict presses each side
- 50 swings
I gave myself 30 second rest after each set then a 3 minute rest after the cluster. As the clusters wore on, the rests were closer to 60 seconds..
This is a really punishing workout and one that doesn’t hit you immediately. By the end, my grip was really suffering but after the session I felt great; energised, invigorated, and raring to go. Two hours later, however, and it would hit me – I was crashing massively! I had to tweak what I was eating and, after upping the quantity and eating more regularly I started to avoid the crash.
I moved up to the 24kg kettlebell after the first week and really struggled initially – those extra 4kg make a humongous amount of difference!
As I come to the end of the 10,000 swings, however, I have really started to notice the difference. My grip strength has increased massively and my stamina and general conditioning has definitely be boosted. This is most definitely something I want to re-incorporate at the end of the year when I’m preparing for the upcoming ice climbing season and I need a strong grip!
Cardio training in London
I really didn’t know what I was going to do about my cardio in London when I was heading back. I have been spoilt by the stunning trail running in Chamonix and the idea of pounding the canal towpaths just really didn’t appeal.
Shortly after we got back, Sophie met up with her friend, Bonita Norris – an awesome 8000m peak climber. Bonita introduced Sophie to the Altitude Centre, this is a cardio gym that filters the oxygen out of the air providing an altitude of 2700m, reducing the oxygen you are breathing from 21% to 16%. You have a choice between spin bikes, a rowing machine, or treadmills. Sophie had a great time there and I wanted a go!
Once I explained my conundrum and upcoming goals – I’m running the Vertical KM in less than 4 weeks now – they were keen to meet the challenge of keeping me fit and getting me fitter.
All of their sessions are just 30 minute HIIT (high intensity interval training) sessions. I was a little dubious about 30 minutes being enough but, at the end of every session, I have been begging to stop. I have to admit, I really do love a HIIT session – it just packs such a punch and you feel the effects for hours afterwards.
One of their trainers, Sam, ran most of the sessions I attended and he was amazing, always making sure that it was different and keeping us on our toes. We had sessions that were flat, short, incredibly high speed sprints through to slower paced intervals but at punishing gradients. All your stats are up on the screen so, coupled with heart-rate monitors, you can see just how hard you are working. They have a few targets for heart-rate levels and it was really motivating to try and reach the goals each session.
From the first session, I knew this would be tough but, what was really rewarding, was that I really noticed an improvement by the end of the 4 weeks. Now I just need to see how I compare on the steep trails of home!
Heading back to Chamonix
As I finish the last few days of my PT course, it is with nervous excitement that I am heading back to Chamonix. Not only do I have a new career to start but I’ve really missed the hills; running, climbing, and generally being in the mountains. I was worried that coming back to London would compromise the progress I have been making recently but feel confident in saying that it really hasn’t and, actually, between 10,000 kettlebell swings and HIIT sessions at 2700m, I think i’m going back stronger than I left!