Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kettlebell Training in the Sun! (Part 2)

I awoke to (yet another!) beautiful sunny day in Auckland, NZ.

Looking forward to a heavy squatting day tomorrow with former Commonwealth Games sprint cyclist (and beast of a lifter) Dave Fitzsimmons,  I figured I would play around with the bells at home again...

After my last post a few friends and colleagues in the strength training field mentioned the Secret Service Snatch Test. This is a test to see how many kettlebell snatches you can do in 10min with a 24kg bell...

Here's how it looked:

Secret Service Snatch Test (24kg bell) - As many reps as possible in 10min = 170 reps
O'Head Kettlebell Press (24kg bell) = 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 reps
Pullups = 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Pushups - As many reps as possible in 2min = 112 reps

The SSST certainly tore up my hands - especially after the damage they sustained in the weekend! Looking forward to squeezing out quite a few more reps when the hands attenuate to endurance KB work again.

Give it a go and see what you can do!

~ Cliff


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Some Saturday Kettlebell Fun in the Sun!

 I never really 'plan' to train on Saturdays...

Even in my hardest training phases I like to 'front load' my training week and get all my heaviest and most challenging work done earlier in the week.
But with that said I almost always do train on Saturdays - but because it's not planned I simply get out amongst it and do something fun!

This is never so evident as when I have been doing some research and reading on new training methodology, or if I have picked up a new training implement...

It's been a little while since I have trained consistently with Kettlebells, and so I was absolutely stoked to get a surprise from my friends at One Rep Max ( - a brand new 24Kg RKC style bell!

Of course I couldn't wait to see how it handled and so this morning, on awaking to a beautiful, sunny Auckland day I decided to play around at home with the new bell.

Many of you will also know that if I do timed work I like to time my sets and exercises by song, rather than by the clock.

Todays workout would consist of 6 songs in total. 4 songs would comprise the work component with 2 songs left for the mobility section at the end.

I would attempt to do as many reps as I could (switching hands when necessary on the one arm lifts) in the time allowed by the song, and immediately switch to the next lift at the commencement of the next song. The only rest I allowed was BETWEEN songs (usually only a few seconds) in order to reset grip and quickly slap on some chalk.

Here's what I did:

'Alone' by Like A Storm (2:49) One Arm KB Snatch - 60 reps
'Attack' by 30 Seconds to Mars (3:09) One Arm KB Overhead Press - 60 reps
'Bottom' by Tool (7:14) One Arm KB Cleans - 156 reps
'Brena' by A Perfect Circle (4:24) Pullups - 33 reps

I did Pike Arches, 3 Point Hamstring/Hip Flexor Stretches and some Sun Salutations to finish whilst listening to 'Change Tomorrow' and 'Galaxy' by Like A Storm.

Total Training Time (including mobility work) = 26min

Give it a crack and see how many reps you can do to your own play list!

...And f course at the end of the workout I loaded up on some Vital Greens, Vital Protein, fruit and berries! ~ Ethical, Vegan, alkaline sports nutrition for Veggie fueled warriors!

Use coupon code PP2005C for a special 'friend of Cliff' discount!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Thoughts on Waitangi - Our National Day

In the wake of our national day in Aotearoa (New Zealand) I had some very interesting discussions with friends and whanau about Waitangi Day.

For my international readers, Waitangi Day is considered our national holiday - similar to Independence Day in the US or Canada Day for my Canuck friends.
The significance of 'Waitangi' is that it denotes both the place of signing, and the name given to our nation's founding document - The Treaty of Waitangi.

A few significant points were made to me by several different people in the wake of our latest national day. 

1. That people are sick of Maori protesting
My reply to this is - fine. be sick of Maori protesting. But before rejecting the images you see, and the words you hear, THINK about whether there is any justification for the protest.
Have there been injustices perpetrated? Has there been systemic assimilation of Maori, particularly through the early and mid 1900s? Are there elements of previous law and governmental decision making that run counter to the letter and intent of the treaty?
Yes, yes and yes.
So is protest justified?
Protest is also a vibrant and graphic example of our freedom. It is a clear and marked indication that we have, for the most part, a free and democratic country with freedom of speech and freedom of press. These two factors are really the ones that separate freedom from tyranny and so even if we don't agree with the message we can at least value the expression.

2. That we should have a 'true national day' (like Australia has...)
We HAVE a true national day....
It is called Waitangi Day and it celebrates the (albeit imperfect) founding of our nation and an agreement between the founding peoples of our nation to co-operate. What could possibly provide a better substitute?
The call often goes up for us to replace Waitangi Day with 'New Zealand Day'.
My question is why?
As mentioned we have a perfectly good national day that recognises the importance of Maori. I can only wonder whether it is the vestige of a desire to assimilate Maori and tikanga Maori that is lurking behind the desire to 'white wash' our national day.

Several people mentioned Australia Day as an example of a fun and festive national holiday that we could emulate...
Seriously? Would people really want to emulate the national celebrations of a nation that completely rejected the native populace in a systematic and entrenched culture of assimilation? (and ostracisation and destruction when assimilation was not an option.) Australia Day is really a celebration of white/settler Australia. It is not a day of cohesion for a nation, but one of division.

3. That people are sick of Maori being given 'hand outs'. 
Oh...that old chestnut. The cheeky hories are putting their hands out again...
Many pakeha have a latent fear that they will be put at an economic disadvantage if Maori are given land, money and resources.
Maori have traditionally been at an economic disadvantage due to many factors, not least of all loss of land and resources, underrepresentation in the early days of the colony and nation' and the cultural effects of having to fit into the supplanted British culture that took root here with colonisation.
Many pakeha further worry (in the case of land ownership) that they may be 'stolen from'.
This fear is not justified. The government won't allow wholesale taking of private land for treaty reparations. I have faith that the treaty process is, on the whole a fair and just one and that reparations are accorded where there have been injustices commited.
If you have been stolen from, or there has been nefarious (and illegal) activity that has caused you to be disadvantaged in some way, you would too seek reparations in court and no-one would say that in being given recompense you are getting a 'hand out'.
The treaty grievance process is analogous to this.

It's not a 'hand-out' (or the patronising term 'hand-up' - i.e. 'let's give the poor noble savage a hand'...) But is justified pay-back. Plain and simple. 

An interesting occurrence is happening now....
Iwi who have been beneficiaries of treaty settlements are beginning to reap the rewards of sound and solid investments.
There is a mistaken assumption on the part of many Kiwis that Iwi have squandered their settlements and misappropriated funds. But on the whole this is not a reflection of the truth!
And who hasn't made a bad investment here and there anyway? I certainly have made a few...(maybe my poor investments of the past were due to some of the tiny sliver of 'brown' genes of various types that I have inherited!)....
It smacks of bigotry when people assume that Maori and other groups who have traditionally been over-represented in poverty statistics are less able to succeed financially (leave the money making to pakeha and the touch-rugby to Maori).
I can see that there may be a rising 'white fear' in response to the growing wealth of Iwi. And sadly I have heard it said that this wealth is due to 'us' (who are 'us'? - I hope I'm not included in that) giving 'them' a hand-out.
Firstly this US and THEM mentality has to stop. We are one nation. We are ONE nation founded by an agreement between two peoples.

Assimilation and white washing do not make for unity - respect and diversity do. 

Secondly if by prudent investing an Iwi is able to increase their wealth base, then good on them! It certainly puts paid to the antiquated and racist notion that the noble savage is no good with his money.

Thirdly I have heard that at least one Iwi will be at a point soon of ensuring higher education for all it's members, and many are ensuring that money is invested in health initiatives. What a great example of collectivity and community! We could all learn something from that. Sound collective economic strategies to ensure that their community members are healthy and have greater knowledge and skills to succeed in the world - Tino pai!

We dishonour ourselves by not knowing, honouring and valuing the cultures that have made our nation what it is, and that can make it so much more. 
Aotearoa CAN be so much more than it is! We can be even more vibrant, more unique, and more wonderful in our mutual appreciation of one another. We can replace fear (from ignorance) with love and appreciation (from knowing). 
I think a lot of that appreciation needs to come as a result of pakeha learning more about NZ history, te reo Maori and tikanga Maori. Because if you don't, you're not a New're simply a settler. 

The Treaty - Super Brief
Te Tiriti o Waitangi was something of a rarity for the British Empire at the time and laid out an agreement between the signing tribes and the crown for co-operation in this new colony.
The reasons for this were many, and I am no historian - but there was certainly the desire by some of the Maori chiefs to ensure a greater degree of governance over the increasing numbers of settlers, rather than risk lawlessness on the part of Pakeha. The specter of French colonisation is also often quoted as a rationale behind the treaty - I think for Maori perhaps  a case of 'better the devil you know', and for the British a way to ensure Maori co-operation as allocating the resources for subjugation by force alone may have been too risky due to the already stretched nature of logistics and supply lines across an empire that literally reached around the globe.

Not all tribes signed, but within a fairly short time it became assumed (by the British at least) that New Zealand was a colony of the empire.

The treaty itself in brief allows the British government (now the NZ government as the crown) the right to rule New Zealand, whilst guaranteeing the use, ownership and possession of land and property (in the Maori language version of the treaty this definition is broader as 'taonga' or 'treasures') by the Maori owners, and imparts the full protection of the crown to Maori - with all the rights and privileges of British subjects.

That the treaty was almost ignored until the 1970s does not change it's crucial place in NZ history and that we should honour and value it now.
It may well be that many of the reasons behind the treaty- particularly from the crown point of view were a subterfuge to solidify power in New Zealand, BUT the document itself can still be taken as written, and not-withstanding it's imperfections, as a foundation of mutual co-operation and understanding.

The treaty, imperfect as it was has a kernel of co-operation and aroha that we can use as the basis for us to move forward as one.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The New Currency of Man = Being a Douchebag.

Unless you're living under a rock (or without access to television, web and radio....perhaps not a bad idea!) you can't have missed the resurgence of 'man-dom' in the media. 
Products designed (supposedly) for men, and images and archetypes (more correctly - stereotypes) of what is considered to be 'man-stuff'. As a man (yes I just checked underneath my sarong and I have all the equipment spite of wearing a sarong) I see so much of this as just plain stupid. 
I'm not offended by it, I just think we do us all a disservice by painting ourselves as a bunch of brutish Neanderthals shotgunning beers and consuming copious quantities of meat whilst driving unnecessarily large gas-guzzling automobiles (amongst other archetypes of what it supposedly means to be a 'man'...)

I mean does any of this really matter? And does the perpetuation of stereotypes and social conditioning that perhaps prevent us from improving society and the world around us really serve anyone's highest good?

A great, and tragic example of this is the Man Points Day campaign by the beer brand Lion Red. It's touting 'Man Points' as being the 'New Currency of Man'. In other words the new currency of man is to be a douche-bag. 
Apparently "The modern man is in a state of turmoil: a variety of surveys show men are spending more on facial cleansers, moisturisers and other beauty products than ever before; are more comfortable ironing than under a car bonnet; and most disturbingly, more Kiwi men watched the season finale of New Zealand’s Next Top Model than the Bledisloe Cup final on free-to-air television..."

Gee - that sounds serious. We really need to do something about this....I might have to stop worrying about things like the fact that women make up more than half the population but hold on average under 20% of positions of power, or that we are destroying the planet we live on, or that we are still trapped in an economic paradigm that values 'things' over people, and instead focus on this impending threat to manhood. 

Here's an excerpt from a press release about the day:

"Traditional male values are being eroded. It’s time to restore those values – and the only way to measure something’s value is to give it a currency. Manliness will now be measured in ‘Man Points’. Obviously, someone has to hand the Man Points out, and as the manliest beverage in the universe, who better than Lion Red?
Let’s start rewarding those moments and actions that proudly represent traditional Kiwi blokes! Lion Red wants you to get involved, look around, and award and deduct Man Points as you see necessary."
Yeah! - Who better to hand out points for 'manliness' than Lion Red! 
The award for manliest man goes to......Jake Heke!
The press release goes on to list a few of the ways you can win or lose points. So in honour of 'Man Points Day' (on the 15th of February) I'm gonna see how I go on this 'man test'.
I'll award just one point for the supposedly manly things that I do and take one off for the 'unmanly' things. 

Five easy ways to gain man points:
  • Eat a pie for breakfast 
Probably right now would NOT do this. I have had my share of pies in my life - but am currently eating a primarily plant based diet (this will no doubt affect my manliness). No Points

  • Build a deck 
I could do this, but only with the help of a mate or my old man.... I think due to my need to get help from some 'real men' sadly in this case again. No Points

  • Go fishing with your mates 
Potentially I would do this, and I grew up hunting and fishing from the time I could stand (or earlier)....but might have a few qualms due to my move back towards vegetarian/vegan eating....Hmmm - I do however IF eating meat or fish prefer it to be taken by my own hand soin this case I'm going to give myself +1 point!

  • Own a Ute
I think driving a Ute (a 'pickup' for my N. American readers) is stupid and uncecessary unless you need it. I drive a small station wagon that is fuel efficient but still allows me to go camping and fishing. I guess to be a man I should have bought the Holden instead of the Nissan....  No Points

  • Wear a league jersey
I just don't dig league! Sorry but I'm a Union No Points (I don't wear Union jerseys either)

Subtotal - 1 Man Point

Five easy ways to lose man points:
  • Ask for directions
I do this regularly if I don't know where to go and want to get to where I'm going on time. I will even ask women or homosexuals for directions! -1 Point

  • Pick the vegetarian option 
I do this regularly too. This whole vegetarian/flexitarian thing is really getting in the way of me being a 'man'! -1 point

  • Own a poodle  
I don't like poodles so I'm safe on this one. Poodles traditionally are actually hunting/retrieving dogs and are considered by many to be one of the more 'game' breeds. I guess the fact that they are shaved (in such a way as to preserve temperature whilst in cold water but enabling them to swim more effectively) makes them 'unmanly'. No Points Deducted

  • Wax anything that’s not a board 
I don't wax. I do wax a surfboard, so I'm safe on this count too. I do on occasion pluck stray hairs though. Does that make me less of a man? No points deducted

  • Spend over $20 on a haircut 
I've paid for 2 haircuts in my life (both more than $20) the rest I have cut myself or my very cool cousin has cut it for me. I guess by default I scrape through on this too! No points deducted

Overall Total - Minus 1 Man Point (out of a possible total of 5)

What does this mean? 
Does it make me a woman, or simply some sort of androgynous, amorphic non-man entity?
I think it's hilarious to see the facade of 'manliness' that is co-created by us and the media, and perpetuated through our collective societal conditioning. 
Who ever decided that eating meat was manly? For that matter how many men who think that eating meat is 'manly' have actually taken responsibility for taking the life of an animal by their own hand, butchered it and  carried it down the mountain (for the record I have)....
Who decided that being vegetarian or vegan was not manly? I guess whoever decided that could tell it to Bill Pearl (one of the greatest bodybuilders and strongmen of all time), Jason Ferrugia (the renowned Strength and Conditioning Coach) or perhaps take up a discussion with UFC fighter Mac Danzig?
Who decided that being homosexual isn't 'manly'? I know plenty of gay guys that could kick the crap out of most straight guys. Maybe have a discussion about manliness with Ian Roberts or Gareth Thomas. They may not be able to fit you into their schedule though, what with having to be some of the best sportsmen in their field (Rugby League and Rugby respectively) all the training, business activity and of course poodle walking and make-up buying.
And what about strength? Being 'strong' is undoubtedly 'manly' right? But I guess going to the gym is pretty 'gay' too... Well whether it's manly or not I wonder how many beer swilling, pie eating, pot bellied 'men' of Man Points fame ever set foot in a gym and lifted REALLY heavy, consistently and with dedication to become truly strong? (And I don't mean what most people consider 'strong' which is actually pretty average...)  Or better yet - how many lift heavy rocks, stones or put in any sort of hard, physical work?
Fighting is manly too I'm sure. But is walking away from a fight more manly? - I'm getting really confused by this whole man business! 
How many 'men' have fought because their lives (rather than their status or appearance) depended on it?...and more importantly how many have stood up and fought for the rights of others and for the benefit of our planet?

Maybe we should add some other things to the Man Points list:
  • Beating your wife 2 Man Points
Come on  - she deserves it, and I think it may even say in the bible that it's OK! (Hold on - is religion and spirituality 'manly'? I'm beginning to lose track...) Add one more point if you are drunk at the time (having just shotguneed a dozen Lion Reds)

  • Beating up homosexuals 2 Man Points
All gay men are eyeing you up right? I mean it's not like we have a problem with long as they don't do anything around us! They also ALL quite obviously spend too much money on their hair, nails and cosmetics and I'm pretty sure that every homosexual has a cute (non-manly) puppy dog in his purse. So they are really just 'non-men' masquerading as men.

  • Getting in a Bar Fight 1 Man Point 
Fighting is not only cool, it also makes you tough. Feel free to add points if you are fighting over important issues like whose favourite sports team is superior or whether someone did in fact get 'eyes for Christmas' (translation looking at you 'funny'.) Also add a point for beating up homosexuals (or people who you think are homosexual, or who are with, or in close proximity to homosexuals) and ethnic minorities (although you may have one type of ethnic minority that you will feel OK towards due to the fact that they 'work hard' or 'make great food' or are 'not as bad as the rest'.) 

Non Man Points
  • Writing Minus 1 Man Point
I mean READING is bad enough (especially if it's some type of flowery novel or self help book!) but writing is completely over the line.

  • Speaking another language Minus 1 Point
Real men speak English. Enough said. 

  • Yoga, Pilates, Meditation, Prayer etc, etc... Instant disqualification as a 'Man'

These are all for your wives because women are a) weak and b) they need the 'crutch' that spirituality provides. Real men lift heavy things (although as discussed I'm sure you don't actually do any sort of activity) or they watch sports rather than 'do' them (it's easier that way.)
Spiritual stuff is for chicks. Men don't need to learn how to be mindful, caring, connected and heart felt in their lives. That might not leave enough time for drinking, pretend fighting and bigotry.

He tao rākau e taea te karo
He tao kī e kore e taea te karo! 
(A wooden shaft can be parried, Not so a verbal one!)

To hear Cliff have a very 'unmanly' conversation on the Mind-Body-Spirit connection and what it means to be a 'real man' listen to his interview on The Every Day Spirits Radio Show:

Cliff is a Naturopath and author. He grew up hunting and fishing, playing rugby and is a 2 x IAWA weightlifting world champion, world record holder and competitive boxer and submission wrestler. He has coached dozens of world and Olympic level and professional athletes. 
He meditates, does yoga, eats a primarily plant based diet and reads anything he can get his hands on. He has even been known to cry at the movies.  
He is quite obviously due to his lack of Man Points, not a man. 

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Superhero Within ~ Guest Post by Leah Allinger

I remember being 8 years old, sitting in front of the tv completely fixated on and enamoured with She-Ra: Princess of Power.  I’m not sure if it was her beauty, her strength, or the idea that she could totally take care of herself, but she was special… my superhero.
For those that don’t remember, She-Ra is the alter ego of Princess Adora and the twin sister of He-Man. She was abducted as a baby and grew up as Adora… a seemingly normal girl (not unlike myself of course…!).  When she discovers her power and transforms into She-Ra her destiny is uncovered and this normal girl becomes “The Most Powerful Woman in the Universe”.
But She-Ra was more than just a warrior.  She was nurturing in nature (as opposed to her brother’s more aggressively-based powers), was empathic,  understanding and was able to communication with animals.
Not a bad role model to have, right?
I don’t think that I’ve thought about She-Ra since I was 12 or so.  Today I walked by a Lululemon bag that said “Unwrap your Super Powers” and of course she came to mind.  Which led me to the question: what happened when I started growing up that I forgot that I once had this character that I dreamt about being and perhaps even truly believed in at some level?  Did I replace it with something else or did I just stop imagining?
I’m not sure what the answer is, but something tells me that it’s a combination of both.  I have a feeling we are encouraged to get “realistic”.   Do we stop believing in the magic of transformation and do we cease to see our own unlimited possibilities? Maybe we start to succumb to the societal assumption that we can only hope for that which our parents had, only experience 50% of our marriages being successful and grind our way through our 30′s,40′s and 50′s in hope of security only to realize that we forgot to truly live life along the way.
And while I had a relatively awesome childhood I still struggle to see past some of my own limiting beliefs about myself. I notice that I sometimes buckle to my own insecurities and the more I do it, the more normal it becomes.  Many of the people around me do the same thing and  it becomes so engrained in who I become that I stop seeing that it is not true, it’s just the reality that I’ve surrounded myself with.
See, the thing about She-Ra was that I let her into a place in my imagination that defied my own reality.  And I think I knew deep down that I didn’t have the magic that would transform Spirit into Swift Wind (a talking winged unicorn), but it opened up a part of my mind to start believing in things outside of my own experience, circumstances and existence.
One of the most unusual and creative sport psych tools I have ever heard about was with the sliding team prior to the 2010 Olympics.  They individually met with a Shaman who helped them connect with their own spirit animals.  John Montgomery, skeleton Gold Medallist had a turtle.  With the symbol placed on his helmet, he visualized the turtle sliding with him down the track- smoothly, effortlessly and quickly…
I think there is something about stepping outside of what we consider our own limits, our own bodies and our own minds.  In times where our inner excellence is tested, a fear is being realized or a limit is being set on us, what if we connect to our own inner superhero?  Whether it is one that already exists that possesses all of the qualities that we yearn to have, or perhaps one that we create on our own, why not step into their world, even just for a moment, and see if solutions appear and goals are met.  AND at the same time creatively play in this world!
So in my life, She-Ra has been rediscovered.  I see her differently now than I used to.  Where I used to take her battles at face value, I now see how similar they are to my own.  I see how she never uses her magic sword on the offensive, but only to defend herself if need be.  She never hurts human beings, and she always finds time to connect with family and animals.  Sure, she is beautiful, but it’s no longer about her long blonde hair- her beauty is more about how she finally knows who she is.  And lastly, where I used to notice what she was doing, I now notice how she was doing it.  There is an art to the way she moves and the way she handles a challenge.
So what is my Super Power?  Today it is unleashed imagination!  I’m not sure that Swift Wind will show up on my doorstep, but the fact that I don’t know what will show up means I’m on the right path…

Leah is a professional beach volleyball player, motivational speaker, trainer, crossfitter and designer.  She is based out of California but spends much of her offseason in Vancouver, BC.  She loves animals, randomness, friends and family, being inspired, stunts, and singing (badly) to the Dixie Chicks!  Her dislikes include raw tomatoes, anyone flaky and mustard on her hotdog.
Her fun, inspirational, heartfelt blog can be found at:
She is currently training for the 2010 AVP and FIVB world tour,  designing sexy swim-wear for active women with