Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The missed workout myth



Monday, November 25, 2019

My 12 hour mega sore-arse challenge

The Fat Loss & Performance Coach

My mega sore-arse challenge

If you've read this far, then yes you read that title correctly, because riding for 12 hours on a Watt bike is actually more about the pain tolerance between your arse cheeks, than muscular or cardio vascular endurance.

Ok-ok that's not entirely true, I'm just still pissed off at that saddle.  But the actual challenge I set myself was to do 12 hours on the Watt bike, without an official rest (so toilet breaks were included).  

Why? Well what set it off I guess, was listening the audible book 'you can't hurt me' by David Goggins.  Basically, he had it rough in his younger years, turned his life around, had a very successful career in the US military and has become one of the most recognised ultra endurance athletes on the planet.  The book got me fired up, simple as that and that was only half way through (I actually finished the rest on the bike).  Without going too deep, I've got some personal stuff going on in my life right now, arguably controllable/not and I'm itching to take back some sort of control again.  

I've done some 'ultra stuff' before including obstacle courses, running and cycling and wanted to have another go at something.  At the moment I can't run too long-a-distance due to an injury, so thought 'fuck it, let's do 12 hours on the bike' instead, 

That was on a Thursday.   On the Friday I committed, by telling my clients and colleagues what I was going to be doing on my Saturday night.  I mean what else would I rather being doing at Ufit on a Saturday night - right ?


To be honest there wasn't that much planning involved, but these were the things I thought about:

  1. Food.  I knew I was going to need fuel-loads of carbs!  So the day before I went a bought x2 massive wraps, filled with rice, pasta veg and chicken.  x5 pack of raisin and cinnamon bagels.  x6 bags of jelly bean like sweets. x2 bananas.  7ltrs of water and a tube of electrolytes.
  2. Footware.  I don't have cycle shoes, so opted for my Reebok nanos, as they have a solid flat base, ideal for not losing force on the pedals.
  3. The bike.  Orginally was going to use a spin bike, as the saddle's relatively more comfortable compared to the Watt bike.   But I realised the monitor was battery operated and I couldn't risk those batteries running out 8 hours in, no fucking way!  So the Watt bike it was.
  4. Toilet breaks.  I moved the bike as close to the toilet as possible. Sole reason being, the monitor  goes into standby after 60 seconds, the trip had to be quick!
  5. All to-hand.  I had a box right next to the bike with all my food, water and snacks on it.
  6. Saddle saw.  Didn't really plan for this one.  I grabbed a towel and wrapped it over the saddle (because I saw someone in the gym earlier do it and thought it was a good idea). 
  7. Tunes.  Stuck the Sonos speakers on a 24 hour dance station.  I couldn't have shite (to my ears anyway) playing in background, with no way of changing it.

Off we go then 

After my last client at 1200, I grabbed some eggs, bacon and toast for the 'last super', set the bike up and by 1pm I was off.  The gym had a few people in and I was in good spirits.  But then it got quiet and I was solo by 2pm.  One of the girls actually gave me two more towels for the saddle before she went, but by hour 8, that still wasn't enough.  For last 4 hours I had to switch to sitting on my hands every now and then, to relieve the pain.

I was setting a great pace, as in my head I originally was aiming for 250km, but the pace I was going should've been more like 400km!  When I realised that (hour 4), I upped my output and that was a big mistake!

At the 6th hour it all of a sudden felt like I hit a wall.  My thighs started to cramp and seize.  I was fucked.  For the next hour I had to ease off, try and massage my legs, downed a load of electrolytes, a banana and start meditating, all whilst still pedalling.

7th hour, I was back in and all went well until I needed my first wee.  Shit! I didn't want to waste anymore time.  So downed the last few mouthfuls of water and tore open the top of plastic bottle with my teeth (didn't plan for this one).  Taking a piss into a sharp edge plastic bottle, whilst maintaining revolutions on the pedals is a 'mish'.  So after that, I took the risk of jumping off the bike and getting to the toilet and making it back in under the 60 seconds, before the monitor reset.

8 hours in the pain was unreal. I really had to dig deep and focus.  The main thing I was focusing on was the digits.  The 1km split time, the 15min pace-the 30 min pace - the hour pace - the predicted finish distance.

In my head I was thinking, 'just do 10 hours, it's ok, that's still a good time',  'you've done well over 250km, which is a good distance'.   The opposite converstation was 'Yep, but I said I'd do 12 hours'.  I'd set the bar, I couldn't bear the thought of telling people I only did 10 hours.  To me, it would've been only doing half the job.  I'd have been a quitter.  How could I tell my clients that I finished early, what sort of example would I be setting, if I stopped when it was tough?  'Nah, crack on Snowy and stop moaning'.

When I got to midnight I was completely fucked.   Please bear in mind I hadn't trained for this and the most cycling I'd done in the last year, was a couple of 45 minute spin classes and an hour on the Watt bike earlier in the week.  In my mind Midnight was like my 'finish line', because the last hour -'power hour', was all downhill (probably not the best choice of words).  But I knew I wasn't going to stop in the last hour, it was going to be mental.

Each minute dragged like an another hour.  I fucking hated the monitor being in front of me at this point.  I'd kept my head down, which put more pressure on my raw as hell 'no mans land'.  Every time I looked up a the monitor, after which felt like a good 10 minutes, actually  showed 37 seconds or something.  'Ahhhh man, give me a break'.  I stuck on some head phones and started re-listening to David Goggins for inspiration.  It didn't help if I was honest.

10 minutes left!  All sort of expletives were coming out of my foul mouth at this point.  It's not even that my legs felt like lead, they weren't heavy, they were fucked.  It felt like they were being sliced open repetitively by an old rusty garden rake.

1am Sunday morning, I was done, with a total distance of 324km completed. I jumped off the bike and when I say jumped, I mean I had to order a grab to take me to the floor.  It was like my legs just shut down and said 'fuck you Phil, we ain't taking you anywhere'.  So I kinda just flopped to the floor.  I tried to stretch, but again my thighs gave me two fingers up - they were not bending.

All I wanted to do was stop the pain.  I got in the showers and did some contrast bathing on my thighs (hot/cold showing to flush the fluids in my legs).  I must've been in that shower feeling sorry for myself for about 45 minutes.

I head home at 0230am, walking like 'Captain Peg legs' to get the next obstacle...

What was the point of that then?

The point was to myself.  I didn't do this for charity.  I didn't do it to prove anything to anyone other me.  It was for my own inner achievement - my own sick satisfaction that I could put myself though that my pain and still walk away smiling.  

I guess the lesson I could share this;
  1. Make a decision and act on it as soon as possible.
  2. Commit yourself and tell others you intentions.  There may be fear behind this, even pressure.  `But man up' and just do it.
  3. Plan as much as possible but don't procrastinate.  Cover as many bases as possible, but don't over think it.  Sometimes it might not go exactly to plan, but sometimes you 'just have to jump and build a plane on the way down'.
  4. Chunk down your goal into smaller achievable bites.  I focused on my distance covered by hour, 1/2 hour and 15 mins.  Once I couldn't physically keep that pace any longer, I changed it. 
  5. Eliminate distractions, you need to be focused and to get into the zone.  In front of me I had a grey wall and fire extinguisher to look at - no youtube, no Netflix.  Those numbers is all cared about.
  6. When you want to give up, that's only the body forcing the mind to agree.  Tell the body to 'fuck off', you've still got plenty in you!
  7. The pain is worth the reward.  As I say this challenge was purely for me.  It revived my mind, when I was in place where mentally, things are exhausting, but this gave me my 'control' back.  Now I can apply this to any other difficult situations. 
  8. Keep smiling.  Keep finding the funny side.  You put yourself in that situation, no one else, so you've got to laugh at the sadistic irony.
So that was my little challenge.  I'd love to hear some of your achievements and even suggestions for what I could do next.   

Keep it real folks 


Have tough challenge at the moment or facing you in the future?  Let's have a chat to see if I can help you get through it...


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Personal Trainer's Exercise guide to prepare for Everest Base Camp


Forget what you think you know about fitness

I've been in the fitness industry for well over a decade now and have a tonne of courses and certificates coming out of my ears, with regards to movement, nutrition and mindset.  But my recent adventure to Everest Base Camp (EBC), taught me something completely new and completely unique about fitness, (as I was getting overtaken by 60+ year old sherpas, carrying upto 150kg loads on their heads, 5000m above sea level).

5 of the best exercises for trekking to EBC

I have to be honest, my exercise prescription before I went to EBC, was very different to what I'd recommend now.   The standard step up and squats would be thrown in the mix and yes of course, as well as the traditional Long Slow Duration (LSD) cardio exercises too.  But actually, there's probably a much broader range of exercises that need to used for more functional reasons, and here are my top five I'd recommend...

 1.   The TRX squat:  On the trek, the need to get arse-to-the-grass low is essential for one reason, to poo!  When you get caught short, believe me, you would rather go in woods, bare cheeked to the world, over using some of the local public toilets.  If you don't work on any of the other exercises, please work on these and thank me later.


2.   Internal/external rotated step downs: The team really struggled with the descents and the impact from walking down hill and stepping down giant rocky-uneven steps.  So these will better prepare the joints for different loads at different angles and at different speeds.

3.   Multi-planar Bosu lunges: The terrain is so un even and temperamental, that the ankle and knee is constantly being challenged in different directions and the body constantly needs to correct itself to avoid injury. The BOSU is a great way to simulate those uneven surfaces.

4.   Stepper with back pack:  Specifically smaller steps.  The reason being, you can't take long strides on the trek, because you'll burn out too quickly.  The short steps will get you used to just putting one foot in from to the other.  The other thing about taking smaller steps on the stepper, where you're being forced into a shorter stride, your less likely to strain the achillies (from putting much range of motion through them) and make better use of the glutes.  The back pack will also get your body used to carrying what you will be on the long days.  Just load up the back pack progressively.

5.   Single leg clock reaches:  The downhill will drain you the most for sure.  The ankle, knee and hip need to communicate, or else risk injury, especially under load.  Working on the single leg stuff, will get a better connection between the joints and also fire up the glutes more, which will reduce too much adduction (knee buckling inwards) and repetitive punishment. 

The best nutrition in preparation for EBC

As always a well balanced eating routine is going to be best for you, there is no special 'diet' that's going to get you to the top, for multiple reasons, you just need to make sure you keeping eating.  When you start getting higher, your appetite will decrease and that's when you actually need to eat more.  Aim to eat at least*: 
  • 1-2 fist sizes of veggies, for phyto-nutrients and fibre.  
  • Approx 1 - 2 full cupped handfuls of carbohydrates of any kind (unless they don't agree with you), but do not cut them out.
  • 1-2 palm sizes of protein (animal based, though not exclusively) to build and repair muscle and support the immune system.  
  • 1-2 thumb sizes of fat per meal, from naturally and the best quality sources you can afford.  This also includes saturated fat (butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, fish, nuts and seeds).
* These are base measurements, relative to individuals hand size.

Expect to see some considerable weight loss when you get back to normality.  The main reasons are:
  1. The decrease in energy from food as you go higher, because of hypoxia, limited menu, change in eating habits and gastric upset.
  2. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) increases.  Basically your body has to work harder at rest, which burns energy.  Put on top of that, the increase in work rate.
  3. A loss in body water, due to an increase in breathing rate, changes in water metabolism and general decrease in water intake (also possibly due to the lack of hydration in new 'dry' foods).
  4. Nutrient absorption is decreased through the intestinal tract, as digestion slows down.
  5. A decrease in muscle mass, as you're not lifting weights, or holding on to as much water.
When we returned, we spoke to our in-house nutritionist at Ufit, Pamila Ibarra. She says for OPTIMAL performance, climbers should be aiming to increase their carbohydrates (in grams) x5-7 times their body weight (kg).  For example, I weigh 90kg x7 = 630g carbs per day.  Realistically though, thats wasn't achievable (for myself).  Firstly, because of the lack of appetite. Secondly, I knew the consequences of walking soon after eating ie, needing an emergency poo. Thirdly, I didn't want to eat the poor quality-shitty carbs.

There's other reasons too - the lack of menu and resources.  You could take supplements etc, but they weigh excess, so counts towards your total luggage weight for the flight and to carry.  I'd have rather taken extra warm kit, than extra sachets of glucose gels.  However, that's not to undermine the advice, there are just other factors to take into consideration.  But the main point is 'optimal' performance.  So just eat as much as you physically can to get you through, it's only a few days in the grand scheme of things.

I'd always recommend taking a good multivitamin and quality fish oil.  Pamela recommend that you get your Iron levels tested (both important for males and females) and supplement accordingly. The reason is quite 'sciencey', but you can read more about the reasons why here.

I don't tend to recommend using protein shakes and especially do not recommend you start on the trip, just because they can cause a lot of gastric upset.  However, as a better alternative to other sugary snacks, it's probably a good shout.  I personally bought carrots (the best you'll ever eat), apples, oranges and samosas en route from the locals-risky, but gorgeous.

Ultimately, you need to eat your way up the mountain.  The goal is to get to the top, whatever it takes.  So don't worry about putting on a bit of body fat because you've worked hard to lose it - you're probably likely to lose it again anyway.  In my opinion, if you want to do this kind of challenge, then yes, aim to lose weight for for it.  But cap it at 6  weeks beforehand.   You can then concentrate on adapting your body to the less quality foods, that will have an uncomfortable impact on you on the trip.

How fit do you have to be to climb to Everest Base camp

Not super human.  There were people of different ages, sexes, backgrounds, experience and shapes that we come-by on the trek.  The lighter you are the easier it's going to be for you though.  The fitter you are, doesn't necessarily mean you're not going to suffer with the altitude either.  I would encourage absolutely everybody to have a go and even if you're not confident about going to higher altitudes, there are plenty on other trails in the national park you can choose, that don't go as high.

Keep it real guys.


If you would like some help and advice on trekking to Everest Base Camp, or any extreme cold weather endurance event, feel free to get in touch for a training support and preparation guidance.
For more information about and upcoming adventures with Ufit, just click the following link Ufit Retreats.


Monday, November 18, 2019

There are always more options than obstacles


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

A Personal Trainers guide to Climbing Everest Base Camp

One off the bucket list

I cannot describe what an amazing experience our journey to EBC was.   The views of the mountain, rivers and waterfalls were spectacular.   At times I would stop and just take it all in and would find myself quite overwhelmed.  The air was crisp and fresh, it felt like breathing in some sort of magic-organic vapour.  Sometimes I would just stop, look and wish that every person I knew and loved could've been there to share the view the beautiful vistas of sun bouncing off the snowy peaks.  I'll do my best now to give you a glimpse of my journey, but as always you have to do it yourself, to get the full experience.

Ready for the off

Once the Ufit Retreats team were all together in our Katmanhdu hotel, we had our safety brief from the guides from gurkha adventures.  The main points were:

  1. Eat and stay hydrated
  2. Eat more and drink more water
  3. Don't rush off.  The 'racing snakes' will suffer the most and the fastest.
  4. When you don't want to eat-eat!
  5. Stick to the mountain side, when passing moving cattle and people.
Our team leader Lizzie (follow @lizziewrighty on Instagram), had everyone's health and well being as top priority.  She remained vigilant, as the risks of attitude are high and no-one on the team wanted to suffer.  We all agreed to go at the same pace.  There was no winner.  We also agreed it would be wise to take diamox, to help reduce any symptoms of high altitude sickness.  

We left at about 2AM for a four drive to the airport, to catch a 20 mins internal flight to Lukla.  You'd think we'd might as well have carried on driving, but there was no roads where we were heading.  Not one!

On the first look of our plane, I have to say, I was a bit anxious to say the least.   The last time I'd got in a plane similar, was to jump out of it with a parachute.  This time though, there was no parachute.  

The landing run way at Lulka airport, was basically dug into a mountain and maybe 100m long.  Apparently the week before, a plane didn't hit the brakes hard enough and went straight into the crash wall at the end, killing three on board...and yes we found that out before boarding!

Top tip:  Pay attention to the guides.  They know better than you, even if you think you are super human.  Don't be the dickhead to let the team down, because you want to be an 'explorer'.

Lukla airport, you can see the edge of the runway, but not the shear drop at the end.

Follow the yellow brick road...

Annnnd they're off.  Walking through the town of Lukla, I was amazed by the amount of shops that sold everything we needed for the trek, from high end mountaineering equipment to baby wipes and jewellery.  I was like "if this is what it's like all the way, this is going to be a piece of piss".

The first leg was a bit of a shock to the lungs, but nothing too demanding, as it was only a three hour section, just to break us in slowly.  The first lunch was chips (like chips your mum used to cook in the kitchen fryer-proper old-school!), pasta in tomato sauce and coleslaw.  CARBS!   And it kinda continued like that for the rest of the trip.  We did managed to arrange a swap for the pasta with rice and coleslaw for cabbage.  But after 11 days, we were all pretty sick of the repetitiveness, the bloating and farting, which effected everyone from the first meal.  

What was interesting (if you want to say that), was the new movements, or 'poo-tine' (basically our poo timings, were completely knocked out of whack).  What I found was, after lunch within 20 mins of the 'trekking', I quickly went from 0-100 in need of a poo.  The reason, I've put this down too, is oxygen priority.  Your Central Nervous System (CNS) reacts to stress and demand.  So for instance, oxygen is needed for the 'smooth muscle' of the digestive system, but also for the muscles to obviously move us.  However there is obviously a reduction of 02 the higher the altitude.  The Body reacts by removing what it doesn't need right then and there then. Because the muscle and brain needs  oxygen, they take priority-digestion does not, sooo...

A Poo With A View (PWAV).  I cannot reiterated the necessity for squat depth and mobility training, in situations where you may get caught short in the great outdoors.
Top tip:  Work on deep squats-make life more comfortable for yourself.

When you think you're fit

I'd like to think I'm pretty fit and strong and am always up for a mental challenge.  Now however, I have another level of appreciation for strength, fitness and gile.  It seems that everything I've ever been taught (and have taught to my students), has pretty much been kicked right out of the classroom.  'Reps, sets and periodisation' to me now, almost doesn't exist.   Why the extreme change in mindset? Well check out an example of one of the local Sherpas...


I do now have a new appreciation for the adaptability of the human body.  Sherpas can typically start lifting loads on their heads from the age of 7 and when they're at their peak, can carry upto 150kg, up until they're 70 years old! Whaaat!  I know right-unbelievable.  I had a go with an 80kg load and thought my neck was going to snap and could barely stand up with it.  The guy that was carrying it had a least 20 years on me and about half the height.  Ridiculous.

Top tip:  Pack only essentials in your day sack and then add 3 litres (3 kg) of water to be packed on top.  Uphill; your day sack should be tight and high up the back.  On the downhill, loosen off the straps.

The Terrain on the way to EBC

It seemed that the terrain changed every couple of kilometres.  Going from really bad cobble, to dust, to mud, snow and rocks.  It was diffinately challenging for the ankle joints.

On the final day to the assent to EBC, it snowed.  As we were pretty much one of the last groups up, the snow got compacted by other peoples foot prints, causing ice to set on the rocks.

I personally did the whole trek in some Reebok trail running shoes.  I ran across the Artic in some (and a good set of seal skin socks for warmth and waterproofing), so I knew my feet would be fine.  I wanted light, comfort and agility, which I couldn't get from boots (though I did pack some just incase anyway).  Also, the Sherpas did this stuff in flip-flops, so if they can do it - I can  do to! (Could be the wrong attitude I guess).

Top tip:  Feet need to be comfortable.  Aim to change your socks every couple of days (great morale) and keep your feet warm and dry.  Use foot powder in the evening and pack crampons in your day sack just incase.

Accommodation on the EBC trail

'Anyone can rough it', is an old Army expression.  But if you don't need too, why would you?  Don't get me wrong the accommodation isn't ritz-carton standard and it is very basic, so take some luxuries to boost morale (I'd recommend a hot water bottle), but at the end of the day it was shelter (and not necessarily warm) and a mattress to lay my fat head on. We rated 'stars' based on if there was:
  • A western toilet
  • A sink outside the toilet
  • A shower (hot ideally and not a bucket)
  • Had meat in the evening meal
The only '5 star' we had was in Kathmandu, the higher up the mountain we went, the less the stars and none went over three. 

After a few days of not showering though, you kinda get over it.  Everyone's stinking and everyone's going to the toilet, pretty much in front of each other and just looking the other way.  We all turned into grot-bags and it seemed we were almost boastful about how long we could leave it before having a shower.  Now I know why a pig is happy in shit.

Top tip: Set expectations low.  Pack a sleeping bag liner and block the windows with your bags and anything else you can as soon as you get in the room (to stop the drafts)...believe me on this!

Take aways from the trip

The whole journey was an incredible experience, I couldn't recommend it enough.  I actually believe almost anyone could do it.  On the trail there were plenty of different body shapes, sizes, ages and abilities.  The trick is to go slow.  Obviously, the stronger and fitter you are the more you will benefit, but bear in mind any additional weight, is additional work.   But having said that, the fittest tend to go off first and suffer first.

The altitude did wipe me out on the inclines, I have to admit and at some points, I'd literally take three steps and then have to catch my breath.

Physically my body changed a couple of times during the trip.  I could see that I put on body fat in the first couple of days, but towards the end leaned up again (though these were only subjective observations, no formal stats were taken).

My resting heart rate went from 48bpm, to around 78-84 on the last couple of days.   My blood oxygen levels dropped from 98% to 86% at one point too.  Any explosive physical exhersion, even getting into my sleeping bag, would get me blowing hard.

Everyone at the end of the trek, suffered a sort of respiratory infection (coughing and spluttering).  I don't think it was specific to the altitude, but a combination of altitude, sudden changes in temperature, dust and fatigue.  

Top tip:  If you're training at the moment and cutting down on carbs like rice and pasta, start introducing them at least two weeks before the trek, to allow the body to get used to them again, as the menu is limited as you go up.

Lessons I learnt on the trip

  1. Say hello to everybody:  We had a very funny Canadian gentleman on the trip with us, who would talk to everyone and say hello.  Sometimes conversation went well and other was plain awkward, but made it even more funnier to watch.  The lesson though was, you never know what may come just a simple 'hello', or bit of chit-chat.  Plus it's good for morale-for all parties.
  2. Don't sweat the small stuff:  Seeing the simple life of the local mountain population, was somewhat inspiring.  You think about the material stuff we have and the luxuries of modern western lifestyle, we can still find time to complain about.  This trip certainly gave a new perspective and I will now be more conscious to reframe any moans I might have. 
  3. The human body is amazing:  The abilities of the body to adapt to its environment is incredible.  To see Sherpas a good foot shorter and 30kg lighter than I, skip up and down the mountains with 15 crates of beer on their head, in flip flops, is more a sporting spectacle than watching 11 guys run around on a pitch for 90 minutes.  
  4. The power of human spirit:  Watching one lady in our team work her ass off, despite the agony she'd been enduring on her knees, was truly inspiring.  Seeing a 18 year old young lady, suffering badly with gastric issues from day 2,  keep pushing to the end without a single moan when she could've stopped at any point, deserves a 'she got balls' kudos.  Another lady, carried on walking, with a stress fracture (unknowingly) in her shin-the pain must have been unbearable. Lastly, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. The first to summit Everest back in 1953.  How courageous must they have been to take on the unknown, relatively unequipped and which limited knowledge of the environment. Just WOW!
The Ufit retreats EBC 2019 team 

Would I do it again?

...Absol-friggin-lutely!  I would urge anyone on the fence about doing it, to go a book the ticket now without hesitation.  Visit Ufit retreats for more info on the next adventure.

If you want to check out my vlog on the entire trip, click on my YouTube channel and hit subscribe for more challenges.  Keep it real folks and good luck


If you would like some help and advice on trekking to Everest Base Camp, or any extreme cold weather endurance event, feel free to get in touch for a training support and preparation guidance.

For more information about and upcoming adventures with Ufit, just click the following link Ufit Retreats.

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