Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fearless Feats of Manhood in the Iceland Fjords

My return to Iceland has been very exciting. I love this rustic, bucolic wonderland! The true land of fire and ice...and all the water element in between. Even though its culture dates back to ancient times, the terrain and its eco-system are very young. Coming from the U.S., it's fascinating to have cold, fresh-tasting tap water and be able to freely drink from any mountain stream without fear.

Friday 8 August I led an outdoor training, ocean side. The weather was ideal: cool and dry. After suffering the Philadelphia swelter, the temperatures here have been a genuine balm.

What an honor to introduce the Vikings to the pleasures of the slosh pipe! For those of you unfamiliar with the slosh pipe, it's a 10' hollow PVC pipe filled 2/3 with water, about 38 lbs. The struggle is in keeping the pipe perfectly balanced, using your body's stabilizer muscles. As the water rushes from one end of the pipe to the other, it's nearly impossible to control. It's the ultimate in core training.
I was quickly reminded how much Icelanders love a good physical challenge and will bleed from the eyes before allowing themselves to be bested. The group of lads in attendance were an assortment of police special ops and martial artists. Events included shouldering a stone for reps; cleaning and overhead pressing a stone; stone-carrying for distance, slosh pipe carry/run for time; an overhead military slosh pipe press for reps and a horizontal ladder for number of rungs completed in two minutes (the contest was held at old outdoor police obstacle course).

As if all this weren't enough, the boys wanted an additional workout. I put them through one of my infamous sandbag workouts. I'd brought 10 of Josh Henkins fantastic sandbags with me, arriving an hour before the event with my gracious hosts, Vala and Gudjon, plus my GF, and filled the bags with beach stones. These Iceland stones make an especially nice fill and are much less messy than sand.
The sandbags have been extremely popular and any trepidation I'd had about selling them off was unfounded, since every bag was claimed that first night.

Although stone lifting has been a long tradition with the Norse and other island peoples, most of the attendees were unaware of how or what to do it. I was very pleased and proud to re-introduce my friends to this heritage action. They took to it like Icelandic dogs to a mutton bone--it's still in the genetic blueprint for sure. There's something very raw and primal about lifting a heavy stone. Barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells are made for lifting, stones are not. Stones want to resist being lofted and carried, hence give the greater satisfaction. True warriors the world over will instantly understand this.

I also hung Lifeline Jungle Gyms off the horizontal ladder for rounds of body weight rows and Atomic Push-Ups. The Jungle Gym is an incredibly versatile piece of equipment, which allows you to do dozens of exercises. It's like a gym in your pocket...or are you just happy to see me? After the exercise circuit, we finished with one last contest: Who Can Slam the Sledge Hammer for 100 Strikes on the Old Tire? For time. The inexperienced among us found this more demanding than imagined...This was an entirely appropriate event, since the hammer is a symbol of Thor, the mightiest of the ancient gods. The hammer of Thor, Mjolnir, was the most fearsome weapon in the Norse pantheon. It's also the name of the local BJJ/MMA Gym, which hosted me.
Wait...before leaving the beauty of the fjords, there was one last task, which was to strip off our clothes and take a chilling open water plunge. For the locals, this was no big thing but I've grown accustomed to the soft California sunshine--time to man up!
With water temps in the 50s, the Coach's swim was brief...but some of those guys just sat out there chatting and even swam a few laps.

My first event here in Iceland, the outdoor training seminar, was a huge success and a lot of fun besides. I had some big tough Norsemen laid out on the ground, totally happy afterwards from their exertions. Little did they know what was coming over the next two days with the MaxBells Kettlebell Certification...




Q: ...On a topic off the road,much talk about greatest athletes with the Olympics in full swing... talk that Michael Phelps is among the greatest,... with your vast experience as an athletic competitor,coach and trainer,can you say who is/are the 5 greatest athletes all-time...? (you cant include me because of you are my coach.)


Michael Phelps is the greatest the pool.

Lance Armstrong is the greatest athlete...on the bike.

Saulo Ribeiro is the greatest athlete in BJJ & submission wrestling...BUT their greatness extends only to their specific sports. Out of the pool, Michael Phelps is a known spazz and, by his own admission, clumsy, uncoordinated and accident-prone. Lance Armstrong off the bike is a beginner like any other, certainly not particularly balanced or strong. In fact, your pull-up power is greater than his.
If you're looking for all-around great athletes, look at decathletes and the pentathlon, which is shooting, fencing, riding, cross-country running and swimming.
On any given day, a Navy SEAL or Army Ranger is compelled to do amazing feats of strength and endurance. In the combative have MMA practitioners who routinely box, do Muay Thai, wrestle and jiu-jitsu.
For my money, if you want the greatest athletes, being a specialist doesn't apply. Probably the greatest athletes I know are the dogs down the street.

Yours in Strength & Health,


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