Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Natural Wonders of Iceland Wrap-Up
I want to finish up with the rest of my personal Icelandic saga. After the MaxBells Cert in Reykjavik, I was taken on the grand tour of the island. Just before leaving, I taught a BJJ seminar at the local MMA club, Mjolnir. Mjolnir, as you may recall, was the given name of Thor's hammer. The level of jiujitsu on the island is quite good and the students are apt pupils and we all had a great time.
Next on the list was another BJJ club, Fjolnir. After several hours of jiujitsu and watching the students spar, I gladly made some belt promotions. Now, it was time for some real fun to begin: Gudjon and Vala were taking me down on the-farm, Icelandic-style!
Gudjon loaded up the family, tents, and sleeping bags into the rig and off we went to the West Fjords...After a breakfast of dried fish and skyr, we were energized and took on a steep mountain hike. This is what Gudjon refers to as "...taking a walk down to see the creek--would you like to come along?" It looked easy enough from the bottom, but man, it was a lung/thigh burner up to the ridge. Of course we had to finish with the traditional Viking ice-water plunge, to bathe away the sweat.
Still feeling a little feisty afterwards, we were looking around for something to lift...since there were no weights or kettlebells at the farm, I decided to make like Milo of Croton and grab the newborn calf--just came into the world the night before--and perform some impromptu back squats. For those of you unfamiliar with the legend: Milo was a famous Greek wrestler whose daily off-season routine included lifting a calf...for four years straight! As the calf grew in size and heft, so did Milo's strength accordingly. It is said he carried that four-year old bull clear across the Olympic stadium, then killed, roasted and ate it before the spectators. Thus we have the first recorded instance of progressive resistance training. It'd be nice to take that sweet calf home and emulate Milo, but we had to roll out. Always more sights to see in Iceland.
The Icelandic sagas are full of magic and mystical beings: fairies, elves and trolls. We stopped and viewed a natural rock structure which legend held to be a troll who, bent on human destruction, overstayed his night vigil and was turned to stone by the morning sunlight...as they do. Many sights in Iceland are attached to wondrous legends like this. After camping out at Hollar, we experienced the white night, where the sun never actually sets, and it remains light all night long. Because parts of Iceland are within the Arctic Circle, at times around the summer solstice, while the Southern part of the island may get dark, areas in the North will remain light the entire 24-hours. It's an eery experience, getting up to take a pee in the night and it's still dusk out--break out your sleep mask and double up your melatonin!
After packing up the camp, it was off to the Pearl of the North: Akureyri, a beautiful little village on the edge of a fjord and popular with tourists. I presented another Body Weight training seminar for the local judo club, which was housed in the same gym as the local team handball and football clubs. It was here I introduced that beast: the 100-METER Power Wheel Challenge (which is approximately 9-yards more than the 100-yd Challenge for those who wish to try it without Googling first.)
There was one Viking lad able to complete the Challenge and you can see his video finish below. After the seminar, your Coach walked a couple kilometers back to the hotel when I realized I hadn't yet gotten in my own daily workout...a-ha! I espied an especially lovely playground: lots of monkey bars and over-sized wooden structures. There I performed the following:
A1) L-Seat Pull-Ups x 5
A2) One-Arm Push-Ups x 5 L/R
A3) Pistols x 10 L/R
A4) Hanging Leg Raise x 5
for 5 rounds, w/ 60-sec rest between rounds
After which I climbed a stationary pole, using just the arms from the L-Seat, using a thigh-squeeze (like climbing a rope) for several reps.
Followed up with a Monkey Bar Traverse for several laps across the horizontal ladder.
Finally, I felt I'd earned my dinner! It was strange that it was about 10PM yet it was still light out and there I was training in a public park.
Upon my return to Reykjavik, we did one last tour of Thingvellir, Gullfoss and the eponymous Geysir. The waterfalls of Gullfoss were spectacular, the sun created a rainbow in the mist and, inspired by the tremendous energy there, I knocked off some Dive Bomber push-ups, you can view the evidence below.
Check out that rift in Thingvellir, it's the gap between the North American and European land masses! I straddled that rift for some one-arm/one-leg push-ups. My upper body is in Europe while my lower urges were confined to North America.
Thingvellir is famous as the founding site of the world's oldest continuing parliament (930AD) where the Viking Chieftains came to render important decisions--hardly barbaric. It's easy to see why it's a sacred place. It's also home to a deep, clear water stream in a crevasse, where (legend has it) if you toss a coin and watch its descent to the very bottom, your wish will come true. To get down to this deep stream, there's a long flight of wooden steps. My Viking friends were feeling itchy, so I challenged them to the Maxwell Backwards Bear Crawl-Up-a-Flight-of-Stairs:
With your feet upwards and hands downwards, you crawl up the flight of stairs using the arms, pushing at a similar angle to a Shoulder or Incline Press.
Note: A shallow, wide stair works especially well for this, steeper stairs are still good, just a lot harder.
The surprise this exercise holds for the participant is the intense abdominal involvement. Vala and Gudjon proved their Viking mettle by making it up to the top. After reaching the top, there was approximately a kilometer's worth of hike up a steep, rocky hill back to the car park...I had Gudjon carry his older son and Vala carried the younger one upon their backs while racing each other uphill. Both arrived winded but happy with their exertions. This is a terrific example of using your environment, including kids as ballast, for very productive, impromptu workouts. Between the backwards bear crawl up the stairs and the piggy-back carry up the incline, every muscle was brought into play, with bonus intense cardio goodness.
My last day, en route to the airport, I presented another Body Weight Seminar at a local fitness center. Then it was off to the Blue Lagoon, a natural hot springs/spa in the midst of a lava field. The hydro-therapy was so relaxing that the flight to Boston was no big deal, time literally flew by. It was so nice to see my little "house-car" there in the economy parking lot and later that evening I discovered a great little hidey-hole in which to spend the night along the many piers of Boston Harbor.
The next morning was up and at 'em for a private workout in a playground across the street from a Whole Foods Market. After buying some shaving cream I think I freaked out a couple locals by stripping down and shaving up in the men's room. I'm guessing it was the chest and armpit action that got them down. Hey, when you live in a van, you take your shaves where you can get them. I don't use the on board water supply unless I have to.
After my client's session on the playground, I then put my assistant through her paces with the 16s. She paid with a pound of flesh, at least. Finally, I grabbed my kettlebell and headed to the adjacent basketball court. This playground was built on a historic site, which was a fort during the Revolutionary War. I tore into that workout like as if being chased by Redcoats:
1) Rope Skip
w/Lifeline Weighted Speed Rope
10 min: 30-sec on/30-sec off
2) Maxwell Kettlebell Mobility Series
an original program of weighted joint-mobility utilizing the kettlebell
3) The Omelet
(slightly shorter than usual because of the rope skip)
1-min per side of the following movements:
a) one-arm swing
b) judo pulls
d) one-arm jerks
e) one-arm long cycle
f) circular cleans
Surrounding the court was a low wall, just below knee-height. I did 6 rounds of One-Leg Box Jumps in which, balancing upon a single leg, I'd jump to the top of the wall, jump down again, only to rebound back up. I did sets of 10, which were approximately 17-sec. Then I'd rest the reminder of the minute and do the opposite leg. This is a tremendous exercise for building explosive "springiness" in the leg and ferreting out any imbalances between the left and right sides.
As much as I enjoyed Iceland, it felt good to be back, living my vagabond life in my House-Car. Next stop: Philadelphia PA. Come by and say hello as we prepare for the upcoming Philly MaxBells Certification.
If you're in or around Ireland (or just want to go!) contact Dave Hedges of Wild Geese Martial Arts, in glorious Dublin, if you want to see me there.