by Niall Doherty

Last December I announced a personal fitness challenge for 2013, with a focus on functional fitness. The idea is to train my body and mind so I’m better equipped to handle life-threatening situations. Big biceps aren’t worth much in a street fight. A flat stomach doesn’t help me clean and dress a leg wound. Well-defined pecs won’t help me perform CPR.

We’re now halfway through the year so here’s a quick check-in to see how I’m doing. I’ll start by running down through the initial goals I set for myself.

1. First aid: Pass a fundamental first aid course, including basic CPR training.

I’ve yet to make any progress on this. A few days ago I reached out to a first aid instructor here in Bangkok and I’m going to push to make this happen before the end of July.

2. Running/Speed: Run 100 meters in 13 seconds or less.

I haven’t done much sprint training so far this year and I’ve yet to time myself running 100 meters. I’ve reached out to a friend here in Bangkok who does sprint training regularly so I hope to make progress on this in the next couple of weeks.

3. Running/Endurance: Run 10k in 45 minutes or less.

I haven’t done any long-distance running practice so far this year. I see this as one of the easier challenges though as I can practice pretty much anywhere, and the plan is to do most of my training for it in November/December when I’ll be traveling more and won’t be able to work so easily towards the other goals on this list.

4. Climbing: Improve starting rock climbing grade by at least 5 levels.

I’ve been rock climbing just twice in six months, on indoor walls. I realized pretty fast that my grip and flexibility need a lot of work. I’ve made good progress on the flexibility front (see below) but I’ve yet to work much on strengthening my grip. Committing right now to working a shit load on my grip in July, will be signing up to the nearest gym with a climbing wall (The Racquet Club) next week.

5. Climbing: Climb over a wall a foot taller than me in 3 seconds or less (standing start/finish).

Just yesterday I measured this and my best time was 3.4 seconds. Mostly I believe I need to work on technique to shave off another half second. Having to resort to using elbows (which I do) isn’t the most effective way to overcome such an obstacle. I’ll need to study the Parkour technique for wall climbing as those guys get over very quickly.

6. Swimming: Swim 1k in open water in 20 minutes or less.
7. Swimming: Pass a fundamental lifeguard training course.

I’ve failed miserably at this and have decided to leave the pursuit of swimming mastery until next year. I did take a couple of great Total Immersion classes here in Bangkok at the beginning of the year, but frustration got the best of me when I didn’t see any significant improvement while practicing alone twice a week at a public pool. I decided my time would be better spent focusing on other goals until I could commit to more coaching.

8. Lung capacity: Hold breath under water for one minute while swimming at least 25m.

No excuse here. I could have reached this goal while I had use of a small pool at my previous condo for three months, but I got lazy. If I have easy access to a pool again this year (hopefully in Hong Kong, where I’ll be living August-September) I’ll go hard at it.

9. Flexibility: Achieve side split.
10. Flexibility: Achieve forward bend with palms resting on the ground.

Ambitious goals given my stiff frame. While I’m not close to achieving either yet, I do feel like I’ve done some solid work on my flexibility. I spent about two months earlier this year attending twice-weekly yoga classes. More recently I hired a personal trainer at The Lab to work primarily on hip and shoulder mobility, and I’ve been doing the exercises he taught me regularly since. Getting there slowly but surely.

11. Balance: Cross a 3m slack line.

I haven’t tried the slack line yet, but my balance has improved quite a bit thanks to regular Parkour sessions with Parkour Generations Asia. I don’t want to buy a slackline for myself since I don’t plan to use it a lot, so looking for people in either Bangkok or Hong Kong who slackline regularly and would welcome me to join them. Like these folks.

12. Strength/Balance: Walk 3m on hands.

I was practicing my handstand several times a week at the beginning of the year until I realized that my progression was being hindered by poor shoulder mobility, so I’ve taken a step back to work on that for a while. Hopefully I’ll have loosened up the shoulders enough to have another crack at it later in the year and practice walking on my hands.

13. Strength: Squat, bench and deadlift my own body weight.

I was hitting the weight room twice a week for about three months earlier this year, and right now I’m lifting once a week. About three months in I was able to squat and deadlift my own bodyweight, but I still haven’t got there on the bench press. Making steady progress though.

14. Strength: Be able to pull myself up onto an overhanging ledge, no leg support.

I tried this yesterday and was able to do it pretty easily. Again I had to resort to using my elbows though. I’d like to get to the point where I’m able to do a muscle-up type movement to get my upper body above the ledge, and then it’s pretty easy from there.

15. Falling: Learn how to land safely when jumping/falling from a height of 3+ meters (like this guy).

I’ve taken about fifteen Parkour classes at this stage and have made good progress (see this video I recorded a few weeks back). I’ll have to pull our coach aside though and ask him for some personal training towards this goal, as it’s not something we’re likely to cover in class.

16. Jumping: Hurdle three consecutive obstacles at waist height.

Yet another goal I’ve neglected to work on. I’ll try get a start on this when I go sprint training with my buddy here in Bangkok, as the stadium he trains at should have hurdles I can practice with.

17.  Self-defense: I have a crazy idea for this one that would involve me becoming a bouncer for a month in an Australian night club, but open to other suggestions. I’d like to learn about and train in street fighting and other practical means of self-defense, not just traditional martial arts. I’m digging the kind of stuff Jeff Anderson teaches. This would be way out there for me though. I’ve never been in a fight in my life.

The most I’ve done on this so far is read several books on real-world self-defense, and I had one Muy Thai intro session with a couple of friends. So yeah, not much. I’ve already reached out to Krav Maga trainers in Hong Kong though and plan to do twice weekly classes for the duration of my stay there. Not sure if I’ll make it to Australia by the end of the year, but I still plan to look into the possibility of working as a bouncer for a week or two whenever I get there.

Very next actions

So that’s where I’m at. But before I fade out here I want to comment on how beneficial it was for me just to write this update. It’s amazing how excuses and laziness melt away when I have to explain myself publicly. While writing an update for each goal above it was hard for me to ignore how little progress I’d made on many of them.

I’ve tried to come up with a plan of action for each one moving forward. Some of them I’ve accepted are unattainable for this year (e.g. the swimming goals), but others are still well within my reach if I simply define the next steps and go do them. So for each goal I asked myself, what’s the very next action I would need to take to make this happen?

Take the first aid goal for example. I was making no progress on that until I asked myself what the very next action should be to make it happen. The answer was to go online and find organizations offering first aid training in Bangkok. I emailed three such and heard back from one already about a course happening in July. Bingo!

So, whenever you find yourself procrastinating on a big goal you’re working towards, whether it be a fitness goal, a business goal, or whatever… ask yourself, what is the very next action I need to take to make this happen?

Define the very next action. Go do it. Repeat.

It’s that simple.

Two very next actions for you

1. Tell me in the comments what big goal you’re working on, what your very next action is, and when you’re going to do it.

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