ACLAÍ opening night – not your ordinary gym

Last weekend saw the official opening of the new training facility of ACLAÍ in Cork, and I was lucky enough to attend what turned out to be a very special occasion and a gym opening with a difference. We were treated to some theatre, live music by the great Band Anna, an art exhibition by local artists, magic tricks and balloon making, delicious food from the Alchemy coffeeshop and ACLAÍ’s own Shakira. Most of all, I enjoyed spending time meeting friends of ACLAÍ and seeing at first hand the impact the gym has on this community. The big crowd in attendance was testament to this. As I was hanging out in the gym in the morning it was refreshing to see real coaching again. Coaches that actually care about helping everybody who steps through the door, that help build healthy bodies rather than break them. Living in London over the past two years has been challenging in many ways, but nothing more so than taking out a membership in the local Globogym and watching the absolutely horrendous service provided by the personal trainers to their clients. I try not to look, but I can’t not. I once writhed in anguish as a guy who couldn’t deadlift was forced to do so with a heavy barbell and repeatedly shouted at that he was doing it wrong and to straighten his back. I’ve watched as clients have been put on a treadmill and left to their own devices as the trainer would head off to chat up every female that crossed his path. I’ve witnessed people who can barely move being subjected to...

30-Day Yoga Experience

This is a brief overview of my recent 30 day Yoga experience. We would love to hear what experiences you have made! Why a 30 day Yoga experience? I used to work in a typical 9 to 5 office job in London. My typical day would start in a rush to catch my bus and then squeeze myself on the overcrowded and hot underground to commute to the office located in always busy central London. My colleagues and I would then sit on our desks for hours with a maximum of an hour break which we might use for a little walk around the office blocks – or not. I would often feel imbalanced after such a day – mentally tired and stressed while physically stiff and restless. Going to the gym and movement practice in the morning helped against the stiffness but didn’t really benefit me mentally. The busy local gym actually stressed me out even more. In Summer long walks, movement and meditation in the park were a great balance to the busy office day. However, in Winter this was no real option as parks were closed before I would leave the office. I needed to tackle this feeling of imbalance and remembered the positive effect of some Yoga lessons I had attended when I was a teenager. These were great thanks to a wonderful teacher who taught me about Yoga meditation, breathing, as well as basic poses and ways to stabilise my body (sometimes activating the right point can make a huge difference). Yoga is ideal to find your personal balance as the practice aims to go...

Favourite Podcast Episodes of 2016

  Podcasts continue to be one of the best ways to consume knowledge from the great minds in the world of strength and conditioning, self-improvment, and anything really. A decade ago, you would have travelled all over the world for the opportunity to hear from the best in the business and to soak up their wisdom, now you get to stream great ideas right into your ears wherever you are, for free. The only problem now is keeping up with all the excellent content that is being put out there, as the number of good podcasts proliferate. There is a podcast for everyone.. They say that you can tell a lot about a person from their podcast feed (has anyone said that yet?), and you can see mine above. 2016 was a great year for them and here are some of my  favourite episodes. Putting the list together proved tricky enough, and was subject to me actually remembering the episodes that I have listened to (which might explain the slight bias towards episodes from the latter part of the year). There are certainly great podcasts that I don’t get around to listening to, time being finite and all that. However, in no particular order, the below episodes have all been impactful on my thinking, and I highly recommend them.   Health, Movement & Self-Improvement 1)  The Joe Rogan Experience #752 Mark Sisson I say it’s in no particular order, yet this was probably my top episode of 2016, with Joe Rogan himself saying that it was one of the most informative and interesting podcasts he has ever done (which is a pretty sound endorsement...
Getting started with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Getting started with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Ever since watching Kieran McGeeney roll around in Straight Blast Gym in that RTE Conor McGregor documentary a couple of years ago, I thought it would be good to try out Brazillian Jiu Jitsu . So last week, after a long time flirting with the idea, I finally took the leap and began BJJ.   I had a few different motivations for going. Firstly, It has been a long 5 years since my last hurling match, and ever since there has been a huge void in my life; the challenge of competition, sense of accomplishment, the physical suffering, the opportunity to test myself and find out what lies within. Even the frustration of failure, and the pain of losing. Sport gives us the opportunity to experience all these things, while most people amble along through life nice and cozy. Never getting the hands dirty in life, avoiding the need for physical and mental duress, or self-examination, not risking failure. Secondly, it is an excellent compliment to one’s movement practice. It promotes fluid movement and the connectedness of the whole body, with huge emphasis on the hips. It requires body awareness and full control of the joints and limbs. It demands the ability to explosively contract and coordinate the body while also the ability to relax. I’ve always thought Jiu Jitsu would be a complimentary form of training for hurling players, helping to develop a type of strength that you won’t get from lifting weights in the gym. And thirdly, of course, who doesn’t like the idea of being able to protect oneself somewhat from all the maniacs out there...

Is a warm-up ‘just a warm-up’ ? A quick guide to team warm-ups for sports performance

Traditionally, team warm-ups for training or competition have been a means to an end, a jog and a stretch. However, great coaches now value this 20 to 30 minute block as an opportunity to enhance movement competency and reinforce excellence, as well as the necessary neuromuscular preparation for the proceeding activities. In Athletic Development, Vern Gambetta emphasises the point that the warm-up sets the tempo for the session: It is an integral, not separate part of the workout. As a strength and conditioning coach, there is nothing you will do more than conduct warm-ups, and these should all be taken as coaching moments to be taken advantage of. As an athlete, every warm-up should be a self-assessment; how do your joints and muscles feel during different movements at varying intensities? Kelvin Giles notes that the relatively short period of 20 minutes can see over 200 ‘movements’ taking place, developing the fundamental movements by connecting from fingernail to toenail. So, over time you can progress the challenge by increasing the complexity of the movement puzzles laid out for the athletes to mechanically solve. A bodyweight squat can turn into a squat with a trunk rotation; then a combination of a prisoner squat to a duck walk, or a drop squat to drop lunge. The possibilities are endless, and the more you hear your athletes tell you that the warm-up is weird, the better. Crawling, rotating, hinging, hoping, pushing, lunging, squatting, and mixing them all together. It also makes things fun and interesting. When you introduce a movement sequence that is new to the athlete, you will witness an immediate surge...

In-Season Need-to-Do’s

In-season programming is a juggling act of so many different physical components, that I sometimes get dizzy just thinking about where to fit them all into the training week. There’s more and more information out there about what you should be doing with your athletes, but if you try to pack it all into your physical development plan, you’ll create a fine mess which will be reflected in your athlete’s performances. Vern Gambetta talks about the three types of training To Do’s:  Want To Do, Nice To Do, and Need To Do. If you commit to at the very least getting the Need-to-do’s in every week then no matter what else happens you know you’re covering the essentials. It’s too easy to get side-tracked by the fancy minutia at the expense of your bread and butter. Your Need-to-do’s should reflect your training philosophy; as we know, if something is worth doing it is worth doing consistently, not in drips and drabs. The Pareto Principle seems to be applied to every life-situation and it’s granny these days but I’m sure it is relevant here too:  20% of your efforts and resources account for 80% of your results. Apply this principle to your strength and conditioning program to figure out what you Need-to-do’s are.   Strength training Despite everything we know about the benefits of strength training for sports, I still find myself having to convince some athlete’s to commit to getting stronger. The purpose of strength training for football is not to build muscle, that is merely a potential side effect. Building strength will develop your tissue’s load bearing capacity,...