Sunday morning Qigong

photoAlthough Sunday is my official sleep in day, the late Summer sun has me awake and firing on all cylinders by 7am. I decided to head on down to the river that flows near my house and to do my Qigong on the riverbank.

There was barely a soul in sight as I rode down along the bike path, looking for a good location. I eventually found a quiet spot where I could practice in relative peace, only noticeable to the joggers running down the far side of the river.
 
This time of year its green, green and the air filled with dragonflies and various insects busy with their business. The river flows straight down off the mountain side, with lots of idyllic little spots for picnics or nature walks.
 
I do my stretches and then immerse myself in the local sounds; running water, a little breeze and the orchestration of birds and insects. Since I normally train indoors ( thanks to the near vicinity of a mosquito full forest next to my house), this was a pleasant change and I found myself much more engrossed in the practice than usual. If there is such a thing as being ” at one with the universe”, then Qigong and meditative practices are definitely the pathway to that goal.
 
Any tension both mental and physical just slipped away as the environment embraced me. It felt great to be able to stretch out my time frame and let the practice meander, rather than the regimented, set time sessions I do before an average work day.
 
Finishing off with some yoga breathing, I felt pretty charged.
 
Any of you looking for a way to deal with stress, recharge or just a way to connect with yourself, you wont go wrong having a look at Qigong.
 
An amazing path of self discovery.

The quiet revolution.

 
Its been two years since I moved out of the center of Tokyo into my current digs; a 55 year old traditional Japanese house on the side wooded hill near Mt Takao. After what was in all respects a major life transition, I spent a lot of that time quietly thinking about who I was and what I represented, not only as a fitness advocate but also as a basic human being.
 
I was out at an informal dinner the other night with some students of a dance class I have been attending, and as usual for a new member of any group, I was grilled over the course of the night as to my regular activities and lifestyle. This gradually fed through the table of classmates to the teacher of the class, who ended up coming to sit next to me near the end of the evening.
 
“So, let me get this straight. You run 5 days a week, do yoga every day, meditate every day, lift weights and kettlebells regularly. Wow- you sound busy!”
 
I just smiled in response, because in fact that’s not the complete list of activities either. What was interesting for me was that some people saw my regular schedule as extreme, when if anything, it is not.
 
But it is consistent. 
 
There was a moment early on when I had just moved and I was struggling to adjust to being on my own again so after many years. I realized that out of all the things I was interested in doing, I needed to prioritize those which I wanted to achieve results with, and then focus on those activities alone. 
 
My life, as with many of us today, was just too damn busy. I was doing too much, easily distracted  by our constantly updating social media lifestyle, stressed at work and the sum of all this plus the life change meant that I felt down a lot of the time. I needed to find my motivation again.
 
I realized quite quickly that some serious decisions were crucial. How I spent my time each day, and whether these activities were truly enriching my life or simply just aimless distractions and time fillers.
 
We all have justifications, often repeated ad infinitum to friends and family but ultimately sounding hollow to us in our private moments. I wanted to get beyond that and just be.
 
There were many revelations.
 
More important to me than just having a strong body was to have a holistic, body, mind and spirit approach to fitness that embraced all aspects of my daily life, and worked around a 9-5 job. 
 
I am not a professional athlete, nor a one-discipline specialist; but just your average “Joe the plumber” type with a regular job trying to achieve some kind of healthy balance in my life. And if other people found some resonance with that, to share what I know.
 
I read a lot of books, talked with some of my fitness friends from all over the globe, did a lot of meditation and contemplation, and started off from scratch again by adding one regular activity at a time to my schedule. For me, that in itself was a major achievement. Once I felt confident that the activity was a part of my daily routine, I added another, all the while making sure I wasn’t overloading my life, and that all necessary parts of my daily needs were being met.
 
That meant making some major changes to lifestyle.
 
I also started stripping away the unnecessary. My eight year affair with social media came to an end, and while I had reconnected with many old friends because of it, from then on it would be up to more traditional methods of communication to keep in contact. The constant drone in the background was no more, and I found it much easier to focus in on my goals because of it.
 
Television? Gone. I got into reading again in a serious way and if I needed entertainment, there were plenty of movies and you tube to watch.
 
One book that particularly stands out from the last two years was The Four Agreements, a life changing book for anyone of any background in need of a personal refocusing. 
 
I got back to basics with training as well. Tim Ferriss’ Four hour body,  David Kessler’s The end of overeating, books on Ayurveda and all kinds of topics, all inspired and helped me focus in on want I wanted to achieve..
 
I started paying more attention to my food intake and habits around food and drink. Cooking for yourself can be very rewarding if one makes the effort to keep it interesting and spice things up a bit once in a while. Variety, in all things, is key. Laziness means making poor diet choices, and ultimately, you need to be responsible for your own health. A fact so often forgotten in today’s modern lifestyle.
 
I made a big decision to simplify me as well. Learn to listen better and say less, to be what I believed and to let it manifest naturally as my own personal, living truth. 
 
Beginning, middle and end. Follow the process and enjoy the journey. Results come as a natural bi-product, but are not the main focus. Smile more, complain less. Beginners mind.
 
Two years later, I count my blessings. A healthier life, better sense of balance at work, a smaller group of real friends and an ongoing desire to contribute to this world that I live in as a giver, not a taker.
 
Its small steps maybe for some, but for me, important ones that cover many miles.

Personal/Group training sessions for Kettlebells and Body-weight training available

Hi all,

Just to let you know that I am available for individual or group training sessions. Classes generally run for two hours, which includes a good stretching/posture check first up, then into some band work/body weight resistance training to get your joints and body ready for work, then the ‘bells.

I tailor every class to the individual needs of the student.

In this weather, you can expect to need a lot of water for training,so make sure you bring at least a liter, probably two to be sure. I train the bells with lots of stretching mixed in, and normally end the class with a little Qigong to relax you.

Classes are tailored to your ability and interest, and generally I give some tips and pointers for develoing your own workout regimen.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me here or at my email.

mark.jersey(at)gmail.com

Happy training!

Mark

AeroSling: Ready to work!

download 1 I was recently contacted by a fellow called Elmar Schumacher over at Aerobis Germany to test one of their suspension trainer devices- The AeroSling Pro Set. Knowing that I had pretty extensive experience with other suspension trainers and that I have been using them for some of my clients here in Japan, I appreciated their forthrightness in approaching me for a critical evaluation of this new line of equipment

The Goods.DSC_0107

The first thing you notice when you receive one of these kits is the packaging. Its well thought out with little extras that make it obvious that a lot of effort and thought has been put into making this kit as complete as possible. For example, I liked the re-sealable plastic bags that all of the equipment came in, instead of the usual rip and throw variety. It shows an environmental sense. The main parts of the aerosling come already assembled, with accessories separate and each with an instruction guide as to how to set up or add to the assembly.The handy doorknob sign for the busy businessperson staying in a hotel that lets people know- hey, I’m training in here! The exercise chart and easy to follow dvd made my first workout a breeze, with little time spent in set up. My first impressions were- this kit is well thought out.

Getting started.

Compared to other equipment I have used, the Aerosling was both lightweight and sturdy.For anyone carrying equipment or wanting portability with their workouts, a few grams here and there make a big difference. This equipment fits easily into the draw string carry bag (comes with the kit) which can be put in a backpack for an outdoor in-the-wild adventure or take with you to your gym. Here in Japan, we have a mainly urban environment, so the ability for me to pick up the kit and head to the local park is a big plus. All the components were sturdy and built for hours of use. Attaching the device to a wall mount or overhead beam etc was as simple as flipping one end of the attaching cable over the attach point, and then clipping it on the carabineer. For more sturdiness, two winds around the beam give you an extra sure attachment point. Then a simple weight test to check proper set up, and you are off to work.

Having used similiar devices before, I found this one really simple and user friendly. Don’t get me wrong- I like heavy duty, and there is a place for such types of equipment, but there is also some sense of overkill at times, such as in weight. I usually carry other equipment with me, such as kettlebells etc, so the ease of trasnportantion was a big plus for me. For your average athlete or gym who needs equipment that can take a hard workout and still be ready for me, the Aerosling fits the bill.

Instant fun.DSC_0117

If you are already used to doing body weight/resistance training, or have some gymnastic background, you will immediately sense of advantage when training- the core muscles are instantly involved to balance you while you work out. For first timers with this kind of equipment, I recommend watching the instruction video and setting up your Aerosling for beginner intensity level. Then as you gain confidence, you can up the intensity easily by a quick unwind of the main handles.

Scalable workouts.

I love the versatility that this equipment brings a workout. You can push yourself as hard as you like, or take the more moderate path. Each exercise shows a simple form and then an advanced level version on the cd, and the exercises are easy to follow. I recommend though that you watch all the exercises through completely first, and perhaps don’t attempt to do them all straight away. Pick a particular area of  your body that you want to train, and then follow the related exercise. DSC_0122

I tested the Aerosling out on a couple of my students, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Its a fun machine that you can set up in your own house, take to the gym, or set up outside. For us, it was smiles all round and my students were exhausted after a 45 minute session. I can see it being a real boon to any professionals out there wanting to keep fit while they travel for business and have to adjust to busy schedules. You would hardly notice this kit in a suitcase, even a carry on bag. Perfect. Crossfitters, this equipment has something for you too. Fighters, well enough said- this equipment rocks.

What it will cost you.

The staff at Aerobis have made this equipment very affordable. ( see the details and special offer below!)

Summary:

For those who travel, the lightness, sturdiness and well thought out design of these easy to use kits will mean that you can take it anywhere with you and give yourself a good workout. Whether you are a professional athlete, sports trainer looking for equipment for your clients, or someone just out to keep your body toned, this kit has something for you.

Two thumbs up from me.

Q: How do I get one???

Elmar at Aerobis headquarters sent me these useful links and some extra information for you :

Go to Aerobis.com

http://www.aerobis.com/shop/en/index

Go right to the aerosling models:

http://www.aerobis.com/shop/en/Suspended-Pulley-Trainers/aeroSlings (our aeroSling Models)

http://www.aerobis.com/shop/en/Suspended-Pulley-Trainers/aeroSling-Sets (I received a Set which is called the aeroSling ELITE)

A new model for you to check out as well. I will let Elmar explain:

The new aeroSling XPE is a lightweight smaller brother of the ELITE that you tested. It retails at 139 EUR incl. Door Anchor and DVD. It also has great material but is simpler as such as it cannot be extended with other grips etc.. So professionals would go for the ELITE or ELITE set – beginners in Suspended Pulley Training would go for the XPE.

And a special coupon offer from Elmar at Aerobis for you!

People that are interested will get a coupon code for 15% off to cover shipping and such (100 EUR order value min):

MDA2011CHL

So..what are you waiting for? Go get one!!! Smile

Whats in a typical kettlebell training session?

 Had a busy weekend teaching several one on one personal training sessions back to  back on Saturday and Sunday, and it was great for me to be around people who all  took their own personal training goals very seriously. It also meant I slept very  soundly Sunday night!

Since some of my blog readers may not have had any kettlebell experience before, I  thought I would take the time to explain what a typical class with me consists of.

The first thing I tend to address in my kb  and conditioning classes are the existing  state of health of the client, any pre-existing injuries, general lifestyle and overall  body mobility.Whether the client is a professional athlete or your average 9-5’er, it  is critical with kettlebells that these points are addressed before working out and  designing a course. You have to know the raw materials you are working with, or it  can potentially lead to disappointment in the student when they cant achieve their  goals or get frustrated by existing physical limitations.

Here in Japan, most of my clients don’t stretch enough, partly due to extremely busy lifestyles and long work hours here in Japan. I generally try to give them a simple routine that they can do daily, at times fitting small exercise/stretching sets into the existing day job when breaks occur and there is time to remind oneself about posture and tension. Men and women that end up sitting at a desk 8-10 hours plus a day are going to have tight hips and stiff lower backs, so oiling the system regularly with some easy stretches makes a big difference in their overall physical experience, especially as they get older.

Starting a serious/ steady exercise routine will ultimately expose any injuries and /or medical history that the client brings with them. I can thank Steve Cotter and his IKFF methodology for a comprehensive and holistic approach to client care, since we tailor each class to the student existing abilities, and work from there. Some clients may end up getting a steady diet of stretching and band work as an integral component of their training, and bring in the kettlebell work gradually. Those with pre-existing injuries will definitely be pointed at band work initially and then body weight exercises to rehabilitate the muscle and encourage once again the body’s true natural function, and gradually start on the path to rehabilitation. Once a level of stability is achieved, weight is added gradually with the kb’s ( I like to call this phase yoga with weights) until we get to the client’s working weight. By that point, the client has been given all the basic and necessary tools to sustain and maintain themselves on their training journey.

All students this week were really serious about their own personal goals and could define quite clearly what they wanted to achieve and the amount of time they were willing to commit regularly to getting there.

Once the arm up and confirmation that the body is ready to go is done, then its time to hit the bells, where we do a lot of work and transition between exercises without putting the bell down. This saves us time for one, and helps keep the conditioning aspect of working with kb to the fore.

I will video a student performing exercises to give them a before and after sense of their lesson, and mix the intensity of the workout with regular stretching throughout to relieve any muscles that are tense of tired. This makes the training session much more enjoyable for the client, who generally push themselves harder than they expected initially.

The end of the class usually involves a revue of work done, and suggestions for home workouts and things to watch out for as they progress.

The general recommended frequency of kettlebell routines normally starts at two or three times a week, and develops from there. Rest is important, as well as diet and what other exercise/activity the person does to support their training goals. Depending on the level of the student, we can go fairly quickly into competitive type lifts, or focus on single arm kettlebell work and conditioning and mobility. Its really up to the client.

I must say that from each student, as I teach I learn a little bit about myself at the same time. Instilling a sense of confidence in a person that they can achieve their own goals is vital, and that some kind of moral support and encouragement is there from me when they need it.

The relationship between trainer and student is symbiotic; often the student gets as much out of it as I put into it.

Enough said ;)