Fit at 40 – Bodyweight Blasts & Yoga Yearnings


posted by on FITNESS



In my first post regarding my fit at 40 challenge I stated that I was going to do the entire challenge using only body weight exercises, cycling & running. I was also intending to try & resolve the niggles that have built up over the last 39+ years of living. My idea with this was to increase my SMR rolling frequency & really give Yoga a chance. I must say with all of these ideas I worried that I wouldn’t get the same effect that I got with weight bearing exercises & also although I was confident that Yoga would help my flexibility I did doubt it as a replacement for more ‘manly’ training methods. How wrong was I?!


I love Yoga! its official. I don’t think that I will ever be thought of as a Grand Yogi Dude or even be able to touch my toes whilst keeping my back perfectly straight but my flexibility is improving at a steady rate, my core strength has gone through the roof & at last I can demonstrate wall angels to my clients without cheating because my chest is too tight. I had started with man yoga in January but was only managing 1 session a week on a Saturday morning with Gemma as my yogi master. It was intermittent due to a few trips away & other appointments but even with that my hamstrings started to free off & improvements started to be made.

For the challenge I have upped this to at least 2 sessions a week & have even been caught by Denise practicing a few cheeky Sun Salutations at home in the evening. Its certainly not easy & if you don’t believe me give the steps below a go and see how you get on.



Many of the guys who have joined in with the man yoga over the last few months are sweating buckets after the warm ups above & these are men that play competitive rugby or who train in the gym 4, 5 or 6 times a week.

Yoga’s version of core exercises are also not to be sniffed at. Try lying on your back with your legs sticking straight in the air for one minute. Wait I am not finished! Next, without lowering your legs lean them both over to one side at 45 degrees, keep them straight though & hold that for a further 30 seconds each side. Before you think that you are through, return them to the center before spreading them apart so they stick out individually at 45 degrees & hold that for another minute. I could go on and the ‘warm up’ usually does but that’s a taster of the core exercises which has most of us in a kind of crumpled whining state on their individual mats.

To sum yoga up in my mind, which to those who know me is a weird place. Its like trying to solve a puzzle where the body makes up the pieces. Add into this the fact that whilst solving it you are also trying to keep most of the puzzle off the floor but usually using something other than your feet! Oh and once you have solved it then just hold it until you have made sure that either your legs snap, you are going to face plant the mat or one of your veins pops out of your temple. You get the idea!

Stretching & Rolling

Running has always been a bit of a thing to be avoided until recently in my life. I understand the benefits of it but memories of running through a farm yard frequented by smelly cows whilst doing cross country at school has certainly had a lasting impact on my willingness to partake in the sport. Recently though I have been asked to run with a number of clients & it has allowed me to realize how good it is as a fitness tool for improving both cardiovascular endurance & also for weight loss. In fact on my running days I have had to increase my own intake of food so that I didn’t lose too much weight.

As with the yoga I have actually found myself partaking in some sneaky running sessions on  my own & if the mood is right & the weather is good have actually enjoyed it. Still a rare experience as I prefer my bike but it has happened. The down side of running however can be the effect of high impact on joints, muscles & the body. My personal niggle from running seems to focus about the calves. The morning after a run & the hobble down for breakfast makes me feel like 75 not 40. Stretching certainly helps & massage is brilliant but the niggle keeps coming back so I really need to improve this which is where foam rolling comes in.

Foam rolling, also known as SMR (Self-Myofascial Release) is a technique which the principals of massage are employed but treatment can be carried out without interaction from another person. Pressure is applied to the affected area or trigger point using a foam cylinder or ball which then sends a signal to the brain to make the muscle relax. That’s a very simplistic description of how it works & depending on the type of issue, age of the problem & the location, the effects of rolling vary from immediate relief to steady improvement.

So to the calf. When rolling the calf start put the roller under the leg just above the ankle joint. Place the other leg on top & then using your hands lift yourself off the floor & roll forward so the roll moves up the leg to just below the knee. Any tender areas you find should on the way up are the areas to focus on. Hold the leg onto the roll in those areas for approx 20s & then continue to roll further up. Repeat this for the inner, outer sides of the calf before doing the same with the other leg. Its a good idea to then do a static calf stretch afterwards to help return the muscle to its correct length. Another good idea is to a tennis or golf ball and roll this against the base of your foot while it rests on the floor. As with the calf rolling, hold on any tender areas before moving onto the other foot. The combined effect of this two pronged attack is that is alleviates the tension in the calf and Achilles area from both ends of attachment. You will be amazed at the result!

For me I know this works but making a concerted effort to do it every day for this plan has made my calves feel much more relaxed & the morning hobble is getting much better. I think its going to be a longer process than just the month but I am definitely improving so will continue with it. I have also added a new pair of trainers into the mix to see if that helps & first impressions are good but I have only completed a couple of short runs with them so a little early to tell really.

Body weight exercises.

So my flexibility is improving thanks to Gemma & the Yoga. My ankles feel better as a result of the rolling. The diet is working, 4 Kg (nearly 9 pounds) in 3 weeks is a little quick but it is a challenge & I am trying extra hard to be good with my food and work in the perfect place to get results quickly. The only thing left thing is the workouts and because of the diet its all about maintaining muscle mass whilst stripping fat.  The workouts, which are all based on body weight exercises, need to be challenging so that the muscles are still being stressed as much as they are when I use weights but added intensity is also required to make the metabolism as high as possible helping to burn the fat over the following 24 hours.

I have tried to follow a traditional split technique for my training this month which means that I can train most days concentrating on different body parts and allowing the other areas to rest in between. An example of the training splits would be. Legs, Chest & Triceps, Back & Biceps, Shoulders & Core. That’s a 4 day rotation which could be done Monday through Thursday or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday off, Thursday, Friday Saturday off or yoga, Sunday off or cycling etc.

Legs – Within these workout splits I have tried a couple of different techniques. A gym based leg day for example may consist of skipping or BW (body weight) Squats to warm up followed by, forward & back lunges, side sliding lunge & a high box step up performed as a high volume superset. This would then be followed by single leg pistol squats (see image below), hip raises on a bench or ball and calf raises. Again in a superset and with quite high volume. Being used to doing fairly heavy barbell squats I find that high volume is the best way to get the similar sort of leg feeling with the relatively light weight of body only exercises. As an alternative to this I ran (1.5 Miles) to the local track and did a walking lunge around it for one complete lap. Add a timing element to this and then run home and you have a fantastic workout which would challenge even the most hardy of gym goers. 11-13 minutes for the lap is not bad if you fancy a go.

Back – Back day consists of lots and lots of pull up variations. Sometimes its just a case of keep going until you hit a desired target number (100 is a good start). Hand position can change & there is no set amount of sets. Just keep going until the job is done. Again doing it against the clock adds intensity & minimizes rest. Alternatively a more regular back session does 4 sets of wide grip pull ups, Rope climbs (without using legs), narrow pull ups, Single arm eccentric pull ups & the ultimate – Muscle ups!! Yes at last I can string a few of these together. A muscle up is basically an explosive pull up which results in the person being above the bar in a dip position before returning below and repeating the process. So far I have managed 4 in a row but as I get lighter and my technique/confidence improves I am going to try and increase this to 10. Be careful of your shoulders when trying this! Dom still has the scar from the last time he tried it so you have been warned!!!

Shoulders – Shoulders, Shoulders, Shoulders! what can I say? These are in some ways the hardest body part to work out in terms of effort as they have such a great and varied range of motion & can be so delicate if you get it wrong! I think that with my newly acquired (from the yoga) shoulder flexibility my shoulder niggles have almost completely disappeared so I am quite happy to try and push the boat out for my shoulder work outs. So far the best movements by far have been handstands. All variations are hard. Stationary holds, handstand presses which regress into pike handstand presses as I fatigue throughout the workout. Anything which involves bearing weight on the upper body through the arms is major workout time for the shoulders. I still need a wall for balance with full handstands but its gone from being a permanent attachment into being more of an occasional steadying device. I must stress that if your core is weak then these should really be avoided as the load is great in the back but as a challenge then unless you are a gymnast they are pretty unsurpassed as an upper body exercise.

The ultimate goal for me with the shoulders is to start by kneeling on the floor then using only my hands, arms, shoulders, and core progress through crow position and up into a free standing handstand & then a shoulder press or two. Sort of a party piece of exercise an although I can do most of the move in isolated parts, the complete movement is beyond me at the moment. I will certainly blog the day I do it and its getting to be an obsession so hopefully one day it will happen.

Chest – Chest workouts are fun these days. The people I train with don’t have the same opinion though as I am forced to do really high volume, explosive & complicated versions of press ups & flies to get the pump feeling I like. Roly & I tried 20-1 burpee to press up combo for time which was hard. Start at 20 burpees and 1 press up then repeat at 19 burpees and 2 press ups. Repeat this until you get to 1 burpee & 20 press ups. 23 minutes it took me & Roly a little longer but the end feeling is one of relief & a chest soreness usually related to heavy bench day.

The current favorite however is Tabata for the chest, Triceps & core. Download the Tabata Pro App for your phone then set it to 10 tabata’s 8 times each. 20s exercise & 10 s rest. Do the following workout & relax.

1. Flat press ups

2. Box walk over press ups

3. V-sit with twist – fast

4. Plank with feet against the wall

5. Spiderman press up OR hands forward and back press ups

6. TRX fly OR Swiss ball fly (you need two Swiss balls)

Set up for swiss ball chest fly

7. Ankle touch crunch

8. Close grip elbow to hands press ups

9. chair dips OR Jumping Dips

10. Flat Press ups

So that’s the month so far in my fit at 40 challenge. My food plan appears to be working. I am a yoga & running convert. The ankles are improving slightly & I am loving the body weight stuff. I have lost 4Kg in 3 weeks & feel like the abs are ‘cutting in’. I know I am in the best environment to achieve my plan and have good support around me but feel that with a little planning, some positive attitude, commitment & dedication a lot of others can get good results in much the same way.



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  1. Yvonne Hurlow

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