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    Conquering my plateau - Hill Walking


    Posts : 76
    Join date : 2008-07-21

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    Post by Matt on Sun Jul 26, 2009 1:31 pm

    Hi all,

    Below is an article I have written for FFMA regarding a new, 'old' form of training that myself, Tony and Tave carry out each weekend. I hope you find it interesting.


    Conquering my Plateau

    So there I am, each Sunday morning at 6:30am, staring at The Bag. Now this is no ordinary bag, this is a ‘calibrated’ bag and it’s heavy. This bag has been researched, procured and assembled by Tony Terranova and believe me, when Tony (the engineer) tells you that the bag is calibrated you know that the bag is calibrated. The bag in question is an army issue rucksack that is packed full with 25.6kg (56lb or 4 stone) of sand.

    How does this bag relate to conquering my plateau? Let me take you back a couple of months.

    I had just finished a class at FFMA and unusually I wasn’t feeling particularly upbeat. Following the class I mentioned to Tony that I felt that I had reached a plateau in my training and was struggling to overcome it. For those that have strived for anything for a sustained period of time you will understand ‘The Plateau’. It is described as a phase in mental or physical development during which little headway is made. This is where I was; my technical, physical and personal progress since joining FFMA in May 2008 had been good but in May of this year I couldn’t see the way forward so I approached Tony.

    Tony recommended a few home workouts and asked me to let him know how I got on. A week or so passed and I was making little improvement but had at least resolved to start running. Unfortunately my first running day coincided with a BBQ at my brother’s so the plan bombed (I was secretly relieved). However I did catch up with Tony at the BBQ and mentioned my plan.

    ‘Why don’t you come for a walk with me this afternoon instead?’ suggested Tony. ‘I am going over Cleeve Hill and you’re more than welcome to come.’ My wife encouraged me to go so I met Tony at 7pm and he introduced me to ‘The Bag’ (Version 1). This bag was a standard rucksack and was filled with a 20kg weight wrapped in a towel. Tony and I set off on our 5 mile walk, which was split into 3 main stages:

    1. Walk commences at Gambles Lane in Woodmancote, which is a steep slope with gradients ranging from 1:6 to 1:3.
    2. This is followed by a steady climb up Cleeve Hill until you reach the Golf Club. This is close to the highest point in the Cotswolds.
    3. The final phase is the descent – not as easy as it sounds.

    During the first ascent I thought back to my initial conversation with Tony and my struggle with the plateau. Some 3-4 weeks later I was working my way up a steep hill, calf muscles burning, fingers tingling, striving to get air in to my lungs and desperately looking for a flat area to rest; quite ironic really.

    Anyway, soon I was hooked. I stood at the top of Cleeve Hill on a fantastic summer’s day, breathed the fresh air and took in the incredible view. I knew that I had found something I would enjoy. Tony and I agreed that we would walk every weekend come rain or shine and decided that the best time to start would be early to ensure that the remainder of the day could be devoted to family.

    The hill walk with a 60lb backpack is challenging and Tony often describes the first phase of the walk as our nemesis. The key difference, however between a true nemesis and our opponent (the hill) is that we beat it every week, we always win. That is not to say it is easy; it isn’t. The bag is always heavy, the hill is consistently tough but despite this we always overcome it. We get to the top because we encourage each other. Not by shouting, we often don’t have the breath, but we draw encouragement from the sound of the other’s breathing pattern, the rhythm of the feet and the promise of achieving our goal.

    Following the first stage it is easy to forget the second phase as it is less imposing. This section however is a constant climb albeit less steep, but this is the best part of the walk for views and conversation so is considered a real treat.

    And then comes the descent; is this an opportunity to cruise home? No, the descent is never an opportunity to coast. We need to work just as hard on the downward journey as it is punctuated by some of the following exercises. Each carried out with ‘The Bag’:

    • Farmers Walk – we take it in turns to do a 25 meter shuttle run with both bags, whilst the other does pushups
    • 20 x Incline Press Ups
    • 20 x Hindu Squats
    • 40 x Standard Press Ups
    • 3 x 20 metre sprints back up the hill
    • 2 x 20 metre reverse sprints back up the hill
    • 50 metre flat jog
    • 100 metre power walk

    Having completed the walk a number of times it has almost become second nature. It is still difficult but we know where the reference points are so we each know when the extreme challenges will come. This does not make the walk more comfortable, we are just better prepared.

    So what have we done? We have reversed the journey. This may sound simple but it is amazing how little attention we previously paid on the way down despite the exercises. The reverse journey is surprisingly tough and teaches us never to take a descent for granted again. We need to take in every step as a downward journey is easily reversed and the hard work starts again. Better to be prepared.

    I have taken many lessons in a short space of time from hill walking. There are undoubtedly physical and health benefits and the strength and conditioning gained has added another dimension to my martial arts training. In addition though I now have the opportunity to talk with Tony and Tave on a regular basis, which is often enlightening. The conversation can range from cars through to family and martial arts through to personal development. It’s always interesting.

    Without being too philosophical, in my opinion hill walking could be intepreted as a metaphor for life. There are many similarities between the daily challenges that life has in store and the challenges you face on a Sunday morning walking up a series of hills with 25kg on your back. You have to show the same determination, the same positive attitude, you often need a buddy to help you out and each challenge is overcome with one considered step at a time.

    Now back to the bag.

    So there I am, each Sunday morning at 6:30am, staring at The Bag, my heavy, ‘calibrated’ bag. A smile creeps across my face as I know I am going to face a challenge that I can beat. I know that I have conquered my plateau and what’s more exciting is that I know there is another plateau coming and I will get the opportunity to conquer that one in an equally rewarding way.
    Al Peasland
    Al Peasland

    Posts : 1051
    Join date : 2008-06-15
    Location : Northampton

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    Post by Al Peasland on Mon Jul 27, 2009 11:02 am

    Excellent article Matt

    Thank you for sharing it with us Wink
    Tim Coppin
    Tim Coppin

    Posts : 145
    Join date : 2008-07-09
    Age : 37
    Location : Tewkesbury

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    Post by Tim Coppin on Mon Jul 27, 2009 5:17 pm

    Great write up as always Matt.

    That is a tough hill to walk up without any ballast, fair play.


    Posts : 76
    Join date : 2008-07-21

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    Post by Matt on Sat Aug 01, 2009 10:45 am

    Thanks Gents, your comments are much appreciated.

    Fell down the hill today though, bag saved me, gotta love that bag!

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