As someone who enjoys bare-chested, outdoor winter calisthenics workouts, Wim Hof’s extreme cold weather feats immediately appealed to me. Hof holds several world records for cold-endurance, including running a marathon above the arctic circle in Finland wearing nothing but a pair of shorts!
In this new book, Hof and his coauthor discuss not only the methods that allow Hof to perform his otherworldly feats (breathing techniques, mental training, etc.), but also the science behind them.
I’ve been meditating and doing breath work for a long time, but a third of the way into reading The Way of The Iceman, I suddenly felt compelled to take a cold shower. I’ve been taking one every day since and loving the effects.
Wim Hof’s Method is so simple that anyone can get started right away. And the results are so palpable that once you start, you’ll almost certainly want to keep going.
After a few weeks of practicing Wim’s method, I found myself training outdoors in the snow with nothing but a pair of shorts!
There are only so many ways that our joints can bend and flex, yet when you start playing with variations on basic movement patterns, you’ll find the possibilities are limitless.
Changing one small aspect of an exercise can vary it just enough to increase the intensity. Combining moves can also create new challenges.
Get Some Play
Working out is best approached with a joyous attitude and an open mind. Movement offers an opportunity for growth and self-discovery, but it’s also supposed to be fun! Take the time to really be present for your workout and feel what your body is doing. Exercise should be one of the least stressful parts of your day. Don’t over-think things – just move!
What’s In A Name?
A lot of people ask me what I call some of the unusual calisthenics moves that I do. Many of the moves have names, but other times I don’t have an answer. It really doesn’t matter what you call things though. That which we call a kip-up by any other name would still look as sweet.
Check out the video below to see me playing with some variations on familiar moves like handstands and back bridges. Plus a few other things that I don’t even know what to call!
If you want to get sandals like the ones I’m wearing in the video, check out Xero Shoes.
Ever since running the NYC Marathon back in 2009, racing the NYC Triathlon has been next on my fitness bucket-list. Well after last Sunday, I can now scratch that one off too!
The tri was a great experience, and finishing is an accomplishment that I will be proud of for the rest of my life. However, I went through many different feelings and emotions throughout the race. As the famous Dickens quote goes, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
The hardest part of the whole race was dealing with the anxiety in the morning. From the moment I woke up I had butterflies in my stomach; I didn’t really settle into my groove until a few minutes after I got in the water. As someone who never really swam as a kid, jumping feet first into the Hudson was the part that I was most anxious about. (Only the pros dive in head first, thankfully!) Once I settled in, however, the swim went very well.
Though it has a bad reputation, the water in the Hudson was no more disgusting than the water at Coney Island where I did most of my open-water triathlon training. There was some seaweed to contend with and I bumped into a log once, but it was pretty minor compared to some of the horror stories I’ve heard from other triathletes (though I did catch an elbow in the face near the start of the swim).
The downstream current in the Hudson definitely helped with my time, though I found myself getting pulled to the left as well. I spent a good deal of the swim trying to steer myself back to the middle. Though I couldn’t see or hear much in the water, I was reminded very loudly by some of the crew who were following along in canoes to “STAY TO THE RIGHT!”
As the visibility in the water was virtually nonexistent, I didn’t realize I was close to the end until I was within about 100 meters. Needless to say, I was quite pleased to see it when I did!
After the swim there’s a barefoot run (on pavement!) into the transition area, which is just a field with a bunch of bike racks on it. I took my time in the first transition since I wanted to carefully remove my wetsuit, clean my feet, have a snack, drink some water, pee, etc. I also wanted to check that all my things were okay (they were). Since getting a good night’s sleep was a priority for me, I had left all my stuff there the night before. (Many participants forgo some sleep to bring their gear to the transition the morning of the race).
The bike ride was longer and more challenging than I had anticipated. Between the July heat and the steep hills, the ride dragged on for what seemed like an eternity. Since I was in one of the later start waves, the pack had thinned out quite a bit and there weren’t many other cyclists around. There were times when I didn’t see anyone else on the road at all. As I was alone for much of the ride, it didn’t feel like much of a “race” at all – I took it slow on most of the hills and eventually I made it to the end.
Once the bike ride was over, there was a huge sense of relief. So many things are out of your control during the swim and the bike (someone crashing into you, a flat tire, etc), but once I was onto the run, I knew it was all up to me. Nothing could take it away at that point.
I took the first couple of miles slow and easy and eventually started to find my legs in mile three. I kept it at a steady pace, splashing cups of water on my face every time I passed the aid tables (I managed to get some water down my throat as well.) The last mile of the run I kicked it up a notch, triumphantly crossing the finish line with a net time of 3:36:13.
After the race, I picked up my bike from the transition area and rode five more miles back to my apartment, rewarding myself with one of my favorite indulgences: pizza!
I didn’t look at a clock once during the race, which I think helped me pace myself and enjoy the journey without getting caught up in any of the ego stuff. I just listened to my body and tried to stay at a moderate level of exertion for most of the race. The only time I turned up the juice was near the end of the run.
In retrospect, I know I could have done the whole thing faster if I pushed a bit harder, but I have no regrets about my performance. With all the things that could potentially go wrong during a triathlon, I am just glad I made it across the finish line in one piece.
Watch the video below to see a photo montage of pictures from the event.
(Photos by Colleen Leung.)
Plus there is my newest workout video, shot by photographer/videographer Colleen Leung.
For those of you who are new here, this video will give you a good idea of what I’m all about. For those of you who’ve been keeping up with me for a while, it also includes a few variations of moves that you’ve never seen from me before!
A lot of people in the calisthenics community know about Tompkins Square Park. It’s where the Bar-barians train, it’s where I train and thanks to youtube, it’s become a legendary park for bar training all over the world.
There is another group that trains at TSP, however. One that you’ve probably never heard of unless you’ve spent some time there yourself. That is, until now.
Old Dogs, New Tricks
A lot of people write to me with concerns about starting strength training later in life. In the video below, you’ll see three men in their 50’s and 60’s busting out some high level calisthenics. One of the fellows featured didn’t even begin this type of training until his 50’s.
You don’t stop working out because you get old, you get old because you stop working out.
This past Saturday I took the #4 train into Brooklyn for the annual 5B’s Pull-up Jam at Lincoln Terrace Park.
Unlike last year’s contest, however, I didn’t enter the actual competition. This time I just went to hang out, be a part of the good vibes and of course, get my reps in.
As always, there was lots of good energy, good conversation and of course, “good money!”
While the contest was happening in one part of the park, a crowd gathered near another set of bars for an informal freestyle exhibition. A lot of big names from the extreme calisthenics community were on hand to represent. There was no shortage of pull-ups, muscle-ups, levers and many other advanced moves.
All in all, everyone had a good time and a great workout. Thanks to all who entered and attended, and especially to everyone behind the scenes who made this event so much fun!
I’ve met a lot of women who didn’t think it would ever be possible for them to do a single pull-up.
The good news is that I’ve gotten many of them to break through that barrier and achieve their first rep – and in most cases, many more!
If you can’t do a pull-up yet, don’t get discouraged – there are a few things you can do to work your way up to that first one.
Chin It To Win It
Pull-ups can be done with many different grips, though it’s usually best for beginners to start out with an underhand (chin-up) grip, as this will allow you to utilize your biceps more.
Though the muscles of the upper back have the potential to become incredibly powerful, your arms are more likely to be developed and will be able to compensate in the meantime. With enough practice, the disparity between grips can start to even out.
As I mentioned in my original guide to learning to do a pull-up, holding a flex hang (the top position of a pull-up) for time is a great way to start building toward your first full pull-up. Begin with an underhand grip and focus on keeping your whole body tight. Don’t just use your arms! Tense your abs, legs and everything else.
At first you may only be able to hold this position for a few seconds. This is fine. With practice, you can eventually work to a 30 second hold, at which point you will be close to your first pull-up.
The term “negative pull-up” refers to the lowering phase of the exercise and is a fantastic way to get a feel for the movement pattern of the full pull-up, without having to perform the entire range of motion.
Jump or use assistance to get your chin over the bar, then hold the top position for as long as you can. When your arms start to fatigue, lower yourself to a right angle at your elbow and hold there. From here, slowly lower yourself to a full hang.
Just like an assisted pull-up is easier than the free-hanging variety, the Australian pull-up will allow you to train a similar movement pattern without having to bear your full weight.
The Australian pull-up will also get you used to keeping your core engaged, which is a key aspect of performing pull-ups.
Start out hanging below a bar that’s about waist height with your legs extended so you form a straight line from your head to your heels. Grip tightly and brace your entire body as you pull your chest toward the bar, then lower yourself back to the bottom with control.
To make the Aussie pull-up more accessible to beginners, you can use a bar that is chest height instead of waist height, which will allow for more favorable leverage.
Al Kavadlo is not liable for any injuries or damages that individuals might incur by attempting to perform any of the exercises or feats of strength depicted or discussed on this website.
Any individual attempting to does so at their own risk. Consult with your physician before beginning an exercise regimen.