In previous years, I have written several articles about exercising in the cold. And whenever I do, my inbox fills with comments from people who question my sanity. For some reason, I am considered crazy for exercising in the snow. Ironically, it must be normal to email strangers about how they stay healthy and fit in the winter. That’s an entirely different issue however, so I will limit this entry to outdoor training.
For starters, I am not suggesting that you must venture outside to exercise. It is entirely possible to train indoors. It doesn’t matter to me where you train. I just want to see more people living healthy and active lives. Therefore, I will continue to highlight the potential of winter training to hopefully silence some of the excuses that are common this time of year.
Exercising in the snow is not nearly as crazy as many people believe. I am regularly reminded of this simple fact whenever I watch my children. During the winter months, my kids can’t wait to get home from school so they can play in the snow. They will literally run up a sledding hill all day long if I let them. It isn’t exercise to them. It’s just what you do if you want to go sledding. You run up with your sled and then race down the hill.
As a kid, I did the same thing. I loved playing in the snow. Unfortunately, it seems like most adults have a change of heart as the years pass. Personally, I’d rather stay a big kid at heart. Just because I’m older doesn’t mean I can’t get outside and enjoy nature. Many of my best workouts take place outdoors. The fresh air is invigorating. So while some people might think I am crazy, I’m probably thinking the same thing about those who stay cooped up inside. I couldn’t imagine missing out on an entire season of outdoor activity.
I’m Not Alone
Fortunately, I’m not the only person who doesn’t mind battling Old Man Winter. Below are a few videos that will counter just about any excuse that you have about outdoor training. Whether you prefer bodyweight exercise, kettlebells, barbells, or a little of each, there’s an example for you.
Here’s one man lifting his kettlebell in the snow. He obviously doesn’t mind the cold.
Here’s another man lifting some serious weight in the snow.
Here’s another example, this time from the arctic lands of Greenland.
And lastly, here I am on a typical winter day.
In summary, if you’d like to exercise in the snow, take comfort knowing that you are not alone. There are plenty of us who also enjoy the fresh air. I am actually looking forward to getting out in the snow today. I wrote this entry in the middle of a winter storm. I will be outside running hills tonight. Hill running in the snow has long been one of my favorite conditioners. The snow cushions each step, while also providing a unique form of resistance. My legs always feel strongest during this time of year.
It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one. – George Washington8 comments
Following my recent sledgehammer training update, I received a few inquiries from individuals who were interested in possible alternatives. They liked the idea of swinging a sledgehammer but didn’t have a hammer or a place to swing it. Fortunately, it is not difficult to create an inexpensive work-around.
Below you can see the same homemade tornado ball that I first demonstrated on this site several years ago. It weighs 27 pounds and has been beaten over and over again. It is still holding up well.
The tornado ball started as a homemade medicine ball. The medicine ball consists of a basketball filled with sand. After filling the ball with sand, it was sealed with a flat tire repair kit. The basketball was then wrapped thoroughly in tape to strengthen the outer layer.
Next, the medicine ball was enclosed within a basketball net. The basketball net was then wrapped in strong gorilla duct tape. Lastly, I attached a handle to the end of the basketball net. The handle is simply an old pant leg that was thickened at the end with pipe insulation.
Don’t Knock It Before You’ve Tried It
There is no denying that my tornado ball is as low-tech as anything I have ever built. It looks crazy and when I explain that the handle started as an old pair of pants, it sounds crazy as well. Most athletes who first see the tornado ball are probably wondering if I have a few screws loose in my head. Perhaps I do, but that doesn’t take away from the effectiveness of this low-tech tool. A heavy tornado ball is excellent for explosiveness and conditioning.
A brief demonstration can be seen below.
As you can see, the tornado ball works well indoors or outdoors. When swinging the ball inside, I use a small piece of foam to absorb some of the impact. When using the ball outdoors, I swing it into a small hole that was formed by repeatedly pounding the ground with the ball.
For additional homemade equipment ideas, please refer to the following link:
The value of an idea lies in the using of it. – Thomas A. Edison5 comments
If you know me, you know that I am a fan of simplicity. I am all for low-tech exercise solutions that won’t break the bank. In fact, many of my favorite exercise tools have no monetary value. Such items are valuable to me, but I’d have a hard time giving them away on the side of the road.
Unfortunately, the lack of monetary value causes some people to automatically dismiss the potential of these low-tech tools. An old, used tire serves as a perfect example. Most people consider old tires to be worthless. If you told them that a tire could become a valuable training tool, they’d question your sanity.
Yet, within the past few weeks alone, I have shared three unique examples of tires being used as effective exercise tools. Each example includes a tire or set of tires that were acquired for free. Most tire shops have large piles of used tires that are awaiting disposal. These shops will be more than happy for you to take the old tires away. You are doing them a favor.
As for a recap of some recent examples, take a look below.
1. Sledgehammer Training
A tire can be used as a rebounder for sledgehammer training.
Related Article – Sledgehammer Training Update
2. Punching Bag
Tires can also be used to create a fully functional punching bag.
Related Article – How To Make A Homemade Punching Bag
3. Just a Tire
Tires can even be used on their own. You don’t need to attach or bury anything. A simple tire can provide countless exercise options.
In summary, don’t assume that low-tech training is naturally inferior. Just because a tool has no monetary value is irrelevant when considering its potential for exercise. And based on some recent statistics regarding obesity, the world could certainly use more inexpensive and readily available exercise options.
Clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information. – Edward Tuft2 comments
Anyone who is familiar with this site knows that I am fan of homemade exercise equipment. Much of my gym is outfitted with homemade gear or items that I use for exercise that weren’t intended for exercise. Perhaps my favorite example is the furniture slider. Furniture sliders double as a tremendous core training exercise tool.
I first demonstrated sliders on this site back in 2010. Following that original entry, I received several comments from readers of the site who questioned the product’s durability. Considering that I purchased a 4-pack for only $10, many people assumed that the cheap price was too good to be true. They wondered if such an inexpensive product would even last a few months.
Initially, I had no idea how long the sliders would last. I was not in a position to comment. After a few years of regular use however, I filmed a follow up video. That video can be seen below. It was created two years ago this week (November 13th, 2012). An exercise demonstration begins at the 1:31 mark. You will several core training exercises, along with others that target the upper and lower body.
Fortunately, I am happy to say that the same sliders are still going strong. The original $10 pack has withstood over 4 years of regular use. The simplicity of the tool has proved to be a plus for longevity. Since there is almost nothing to the sliders, there really isn’t much that can go wrong with them.
What About Socks?
Whenever I share a slider video, someone asks if the same exercises can be replicated by with a pair socks. For example, rather than using sliders on carpet, some people wonder if socks will slide the same way on hard wood. My response to these inquiries is always the same. Socks will work to an extent.
The difference between a sock and slider is still significant however. I have used both and the sliders are infinitely more versatile and durable. You will not find a $10 pack of socks that will last over 4 years if you are regularly sliding on hard wood. The socks also aren’t nearly as useful for many of the faster paced exercises that are available with sliders. The difference becomes even more evident when you add a drop of Rain-x to the sliders.
As I have discussed in previous tutorials, an occasional drop of Rain-x will increase the speed of the sliders. Rain-x is sold as a glass treatment for automobiles and can be purchased for a few dollars. A single container will last a year or more.
No Carpet? No problem!
If you do not have carpet in your home, you can still use sliders. I suggest purchasing a small strip of carpet. For less than $10, you can buy a piece of carpet that will be large enough for the sliders, yet small enough that you can roll it up when not in use. I keep an old piece of carpet in the gym that I unroll when we are using the sliders. I also have another 2 x 6 foot piece that fits in my gym bag. Whenever I am training an athlete elsewhere, the small strip of carpet becomes part of my portable gym.
Last but not least, I often receive questions about slider availability. In the US, sliders can be found at large stores such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, K-mart, and Walmart.
If you live outside the USA, refer to the link below for advice from others around the world. There are several recommendations listed within the comments. You are also welcome to add additional comments if you have found other suppliers in your area.
As for brand names, I purchased Waxman Super Sliders from Lowe’s many years ago. The dimensions are 9-1/2 x 5-3/4 inches.
Upon checking prices today, a 4-pack at Lowe’s is listed at $10.97. If I remember correctly, I purchased mine for $9.96. A one dollar increase in five years isn’t too bad. As for cheaper brands, there certainly are others. For instance, Harbor Freight sells sliders for half the price. I have found the cheaper sliders to be inferior in terms of quality however. I would definitely suggest spending an extra few dollars to get the Waxman Super Sliders if possible. And for the record, I have no affiliation with the company. I am simply sharing what has worked well for me.
In summary, if you are looking for an excellent core training exercise tool, you really cannot go wrong with furniture sliders. They are inexpensive, effective, and easy to pack with you when traveling. My sliders have literally traveled around the world with me. I couldn’t be happier with them.
For additional homemade equipment ideas, please refer to the following page:
The value of a thing is what that thing will bring.6 comments
Earlier this week, I wrote about the success of Mongolian athletes in judo (see here). As discussed throughout, the Mongolians work hard and possess extreme mental toughness. These athletes have excelled at the international level despite training with what some would describe as a rudimentary style. For example, in the documentary that I shared, you will see a group of athletes running a mountain and then performing pushups at the top. I’m guessing some readers were expecting a more elaborate approach.
To no surprise, it did not take long after I wrote the entry to find some snide remarks about it. One comment read as follows:
Running and pushups, yippee. Show me something that I don’t know.
Complexity Does Not Equal Success
Some might argue that such comments are not worthy of attention, but if you overlook ignorance, you allow it to spread. One of the fundamental problems with the fitness industry today is the myth that more complexity equates to more success. This notion could not be further from the truth.
Flashy exercises may attract more attention, but rarely will such movements provide the benefits of those exercises that have stood the test of time. It is much easier to criticize a Mongolian athlete who runs and performs pushups than it is to get off your ass and join them. Anyone with a keyboard can become a critic. There are no other prerequisites. Unfortunately, banging on the keyboard will not improve your ability to run steep mountains and perform hundreds of pushups in the cold.
Knowledge Does Not Equal Power
Another myth that has been spread through the online era is that knowledge equals power. Regrettably, it will take more than knowledge for you to become stronger and better conditioned. Without action, knowledge will always be limited.
For instance, the pushup is perhaps the most recognizable exercise in the world. Almost every adult has performed a pushup at some point in their life. Yet how many adults are highly capable of performing continuous pushups? You’ll be hard pressed to find even a handful of adults in everyday life that can perform 50 reps. In other words, knowledge of the pushup does not equate to performance with the pushup.
You Can’t Handle The Truth
Jack Nicholson’s famous line from A Few Good Men rings true for many exercise enthusiasts.
High levels of strength and endurance are rare. If you are genuinely strong or well conditioned, you are in the minority. Ironically, there is an abundance of information online about becoming stronger and better conditioned. Therefore, the problem is clearly not related to a lack of material. If anything, there may be too much information. Everyone and their brother seem to be inventing new exercises these days. I’d bet that more exercises have been invented for Instagram videos in the last year than the combined number of exercises created over the previous 100 years.
Most of the people inventing these ridiculous exercises don’t actually train anyone however. They are more concerned about attracting attention than they are about developing real athletes. Unfortunately, the fitness novices of the world take the bait and fall into their trap. These individuals constantly seek out new exercises. Whatever they have seen or read is never enough. They always feel that they are missing what is necessary to become stronger or better conditioned.
The reality though is that they already have what they need. Lack of knowledge is not the problem. Instead, the problem lies within the individual. It is much easier to blame your failures on a lack of knowledge as opposed to a lack of effort. It’s a hard pill to swallow for anyone to accept that they didn’t put in the work. And that’s why there will always be more people who are weak than those who are strong. It’s human nature to place the blame elsewhere rather than looking in the mirror.
Training vs. Inventing
Real trainers are not paid to invent exercises. We are paid to develop and improve our athletes. With that in mind, we are certainly open to new ideas, but also cognizant of the fact that new ideas rarely replace those that have already proved to be effective. Speaking for myself, my training approach is clearly rooted in the fundamentals. I don’t care if the exercises that we perform appear flashy or not. I’m not looking for style points and I don’t care if the exercises are new or old. I am only concerned with what works. And in my 20+ years of training, I continually reap rewards from time tested exercises that would appear basic to many casual observers. What these observers fail to realize however is that your greatest effort will eventually succumb to even the most simplistic exercise.
When the Mongolians run hills and perform pushups, it may not look flashy but you can be sure that it is effective. No one will ever outgrow the fundamentals. These so-called basic exercises will eventually challenge even the most highly conditioned athletes in the world. As I’ve said before, how you do what you do matters more than what you do. The job of a trainer is to maximize the how you do part of the equation. Getting my athletes to apply more effort to basic exercises has always been a recipe for success.
Some athletes may initially doubt such an approach, but it doesn’t take long from them to have a change of heart. I always enjoy working with new clients who have previously trained at state of the art facilities. I usually introduce them to my style by meeting them at the bottom of a mountain road. When they first see me, there is often a look of confusion. They aren’t sure if it is some type of joke. It is at that point when I smile and start running. That’s when they know it is for real. Once we are finished training at the top of the mountain, there is always a look of shock. They aren’t sure what the heck just happened. And even if they did know, the lack of oxygen makes it difficult to formulate complete sentences.
That’s when I smile again and welcome them to the old school.
Related Entry: Rooted in the Fundamentals
History is filled with brilliant people who wanted to fix things and just made them worse. – Chuck Palahniuk16 comments