Public Holidays

Public holidays in Victoria are a confusing mess. They give people an extra day off (which is nice), but strange and contradictory dates have accreted over the years. While no-one would suggest that we have fewer holidays, perhaps we should reorganise them a bit to make them more reflective of contemporary life in this State. Certainly some of the justifications for a holiday are a bit on the nose – we should address that.

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New Year’s Day – Retain. The first day of the year is a good time for a holiday.

Australia Day – Move to a different day. Celebrating the arrival of the First Fleet is understandably offensive to indigenous Australians, for whom the First Fleet was a catastrophe. The culture of Australia day is now one of alcoholism and is a flashpoint for the worst racist tendencies of some Australians. We can probably do better.

Labour Day – Retain. Work is important, and it’s worth celebrating by… not working.

Easter – Retain. The religious side of the holiday is less and less relevant, but it’s a beautiful time of year for a long weekend. And we should make an effort to remember the spirit of the great chocolate bilby that laid eggs for our sins, or something.

ANZAC Day – Retain. Even though the “ANZAC Spirit” is probably overblown as a cultural touchstone, this is a tangible connection to the way Australia was in the formative first half of the 20th century.

Queen’s Birthday – move and rename. She’s the Queen of the Great Britain, and it’s not even her actual birthday. Although I bear her no ill-will this is a pretty silly excuse for a holiday. I suggest we move it to the middle of August when everyone is really depressed by the weather, and celebrate staying indoors with a mug of tea and some biscuits.

Grand Final Eve – Retain. A controversial addition to the roster from a few years ago, Grand Final Eve celebrates the most inclusive and widely-practiced religion in Victoria – AFL Football. Of all the holidays, this one is probably the most in keeping with people’s actual beliefs.

Melbourne Cup Day, AKA Horse Day – Rename. Horse racing is increasingly frowned upon from an animal welfare point of view, and frankly the idea of taking a holiday for it strikes me as very silly. The celebration of Cup Day seems to mostly revolve around dressing up in order to get plastered, lose money gambling, and then fall over in the mud and ruining your nice frock. Oh, and you also either get hypothermia or sunburn. Sometimes both.

Possible substitutes could be Summer’s Back Day in October when people get briefly excited about the return of warm weather, or possibly Daylight Savings Recovery, where we get a holiday after the clocks go forward so that we’re not sleep deprived and confused for days afterwards.

Christmas Day – Retain. It’s Christmas.

Boxing Day – Retain, but rename as “Cleaning Up Day”. Let’s be honest, that’s what we do. That, and sigh with relief that Christmas is over again for a year.

 

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Experiment: Lifting every day

A new addition to the family has meant that I have recently had several weeks away from work. Being around the house organising family stuff has given me a lot of free time, but time that I can only really spend around the house.

So I get to train in my carport gym. A lot.

Normally my training schedule is dictated by whatever spare time I have left over after attending to my family and work. That’s 3 x 1 hour sessions per week, at the most. Now, with loads of time I found I could train as often as I like.

I started by lifting according to my normal schedule, but the number of days gradually crept up. Training has always been fun for me, but I started lifting more as a way of getting out of babyland for a little while each day, which was good for everyone’s mental health.

Before I knew it, I was lifting around 6 days per week. Circumstances usually prevented the 7th day from happening, but that was probably fine.  After 6 weeks of trial and error, I’ve learned a few things from this inadvertent experiment.

 

  1. Volume has to be reduced. Some people recover really well. I am not one of those people. High volume smashes me really quickly. Lifting every day means that the volume per day has to be reduced. This usually influences exercise selection as well, as squatting heavy day after day is no bueno. I’ve been doing at most three lifts per day – usually a press, squat or deadlift, and clean/jerk or snatch. Any more is asking for trouble.
  2. The rule of 10 is my north star. Renowned Renaissance strength coach Dan John talks about this at length, but essentially I’ve found that I only really have ten quality reps of any lift per session. I might push it up to 15 for the presses, but that’s plenty. Going higher than this on a daily basis leads to injuries for me.
  3. Injuries crop up and forced days off are… frustrating. I haven’t had anything particularly nasty happen, but my shoulders and upper back have taken a pounding. Once or twice I’ve taken a day off due to some painful niggle and it’s worked a treat. It’s been pretty annoying though! Once I’ve been in a rhythm of training, not training feels like punishment. It’s interesting how quickly I’ve adapted to daily heavy training. It’s almost like my body was meant to move…
  4. Exercise selection is organic. Most of the time I stick to my three-lift model. But I’ve followed my gut from day to day and moved them around a little. I’ve thrown in farmer’s walks, rows, and miscellaneous other set and rep schemes. I spent one day doing nothing but bench pressing. I suspect that desire for variation is probably my body’s way of telling me to take a break and do something different.
  5. A break from lifting doesn’t mean a break from training. On a couple of days I was fried in the gym or feeling stale, but I still wanted exercise. So I went for a run, a cycle, and even jumped and climbed on the parkour course at a local trampoline gym for an hour. These were a pleasant change of pace, and it was nice to do some training that felt a bit more general.
  6. Despite the reduction in volume, I’ve been getting stronger. In the last 6 weeks I’ve had lifetime PRs on the press, the front squat, the power clean and I’ve equalled my lifetime PR on the deadlift. I didn’t train specifically for any of these and decided to max them out on a whim. The consistent, low- level training seems to have done me loads of good. I’m also gaining weight again, which usually means good things for my “natural endurance athlete” body.
  7. I’ve also been walking a lot. I consider that locomotion rather than training, but since my kids’ school and the shops are less than 2 km from home, I’ve been getting up around 8-10 km per day. It feels really pleasant and seems to help to shake out some of the gym-related crinkles.
  8. Lifting in the carport gym means no guinea pig to train with. This is a blessing.

When I go back to work I doubt I’ll have the time to train daily. But I now know how much my body can tolerate without complaint. In the future I’m going to try to make it a more regular thing, even if that means shorter sessions.

The garage gym is dead

The garage gym is dead. Long live the garage gym.

I’ve moved house recently, and my new dwelling does not feature a garage. I’ve been forced to find other ways of training and it’s been an interesting experiment. Before I moved I’d just completed 2 cycles of 5/3/1 with great success (lifetime PR on the press!), so it was time to change it up anyway.

It seems that for the time being I may need to train en plein air, which will be interesting in winter. I can put my gear under a tarpaulin, but the actual lifting will have to happen in the open. The probably precludes training in the pouring rain or during heatwaves, but such is life. There is a subculture of rugged instagram types who swing kettlebells in the snow – I’m not one of them, but I’m not totally averse to being outside. Part of training is developing mental toughness after all.

While I work out a longer term plan, I’ve been keeping myself busy (apart from moving boxes) by putting together a short “maintenance” program

Method: Stand in the alley beside your house at 8pm when it’s 5 degrees outside. Load the bar to 70 kg. Clean it. Then jerk it. Then front squat it. Put it down. Do it again about 10 times. Rest as required.

Even for a minimal program, this is pretty basic. But it does tick a lot of boxes:

  • It covers most of the basic movements – push, pull, hinge, squat
  • There are grinding and explosive elements
  • It meets the rule of 10
  • It’s really quick, which ensures that training actually happens

Ultimately I’m not sure how I’m going to configure training from here. But at least I’m doing something, which is loads better than nothing.

Heroes

People hunger for the heroic.

Not the high achiever (necessarily), but the person who can peer behind the veil, if only a little bit, and understand the universe more deeply. We forgive that person anything because they are more than we are.

Instead we’re stuck with movie stars, athletes and politicians, who we invest with our dreams. But then we punish them savagely for their human failings. We hate them because, in the end, they turn out to be just like us.

8 things not to do in Melbourne – a guide for visitors

Melbourne is a tricky place for a tourist, as there are few flashy tourist attractions and a visitor usually has to spend weeks or months to really get under the place’s skin.

If you happen to be visiting Melbourne and Google what to do, you’ll be met with a dizzying array of highly repetitive suggestions. The spirit of plagiarism is alive and well on the internet, which helps to explain why so many of these listicles seem identical.

What’s worse, they’re often wrong. Oh, all of the things that are listed do exist, but they’re actually not the best that Melbourne has to offer. They’re tacky, pointless, boring, over-exposed or simply not what living in this city is all about.

Therefore, here is a list of Melbourne attractions to avoid and some more useful alternatives. No doubt there will be people who disagree with my list (it’s the internet, after all!) but I hope I can add a few options to the usual checklists with which visitors arrive. My suggestions all have a local, non tourist-orientated bias. That means that if you’re the kind of visitor who goes to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower and then go shopping, this probably isn’t for you. But if you take an apartment in Montmartre, stay for a month and walk everywhere, you are certain to find something to love below.

 

  • Avoid: Degraves Street and Hosier Lane
  • Seek out: Literally any other street or back alley in the CBD.

Degraves street is a small pedestrianised alley in the south end of the Central Business District. It’s full of cafes and is constantly bustling. Hosier Lane is about ten minutes walk away and is a permanent open air graffiti gallery which is constantly changing. So far, so good.

However as anyone who has spent time in the City will tell you, these attractions are not unique to these streets. But they tend to crop up on “best-of” lists, meaning that there are more tourists than locals and it’s hard work not being caught in someone else’s selfie.

Melbourne is chock-full of little back alleys that have delightful hipster eateries and odd street art. Truly, they’re everywhere. You just have to hunt.

Try this: whatever road you’re on, walk in a straight line, then take the two next left turns you come across. Look up. BAM – street art. Look to the side. BAM – a boutique coffee shop. Drink a coffee, take a photo and repeat. Don’t be afraid to explore.

 

  • Avoid: Flinders St Station
  • Seek Out: Royal Exhibition Buildings

Flinders Street Station is the main transport hub for the city, and is dominated by a giant yellow-and-burgundy building which seems to be constantly under repairs. It’s not bad for a photo, but like all train stations it’s dirty and is mainly used by people who are trying to get somewhere. Most of the interesting parts of the building are inaccessible, so unless you’re taking a train, make your visit brief.

Instead, catch a tram up to the Carlton Gardens where the Royal Exhibition Building is situated. This is a gigantic domed structure which was constructed in the 1880s when Melbourne was just making its name. Dramatic from the outside, if you time it right you might also be able to join one of the free tours run by the nearby Melbourne Museum. The inside is just as ornate and is a fascinating insight into the world 140 years ago. The whole site is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is something of an overlooked gem in my opinion.

 

  • Avoid: Fitzroy
  • Seek out: Northcote and Thornbury

Fitzroy became famous thirty years ago as a haven for artists and other creative types, and a thriving cafe and arts scene grew up around Brunswick Street. However nowadays the area is profoundly gentrified and is increasingly becoming a party destination. It still has its charms, but if you’re looking for the weird and alternative, jump on the tram towards Northcote and Thornbury.

To be fair, Northcote and Thornbury are also pretty gentrified. But they don’t have the human-zoo feeling that Fitzroy has. The further north up High St you go, the more ratty and fringe the shops get. You’ll find weird little cafes and drinking holes, restaurants of all shapes and sizes, and an arty/ethnic/hipster feel all around. Stick your nose over someone’s fence and check out their organic vegetable garden. Listen in to people arguing alternative politics in a cafe. Then go and have a beer and see a band at the Northcote Social Club.

 

  • Avoid – St Kilda
  • Seek out – Elwood

St Kilda. Ugh.

Well known as a bohemian beachside suburb, St Kilda was my home for several years. I rubbed  shoulders with junkies and Jersey Shore types alike. However on my recent visits I’ve noticed an increased culture of violence and alcoholism, combined with the fact that St Kilda appears to contain every single British and Irish backpacker who has ever got on a plane.

Seriously. The place is heaving. Innit.

If getting smashed and having a fight on the beach aren’t your idea of fun, move one suburb down the coast and enjoy the tranquility of Elwood. The beaches are just as good, but they’re not full of preening backpackers and there’s a friendly commmunity vibe. Wander inland and you’ll be surrounded by cute 1930s Art Deco apartments in tree-lined streets and comfortable local cafes and drinking establishments.

 

  • Avoid – The Queen Victoria Market
  • Seek out – South Melbourne or Prahran Markets

The Queen Vic Market seems to be on many tourists’ agendas, and I honestly have no idea why. It’s smack in the middle of the CBD, so there aren’t really local customers. There’s plenty of food available, but it’s crowded and unfriendly (the Turkish borek stall is an exception). Outside of the food hall, it’s just row upon row of bored vendors selling cheap and nasty tourist trinkets to the Chinese package tourists. Don’t waste your time.

Instead, try visiting the South Melbourne or Prahran markets. Both of these are close to the city and easily accessible, and both are frequented mainly by locals. It’s at these kind of places that you’re likely to get into a conversation about cheese with a stallholder, or find some weird amulet that you can’t live without. Eating (South Melbourne Dim Sims) and coffee options (Market Lane Coffee in Prahran) are everywhere. Afterwards you can explore the local neighbourhoods on foot to get a taste of inner-Melbourne suburban life.

 

  • Avoid – The Yarra Valley
  • Seek out – Mornington Peninsula

The Yarra Valley is about an hour’s drive from central Melbourne, and is known chiefly for its wineries (of which there are many). The wine is fine, I suppose. It’s not tremendously picturesque, but it’s not awful either. If you arrange a tour or convince someone else to do the driving, you could spend an excellent day travelling from cellar door to cellar door, becoming gradually less discerning as you go.

However, I’d suggest you head south, to the Mornington Peninsula. It’s roughly the same distance, but it has better wineries (in my view – especially the Pinot Noir), more other activities, and you can easily sleep off your drunken stupour on one of a number of nearby beaches. The small towns in the area are quite charming and all are a convenient place to stop off for a feed.

Just don’t go during the school holidays! The entire peninsula is a holiday getaway for harried families over summer.

 

The Great Ocean Road is fantastic if you want views of the Southern Ocean smashing against rocks and fertile hillsides. But you’ll also be spending a lot of time looking out of one side of your car (not much fun for the driver), and the frequent twists and turns are not kind to those who suffer from motion sickness.

Instead, consider going the other direction and staying on Phillip Island for a couple of days. The south coast is rugged and scenic (and surfable), but the North coast is sheltered and safe, and totally suitable for families. There are numerous accommodation options, and if seaside views get boring you could always go and see the penguins come ashore at night or the koala sanctuary inland. No motion sickness is anticipated.

 

  • Avoid – Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo
  • Seek out – Healesville Sanctuary

If wildlife is your thing, Melbourne Zoo in Parkville and the Open Range Zoo in Werribee are both great. But let’s get real for a moment – you’re in Australia. Why are you going to see African animals?

Instead, drive out to scenic Healesville, 80-90 minutes from Melbourne, and visit the Healesville Sanctuary. Apart from being a profoundly relaxing and soothing place, you’ll be able to see nearly every single type of native animal from Southern Australia, as well as some from the tropics as well. When you’ve had enough, go to the Four Pillars Distillery in the town and partake of some liquid libations.

 

Visitors, I hope you’ve found a couple of sights here that pique your interest. Melbourne isn’t a very tourist-orientated town, so it’s easy and rewarding to step away from the “must see” sights.

Melburnians, tell me: What have I missed or gravely misrepresented?

Adventure: Walking the Capital City Trail

Recently I walked the length of the Capital City Trail, a 30-ish km circuit walk around the inner suburbs of Melbourne. It passess through about a dozen suburbs and links up a series of walking and cycling trails that are human-powered arterial routes. I’ve wanted to do this walk for years as it seemed like something that was achievable in a day but also demanding. I also wanted to see how all these areas linked up without relying on motorised transport. The day I walked it was around 37 degrees – not my choice, but that’s the time I had available.

The whole circuit is pretty well signposted, except for the area around Docklands. Still, it’d be worth taking your phone to make sure that you’re not too far off the path. Drinking fountains can be found around every 2km and food sources abound.

The Eastern section – Richmond, Abbotsford, Clifton Hill

I started here, at Riversale Road, because it is the closest to my home. Most of this section follows the Yarra River and parts of Merri Creek and are accordingly prosperous, leafy and pleasant to walk along. This is by far the most attractive section of the Trail.

The Northern section – North Fitzroy, Parkville

By the time I got to the north it was seriously hot. I was sweating like a cornered nun and was happy for the drinking fountains every half an hour, since that was about how long it took to empty my, by now blood-warm, water bottle.

Much of the trail in this area follows the path of the former Inner Circle railway, so you’ll be sharing the path with lots of cyclists. Cafes and other food sources abound, including one where I spotted Eddie Perfect.

After passing through North Fitzroy, the Parkville section can be pretty uninviting. It’s still parkland, but a sparse and dusty one dominated by hot winds. Much of the track runs parallel to the Upfield train line so it’s tricky to get lost.

The Western section – Flemington, Docklands

To be honest, the western section of the walk is pretty grim. After the greenery of the east and north, you pass under a freeway at Flemington Bridge station and don’t emerge for another 5 km. Much of this route is underneath the Citylink freeway and beside the train line, with a stagnant stream on the other side. It feels a little like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, part of the downside of car-centred city design. That said there is an abundance of street art and interesting posters.

Passing out from under the freeway and crossing over Footscray road, you find yourself in the recently invented suburb of Docklands. It’s all very shiny and new, with loads of shops and apartments, but no-one seems to want to be there. I lost the trail at this point due to poor signage, but decided to just walk south until I hit the water. After stopping for lunch at a largely abandoned cafe I wended my way through the sterile offices of Australia’s banking industry, before crossing Spencer street and finding the Yarra River again.

The Southern section – CBD, Cremorne, South Yarra

The first part of the southern section passes through the southern edge of the CBD, with superb views and ample refreshment stops. At this point I had to stop at a chemist to buy some tape and tape up my abused feed. I must have looked hilarious to the passers-by – sitting on the concrete in a side street, sweating profusely, and using a pocket knife to cut up medical tape.

Once past the eastern side of St Kilda Road, you find yourself amongst the boatsheds of Melbourne’s posh secondary schools. Here the path diverges – you can choose to walk along either bank of the Yarra. I chose the northern bank, and was rewarded with a swampy grated walkway. It would have been unpleasant, except the views across to the South Yarra side were great, and I came across an outdoor rock climbing park under a freeway that I’d never realised was there. Around the bend at Yarra Boulevard and I was back at my starting point, 8 hours after having begun.

Lessons learned

  • Apply anti-chafing cream before setting out
  • Set a phone alarm to remind yourself to reapply sunscreen. Only idiots get sunburned.
  • Drink water. Lots of water. The best place to store it is in your body.
  • Provided adequate food and water, the human body can basically walk forever. Given our ancestral history of nomadism and migration, this makes a lot of sense.
  • Don’t leave home without a hat. I would never have made it without some sun protection
  • When fatigue and boredom are setting in, just keep putting one foot in front of another.
  • Pedestrianism triggers a strange magic – ordinary worries float away and repeated footfall becomes mesmerising. It’s almost easier to keep walking rather than stop.
  • The goal is not the goal. The goal is to enjoy the journey.
  • Walking allows you to see and enjoy the small things that are around you all the time.

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Lawns

Lawns are virtue signalling of the worst kind – where the owner can’t even remember what virtue is being signalled.

Lawns originated in ancien regime France as a way for aristocrats to demonstrate their wealth. In a time and place where subsistence farming was the majority occupation, what better way to show off than to use arable land to cultivate useless grass? And then to employ staff to maintain it!

The idea of the large lawn was transmitted from the formal European garden to the middle-class Anglosphere backyard. In this culture we worship the lawn, despite it being a great way to destroy soil quality and waste water. Neighbours compete with each other over their lawns by means of an arms race of herbicides and fertilisers.

When pressed we might defend our lawn on the grounds that it’s somewhere for the kids to play. But in our hearts we know full well that it’s a weak echo of the natural world that the kids actually want to spend time in. They want the bush, not a denatured paddock.

So here we are, virtue signalling using the language of ancient monarchs.

Give up. Let it grow wild. Plant vegetables and native plants. Abandon the monocrop fantasy.

Phillip Island

Phillip Island is nebulous and inchoate – both to itself and the hordes of visitors. A very driveable 90 minutes from Melbourne, 79 minutes of which seems to be spent getting out of Melbourne, it tries hard to be the complete holiday destination. Some days it succeeds.

You arrive at Phillip Island after a brief drive through the countryside of south Gippsland, passing such exotic attractions as the State Coal Mine and a deer abbatoir.

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Surf Beach, looking towards Cape Woolamai

The trip would be shorter except road access to the island is via a causeway on the the eastern end, rather than the more conveniently located western side. It is unclear whether this is a failure of planning or just a cunning plan to ensure that visitors are forced to drive through the mudflat called Tooradin.

The Island, as the locals call it, was previously largely agricultural but that has definitively shifted in the direction of tourism. The main drawcard for most tourists, especially the international ones, is the Little Penguin sanctuary. Every night hundreds of birds the size of a hand come ashore on a handful of specific beaches and proceed to march up the dunes in search of their burrows. They’ve spent the day fishing in the sea, and I do wonder whether floodlights and human cooing is in their best interests. Regardless, they’re cute and the tourists lap it up.

It was the Japanese in the 1980s who really made the penguin parade a major attraction. Having a national fixation with all things cute, these tiny waddling birds were like catnip to the wealthy Japanese salarymen of the day. As Japan’s influence has faded and China’s has risen there has been a smooth transition from yen to yuan.

Acceptance of overseas visitors is variable, but it seems to me that the Chinese are less welcome. Lacking the over-the-top politeness of the Japanese, their habits of dress, behaviour, and rudeness (by Australian standards) are tolerated rather than endorsed. I was walking down the main street one afternoon when I saw a minibus disgorge a clot of Chinese passengers, who proceeded to wander up and down the street three abreast before being herded into a truly unsanitary looking Chinese restaurant. When in Rome, I suppose.

For many of the native Australian visitors, the main attraction is the Moto GP, a weekend of motorbike racing on the course in the centre of the island. It attracts a crowd of petrol-heads, motorsport enthusiasts and other Ostrogoths, and the town sells out of beer in short order. As I understand it this is a major event, but the world of loud engines generally leaves me cold and I haven’t sought to expand my knowledge.

That said, I had my own encounter with the track itself a few years ago. A group of my work colleagues planned to do a Tough Mudder mud-run event a few years ago, which was located on the track. There were worse ways to spend a day, although it was neither as gruelling nor as rewarding as I’d been led to believe, ice-dunk notwithstanding. Although these races claim to be democratic in their appeal, our group learned early on that it helps having a heroically square-jawed, 6’2″ athlete on your team.

For many locals, and indeed for visitors like me, Phillip Island is mainly a beach holiday destination. This overlooks the fact that it’s cold and rainy for nine months of the year. But it has the distinct advantage of being driving distance from home and doesn’t require negotiating the horror of Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport.

As a coastal destination, The Island (as the locals call it) caters both to family beach holidays and also to surfers and other daredevils. The north coast is sheltered on three sides and has vast sandy beaches.

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Exhibit A

The south coast is rugged and faces directly onto the Southern Ocean. The aptly named Surf Beach is one of several venues for what is reportedly some of the better surfing to be had in this end of the country. The local Island brand of surfboards attests to this, and is advertised by every second car on the streets. Some truly hideous boxy houses have been built by the wealthy on the more popular beachfronts, all the better for Felicity and Fiona to host their girlfriends during the school holidays.

Winter is tough though. Some hardy souls continue surfing in full wesuits but swimming is right out. The full blast of the Southern Ocean scours the island clean of tourists, petrol-heads and penguin-fanciers alike. Only the hardiest come to visit, despite the sleet and grey brutality.

If I were a local, it would be my favourite time of year.

Field Notes Chicago and Portland

Melbourne Field Notes

I love notebooks and related stationery, and for my purposes the premier supplier is Field Notes. I punch through one of their notebooks every couple of weeks, and ususally have two or three on the go at any one time.

One of the neat things that Field Notes do is that they have suggested usages of their books in the back cover, varying from notebook edition to edition. They make a couple of Chicago- and Portland-specific versions, with localised recommendations. I like this, but I feel that Melbourne could do with a version.

Field Notes Chicago and Portland
Chicago and Portland

Therefore, I present below my sugggestions for a Melbourne-based version of Field Notes notebooks.

  1. Collingwood Vs Carlton attendance numbers
  2. Smashed avo recipes
  3. Punt road avoidance strategies
  4. Bad coffee to be pilloried
  5. St Kilda Beach sunning positions
  6. Brighton Iceberger membership list
  7. “Four seasons in one day!”
  8. Sensory Lab vs Market Lane vs St Ali vs Proud Mary
  9. Corner Hotel setlist
  10. Moomba birdman trajectory calculations
  11. Northside/Southside arguments
  12. Floral clock planting arrangements
  13. Beach road lycra choices
  14. Cold brew coffee vs coconut water
  15. Cup Day – sunburn or hypothermia?
  16. Preferred Dandenongs tea venues
  17. Batmania? Bearbrass?
  18. Jokes about Adelaide/Hobart
  19. End-of-season boys’ trip plans
  20. Seasonal Affective Disorder avoidance plans
  21. “We should have installed aircon last year!”
  22. Australia day beer stockpile list
  23. Monash Carpark thoughts
  24. “There should always be a Victorian team in the Grand Final”

 

Things I’ve learned after a year of lifting at home

It’s been nearly a year since I set up my home gym in my garage. I was originally motivated by a desire to free up more time to attend the gym by removing the commute, assuming you don’t count walking across my overgrown backyard as a commute. I wasn’t originally able to have more equipment than a barbell and some weight plates, so that has limited the scope of what I can do. However as I’ll discuss that has turned out to be beneficial in some ways.

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Very close to running out of collar space

Given that, here’s what I’ve learned after a year of barbell training in my garage gym, as a 30-something, somewhat sedentary person with a demanding family and work life.

  1. It’s easy to squeeze in a quick session.. but sometimes I don’t. Although the commute is pretty straightforward, I should be able to punch out a quick 30-minute session on a regular basis. It doesn’t always work like that though. Often the only time I have available to me is at 8:30 in the evening when the kids are in bed, and my general lack of mental organisation at the end of the day means that I often seem to stretch these sessions out. Some days it’s super hard to even put on my training clothes and I collapse into the sofa. I should probably be more diligent, but I’m prepared to accept 2-3 times per week.
  2. The quick lifts seem to be the most beneficial. In the past I’ve mostly trained the powerlifts, but without a bench or squat rack I can now only deadlift. However I’ve not found that to be a problem. I seem to get a lot of benefit from the quick lifts from the floor – clean and jerk, and the power snatch. Something about the opening out and stretching of the snatch in particular seems to refresh me physically and psychologically.
  3. Forced simplicity delivers results. The limitation of my equipment means that I can’t waste time doing things that aren’t contributing to my improvement. My snatch, press, clean and jerk and front squat have all come up because… there’s nothing else that I can train. No doubt there’s a synergistic effect as well – a better clean is likely to translate to a better front squat.
  4. I’ve fallen in love with the overhead squat. Snatch a weight, then squat with it held overhead. I could never do these in the past, but I’ve had some time to fill and I find them very satisfying. They’re a great balance of strength, balance, power and core stability, but are nowhere near as fatiguing as normal back squats.
  5. Cardio still sucks. It just does.
  6. Sometimes I have to train in shitty weather. My garage is cold in winter, very hot in summer, and stinks all year round. It’s far from the optimum training environment, but in many ways that makes it perfect. Life isn’t an optimum training environment and I’m happy to sacrifice a few gold medal performances if it makes me generally tougher and more resilient.
  7. Guinea pigs make bad training partners. George, my kids’ pet, lives in the garage in cold weather. He’s bad conversation, can’t lift for shit, and is terrified by the sound of me dropping weights.

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    World’s shittest training partner

After a year, I can wholeheartedly recommend a simple garage gym. I haven’t missed having a rack of dumbbells or cable-based machines even a little bit. If I were going to add anything, it would probably be a squat rack and a bench, but I’m in no particular hurry.

Simple works.