“I have a brain tumour.”
Not the words you’d expect to hear from your 24 year old mate, a young guy who was fit, healthy and didn’t have any detrimental vices that may impact his health.
Yet that’s what Josh told me on that brisk winters morning back in 2015. I was left in a state of mild disbelief, a million questions running through my head simultaneously… how was he feeling? How was he coping with the news and the future? What would I do in a similar situation? I knew I had to do whatever I could to help.
The next time I saw Josh was at my place a few weeks later, he was undergoing chemo and was starting to really feel (and show) the effects. I’d been pondering over the best way for me to help him through this ordeal, something to really show my support and make his life a little more enjoyable. I quickly came to the conclusion that providing Josh with a longer-term focus was perhaps the best way to go about this. And what better to anchor that focus than a massive physical challenge? I asked him if he wanted to cycle across Australia once he was given the all clear. It didn’t take him long to agree to the idea. I hadn’t of course, considered the fact that this meant I had to do it too…
Here we are, over 2 years later having completed a successful journey across Australia. 7 riders cycled every metre of the route from Melbourne to Perth and 5 unfortunate souls drove either the whole or part of the way behind and in front of us. What an expedition it was. Along the way we managed to raise over $83,000 for the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, an organization helping to find a cure for the terrible disease that struck Josh at such an early age.
How hard was it? Well, the physical side wasn’t incredibly difficult. We averaged 140km per day, not unreasonable, though we often had headwinds to contend with which meant a lot of time on the saddle. Still, it was a fairly casual pace with enough rest along the way to keep us relatively fresh. The mental side was the bigger challenge.
Having to wake up at 5am each morning knowing you’d be spending most of the day on the bike got a little tiresome. We had to be constantly alert with regards to traffic hazards; what trucks were doing as they overtook, making sure we maintained our line and stayed right on the back wheel of the bike in front. There was also a fairly wide-ranging level of fitness between the group, meaning it wasn’t possible to get into your own rhythm and get into the ‘zone’. Add to that, the scenery throughout most of the middle part of Australia is fairly consistent: absolutely nothing. So it was a bit of a mental drain, particularly as we got into the middle part of the ride.
Despite this, everyone maintained a positive attitude for most of it. Not much complaining and no real arguments despite 7 males of varying character spending every waking moment together for 25 days straight. I’d consider this one of the biggest achievements of the whole journey. That’s pretty damn impressive looking back.
We set out from the Yarra River in Melbourne and rose into Fiona Stanley hospital 25 days later, the place where Josh received his cancer treatment. It was an incredible reception, greeted by a crowd of friends, family, the deputy premier and a news crew. We were joined on the last 30km leg by over 60 other riders, causing havoc to the local traffic as we blocked up a lane of major highways. What an experience!
I’m particularly proud of Josh. When I proposed the idea of cycling across Australia, I wanted to give him a focus and vision to help get through those long days of treatment, where only his imagination could take him away. When we made the final ride into Fiona Stanley hospital, I was obviously pretty excited to have completed this challenge on a personal level. That paled in comparison to the excitement I had for Josh and what he must have been feeling after 2 years of preparation in not only getting ready for this event, but doing so with all the other hurdles he had to face. I was incredibly grateful to have been able to share that moment with him.
One of the true beauties of endurance pursuits is the tangible goal they can provide us; a definitive focus which is lacking from many of our lives. This is what I’d learned from the last few years of my own pursuits and this is what I was looking to provide to Josh.
I’m proud to say, it seemed to have worked.
Today is officially 1 month until we kick off the ride from Melbourne to Perth. We depart Perth on the 21st of September, packing our gear into 2 vans and making the presumably much easier drive across Australia. Then, on the 27th, we hop on the bikes and cycle back the way we came. Sounds a little ridiculous doesn’t it?
I’m both excited and a little nervous at the prospect. I don’t think any of us comprehend exactly how difficult this is going to be. I for one, fear I may have underestimated it slightly up to this point. I remember the long arduous days cycling the length of Vietnam and the oath I made never to do anything like that again… It’s the combination of accumulated physical fatigue and perhaps more strikingly, the mental fatigue we’ll suffer from doing an incredibly repetitive and arduous task day after day after day.
This is different in many ways, there is a huge improvement in the following;
It’s also a lot more challenging in many ways;
This is going to be a hell of a challenge.
The boys are all looking good. Josh, in particular, has been putting in huge km’s weekly and looks pretty set to take on the journey. Although I’m 100% confident I’ll do it, the ride definitely won’t be the relatively straightforward cruise each day that I initially pictured. We’re all going to have ups and downs and some days are simply going to feel like hell.
This has already happened on training rides, including one on Saturday. I only managed 85km and was absolutely shattered afterward, to the point where I felt like throwing up for a couple of hours afterward. I don’t really know what caused this (likely something I ate the day before) but it proved a demonstration as to what can go wrong and what we’ll all likely have to push through at some point on the ride.
This is going to be a true test of character for all of us and I’m genuinely looking forward not only to experiencing that test again myself, but seeing how all the other boys respond and push through it. This is a team effort at the end of the day and we all need to ensure we’re there to motivate and encourage each other to get through the dark patches we’re all bound to encounter at some point.
Am I really looking forward to cycling a bike across Australia? Not really to be honest. What I am looking forward to, is testing myself in a different way once more. Overcoming the struggle and the mental battle that goes along with it. Particularly getting to experience that with a great group of people.
Bring on the Tour For a Cure…
I’ve started doing monthly challenges (again) to improve myself and keep things interesting while I’m based back here in Perth. You can check out last months Cold Showers Challenge and the positive results in brought.
The challenge for this month is to really step up my training and take my overall fitness to the next level.
I want to improve the intensity of my efforts and get myself mentally, as well as physically prepared for some of the challenges I have coming up.
I’ll be training 6 days per week in a variety of aspects and will post every workout I do in a weekly update. I’ll use this platform as a mini blog to keep track of what I’m doing for the month.
This is a way to keep myself accountable and to provide a little extra motivation to push myself. It also gives you a little insight into how I generally train and get prepared for the various events I do.
I have 2 key goals with this fitness challenge:
I’m aiming to climb Mt Everest in 2018. From everything I have read and studied on the topic, the real challenge is the mental aspect, pushing yourself day after day in such an unforgiving environment. I want to ensure I’m as well prepared for that as possible.
Some of the Key Activities:
-Running (Specifically 2x high intensity & 1x long endurance each week)
-Strength Training (With Weights)
-Muscular Endurance (Circuits, bodyweight etc..)
-Recovery (Beach swims 1x per week, foam rolling, stretching)
-Recreational (climbing, swimming…)
I will be sure to test out a few different training methods during this fitness challenge- Crossfit, Anarchy etc.. will probably get a trial. If you’ve got any recommendations, let me know!
Most importantly, set yourself a challenge and find a way to keep yourself accountable. That could be via blog, social media or simply by telling your friends. A friend of mine had a trainer at the gym who used to take underwear clad photos of all his clients at the beginning of a transformation. If they didn’t stick to the program or if they went about it half-arsed, he would print out the photos and stick them around the gym. Brutal but effective!
Find your own motivation..
Strength Training (47 mins)
Romanian Deadlifts- 60×10, 80×8, 100×8
Barbell Rows- 60×6, 60×6, 60×6
Db Clean & Press- 26×5, 26×5, 26×5
Pullups- 8,7 ,7
Dips- 8,8, 10
Trx Rollout- 10, 10
Russian Twists (10kg Kettlebell)- 30, 30
Leg Changes- 30, 30
Side Planks- 30sec, 30sec (ea side)
Notes: Had a cold so took it pretty easy.
Foam Rolling/Stretching (20 minutes)
Labouring Work (3 Hours)
Tempo Run (25:09)
5.2km, 4.49km Pace
Notes: Cold interfering with my breathing. Couldn’t catch it at all from about the 4.5km mark. Felt asthmatic.
Walking (4 hrs)
Foam Rolling/Stretching/Core (30mins)
Planks- 1:30, 1:30, 1:30
Bridges- 1:30, 1:30, 1:30
Labouring Work (4 hours)
Kokoda/Run Workout (1:21)
5 Laps Kokoda Trail
4 Laps Kokoda Trail
3 Laps Kokoda Trail
Notes: Ran out of light.. Couldn’t see the path.
Foam Rolling/Stretching (40mins)
Personal Training (1 Hour)
High Intensity supersets/circuits consisting of exercises such as:
Notes- Killed me! Crazy cardio workout that relied heavily on muscular endurance and a bit of strength.
2 hrs walking
5km Casual Run
Foam Rolling/Stretching (25 mins)
Notes- Sore as hell glutes after yesterdays workout
Treadmill Intervals (6.4km, 33:40)
5x Intervals- 800m @ 15.5km/hr (3:52 Pace) -> 300m @ 6km/hr
Strength Training (1 Hour)
Romanian Deadlifts- 20×10, 40×10, 60×10, 80×5, 100×5, 120×5, 130×5
Military Press- 20×5, 30×5, 40×5, 50×5
Barbell Rows- 40×5, 60×5, 65×5, 65×5, 65×5
Dips- 10, 10, 10
Lat Pulldowns- 47×10, 54×10, 54×10
Plank- 2:00, 2:00
Trx Rollout- 10, 10
Bosu Ball Mountain Climbers- 20, 20
2.5 hours walking
Notes: Felt great Back to 100% after cold
Moving Furtniture (4 Hours)
Indoor Climbing (1:30)
Strength Workout (1:20)
Squats- 20×10, 40×5, 60×5, 70×5, 80×5 (stopped there as lower back tight and sore)
Renegade Rows- 16×10, 16×10, 16×10
DB Clean & Press- 16×10, 16×10, 16×10
Rowing Machine (lvl 10)- 500m Intervals- 1:42, 1:41, 1:38
5km Run- 25:30
Foam Rolling/Stretching (25:00)
Trail Hike/Run– (20km, 2:34)
Hiked first 45mins then ran the rest.
1x lap of Eagle View trail then 5km return-run to ‘Swan View Tunnel
Wednesday 15th June
Foam Rolling/Stretching (30mins)
Thursday 16th June
Personal Training Session (1:20)
Stretching & functional strength Training
Friday 17th June- Sunday 19th June
Stirling Ridge Walk.
Around 21 Hours Hiking Total over the 3 days. 15kg Pack and rough terrain.
Monday 20th June
Stretching & Foam Rolling (20mins)
Tuesday 21st June
Strength Workout (45mins)
Bench Press- 20×10, 4010, 60×8, 65×7 (first time doing these in a ages, took it easy)
Pullups- 7, 7, 6
Lying Leg Curls- 35×12, 45×10, 45×10
Db Rows- 20×12, 24×12, 24×12
Bosu Ball Mountain Climbers- 20, 20
Bosu Planks- 1:00, :45
Wednesday 22nd June
High Intensity Cardio (40:00)
Treadmill (4.6km, 22:39)
Start at 9km/hr. Add 0.5km/hr every 300m. Got to mid 16.5km/hr
500m Rowing- 1:42, 1:48
Squats- 20×10, 40×10, 60×5, 70×5, 80×5, 90×5, 100×2
Dual Cable Pulldown- 33×12, 40×12, 47×12, 54×10
Military Press- 20×10, 30×5, 40×5, 50×6
1arm Cable Row- 8.75×12, 11.25×12, 13.75×12
Ab Rollouts- 10
Bosu Situps- 20, 20
3 Hours Casual Walking
First off, Perth water in May is a hell of a lot colder than I expected.. It seems to have gotten colder and colder, as the days have shortened and night-time temperatures have dipped to 4 or 5 degrees.
Having said that, I’ve been really enjoying the cold showers, starting to actually look forward to them even! I guess that’s the mental aspect as much as anything, enjoying the challenge.
I’ve certainly become more tolerant of the cold water, when I first started it took me at least a minute to stop hyper-ventilating and get over the initial cold-blast shock. Now I hop in, take a couple of deep breaths when it hits me and I’m all good.
Onto the Benefits I’ve noticed..
I’m only halfway through, so it will be interesting to see if these benefits prove themselves even further as we go along.
A friend of mine, Emmett, is joining me in this challenge. If you’re looking for a personal trainer or performance coach, he is your man. You can find him at www.emmettjohnpugh.com.
Here is his biggest takeaway from the challenge so far..
“I found the greatest benefit was in achieving my daily habits with ease…
Ive been working on building a SOLID list of daily habits that are just automatic. So when your first learning a habit there is A LOT of resistance in starting the new habit your forming. The cold water challenge helped me burst through that initial step and get started on the habit i was working on.”
“The biggest takeaway from this challenge has been the flow on effect to how i overcome challenges throughout the day.
Before, i would let the voice in my head talk me out of overcoming small challenges. Now that voice is drowned out by the experience of a cold shower first thing in the morning. Making everything else i do during the day seem easy.
Training my will power like a muscle has seen HUGE benefits in my daily habit formation. Finished a book in a week, good considering i was never a big reader. I have taught myself to touch type in a week. Incorporated the Wim Hof breathing method into my morning routine (must check this guy out)*. Most importantly i have been so immersed in making the most out of every minute of the day that I cant waste time.”
I will do another update at the end of the month to review the whole process and to let you know if I found the cold shower business to be a worthwhile endeavour!
Check out a few of the benefits of cold showers.
During the month of May, I’ll be undertaking the Cold Shower Challenge. I encourage you to join me.
Cold exposure has been long-renowned as a recovery enhancement tool used by professional athletes (mainly in the form of ice-baths, recently cryotherapy). It’s only been more recently that the health benefits of cold showers for the everyday person has been bandied around.
I’ve known about the concept for a good couple of years now and even tried a few cold showers myself sporadically. Now’s the time to give it a real crack. I’m doing a great deal of training at the moment, particularly running, and need as much help with recovery as I can get. Training recovery has traditioanlly been the key use of cold exposure so it will be interesting to put the theory to the test. Enter the cold shower challenge..
The heat generated by your body in attempt to warm you up produces a metabolic effect that burns fat.
The linked study shows the effects of cold exposure on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It appears to work for the everyday inidvidual as well.
“Exposure to cold is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline and to increase synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain as well. Additionally, due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.”
Cold water helps to close pores. Closed pores keep your skin looking smooth and healthy, without drying your skin out as hot water can. The cold water helps keep your hair shiny and your skin soft, rather than itchy, ashy, and dried out.
A 1993 study conducted by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England showed a link between having cold baths and having high testosterone levels.
If you’ve ever been exposed to cold water, you’ll know the feeling of hyperventilating initially. This boosts oxygen intake and expands the lungs, mimicking the effects of exercise.
“Your lymphatic system takes waste away from your cells to help you fight disease. It’s separate from your blood vessels, but it’s moved around by the contraction of your muscles. Cold showers cause your entire body to contract and this forces your lymphatic system to push lymph fluids throughout your body, stopping them from pooling in one part of your body as they would if the lymphatic system were compromised or inefficient.”
Well known among the professional athlete community..
Over time, cold water exposure improves circulation. Since exposure to cold causes your blood flow to be redirected to your vital organs, your body is forced to circulate your blood more efficiently.
More so anecdotal evidence from what I’ve read. Particularly applies to night where a reduced body temperature would invoke sleep.
Yeh.. That’s a fair list of potential benefits. Well worth a few minutes of discomfort to reap all those rewards don’t you think? I imagine another benefit would be increased discipline & mental fortitude, it will almost certainly get easier as we go along.
A 5 minute cold shower everyday during the month of May, ideally first thing in the morning.
The protocol is simple..
– Turn the shower to its coldest setting
– Get in
– Stay in for 5 minutes
There you have it. Give it a go for yourself & tell me about your experience. I’ll post my results and thoughts at the end of May.
If you want to read more, these are a few of the sources I used in this article
This is another article, ‘How to Hold Your Breath Longer Than Houdini‘, I’ve nicked from my old site Deadat30. I think it’s a gem and one I’ll certainly revisit in the future. (Maybe with the addition of water this time..)
Harry Houdini, probably the most well known magician of all time, famous for amazing feats of escape, deception and illusion. Despite performing in the early 1900’s, his name is still as synonymous with magic today as it was in his prime. I’m sure everyone’s heard of the disappearing elephant.. Perhaps what put Houdini into a class of his own however, particularly in his day, were his acts of physical endurance.
In particular, the ability to hold his breath for long periods of time. He incorporated this advantage into many of his most notable stunts (the milk can escape, buried alive and the underwater box escape) allowing him to outdo most of his competition.
I recently came across an article on Houdini, which claimed his personal best for holding his breath was 3 minutes 30 seconds. After a bit of further investigation, this did indeed seem accurate. My curiosity was piqued. Orignially I thought this would be next to impossible for me to beat, I figured 1:30 was a decent time and even that was a struggle..
I did a bit more research into how free-divers and the like manage to hold their breath for so long and found out that David Blaine formerly held the world record with a ridiculous time of 17 minutes and 4 seconds. (This was oxygen assisted, meaning he inhaled pure oxygen for upto 30 minutes prior to the attempt.) He has done a TED talk on the subject and goes into detail about the technique he used to break the world record, explaining anyone can use it with a degree of success (relative success, dont expect to beat that record…unless you’re this guy).
I decided to give it a crack..
I attempted, as a baseline measure, to hold my breath for as long as I could without any sort of technique or training. I managed 1:20.
I got Russell to time me so I could focus on keeping relaxed and keeping my mind off the ridiculous challenge I was doing.. The result: 3:02
I was involuntarily heaving towards the end, my body attempting to breath despite no air being inhaled. Bit disappointed I didn’t get it, despite holding my breath for more than double the amount of time I had ever managed previously.
Woke up at 2am. Nothing much to do at that time so decided to attempt this foolish endevour yet again. My time: 3:35
I believe being so relaxed, with a lowered heart-rate from sleeping helped me big time here. Add to that the fact I had tried it before and knew moreso of what to expect when you deliberately trick your body into thinking it’s going to die..
I could have potentially gone a few more seconds but I felt a tremendous pressure in my head and my right ear started making funny sounds..
*This is the technique prescribed by David Blaine. There are plenty more out there but they all appear to involve a similar process and essentially the same breathing exercises.
Before holding your breath, inhale and exhale slowly from deep within your diaphragm. By doing this, you’re ridding your lungs of low-quality air. Spend five seconds breathing in, then hold the breath for one second, before breathing out for ten seconds.
Exhale forcefully, pushing as much air out of your lungs as possible. Puff out your cheeks as you do this, and imagine you are trying to blow a toy sailboat across a stretch of water. Once you have exhaled completely, inhale quickly and repeat. Try to keep your body as still as possible while you do this, to avoid expending any of the stored oxygen from the previous step.
*If you do this too hard you’ll feel like you’re going to pass out. If you keep going, you probably will. Slow down and take it a little easier..
– Make sure you’re seated comfortably (not lying down) and move as little as humanly possible.
-One thing David himself does when he does his record attempts is mentally move through each muscle in his body and ensure it is completely relaxed.
-Personally, I found leaning forward a little rather than leaning right back helped when I started struggling at the 3min mark.
-Another recommendation from Mr Blaine that I certainly found useful was running through the alphabet, naming a celebrity/famous figure for each. You may find some ridiculous names pop into your head..