Motivation, Motivating & Mental Strength

Ok, so the last few posts here have very much been on the mental strength theme.

You could say they’re borderline motivational.

Motivation does fascinate me, but not in the facebook meme type of way.

Those ridiculous combinations of some quote or slogan over a picture of some idyllic landscape or water sprayed fitness model (no, its not real sweat, it’s oil and a spray bottle)

Click the image to read an excellent post on why these images are irresponsible and dangerous.

Click the image to read an excellent post on why these images are irresponsible and dangerous.

But better than motivation is determination.

A wont for something better and the willingness to strive for it.

Motivation ebbs and flows, willingness to work is more about attitude.
And attitude can be trained.

When you train to build this attitude, you develop mental strength. Building mental strength makes building physical strength easier.

The two elements, mental and physical, are inseparable.

Descartes was wrong. Plain and simple.

The body is not a vehicle for a higher mind. intellect does not trump physicality. They are not opposing features, they are complimentary.

Developing one helps the other.

I’ve witnessed this first hand during my travels through the martial arts as a student. I’ve seen it grow in the people I trained alongside, I felt it grow in myself.
I’ve seen my own clients during my years as a coach develop a steeliness and willingness to drive harder, push further and dig deeper.

And I’ve seen it develop in some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.

The guys I work with from the HOPS Centre for Mental Health, the guys who struggle daily with the simple act of getting out of bed, getting dressed and facing the world.
The people who suffer bouts of depression so deep they need 24 hour supervision, people who struggle to tell if it’s you talking to them or one of the voices in their head.

These guys that struggle with all this yet still come into Wild Geese, a gym known for its intimidating nature (people have walked in and then straight back out again on many occasions) it’s unforgiving standards. Yet they come in week in week out, do things they’ve been told they’d never be capable of doing and make real, tangible, recordable progress. Which is reflected in their mental health as recorded by the supervising staff in the centre.

Next Thursday we’re supporting the HOPS centre with a Pub Quiz.

We’re opening up next weeks Thursday to all comers. Usually Thursday evening is reserved for our advanced members only, but this week we’re both opening it up and starting a half hour earlier. In this way we can be finished and head around the corner to the Lombard pub and join the quiz.

So I’ll see you all at 6pm for a shorter, sharper Kettlebell Fitness session, then we’ll go support the HOPS guys with their pub quiz.

Final Poster Quiz 2015 einstein2print


Dave Hedges


Do You Train More Than Your Physical Fitness?

Yesterday I was teaching a self defence course.

It was attended by a good group that came armed with some great questions.

During one drill, one that was designed to deliberately fatigue the participants and test their determination.

I made the point that a person’s performance in the drill, much like in a fight, has little to do with their muscles, their strength or their cardio.

Anyone who does the drill properly comes out the other side knackered. Take one guy of a sofa, and another out of an Olympic training centre, run them both through it and after a minute they’ll both be gasping for air.

exhausted athletes


The point isn’t physical fitness.

The point is mental fortitude and determination.

Something that is rapidly going out of fashion in the modern era of instant gratification, entitlement and the “everyone’s a winner, lets reward mediocrity” culture.

But if we end up in a physical struggle with a person intent on doing us, or our loved ones harm, there is no second place medal. No participation certificate.

So from time to time we need to recreate these conditions.

Taking part in competition and training accordingly is one of achieving this.
Taking on a challenge workout, the kind that keeps you up at night worrying about it, is another.
Training when you don’t feel like it, when you’re tired, when you’re sore, when sleep and nutrition have been less than optimal, are ways to achieve this.

Fitness training takes many forms. Indeed I coach people for many different results.

Whatever you are training for, make sure that you don’t neglect that muscle between the ears. Develop you’re grit, determination and tenacity in the same way you build your strength, endurance and mobility.

If you don’t know how, I’ll show you.


Dave Hedges

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Ringing out your Shoulder Pain

I like inverted rows.

A lot.

They feature strongly in a lot the programs I write, and if you ask my honest opinion, they’re the only reason you would justify splashing out on one of those over priced suspension trainer / TRX jobbies.

I have one TRX unit in WG.

It gets used almost exclusively for this drill.

But I’m also fussy as to how we perform the drill.

ALL bent arm pulling actions, be it a bent over row using a barbell, kettlebell, dumbell, in inverted row, a cable row or even a pull up, must start with a pull from the shoulder blades.

The inverted row on the rings (which are cheaper and more useful than a trx…) gives us the best opportunity to really work this and go through a massive range of motion.

Have a look at this clip of Karolina working the row:

Notice how she relaxes the shoulder at the bottom allowing the shoulder blades to spread.

on the pull, she initiates by retracting the shoulder blades (scapulae) and taking an in breath.

This lifts the chest out, you’ll see as this happens the hands rotate slightly as a result of the movement at the scapular.

Then she bends the arms while keeping the shoulder blades “in her back pocket”

The pull stops either when her hands are in her armpits OR when she can no longer keep the scapular locked back and down.

The hands will continue to rotate through the pull, again this is not done consciously, it is a natural part of the movement and should be allowed happen, rather than made happen.

The whole time there is tension in the abdominals.

On the lowering portion, the arms first straighten before we release the scapular. You MUST lower with control, especially in the last part.

This extended range of motion we get a much greater hit into our lower traps and rotator cuff. The more freely the arms can rotate, the better we stay out of our upper traps and better activate the target muscles.

And the target muscles are the very ones that most people struggle to get to. The vast majority of folk are upper trap dominant, which is why this exercise features strongly in so much of what we do here.

Being upper trap dominant and not being able to access those lower traps and open up the chest is a very common cause of shoulder pain.

It is a central lift of the Fighting Back program written for our BJJ crowd, but I’ve yet to meet a person from any background that wouldn’t benefit from more time under the rings.


Click the image for more info

Click the image for more info


Dave Hedges

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What is Your Glide Ratio?

Well, I got a great response from yesterdays post on “insuring” your body with strength training.

Thanks to everyone who got in touch, it seems the concept really spoke to a lot of you.

So I want to expand slightly on this.

I was always inspired by the older athletes that I saw in my youth.

From Jack Parker, my Karate instructor. He’s clearly my biggest influence.
To Chef Ward, head chef at the hotel in the Lake District I worked at. Mike Ward was a runner. He’s about 20 years older than me. And he left me in the dust. Every single time.
Eventually I could keep on his heels on the climbs, but downhill and on the flat, he was a machine.

In the same hotel we had Mr Charles, the Maitre’d. He was as old school as they come. Older again than Chef, but just as tough.
A man who worked spilt shifts 5-6 days per week and either ran or cycled the 4 miles to and from work for at least one of the shifts each day.

When he went off for keyhole surgery on his knee, he was back cycling almost the next day.

I spent several years working with these two gentlemen and learned a lot from them.

Mostly what I learned was that training is a long game.
Patience is rewarded.
Toughness comes from attitude and can be trained like any other attribute.
And that you never stop training, just like you never stop learning.

Since leaving the Lake District in 2001, I’ve met many other older athletes from a variety of backgrounds, martial artists, surfers, cyclists, bodybuilders, power lifters and everything in between.

But no one explains it like my online buddy, Mr Wolfgang Brolley from Stretch Physiotherapy in Seattle.

Wolf is an avid athlete with a penchant for insane endurance challenges.

And he’s no spring chicken.

He tells a story of a time he was on a flight.

An engine failed.

Naturally he was concerned, until a fellow passenger explained the concept of Glide Ratio.

In other words, in the event of total engine failure it’s how far the plane would travel forwards for every meter lost in height.

The higher it flies, the further it flies.

Think how applying this thinking to your health & fitness might change the way in which you look at training.

Aim high in your training, examine how the top people train, learn from experts, be inspired by athletes, especially the older athletes, and consider how you want to feel in 20, 30, 40 years time.

Get some altitude. And by that we’re talking Strength, Mobility and Endurance.
The more altitude, the further you will fly.


Dave Hedges

Insure Your Body by Developing the Right Kind of Strength

“Hi Dave,

Just an email to let you know that after the last Motion is Lotion class on sat and what you have me doing for homework after our Anatomy in Motion session that I am finally 100 % pain free since Sunday morning .

I walked on grass in bare feet and did the same exercises you showed us sat morning . I felt energised after it and from head to toe I feel like i am completely upright for first time since a kid .

Posture hips and all the other dodgy parts are pain free . Feel free to share this email as I want people to know what they are missing from a training and postural correction point of view .

My Listowel marathon is sat 18 th and am ready to go

Best wishes

Shay ” the hips don’t lie” O’Brien”

Mind Over Metal Shay

This message just arrived in last night.

It serves as a timely follow up to a Facebook update I posted earlier that day inspired by another client I’ve been working with.

This other client is a Nurse. Not like most of my crew, she’s not into testing her mental and physical limits in competition or in a challenge event.
Nope, she does it at work.

And her body is telling the tale.

Hours of stress and irregular hours is taking its toll. So much so she was recommended to come her for an assessment.

And what did our assessment find?

She needs to train.

Not a surprising answer from someone who is a coach. But no less accurate.

But she can’t just do any old training. No she needs to take a leaf from Shay’s book above.

She needs to have a training program based on her specific needs, her weaknesses.
And not just thrown into a powerlifting program or metcon.

A program that deals with restoring proper movement, developing strength and essentially developing an insurance policy of strength that she can use to safeguard herself against the rigours of her job.

In all honesty, it’s exactly how we treat our competitive athletes.

Build them in such a way that they better handle their sport (job) and then take them beyond that so that they excel.

It’s also why I’m fussy about who we take on.

Some people think they know what they need when they walk in and don’t take kindly to being told otherwise.

Shay listens and applies.

Will you?


Dave Hedges




On Gaining over Losing and Constant Assessments

Do you remember that Mountain Biker I mentioned a few posts ago?

Well he won.

1st place for our boy! Congrats Mate!

1st place for our boy!
Congrats Mate!


Here’s a message he sent me:

“Dave thanks very much for your help the last couple of weeks, I can’t believe the difference a couple of sessions have made and really noticed a big difference on bike. Really looking forward to the next session”

While most of the coaches on the internet are bragging over helping someone lose something (weight, dress size, kg’s etc), I’m far more satisfied by seeing people gain something.

In this case it was a 1st place in a Mountain Bike enduro race.

I also had another member gain himself a podium place on his first ever triathlon event.

In both cases I admit I had very little input, more of a consulting role than anything else, but damn its satisfying hearing from these guys.

Few things make me happier than seeing people overcome some physical challenge and achieve a new level of performance.

But it all starts by taking a critical look at where that person is right now.

In this moment.


To observe them move, walk, squat, lift.

To listen to them talk about old injuries, current limiting factors and hopes for future performance goals.

Only then can we get them into the physical and hopefully the mental space that they need to be in in order to get where they need to go.

Only when we have a start point and an end point in place can we plan their journey.

Even as we move forwards through a session or a training program, that critical eye must never be dropped.

Every movement a client does is an opportunity for an assessment. From the minute they step onto the training floor, as they warm up, as they lift, as they stretch after training and even as they walk out.

As much as we do use actual recognised assessment techniques, it is this constant assessment that makes for the most effective and efficient coaching.

That is why you should train here.


Dave Hedges


Utilising Body Mechanics to Generate Knockout Power

Every Tuesday afternoon a young lad comes into me for a 1 on 1 eskrima class.

Eskrima is Filipino Martial Art that I view to be the most practical of all the arts currently available.

But that’s just my opinion.

Today he was practising his empty hand defences, which naturally means throwing a pretty solid punch.

Not just throwing a punch, but throwing it on the move, with power and accuracy.

The lad in question isn’t a big lad, but he’s learned to use what he has to generate a significant amount of force. More than enough to knock me out if he connected well, and I’m a good bit bigger and stronger than him.

How can I say this confidence?

We’ve taught him about leverage, about body mechanics and about the stretch response.

All the same info we use to lift heavy weights, to improve our mobility (see yesterdays post) we can use to generate power and hit hard.
After all, body mechanics are body mechanics, we just need to apply them in the right context.

It didn’t take long to get the basic mechanics into him, resulting in power generation that surprised even him.
It didn’t take much longer to get the accuracy, that’s just about practice.
And now he’s hitting on the fly, to a variety of targets as they become available.

And I’ve only taught him three strikes, all of which come off the same spinal engine.

The same three strike I’ll be showing on the 1 day self defence course later this month.


If you want more info on the course and if you’re interested in learning to hit harder than you thought possible, follow this link: 

The course will answer most of your questions regarding self defence, obviously with it being a 1 day event, it’s impossible to cover everything. But you will come away from the day with a set of skills that you can then train, practice and make your own.

And with luck, never, ever use.


Dave Hedges

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