Why do you train?

A dear friend of mine posed this question to me recently: "Why do you train?"

This had me reflect on what I do, and prompted me to write up this short manifesto that I'd like to share.

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Training is in my nature. It improves me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I train for myself, for my loved ones, and for everyone I know. I train for myself.

I train because we are all in this together. I hope to inspire others in the same way that my teachers, teammates, and everyone of you who go to the box and genuinely give their all in the WODs have and continue to inspire me. And yes, you do inspire me. Iron sharpens iron.

I train to not be a burden to society. I strive to function well in it, to be a credit to it. In learning how to tough it out, I also learn how to yield, and I discover how it is to be truly free.

I train because I know it is difficult. Nothing fruitful comes easy in this world, not for anyone. Not the smartest minds, not the best of technologies, not the most complex of systems can beat simple, consistent, hard work. Everyone can benefit from some grit.

I train to know myself the best I can. Between the floor, the rings, the bars, the plates, the clock and myself, there is no room for lies and charades. My belongings, my issues, other's opinions of me, they all don't matter. There is only me and what I do.

To let go of the burdens that limit me physically, mentally, emotionally, and to help others do the same- that is why I train.

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Now, why do you train?


Steve Cotter Kettlebell Conditioning Workshop 2012.01.23

Respect comes with understanding- and now I have a deeper understanding of kettlebell training and a much higher respect for the 16KG kettlebell!

A few weeks ago, WOD Nation Coaches Aaron, Ferdi, and I were fortunate enough to have been able to participate in Steve Cotter's kettlebell conditioning workshop over at the Project Lifestyle Manila studio in Ortigas. I love these enlightening experiences. At first, I'd have to be honest that I wasn't really that excited to be joining the workshop. I was just curious to see if I'd learn a new thing or two. But man, I was in for for a ride.

16 KG KB. Respect it.
A few days before Steve Cotter's workshop, us participants had to first go through a day's worth of reviewing kettlebell basics via JP Sabido of the Philippine Kettlebell Club (also a Taekwondo national team member), so that we'd all be up to speed once we go into the workshop with Steve Cotter. This alone was already well worth the seminar fee! In my brief stint attending a CrossFit box in the US, I was taught the basic kettlebell swing and the Turkish get up, but moving forward I had to just Google my way through to learn the kettlebell clean and snatch. Researching is ok if you already have a good background in what you're learning. But really, all the intricacies of the kettlebell really need personal instruction to fully grasp. From how to swing and use the kettlebell's momentum for the snatch and clean, to elbow placement and how it affect's the arc of the swing, to proper racking, breathing, and rhythm, JP taught and drilled us in a whole host of details that I know will refine and heighten my kettlebell practice.

Thanks JP for the refresher!
On the actual kettlebell conditioning workshop, Steve Cotter got us intimate with the concept of enduring strength. Even just isometric holds with the double kettlebell front rack is a challenge! With all these exercises, progressions and training structure, all of us participants were opened up to a whole new way of looking at kettlebells for developing explosiveness, endurance, and overall toughness that can be easily applied to our individual sports.

Coaches Ferdi and Aaron practicing
the double kettlebell front rack.
Steve explaining a training progression to the jerk.

Also, can I just say that I have huge respect for Steve Cotter and what he does. I've been very fortunate to have come across instructors with genuine skill in both teaching and performing their methods, like my coaches Richard and Ryan Gialogo for arnis, the uncompromising Ido Portal for bodyweight strength and movement, and my fellows Aaron for powerlifting and Ferdi for triathlon. With Steve, it was truly amazing to see such a high level of stamina and accuracy with the kettlebells. He was able to lead us and demonstrate all the exercises up to the finest standard consistently throughout the whole day, all the while clearly explaining and making sure we understand the how's and why's of these exercises.

I always feed off of these displays of conditioning and skill. It motivates me to witness with my own eyes how much I can still improve myself. Just when I think I've gotten far, I realize that I got long, long ways to go. Daunting, and yet invigorating as well. I think I'm a masochist. Haha!

We capped off the workshop, with a quick team workout. Challenge yourself!

Along these lines, one realization that I believe needs special mention is how the one arm swing develops (and taxes!) grip strength. Actually I already knew that my grip had long ways to improve since before, so I'd always keep that in mind and train for it as much as I can. I've been accumulating forearm and grip strengthening exercises and trying them out. And now that I can more consistently bend bottlecaps  with one hand when before I couldn't, I could see that my grip strength did improve over time. (Cute party trick too! Try it our some time. hehe.) But with the one arm kettlebell swing that Steve had us do for timed intervals, I realized how the stamina of my grip left a huge gap in my conditioning. Another way to improve and challenge myself!

Like they say, knowing is half the battle.

Thanks to Steve Cotter, Nico and Summayah D'haenen, JP and the rest of the PKC, Toffy Ilagan and Project Lifestyle Manila for the great workshop!


CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certification Course - Singapore 11.27.2011

It was an informative and inspiring CrossFit  Level 1 Trainer Certification last month at CrossFit Singapore! I am grateful to the Boz, Trace and Doug for being patient with all our questions. There were so many queries but they took the time to address all of them.

with the Boz and Aaron
I studied the CrossFit training manuals and journal articles through and through, but hearing Adrian Bozman's explanations still gave me a much more comprehensive understanding of the concepts behind CrossFit. The honesty, depth, clarity, and brevity of the instruction is just top notch and I think would be difficult to find anywhere else. It was also gratifying to learn that my understanding of the nine foundation movements were up to speed- this bolstered my confidence as a coach and also put to rest some questions I had regarding these movements.

with Doug Armstrong
I'm also glad that I took the Level 1 Cert with a few months of being an apprentice trainer at CrossFit MNL under my belt. This gave me first hand experience that allowed me to see right away how the concepts are applied.

With all these preparations, come the second day I was completely confident in my capability to answer the certification test.

with Trace
It was quite interesting doing the classroom sessions, hands on work, and wods with the other seminar participants. We were from different parts of the globe but it's clear we shared the same passion. We had just met there for the first time but we were all already buddies helping each other where we can, pushing and cheering each other in the wods (workouts of the day). No one was a slouch, each attendee talked the talk and walked the walk! The community spirit of CrossFit is indeed genuine and borderless.

Seminar attendees after the wod on the first day.

Thank you also to Coach Kevin Lim for hosting the seminar. CF Singapore is instrumental in spreading and elevating the level of CrossFit here in South East Asia. Wearing gas masks in met-cons is just wild!

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Having received my test results via email last December 7, 2011, I can now say that I am a certified CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. Congratulations also to coach Aaron!


Ido Portal's Movement Workshop

After just two days with Ido Portal on his Movement Workshop, he has given me a great wealth of information and insights that have already influenced how I approach fitness training. My thoughts on body weight strength training were reinforced, and more. Ido showed us not just the efficacy of bodyweight strength and mobility training, but how they are essential components of any functional fitness training program.

Ido showing us proper active
shoulders for pull ups...
Working on handstand, planche, dip, pull up progressions do so much more than just improve strength, they actually redefine it in a sense. With these movements what you get is not just raw, brute, contractile strength of the limbs, but a more stable, refined, and efficient ability to apply yourself in movement. Body weight strength training does a lot to also improve coordination, balance, body awareness, and accuracy of movement.

... And what it can lead to.

Also, I cannot overstate the value of the joint prep and mobility work that Ido presents. It's not just about learning more radical ways of stretching yourself into a pretzel. It's about which mobility exercises are important preparations for different kinds of activities, and why they are important. With his mobility exercises, I can actually carry weight on my back and over my head more safely and effectively!

Prior to the workshop I have already been a fan of body weight strength training, practicing the frog stand, some planche progressions and the handstand (or not, apparently I was just leaning on the wall inverted, wasting my time without any f***ing clue. hahaha!). I thought I would get stronger and then in time, just "get" it somehow. But with what I learned from Ido, I now have a more complete understanding of how to build my strength and coordination through the proper progressions. I now have a proper roadmap toward a true handstand and planche. Now it's just a matter getting my boots dirty and walking up the path. Someday soon!

I am very thankful for having had the opportunity to train and learn under Ido Portal and Odelia Goldschmidt. Just seeing them move is already a treat in itself! In time, I hope to be able to improve myself and come closer to their level of self mastery.

(To date, 10 days after the workshop, and still without implementing Ido's full program (I just practiced his hand balancing drills here and there in my free time), my personal record so far has become a 5 second full handstand from a kick up. That's a 500% improvement from my pre-Ido practice! I'll post a video once I'm past 10 seconds.)


Ido Portal's Movement Workshop day one

I am just so tired from day 1 of Ido Portal's movement workshop. All those midline stabilization drills, hand balancing progressions, and movement prep has left me spent literally from my fingers to my toes. And he says that it's really not strength work yet, just work capacity training! That is one of the lessons that I got from this day. I'm weak! And, I can say that with a smile on my face. No where else to go but up! I'm tired, but also so amazed at the breadth and depth of the information that I was able to gather.

Ido showing us how to balance a handstand with
Odelia Goldschmidt.

Even just the warm ups and preparatory exercises for the wrists, forearms and shoulders were already such gems- add in the handstand, pull up, and dip progressions and you get a treasure trove of exercises that will get any person (yes, that means even you!) stronger and more mobile, and while using a minimal amount of equipment. The value really is in the coaching, the progressions, and the programming of the training in order to get people progressing from their current level of  strength, coordination, and balance, up to greater and greater heights.

And on a different note, Ido Portal is really my kind of coach. He doesn't mince words, very diligent and uncompromising in his methods, and shows how it is to really be able to bring out the best in the athletes that he trains. That is, with quality, concise instruction and proper cues that are easy to understand, and an unwavering focus on getting the athlete to perform correctly what needs to be done. To quote him: "if you are a good coach, then you are an asshole already". Haha!

One more full day of learning tomorrow, and I'm ready to learn more. I just hope my body will be rested up and ready as well!

When I grow up, I want to be just like Ido!

Rejuvination and inspiration

I have to confess, I've become somewhat complacent these past few months.

Upon being a member and then an apprentice trainer at Crossfit MNL, and practicing more the paleo/ancestral way of eating and living, I've seen myself improve immensely. I've become stronger (increased my deadlift by 40 lbs without exclusively training for it) and more balanced (I can now do a frogstand for 30 seconds consistently, and am starting to be able to do a true handstand) while maintaining my aerobic endurance (10km run stayed at around 1 hour) and increasing my anaerobic endurance and stamina (fran time decreased from 11 minutes to 7 ). I've also become more confident and capable as a coach, being exposed and trained more and more in teaching proper movement mechanics and encouraging an increasingly diverse group of people.

You'd think with that with those improvements that others see in me, that I'd be more inspired to do more. In fact, I've felt a little bit burned out on occasion, and gave myself some leeway to slack of a bit. I guess that did have it's purpose, but that has gone it's course and it's high time to get back in the saddle again. After gaining those accomplishments it's been more than a month already that I've been slacking off in training and in eating. Thank goodness I haven't regressed (I hope!), but I pretty much am certain that I stalled.

With the help and encouragement of my dearest, I did see the need to reset myself and take opportunities that present themselves. So even when I didn't really feel that I was up to it yet, I signed up for the movement workshop by Ido Portal (also with the help of Crossfit MNL) and the Crossfit Level 1 Trainer Certification Course at Crossfit Singapore. Bahala na.

But now, with these things on my plate, I'm starting to be more diligent in my habits again. I'm eating and sleeping better again, which in turn gives me more energy to train myself more.

Also, I was lucky enough to see first hand what Ido Portal and his group are capable of, and it's just jaw dropping. I'm at a loss to describe the level of mastery that they've achieved with bodyweight strength. You really have to see it for yourself, no photo or video can suffice. Now, I realize again the importance of surrounding myself with people better than me.

I foresee these to be very exciting times ahead.

Let's go!


Lent and eating

(Belated) Happy Easter everyone! Just wanted to share a few thoughts that I had over the Holy Week, regarding religion, spirituality, and physical training.

"Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general."
- Mark Rippetoe

Jesus Christ was a strong person. So strong, that He actually conquered mortality. He was able to break free of worldly limitations. And He offers us the same freedom, if only we follow His example.

This is what I believe that Lent is about. This season is a reminder for us that we don't really need much in order to live good and fulfilling lives. In fact, if we examine Jesus' example, we'd see the value in practicing self control and training ourselves physically as well as mentally in order to endure more. In learning to master our own emotions and preconceptions, we can express ourselves more honestly and clearly to the world. When we temper our hearts and souls to not mind the little things, we will be able to see the larger view. When we complain less, we can help more. When we crave less, we can give more.

Of course, reminders such as this, along with all rituals and symbols, have meaning if and only if the values they represent are truly learned and applied. They remain relevant only as long as we open ourselves up to them and let them make us stronger.

One of the easiest ways we can examine ourselves and how we are able to respond to the lessons of the Lenten season is to look at our food consumption. Abstaining from luxury foods is one of the most popular Lenten practices. We tell ourselves that to be good Catholics, during Lent we will abstain from the delicious desserts that we otherwise would enjoy regularly. Most of us are actually able to go through the motions quite well.

But what happens after? All to often we see ourselves bouncing back to our old ways with a vengeance, just like Lent didn't happen at all. No change, no lessons learned, no growth. Just like all those haphazard jumping into and out of detox and other faddish diets.

Personally, with my quest to clean up my diet (which does not necessarily coincide with Lent) I have realized that we need not much more than cheap, fresh, locally grown produce in order to make our bodies flourish. Most of everything else is indulgent luxury. Moreover, imported, processed food are often too nutritionally imbalanced and cost too much resources to manufacture and transport that a purist would see that consuming these foods regularly can actually be an injustice.

I admit, though, that I haven't been able to totally stay away from these. I still indulge myself from time to time. This usually happens when I'm celebrating an occasion, or out with friends or family. But at the least, I now recognize that I don't need to eat sweets and other luxury foods regularly in order to stay happy, and have been consuming them less and less.