Sci-MX Challenge – A change of training proves a shock to the system

F45 Training provides functional training for all ages and abilities

In the second instalment of our eight-week Sci-MX challenge Sport360°’s Dan Owen and Alex Rea discuss the first parts of the training element of their programmes. Paired with two of the best in the business, they have been taken out of their usual comfort zones in order to hit those two-month goals.

Dan Owen @MyPropLife

As we mentioned in last week’s column, conditioning is really high on my priority list for the coming weeks. It’s time to get in shape for the upcoming rugby season, and given my year out of the game the main focus of this will be the capacity to keep working hard over an extended period of time.

My coach, John Britton, has programmed four gym sessions a week, and three conditioning. We will talk about the weights sessions next week, but first we’ll concentrate on what is getting my heart and lung capacity up – and making sure muscle groups can keep working under duress with the intensity I need for rugby.

John is the Head Coach and Manager at F45 Training in Motor City, a facility that runs functional, group training sessions six days a week, and will be my home for conditioning.

Far too often for cardio, I will have sat on a bike for half an hour, got a bit of a sweat on and that would do me. The truth is, cardio hurts. It can also be monotonous. Pain plus boredom is not a great combination for a good session.

F45 sessions are fast-paced, intense and you are constantly moving between stations meaning you never get used to, or bored, of a particular exercise. Each station is generally between around 30-55 seconds work, with a rest period of around 10-20 seconds. For a sport like rugby it’s perfect. A short hit of intense effort, a breather, and go again. And again. And again.

My first session was a shock to the system. With the powerlifting style of training I have done previously lactic acid is not really something I have had to contend with too much.

I quickly found the threshold was pretty low – especially in the quads.

Five sessions in and as John put it ‘I’m not dying as quickly’, which is a good thing. Heart rate in the sessions is now hitting around 150bpm, and I think it will go up as my capacity to push harder increases.

Sessions are actually fun, have a lot of variety and just looking at the other people in the session appeal to pretty much every demographic.

That’s the beauty of these circuits – you are pushed, but can ultimately work to your own pace, and see improvements quickly. I’m looking forward to seeing the progress in coming weeks.

You can find out more about training at F45 Dubai Motor City here.

Alex Rea @AlexReaFitness

Physique training is a daunting proposition because there are so many facets to consider.

From nutrition and calorie control, to lifting technique and training structure, it’s easy to be thrown off by the nuance of it all.

Thankfully, that’s where Aaron Agnew comes into the picture, helping to piece together what is quite a complex jigsaw. Aaron is a certified Exercise Physiologist and leading aesthetic bodybuilding trainer in the region.

Essentially, the Canadian is helping to drive the UAE’s fitness industry toward a much more professional space having experienced the highs and lows of stage competition himself.

Technically I’m pretty sound on most movements, and I’ve never seen the true value of a trainer.

However, that primitive way of thinking has changed. Before this challenge, my sessions were loose in structure, just a single bodypart per day, five times a week, with a sixth day working on a weak point.

Aaron has flipped the training on its head, designing a bespoke program with huge value.

To give you a snapshot, it’s double parts daily with cardio combined on four of the six days (split between HIIT and Stairmaster) with the intention of retaining muscle while trimming my bodyfat from 14 percent down to around 10 percent.

Naturally, nutrition is fundamental, but one of the most significant of Aaron’s philosophies is rapid tempo.

There are large compound lifts to spearhead the session before accessory work made up of super-sets and tri-sets. The key to this is rep-range and rest periods. To start, it’s a 2010 tempo (two seconds on the negative, one second on the positive) with 60 seconds in between each set and each exercise.

The time framework has been a huge shock to the system but already the benefits are immense – you only need to see the deluge of sweat pouring off me after each session.

The workout schedule looks like this: day one is a push day focused on chest, shoulders and core, day two is a pull session of back and biceps with 20-40 minutes of the

Stairmaster and day three is lower body and shoulder focused with a big emphasis on squat strength with HIIT. The week then loops back around again with active recovery on the seventh day.

It’s a completely new way of training for me, ripping up my previous mindset but with the tough work being done on nutrition, that’s a mental fortitude which is slowly being broken up.

More on that segment of the challenge next week.

Trainers’ top tips

Aaron Agnew (@AaronAgnew_DubaiFitness ) on health and fitness in Ramadan 


1. Adjust the time of the day you are exercising

For your workouts you should train when you feel the most comfortable. You can try a few options and see what fits best.

Whether it is right before iftar, after iftar or before or after Suhoor. You should have some energy to train but not feel so exhausted or dehydrated that you put yourself at risk.

2. Try not to eat too much

Don’t go overboard eating before the sun rises. If you do, you will, as many people do, gain weight during this month.

Avoid the temptation to overeat during the evening meal and eat until you are reasonably full. There can be many social gatherings which may make it hard to not over consume. Be careful on eating too much sugar. Try to have balanced meals that are comprised of lean protein, healthy fats and complex slow digesting carbohydrates.

3. Drink water

You should maintain a normal level of hydration during Ramadan. Make sure you drink enough water prior to starting your fast but do not try to consume all your water in one sitting.

When the weather is particularly hot you may need more water than usual. Have a designated water bottle that you take with you when you go out, when you go asleep and at home.

Track how much water you are consuming and try to hit around 4L if you’re a man and 3L if you’re a woman.

John Britton (@johnmbritton) on conditioning 

John Britton

Sci-MX athlete John Britton is the Head Coach/Manager at F45 Training in Dubai Motor City – he is a national level weightlifter, ice hockey player, and lifts a lot of heavy stuff – as his Instagram shows  here he offers some advice on improving conditioning.

1. It’s got to hurt

When focusing on conditioning the only way to improve is to push yourself as hard as possible. It really is that simple.

Now, we are not talking about pushing to the point of injury, but there has to be a lot of heavy breathing and a raised heart rate. This is often down to mindset and breaking through those barriers in order to improve.

2. Vary as much as possible

Conditioning work can be boring so it’s crucial to make the most of all the variables in your training. Now this can be anything from the amount of time you are
working, to rest period, weight increases, rep ranges, and the exercises themselves.

There’s so much to keep your sessions fresh. It is a huge element for us at F45.

We have more than 3000 exercises programmed into our different sessions meaning our members don’t get the same workout twice, which not only keep the body active but the mind too.

3. Don’t forget to rest

This is an element that people always underestimate. The perfect example is a runner who goes out every single day and does five to ten kilometres and wonders why they are not seeing any improvement in their times. It all comes down to rest. We have to allow the body time to recover. During this time we are recuperating and getting stronger and ready to go again. Make sure you are resting enough during the week to ensure the body is ready to work hard in each of
your sessions.


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