Ask Dave: Where’s a Good Place to Do Some Meditation?


This one came from one of our Thai Boxers.
We were discussing an injury he’s been carrying and then afterwards he asked the above question.

Meditation, it's good enough for Leo....

Meditation, it’s good enough for Leo….

My answer:

At home.

Simple.

Most things usually are simple.

Meditation has been a part of the martial arts for as long as martial arts have been around, and for damn good reason.
There’s no better way of settling the mind, relaxing the body and attaining focus than spending a few minutes each day in some form of meditation.

The science community have done many studies on people in a meditative state and pretty much all agree that for brain health, it’s one of the best things we can do for ourselves. (here’s a couple to get you started: Psychology Today wrote THIS, and THIS one is from Harvard Medical School)

The problem arises when you look at all the bullshit and bollocks that’s espoused by the new age tree huggers when they wax lyrical about meditation.
They insist on having rituals and props all in place before beginning any sort of practice. They tell you to sit in a particular way, burn a particular incense, chant a particular sound bite.

Not all tree huggers are bad....

Not all tree huggers are bad….

Is any of this necessary?

No.

Do you need those DVD’s and CD’s?

No.

Whale noises?

No.

So what do you need?

Are you ready for this?

Time.

And that’s it.

How much time?

Well, how much can you spare?
5 mins? Ok
10 mins? Better.
2 mins? Hell. that’ll do
20 mins? Probably ideal, if such a thing exists.

Posture:
Anything comfortable. Sit, lie down, kneel, squat, recline, walk.

Breathing:
This is important. You must breathe deep into your abdomen,
If you’re a chest breather, your going to struggle, so for you I suggest training the breath prior to attempting to meditate, here’s how

Everything Else:
Try to ensure you won’t be disturbed. If you like music, play some. If you like incense or smelly candles, go for it.

The key is the breath and your conscious mind.

warrior meditation

This simple method of meditation is called the 100 and is the simplest place to start.
It goes like this:

Each time you exhale, count.

The “goal” is to count 100 exhales.

The word goal is in inverted commas as it’s not really a goal. The goal is to remain focussed on the task of counting the breath.
Should you lose count, so what? Simply start counting from 1 again, no stress, no panic.
If you get caught up in a thought from your busy mind, so what? As soon as you recognise the fact, start counting again from 1.

It’s that simple.
Not easy.
But simple.

It’s so simple it can be done on the bus or train as you commute.
It can be done in bed to help you sleep.
It can be done walking in the park.
It can be done anytime your mind starts racing with uncontrolled or anxious thoughts.

There are many other forms of meditation, but as a start point, this is possibly the best of them.

Try it for yourself.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.Wg-Fit.com

 

Your Excuses are Invalid and How to Achieve Your Goals


rounner

“Glory is fleeting, mediocrity lasts forever”
– The Rasta Jesus

I asked on Facebook the other day “what exercise to see being butchered the most?”
And the answers are coming in thick and fast, here are the most common so far:

  • Plank
  • Push Up
  • Squat
  • Deadlifts
  • Pull Ups
  • Cleans

Also getting a few people mention the Lunge and even the Punch!

So I guess I’ve a busy few days putting together some video footage for you.
I’ll get a few tutorials done covering the above list, much in the same vein as the tutorials I previously recorded covering the kettlebell lifts.

So that’s what’s coming up.

Today though I want to talk about getting your head right.

Everything say,everything you do, everything you’ve ever achieved and everything you are today and everything you’re going to be. It all starts and ends in your head.

And that means you need to gain control of your head.

There are a multitude of blogs and websites talking a vast amount of crap about self help, positive thinking, meditation, visualisation etcetera, etcetera.

Most of these sites are run my hyped up ego’s bent on emptying your wallet.

So here’s the Dave Hedges version.

Free of charge.

Workout what you want.
Workout why you want it.
Workout how you’ll get it.
Start.

End of.

Right now, I have a list of people working towards a list of training goals.
I’ve 8 guys on the Kettleheads GS Team working towards a Kettlebell competition.
I’ve a lad on the final approach to an Ironman triathlon.
I’ve a girl who desperately wants to get back to triathlon following injury.

And I’ve got Seb.

And because of Seb, all your excuses are invalid.

Seb managed to mess up his knee about badly as is possible and still be able to call it a knee.
As soon as he was somewhat mobile again, he asked me if he could come back training.
Seb is a BJJ player, last year he won a bronze medal in his category at the European championships. I look after is Strength & Conditioning needs.
When he asked to come in, I said yes.

We had a think and got him working. Mostly Pull Ups and Dip, with some pilates core work and seated battling ropes.
This went on, three days per week for a few months. After the first few days, I could see the changes in his personality, the damaged and depressed Seb was fading away in the face of this physical onslaught. The old Seb, the athlete, started to come back.

A while later he got rid of one crutch.

Then the other.

Then we sent him to our Physio, Andy Watson, who knows knees.

Pretty soon we got rid of the knee brace and upped his training from 3 to 5 days per week.

Seb now runs, he squats, he jumps and he even started skipping.

In January, he will compete again at the European Championships.

And only because he kept his head right.

He chose who to talk to and who to ignore. He knew the physio at the hospital wasn’t up to the job so he asked for my input. I sent him to Andy, who’s a no BS kind of guy.

Seb kept coming training, even though he was limited in what he could do. He threw his entire focus into what he COULD do not wallowing in what he couldn’t do.

He hung around the gym longer than needed, just so he could be around motivated people. Turned out, his presence and persistence is a huge motivating factor for the rest of my crew, they know their excuses are invalid when he’s around.

Seb took the time to get his head right. He found the people that would keep his head right. He did, and still does the work to ensure his head stays right.

This is why his injuries are making such good progress.

This is Seb a few weeks ago, remember only a few weeks previously he was wearing a massive knee brace, and before that was on crutches:

So what can we take from this story?

How about the following:

  • If you want something bad enough, you’ll find the motivation to get on with it. Seb said from the word go, that he wanted to be in the European champs, this is when he couldn’t even walk yet. This thought is what kept him working.
  • Surround yourself with people who will support you.
  • Set small goals and tick them off along the way.
    Seb went from two crutches, to one to none. He now doesn;t even wear the brace. Then we got him walking right and are working on regaining full ROM in the squat. Each is a step towards the greater goal.
  • Consistency is key.
    There will always be days where you don’t want to, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Sometimes you just have to get on with it.
    This is where all the positive thinking bull shit falls down, you don’t have to be happy about doing your work, just remember what it is your working towards and dig your heels in and go for it.

Anything is possible.

Are you willing to work for it?

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.wg-fit.com

How To Get Your Head Right For An Epic Performance


Mental preparationA common question that comes up at WG-Fit is about mindset and mental focus.
This isn’t really surprising given the amount of guys that train with me with the specific intention of improving athletic performance, be it in their chosen martial art, GAA or Rugby.
All events where getting hurt is a very real danger, a danger which is significantly increased if the head isn’t in the game.

Coming from a traditional martial arts background myself, I’ve always been taught that mental focus is the primary attribute for a martial artist to achieve. Only when this is accomplished will martial skill really begin to flourish.

And if you think about it, it makes sense.

Most martial arts are designed for life or death encounters or high level sporting encounters where you will get hurt. Mental focus is of absolute importance and self doubt is more dangerous than any enemy.
It’s small wonder then that meditative practices are integral to the martial arts training and lifestyle.

As is visualisation.

Visualisation

This isn’t just limited to the traditional arts either. Visualisation in particular is becoming more commonly used in the MMA circles and in other high level sporting events.

A great example is that of the bob sled in the winter Olympics.
If you haven;t seen it, you must have seen the movie Cool Runnings.

Checkout the bath scene at 55seconds into the trailer.
Derice, as the driver is constantly going over the track in his head, in another scene he’s studying photo’s of each turn and mimicking the movement through it. End result, in his mind he has completed hundreds of successful runs in the sled, which results in and actual physical performance that matches it.

Bobsled kata

Bobsled kata

This isn’t just movie hokum.
It’s a common tactic used by all the bob sled / luge athletes as to run the track over and over is time consuming, dangerous and costly. The drivers train in their heads, much like a martial artists performs a kata or a golfer does a few mock putts before actually lining up on the ball.

Visualisation is a very powerful tool in your tool box.
This is how Jack Parker used to tell us when we were young, up coming Karate-Ka:

“Any time your not doing anything, think about your karate, run the kata through in your head. It doesn’t matter where, do it on the bus, do it on the toilet, any time you have a few minutes to yourself.”

And that’s the key. Frequent repetition. The mind won’t fatigue like the body will, so we can practice a lift or a spot kick or an osoto gari over and over without tiring, like we would if we were doing it for real. Yet we are still activating the neural pathways, we are still feeling the emotion, we are still getting a positive training result.

But what about the nerves?

Breath Control

How do way stay calm enough to carry out the mental and physical training?

This is where breath control comes into play.

Breath Control is a central feature in many martial arts

Breath Control is a central feature in many martial arts

The Asian Martial arts put forward the following theory:

As the breath falls under both conscious AND unconscious control, we can use it as a bridge or a gateway to consciously control our unconscious functions.

What does that mean?

Well.

We breath unconsciously most of the time, it is a reflexive action. We continue to breath while we sleep at night, we even continue to breath when our opponent lands a successful knockout punch.

Yet we also have conscious control over our breath. We can choose to speed it up, slow it down and even stop it (for a short while).

The Martial Artists realised that through breath control we could also alter our state of mind, which scientists have measured with CAT scanners of a Buddhist monk, and even our heart rate. Yes, competent meditators have consciously stopped and restarted their heartbeat.

I don’t recommend you try that, but it shows what is potentially possible.

I use a few breathing/meditative practices that are extremely simple and very effective. I also use a few that are far more in depth than can be explained in a mere blog post, techniques that fall under the banner of Chi Gung as taught to me by Mark Rasmus.

Of the simple methods there are two I recommend.
The first is the 100 method and is a common night time ritual for me and one I recommend to many of my athletes, especially on the run up to a major event.

It goes like this:

Every time you exhale, count. Simple eh?
The aim is to count to 100. However, a more realistic aim is to repeatedly count to ten.
Count each exhale in your head until you reach your target number, then repeat.

You will get distracted. Your mind will fire thoughts at you, very often your nervous demons will rear up at you in an attempt to drag you into a cycle of self doubt and adrenaline, potentially ruining your sleep patterns and reinforcing any doubts.
As soon as you realise this is happening, stop and restart your counting at number 1. Do this every time you become attached to a thought.

I liken this brain activity to a TV that is left on in the background. You may be sat reading your book or writing something, but the flashing screen and incessant noise seems to draw you in and before you know it your sat watching some nonsense rather than dealing with the task at hand.
The random thought flashing across your minds eye are just like this TV.
Over time, you’ll learn to ignore the thoughts and simple count your breaths. With enough practice, the thoughts seem to stop coming, as if the TV had been switched off.

This will allow you to relax yourself and hopefully get a good nights rest. It’s also a helpful tool to employ prior to your warm up, or even on the journey to the big event.

The second method is the 4-4-8 method commonly used in Yoga.
I like this for several reasons, one of which is that it has a positive training effect on your lungs and breathing mechanisms.
As a teenager I remember a younger member of the Karate class, a lad who struggled with his asthma.
Jack taught us all the 4-4-8 method and often practised it with us at the end of a class. This one lad recognised the value of it and ran with it.
A few months later Jack related a story to me after talking to the boys father.
They had recently been to the Doc to have his regular check up done and to monitor the asthma. During this check up the Doc takes a lung capacity test. The boys lung capacity had increased by around 33% or one third since his last check up several months earlier.
It turned out, the lad had implemented a daily practice of the 4-4-8 since first learning it and had never had an asthma attack since.

That alone is enough to lend worth to this method, never mind the calming effect it has on the mind.

Here’s how it goes:

inhale for the count of 4, hold it for the same count, exhale for the count of 8.
The numbers are arbitrary, but the pattern is important (dunno why, it just is), the pattern is always 1-1-2, the exhale is double the inhale and the hold.

As you progress, you can increase the numbers or simply count more slowly. Try it with a metronome to keep the count steady. Or if you’re out for a stroll, maybe walking the dog, count your steps (don’t do this near traffic or if it’s your first time experimenting)

Silly poses - optional

Silly poses – optional

Do you need to sit in a certain pose? No. just get comfortable
Do you need to omm and chant? No.
Do you need scented candles? No.
Does it have to be dark? No.
All you need is a period of time where no one will disturb you. Everything else is window dressing and/or mumbo jumbo.

So there you have it, a complete guide to mental fortitude and focus.

The roots of all this, as I’ve mentioned, come though the martial arts systems I’ve been exposed to, but they can be and should be applied to whatever your sport or training practice may be. I even used some of it to keep focused while writing this article!

I talk about breath control for performance during my bodyweight workshops, the next one of which will be in Galway in February, details can be found here

Routine

The last thing I like to add is routine, something familiar on the day.

We’ve all heard about players going through specific routines prior to an event, our own Worlds Strongest Man competitor, James Fennelly never leaves for an event without his lucky green socks.

355kg for 11 reps, gotta be the socks!

355kg for 11 reps, gotta be the socks!

With my guys I like them to use the same warm up routine every time they train. This routine then becomes a switch, a little island of familiarity before going out to perform. If we go through the routine of getting changed, then going through our standard warm up prior to anything new, it gives us a trigger to switch from day to day you to animal you.
Setting up triggers and “anchors” is big in NLP circles, having a prematch routine that is the same is you normal pretraining routine can be your anchor, your switch.

Regards

Dave
www.WG-Fit.com

Dare you Face the Beast?


I’m currently enjoying the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougal.
It’s a book I’ve heard a lot about but never gotten around to reading. I’m now wondering why I waited so long!

A lot of the book as I read it and the way the author talks about running technique gets me a little nostalgic for the time I lived in the English Lake District and spent many a day out running the hills there.
I’ve always been an advocate of endurance. I know it’s a little out of vogue right now, everyone’s on an interval sprint buzz, or going on at length about the benefits of prowler pushes and tabata’s over long slow cardio. And you know what, in a lot of ways the arguments are right, for general conditioning short, intense sessions are great.
But training is a bigger picture than simply numbers on a log sheet.

There’s an X factor. One that has nothing to with a TV Karaoke competition.

This X factor is a mental attitude, it’s a mindset. And it’s often the very thing that’s missing in many peoples training and therefore, performance.
It’s the ability to endure discomfort for extended periods of time. It’s about actually embracing this discomfort and relishing it.
This quote from the book sums it up nicely:

“Strictly by accident, Scott stumbled upon the most advanced weapon in the ultrarunner’s arsenal: instead of cringing from fatigue, you embrace it. You refuse to let it go. You get to know it so well, you’re not afraid of it anymore. Lisa Smith-Batchen, the amazingly sunny and pixie-tailed runner from Idaho who trained through blizzards to win a 6 day race in the Sahara, talks about exhaustion as a playful pet. “I love the Beast,” she says. “I actually look forward to the Beast showing up, because every time he does, I handle him better. I get him more under control.” Once the Beast arrives, Lisa knows what she has to deal with and can get down to work. And isn’t that the reason she’s running through the desert in the first place – to put her training to work? To have a friendly tussle with the Beast and show it who’s boss? You can’t hate the Beast and expect to beat it; the only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it.”

Doing battle with the Beast is possibly the most game changing thing an athlete can do. Even if you don’t consider yourself an athlete, you should still face the Beast.

Dare you face him down?

The Beast is you. It’s your reflection. It’s everything about you that makes you want to stop, to quit, to go home, to hide, to be anything other than awesome.

I’ve often referred to the Beast as the demons in your head. Different name but same idea. Most people lose because the demons have already won before the event even starts. The demons win because their unfamiliar or they’re used to getting their own way all the time. Until you willing face up to them, until you turn on them and refuse to back down, just as you’d tell you child to handle the bully at school, until that point you’ll always be a victim to them.

There are many ways to bring the beast out, to summon the demons.

It doesn’t have to be long distance running.
But it does have to be something that makes you want to stop. It must cause physical and psychological discomfort.

It could be several rounds of sparring against fresh opponents with no breaks or doing very high rep callisthenics or extended sets of a Kettlebell exercise. It could be running a certain aspect of your chosen sport over and over and over.

I’ve mentioned Tenacity a few times in the past. Usually after a training session with Mick Coup as he’s a huge proponent of it.
Tenacity is the about wanting to stop, knowing you can stop but choosing not to.

That sums up what battling you demons is all about, deciding not to quit.

It’s about attitude.

Regards

Dave
www.wg-fit.com

A Mile of Swings – Was it Worth It?


This is just a quickie about the 1 Mile Walking Swing Challenge we ran last Saturday at Irishtown Stadium.

It’s only the second time we’ve run the challenge, and as far as we’re aware, it’s only the second time anyone has ever done a mile of swings. (please correct me if I’m wrong)

On the day, 9 of my most dedicated members joined me on the track to take on the mile.
All made me proud and all put in an awesome effort.
We were supported in no small way by Ireland’s Strongest Man, a man I’m proud to call a friend to Wild Geese, Mr James Fennelly. James brought with him his coach, former Olympic high jumper Adrian O’Dwyer.

What an honour to have these two incredible athletes at my side as we walked the track.

Of course Paul Cox, the head of Wild Geese Martial Arts was also present as was Dave G, our Thai coach and the man who steps in for me when I’m away.

The whole thing was to raise funds and awareness for the RehabCare HOPS centre, which is just around the corner from WG HQ. It’s a centre dedicated to Mental Health and helping those with illness back to health. I’ve been fortunate enough to work closely with the guys in the centre for the last couple of years and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to use my skills to raise cash for them.
When the WG crew also get on board to help as well as friends from, not just around the country, but across the world (thanks Facebook for making this possible) also get involved it makes the whole event truly awesome.

So far we have raised over €4000, and more is coming in.
On our MyCharity page we have collected €1750 and we have approximately €2500 in cash donations, raffle ticket sales and more. The MyCharity page will remain open for another month so please keep the donations coming in.

This photo was uploaded to facebook after the event:

Yup, they’re my hands, thats real blood.

One comment on the photo was someone asking “Was it worth it?”

Here’s why it was worth it:

  • We raised over €4k and will most likely smash our €5k target in the next few weeks.
    This money will go directly to the guys that use the centre, every cent of it will directly benefit the guys. There will be new computers bought, day trips, courses and a whole range of opportunities open to them that they may not have had otherwise.
  • My physical effort, and that of the guys who took part with me, is only a tiny fraction of the struggle these guys face on a daily basis. My visible, physical injuries are nothing compared to their invisible injuries. In a week or two there will be no trace of the challenge left on my body, only this photo will stand as evidence, yet the guys will still have their issues 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • My actions on the track helps to inspire the guys, it shows them that there are a few of us willing to help. Mental Health and indeed Mental Illness is extremely misunderstood and the topic is so often brushed under the carpet.
    If I can use my position as respected coach to raise awareness, if I can use my physical prowess and my mental strength to raise cash, raise awareness and also inspire. Then yes it is worth it.
  • As I went around the track I heard many of the guys from the centre cheering, shouting and chanting encouragement. I was never alone on the track. Many of the guys have issues with public displays, yet on the day, they come out of themselves, they really got behind something.
    Being enthusiastic about anything becomes a nightmare when you’re struggling with depression and low self esteem, yet on the day they all got excited and roared their hearts out in support.
  • If this small act inspires just one of them to put their mind to something greater, to push their own limits and boundaries, then that’s worth more than any amount of cash raised or skin lost.

So was it worth it?

Damn straight.

Here’s the MyCharity page link again: http://www.mycharity.ie/event/dave_hedgess_event
You have to the end of September to donate online, but you have every day of you your life to donate time or money in person.

On Saturday my guys made a difference.

Will you?

Dave
http://www.wg-fit.com

A Physical Demonstration of Mental Fortitude


I often talk about mental strength on this blog.
It’s a topic that is important to me, after all what use is physical strength without the mind to back it up?
It’s one of the reasons why I enjoy working with the guys over at RehabCare HOPS, the mental health support group/charity. Seeing them progress in the self defence and fitness training I give them is awe inspiring.

But when it comes to the rest of us, what does mental strength look like?
Usually we hear about it in stories and adventures, people doing amazing feats like climbing Anapurna, running the Sahara etc, stuff we can’t really comprehend because it’s so far out of our point of reference.
But if you’re reading this blog then I’d say you’re a little familiar with lifting heavy things over your head. At least I’d hope so.

Over the weekend just passed I was down in Wexford at Mick Kelly’s gym Total Fitness Systems on the Westpoint industrial estate. I was down to support 6 of my athletes all of whom were taking part in the Cup of Ireland Kettlebell lifting competition.
While every lifter did an incredible job and I’m extremely proud of my guys for taking part, I want to show you the two sets performed by Phil Roche.

Why?

Because these clips sum up what mental fortitude is all about. Both videos are around 10 mins long, but if you wish skip to the last 4 mins of each. This is where those 24kg bells really start to feel very heavy.
Phil only weighs 71kg, this is his first competition lifting the 24’s, last year he was using 16kg bells. He’s been training with the 24’s for 14 weeks, prior to that he’d never lifted them.

If you watch the clips see how he wavers and almost quits but then that switch in his head flicks and he digs deeper, drops a gear and just goes for those final few reps. Reps that earned him not only a place on the Irish squad for international competition, but the respect of every person in the room.
Check it out:

1st, the Jerks, 73 of them:

Then the Snatch, all 130 reps:

Well done Phil, and thankyou for demonstrating what mental strength looks like.

Regards

Dave
http://www.wg-fit.com

To Squat, or not


On Saturday I said on Facebook that I would no longer back squat because of old injuries, and a few of you supported this, thankyou. However, it’s been plaguing me ever since. I chose to retire the lift because of an old injury, as injury that once prevented me from putting my socks on, which I can now do, from cycling, which I now do daily, bodyweight squatting, which I do daily, from deadlifting, which I’m stronger at now than pre injury and much more.

So not back squatting because of this injury is akin to giving in to it. It’s compromising because of it.

And Wild Geese don’t like compromise.

So, if an old injury that prevented me from doing a stack of things can be beat, and I can do all those things except one, then I haven’t beat the injury.
I can’t be having that.

So I came up with a plan. It’s a simple plan inspired by two well-known strength coaches/authors, Pavel Tsatsouline and Charles Staley.

Charles wrote an article that I loved, it’s called boil the frog (you can read it here) and talks about how he overcame a knee injury to return to squatting. He started so gently and incremented the load so slowly that his body never noticed. Much like the analogy that if you put a frog into cold water and gradually heat it, it will boil to death, whereas if you heat it quickly it’ll jump out.

Pavel has a book out, one of his best, called Power to the People. Aside from its cheesy title, it has a great philosophy held within it. Strength is a skill and like all skills it must be practised as often as possible while avoiding fatigue.
He advocates a program of deadlifts, 2 sets, 5 days a week. The first set is the “work” set, the second is a lighter back off set. Gradually the weight is increased.

Two very similar approaches. Both tested and proven to be successful. I personally did well on the exact program Pavel outlines in PttP when my injuries allowed me to return to weight training.

So the plan:

Dave Tate teaching the Box Squat, click image for his FULL instructions

Back Squat to a low box, 5 days a week for two sets.
I started today, this is what I did:

12kg Kettlebell: Swings x 2min, 2 swing 1 snatch x 2min, 1swing 1 snatch x 2 min, snatch x 2 min. This was then repeated in the other hand, no breaks.

Barbell Back Squat: empty bar x 5 (warm up), Bar + 20kg x 5 (work set), Empty Bar x 5 (back off set)

The swing/snatch drill is my regular Wednesday drill, just to develop some grip endurance. It also served as a general warm up for the hips getting them good to squat.
The Squats are to a box set below parallel, and they felt surprisingly good. I’ll
stick to the exact same weight on the squats all week, next week and each week thereafter I’ll increase is by 10kg.
On the Saturday, which is my regular Squat day, I’ll switch to Front Squats and keep the volume low, staying well away from failure.

With luck, this will get me back to squatting safely and efficiently with respectable loads. It’s always been a weak lift for me, and that’s unacceptable.

This is an experiment, and I urge you not to follow my lead if you do, well you take full responsibility for your own actions and outcomes.

I’ll be posting regular progress reports on this, here and on facebook could be interesting.

One more thing, did you get Motivation yet?
Click the image, follow the instructions and you’ll get 41 stories from 41 Coaches, Fighters and Athletes and it’s free:

Regards

Dave
http://www.wg-fit.com