Stop Static Stretching

Sore?  You need to stretch more. Stiff?  Better stretch more. Bad posture? Gotta stretch. Don’t want to get injured? Better stretch. Injured? Should’ve stretched. Stretch now!

It’s a nice idea. Except that it has no basis in reality (more on that in a moment).

Ask just about anyone and they’ll tell you that they don’t stretch enough. How much is enough? More, I guess. Ask most people if they’re flexible and they’ll tell you they’re not. But how flexible do you need to be? Who are you comparing yourself to? I have friends who are yoga instructors. They are MUCH more flexible than I am but that doesn’t necessarily make me inflexible. Can you put on your own socks? Wash your own hair? You probably have adequate flexibility.

Listen, I’ve wanted to be able to do the splits ever since I saw Bloodsport and Van Damme doing the splits in between two chairs. Why do I want to do the splits? Because it’s cool. Do I NEED to be able to do the splits? Well, I’m not an elite gymnast, or a dancer, or a hockey goaltender… so the fact that I can’t do the splits isn’t actually holding me back in any area of life… except that I can’t do the splits so I’m just not as cool as I wish I were.

I’m not saying that stretching has no place, but just that the vast majority of people are doing it wrong and for the wrong reasons.

When I say stretching I am referring to the Static Stretch, the standard fixed position where you feel a “pull” and then hang out for 30 seconds or so. There are, in fact, many different kinds of stretching and they are NOT created equal. I will write another article about quality stretching, but for now, if you take away nothing else from this article, I just want you to stop static stretching. Seriously, quit it. Stop before you hurt yourself.

[Disclaimer: This is general information for a general audience and may not apply to you specifically. You may have a real need to be doing static stretching. Maybe.  Make good choices.]

Because this recommendation to discontinue static stretching seems to fly in the face of all the evidence that supports it I feel it is helpful to make you aware of the following.

There is no evidence to support that stretching will reduce your delayed onset muscle soreness after exercise. There is no evidence that stretching will protect you from injury. There is no evidence that stretching will speed recovery post-injury. There is no evidence that stretching offers many benefits at all.  However, there is evidence that static stretching has the exact opposite effect of all the benefits we have been taught it provides.

In a controlled trial, a group was given a basic strength test and a simple stretch test, then split into 5 groups. Group A did Static Stretching (what we’re talking about), Group B did Dynamic Stretching (we’ll talk about that another day), Group C did full range of motion Resistance Training, Group D did the same Resistance Training but stretched first and Group E did the same Resistance Training but stretched after. All the groups (yes, even the one without stretching) increased a comparable amount in flexibility. But what is most noteworthy to me, is that Group A (Static Stretching) gained their flexibility at the cost of LOST strength. Meanwhile, all other groups increased in strength and flexibility and, also noteworthy, Group C (Resistance Training only) gained the most strength.

Here’s what static stretching does, in brief: it reduces tone in the muscle, and may, over time, increase the length of the muscle. Tone is that natural tension that resides in the muscle that enables it to be ready to do work. No tone means you have a flaccid paralysis. In other words, your muscle feels “tight” so you stretch to reduce that tone. Reduced tone means the muscle has a reduced ability to produce power. That would explain why Group D didn’t gain as much strength as Group C.

Here’s another thing; healthy muscle stretches. Unhealthy muscle doesn’t. That means that if you have a “tight” muscle or “tender spot” that the healthy tissue stretches and the unhealthy part stays locked down. The only question unanswered was why Group D also didn’t gain as much strength. I can’t answer that based on a research study, but I can offer insight as a Clinician with some experience treating people and their various injuries.

Here’s the scenario, you do some heavy lifting (let’s say it’s the dead lift). Now your back is “tight” and sore. So you stretch it. It hurts a bit but you know that stretching is important. Later that day or the next your back has seized up and you call your Massage Therapist for an appointment as soon as possible. Muscles will go into spasm typically as a form of protection. You worked very hard, your muscles tighten up, effectively sending a “stop” signal. They’re done. Wisely (I hope), you stop. Then you stretch (oops). You shouldn’t stretch a spasm. When you stretch a spasm you’re pulling on a muscle that doesn’t want you to move anymore, so it tends to tighten instead. Or worse, it tears. So you have a worse spasm and maybe a minor strain injury. The lift didn’t hurt your back. The stretching after did. So my theory? Group E didn’t make as much strength gains as Group C because they were more sore or injured and therefore held back on further training sessions.

So, seriously, stop it.

I used to leave the house for a run and I’d return to the house on the run, then stop in front and stretch and even gentle stretching felt bad. But stretching is good, right? I didn’t want to be too sore. But I was sore. Sore hamstrings, sore calves, and for a time plantar fasciitis (more than sore feet). I was reading the words of a top running coach and he mentioned that he found a lot of the yoga-enthusiast runners he coached seemed to get injured more. Hardly solid research, but certainly a knowledgeable source. Later, in a different book, I read about a US Olympic track coach who would pull his guys from training for the day when their hamstrings tightened up. Not stop and stretch. Done for the day. Again, these guys aren’t researchers, they’re clinicians in their fields. Worth considering what they think. And also easy to put to the test…

So I stopped stretching. I adjusted my run to finish 1K from the house and then I’d walk home and head straight in for my post-run protein and shower. Within a week, my hamstrings settled down and my calves stopped hurting. The feet took a little longer and some ongoing treatment, but they stopped hurting too.

Anyone who has read my recent posts will note that I’ve had improved mobility from changing my strength training, (which has happened despite living with the after-effects of significant injuries earlier in life) and in the nearly complete absence of any stretching.

So it comes to this, I KNOW what we’ve all been told about static stretching. But it doesn’t hold up to the evidence. So we know it doesn’t make sense to stretch before activity. We know there are dangers associated with stretching after exercise. And we know that just stretching can make you weaker. We also know that it won’t stop the soreness. We know that we can’t stretch away sore spots. It doesn’t prevent, and can even cause, injury. So unless you have a special stretching plan well-suited to your specific needs, and you actually have a need (wanting to do the splits like VanDamme does not count), for most of us we can just do away with the typical model of stretching.

I know this will leave a great empty hole in your life, but don’t worry, I’ll try to address that soon…

Until then, here’s a puppy.  Stretching.


If you have been reading my articles and have an interest in applying the principles to your workouts so you can improve your strength and flexibility, be sure to learn more about my online coaching!

Kettlebell Part 5 – Why Kettlebell?

I wrote a few posts about kettlebells and how to get started, but I guess I skipped over this fundamental question:  Why Kettlebell?
So this should have been posted first but instead, it’s post number #5 in this series.  Here we go!
The research shows that even basic kettlebell training has the benefits of high-intensity interval training, cardiovascular conditioning integrated into strength training, increased metabolic potential, increased muscular endurance, increased functional strength, improved coordination, increased flexibility and mobility, improved core stability, enhanced sports performance, and improved body composition (increased lean muscle, decreased fat).  In case you lost count, that’s a 10-in-1 power combo!
Any number of different training modalities can accomplish the above, but none of which I am aware can do so with such a minimalist approach in terms of simple equipment for just one or two maneuvers, as well as being cost and time effective, and highly portable. Further, it can be done safely by anyone, whether a junior or elite athlete or elderly grandmother. Quick review on safety: if you get hurt it’s because you did too much, too soon, or too sloppy. Don’t blame the kettlebell (or me) because you decided to go crazy with a weight you had no business picking up.
Because of the force multiplication caused by the swing, weights are comparatively light (vs CrossFit, Olympic, or Body Building lifts), yet bring about impressive improvements in strength. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find any two exercises that together can deliver the benefits inherent to the combo of the swing and the get-up.
The moves can also typically be done despite a history of injury or surgery and can assist in rehabilitating low back, hip, knee, and shoulders.
Need more variety to stay motivated?  You can change things up, there are any number of kettlebell variations available, but  I would suggest that in this case lack of variety is a benefit. Often, training will focus on preventing boredom, which can be important, but at some point, you need to consider; am I training to have fun or am I trying to get stronger (fitter, leaner, healthier, etc)?
Some things are a lot more fun than others. I sometimes enjoy my training and sometimes I don’t feel like it, but my priority has always been what’s going to get the job done. Sometimes variety means sacrificing results just to do something different, which should only be done if absolutely necessary to keep the fitness lifestyle going. Too many training protocols are so focused on variety that they forget to consider if all those exercises are actually beneficial (ie: moving the client towards their goals).
But since I have a fairly well-developed training discipline, keeping interested is a low priority. The best results from the minimum effective dose is what’s interesting to me. So adjusting my training to only 3 serious training days (and 2 optional light and easy days) was quite the change from my typical 5-7 sessions per week.
When I first read the claims about the benefits of kettlebells, I was not without skepticism. I decided to give it a shot in my off season since you don’t want to mess with your training too much when you’re in the middle of giving it your all. I was researching kettlebells leading up to the 2017 Obstacle Course Racing World Championships (OCRWC) and then personally put the claims to the test starting in November 2017.
I did the plan as outlined in my last few posts and progressed from a 20kg kettlebell to a 28kg kettlebell. I took a week off from kettlebell in December to do a week utilizing strong lifts that I had done previously. Without having done these lifts for months, I saw significant 5 sets of 5 reps improvement in the Bench Press, Bent-over Row, and Deadlift; seeing nearly as much improvement in those 2 months as I had seen all year. So, improvement in strength? Check.
My resting heart rate came down a few more beats in those months. Cardiovascular health? Check.
I tested my run in late December with a 5k on the ice and ran easy and my time was similar to previous times, even though I had done zero running. My next run wouldn’t be until May, running Green’s Creek Tobogganing Hill for about an hour. With only one run since World’s, I was in better running shape for the start of the season compared to the previous year. Improved running without running (ie: improved athletic performance)? Check.
A random moment occurred when I accidentally knocked my protein tub, which was above the kitchen cabinets, further back. In order to reach it, I would have to climb onto the kitchen counter. Normally this would have meant placing a knee and a hand on the counter and reaching. Without thinking about it or intending to try something new, I planted my foot on the counter and stepped up (with a hand placed for balance). I didn’t think about it until I was climbing down and noted my foot on the counter. Increased hamstring flexibility and improved mobility in hip flexion (without stretching)? Check.
Some may recall I have sustained previous knee injuries (with two surgeries) and shoulder injuries (5 AC separations, 1 badly torn supraspinatus, and 1 slightly torn infraspinatus). My knees have been a weak point in ease of movement and flexibility, as well as the first point of pain in running longer distances, and my shoulders would get tired at work, ache when trying to sleep, and sometimes severely limit my performance at races as I would lose my ability to produce upper body power over time. In June of this year, I ran 24 km during an overnight obstacle race, Toughest Mudder, without training running. Eventually, things start to hurt, but it wasn’t my knee that went first, it was due to some repeated foot trauma that then made the ankle and hip and eventually knees hurt. My shoulders have been the best they’ve been since injury, and have greater strength than pre-injury. Safe training despite history of injury? Check. Rehabilitative power? Check.
End Results? I’m still going and still seeing results. I’m not saying it’s the best tool for every person. Obviously, the very best plan is one you will stick with. Likewise, most activity-based exercises (like cycling or going rock climbing or to the yoga studio) can bring benefits but will also leave significant gaps in your development. But, possibly the very best all-around tool?  I’m truly starting to think it might in fact be the single best methodology for the majority.
If you would like help evaluating your current fitness status and goals and learn how kettlebelling and online coaching could help you get where you want to go, be sure to check to explore my website here at to learn about packages, fees, and read testimonials.  Have questions?  Contact me and I’ll be happy to talk further.

Kettlebell Part 4

As you know I’ve posted an introductory kettlebell training plan, a transition plan, and a strength and conditioning program. Time to fill in the final pieces of the puzzle and take that strength and conditioning to a higher plane of existence. Because of the way the workout schedule undulates from Easy to Hard and scales up first with volume and then decreasing volume and increasing resistance and repeating, you can continue this plan with minimal variety (other than the variety days) until you can do 200+ Snatches in 10 minutes with a heavy kettlebell and can one arm press half your body weight. Oh yeah!

As always, I must remind everyone about safety and such. Seriously, if you hurt yourself it’s because you’ve done too much, too soon, and/or too sloppy. I am not a substitute for your own good judgment.

A Tip for Every Day: Train outside as much as you can. Train barefoot (or as close to it as possible) as much as you can. I’ll expand on these points at a later time.

So you understand the ladder now and you’ve been doing them and feeling strong. You’re wondering if you could be doing more and what you should be doing during your off days.

First, on your easy days; switch your clean and press to press, and only clean when changing arms. That means a 3 rung ladder on easy day would be a right side clean then press, then clean and press left, then on the right clean and press, then press again. Then a clean and two presses left, then a clean and 3 presses right and a clean and 3 presses left. Same number of presses as before, but fewer cleans. Just on easy day.

Second, here’s what you’ll add to your 3 days of ladders. Pull-ups! This assumes that you can do 5 or fewer pull-ups. If you can do more that that, you need to add weight so that you’d fail on 6 or so. Adding weight is easiest with a variable weight vest, but can also be done by putting weights in your pockets or in a backpack, weights hanging from a lifting belt, gripping a dumbbell between your feet or hooking your foot through the kettlebell.

So here’s how you add the pull-ups: after each ladder you’ll do a number of pull-ups equal to the current rung that you’re doing in your ladders. So at first, that’s 1 pull-up per set on easy day, 2 on medium day and 3 on hard day. That will eventually grow until it’s 3 on easy day, 4 on medium day and 5 on hard day. As with your presses, you should not be going to failure. It’s ok to stop one rep early. You will get stronger. Much. Stronger.

If you can’t do pull-ups (but want to): do cable or resistance band pull-downs instead, again looking for a weight that you can do 5 or 6 reps maximum. OR you do pull-ups but use a pull-up assist (a band that will offset your weight slightly by pulling you towards the pull-up bar, or they have ones at gyms that have variable plates to offset your weight), or a foot on a chair or similar. Again, trying to offset your weight just enough so that 5 or 6 is your limit.

If you want more, or are accustomed to training more often, add 2 variety days. Variety day should be no more difficult than easy day (trust me; when the weight and volume get higher that easy day is not so easy). An excellent variety day might include playing a sport or going for a hike or snowshoeing etc. But if you need something in your home gym to feel as if you “worked out” in order to check that box off your day.

Remember your 5 minutes of Get-Ups from the intro? That would fit well on a variety day. Mix it up, do a get-up and some swings, some crunches, some push-ups. Do a few rounds. Put in some light work and finish stronger than you started.

Need more direction for variety day? OK. Here’s what you’ll do. Do your warm-up (I should write a post about warm-ups and cool-downs, please comment if that would be of interest to be posted sooner rather than later). After the warm-up, set the timer for 20 minutes. You’re going to do this in an interval-based metabolic conditioning (MetCon) kinda way. Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM), you’re going to do an exercise for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. As you become more proficient you can work longer and rest less, but you’re still starting a new exercise every minute and it only lasts for 20 minutes. Pick 4 exercises and do them one after the other (in the aforementioned work:rest ratio) until time runs out. That means you’ll do 5 rounds of those 4 exercises and then you can catch your breath and cool-down. Not ready for 20 minutes? Cut it at 10. Find you need more rest? Make it a 20 second work period and 40 seconds of rest. Need to to be harder? Increase your work time to 45 seconds and decrease your rest to 15 seconds.

Still need more detail? OK fine, how about Kettlebell Swings then Burpees then Jumping Lunges then Mountain Climbers. Hands need more rest? Swap out the Swings for some Skipping. Got some room to move? Swap something out for Sprints. Want more core engagement? Swap out something for your favourite ab killer. Want to improve your run and want less variety? Swap out a variety workout for this bit of self-hatred: Warm-up then Sprint all out for 20 seconds, walk for 10 seconds and repeat for 4 minutes (8 sets of Sprints) then try not to die and don’t come to a complete stop but do your cool-down. Your total workout time should reflect more time warming up and cooling down than actually Sprinting. Truly though, try not to die and don’t throw up.

Ultimately, the point is to work hard for a limited period of time on your variety day. At the end of the workout you may feel spent, but within a short window of time (say, when having your post-workout protein shake) you should feel action-packed with energy.

Now that we’ve increased our workout week to 5 days, what about the remaining 2?

Rest is good.

I like to take at least 1 day and spend some quality time with my foam roller. Just spending 40 minutes or more rolling out some sore spots while watching a show or movie. That’s something you can do on any day off from training (or on a training day too, I happen to incorporate some rolling into most warm-ups). If you’re a runner or cyclist or similar, one of those remaining days can be for your long run/ride. I’m not advocating a long slow workout for everyone, this is just for those who have a specific goal related to running/cycling or just love it. You could also make it a day for swimming or practicing skills related to your sport. Whether it’s a scheduled variety day or rest day, you can take your rest and recovery guilt-free, you earned it.

Interested in knowing more about online training with Nathan Walton so you can experience the benefits of kettlebell training?  Click these links to learn more about how it works and coaching fees.

Kettlebell Part 3

Now that I’ve posted an introductory kettlebell training plan and a transition plan, it’s time to get to the kettlebell strength and conditioning program.

Because Ethical Responsibility; let me remind everyone that this is a general article to a general audience and may not apply to you specifically. This article also assumes that you will have done the recommended beginners program and practiced the Clean, Press, and Snatch before beginning this program. If only you knew a Regulated Health Professional (say, for instance, an RMT), who was also an online health and fitness coach? That might give you the one-on-one assistance you require?

Take responsibility for yourself, is, I guess, the point you should take away… Remember that no amount of education, even with direct hands on training, can take the place of your good judgment.

When it comes to safety; it’s your fault. If you hurt yourself it means you did too much, too soon, or too sloppy.
Pro Tip: Whenever possible, train barefoot (or minimalist shoes) and outside.

You may have increased the kettlebell weight since you started, but the kettlebell you use for this plan should be one that you can safely do five to eight clean and presses (that’s a clean in between each press).

You will need to understand two new training terms before we lay out the plan: The Ladder and the rung.

One Ladder consists of one to five rungs. Each rung represents an equal number of repetitions. The first rung is one rep, the second rung is two reps, the third rung is three reps, the fourth rung is four reps and the fifth rung is five reps. We always stop adding rungs at five. So you must do the first rung with each arm before the second rung and so on.

That means that for a ladder of one rung you will do one clean and press with each arm. However, a two rung ladder means that you do one rep with each arm and then two reps with each arm before putting the kettlebell back down.

This means that a ladder of one is one rep for each arm. A ladder of two is a total of three reps per arm. A ladder of three is six reps for each arm. A ladder of four is ten reps per arm, and a ladder of five is fifteen reps per arm.

Therefore by the time you get up to the maximum volume of five ladders of five rungs you’ll be doing seventy-five reps of clean and press with each arm! That’s the goal, we’re not starting there.

Here’s your strength and conditioning program:

You’ll be splitting the week into three primary training days, with up to two bonus (or variety) days. We’ll get to the variety days at a later time. For now, variety day means take it easy or do something fun and active.

Your primary exercise is the clean and press. This is the exercise you’ll be doing ladders of.

On your Heavy day you’ll start with three ladders of three rungs. Don’t go to failure! If forms slips, you’re done! You may find you can only do one ladder to three, and then do the next one to two and the last one to one. That’s ok. We’re building up. If you chose the correct weight, however, you should find that three ladders of three is a good place to stop.

After your final clean and press ladder, you’ll take a short rest, then you’ll do two to twelve minutes of swings, doing the maximum number that you can manage in the time. The time is random. Roll two dice (I usually just use an online random number generator), and do that many minutes, resting as much as you need to, but really go for it.

On your Medium day, you’ll do three ladders of one less rung than the heavy day, so the first medium day will start with three ladders of two. After that, you’ll do two to twelve minutes of swings at a moderate pace. Roll the dice and then do about 70-80% of what you think you could do in that many minutes if you were going all out.
On your easy day, you’ll do three ladders of two less rungs than your heavy day, so the first easy day will start with three ladders of one. Afterwards, you’ll do two to twelve minutes of Snatch. Your goal is to do 50-60% of what you think you could do in the allotted time if you were to go all out.

You can set the days to be Heavy then Medium then Easy, or Easy, Medium, Hard at your preference. I like my heaviest workout on the weekend, but it’s up to your personal preference. If you’re just dying to get started with some hard work, maybe you’ll want to start with a heavy day. If you want to ease in, start easy. Use your best judgment.

The next week, add an extra ladder to each day. The week after, add another. Once you’re at five ladders, it’s time to start increasing rungs. Add one rung each week until you’re up to three on your easy day, four on your medium day and five on your heavy day. If you can’t do the entire designated ladder, do what you can. Do not blindly follow the plan to failure and injury. If you find you added a rung and can’t do it with excellent form, take a note in your workout log (you DO keep a record, right?) and try again next time, and you can add the next rung when ready.

Finally, when you’ve reached five ladders of five rungs, maintaining form, it’s time to increase weight. I suggest jumping 4 kg (8.8 lbs). Take that heavier weight and drop the volume back to the beginning (ie: Heavy day is no longer five ladders of five, but is back to three ladders of three) and start building back up. True Confession: When I could do five ladders of five with the 20 kg I went to buy a 24 kg but they were all out. So I bought a 28 kg (after giving it a few practice swings, cleans, presses and snatches to confirm safety). It’s been quite difficult, but nothing tells your body to get stronger like a hefty increase in weight. 4 kg is a perfectly large boost, unless you are well-conditioned or you started out much too light.

In between ladders, it’s important to rest. Rest is an important variable to manipulate depending on your goals. For now, let’s start with thirty seconds to one minute of rest between sets on your easy day. As you start really pushing a heavy weight and are feeling the load, don’t be shy about taking three to five minutes. Trust the science of strength training. You’ll also get ample cardio and conditioning benefit from the high intensity bursts of doing your ladders, as well as from all the swings you’re going to be doing, so you don’t need to do extra cardio or anything else to trim the fat and get stronger.

In my next post, I’ll show you some things you can add to this program when you’re ready, as well as cover some things to do on your variety days and rest days.

Here are some videos to help you out.

Interested in knowing more about online training with Nathan Walton so you can experience the benefits of kettlebell training?  Click these links to learn more about how it works and coaching fees.


Kettlebell Part 2

Last week I posted an introductory kettlebell training plan.  Before we move on to the next phase here is an important review…

Because Ethical Responsibility; let me remind everyone that this is a general post to a general audience and may not apply to you specifically. If only you knew someone who could help you navigate the awesome responsibility of internet usage? Take responsibility for yourself, is, I guess, the point you should take away…

Safety Pro Tip: It’s your fault. If you hurt yourself it means you did too much, too soon, or too sloppy.

I will be sharing my current workout plan with you next, but first we’re looking at a transition period. If you’re familiar with kettlebell training or have a history of strength training you might start transitioning within a week or so, but otherwise you should plan on staying on the introductory plan for a few weeks before you add the transitional movements, then a few more weeks before moving on to the next phase.

Assuming you’ve picked the right weight, you should find that it gives you a comfortably moderate challenge for the beginner program.

Here’s your transitional program:

Start practicing your kettlebell cleans, presses, and snatches. The keyword here is: Practice. NOT workout.

Practice means that as part of your warm-up or cool-down on either your swing day or get-up day you will try a few cleans with each arm and/or a few presses and/or a few snatches. This is not done to failure. It shouldn’t even be done to a comfortable stop. The point is that you try a few and focus entirely on form so that when these movements become part of your regular training in the next phase, you’ll know you can progress safely.

Start with practicing the clean. When that’s comfortable and smooth, you can start practicing the press. When you know you can own that weight overhead, you can start practicing the snatch.
When you know you can safely do multiple snatches, it’s time to take the kettlebell that you can safely do five to eight clean and presses (that’s a clean in between each press) and move on to the next phase

Comrades, I couldn’t find good concise videos for these moves, so here is a longer video that really breaks down the whole series of moves, complete with breakdowns and safety rules and as much Russian deadpan humour as you can handle by recognized master of the kettlebell, Pavel Tsatsouline.

Interested in knowing more about online training with Nathan Walton so you can experience the benefits of kettlebell training?  Click these links to learn more about how it works and coaching fees.

Kettlebell Part 1

As you may know from the table, I can be a bit of a talker.  I can shut up too, but that’s not what we’re talking about today.  I’ve recently become a bit of a kettlebell evangelist. In addition to the usual training and books and video watching and self-experimentation, I’ve also been examining the research literature and there’s a lot of evidence-based benefits to kettlebell training. We’re talking about strength development, mobility and flexibility improvement, heart and endurance training, and ultimately; looking and feeling our best – being fit and healthy.

Because Ethical Responsibility; let me remind everyone that this is a general posting to a general audience and may not apply to you specifically. It might be best for you to get one-on-one coaching, personal training or attend a workshop before undertaking a new training. Maybe you should check with your doctor first? Take responsibility for what you do with what you find on the internet, is, I guess, the point you should take away…

When it comes to safety: It’s your fault. If you hurt yourself it means you did too much, too soon, or too sloppy.

I will be sharing my current workout plan with you soon, but first I’ll share an introduction to kettlebell training.

Start with the right weight:
If you are an average lady, start with 8 kg (18 lbs).
A strong lady can start with 12 kg (26 lbs).
If you are an average man, start with 16 kg (35).
A strong man may begin with 20kg (44 lbs).

Here’s your beginner program:

Twice a week do 12 minutes of kettlebell swings alternating with light jogging. Swings are done to a comfortable stop, and jogging is for active recovery (the key thing is just to keep moving, jog a few hundred yards, walk up and down the stairs, gently jog on the spot for a minute, don’t come to a dead stop and don’t push yourself either).

Twice a week (on a different day than the swings), do 5 minutes of continuous slow and controlled get-ups, switching hands every rep. Don’t count your reps and don’t try to top them, that will only encourage you to go faster and lose the benefit of the get-up.

Why 12 minutes? Why 5 minutes? Why not? You can increase or decrease the time if you need to. Give this a try for a few weeks to really get the swing (ha ha) of things and you’ll be ready for new challenges in no time.

Here are two videos that demonstrate a perfect swing and a perfect get-up (the get-up is being done with a ridiculous weight and a spotter in the video, don’t let that frighten you). The videos were chosen for their accuracy and brevity.

Interested in knowing more about online training with Nathan Walton so you can experience the benefits of kettlebell training?  Click these links to learn more about how it works and coaching fees.

Support that Hurts and Helps

Personal pet peeve time.  I hate mediocrity.  It is not my desire to be mediocre. To race to the middle ground. The standard has been set too low and I wish to raise the bar.

It is frequently our acceptance of the status quo that helps us find mediocrity.  And society will happily support you in your mediocrity.  Instead of supporting personal integrity and self-discipline we’ve given way to self-importance and self-indulgence.  Society will set aside calling you out on unhealthy habits so as not to ‘judge’ you.  Culture will value your self-esteem over properly educating you.

Our society seems to have settled on the overall message that to encourage and support means to tell people that they don’t have to change.  I think that’s an incredibly dangerous message.  When it comes to health and fitness that kind of support will support us all the way to an early grave.  Which means it’s not actually support at all.

The reality is that we benefit from support only when it’s the right kind!  It’s been said that you are 3x more likely to achieve a goal if you have a strong support network.  Don’t ignore that number.  3x more likely to improve your fitness translates to being less likely to experience heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and other life-altering emergencies and conditions later in life as the result of poor health and fitness!  Tripling your chances at success is not a small thing.

So who do you choose as part of your support team?  The people who actually want you to succeed and are willing to kick your butt or say the hard things you need to hear in order to help you get there.  These are the people who will hold you accountable, actively check in on you, and whose taste in resources you trust if you need more help.  These people will support your growth in the areas of personal integrity and self-discipline by being willing to say the things that hurt a bit so you can be the best you that you can be.

Society says don’t judge and tells people cruising towards cardiovascular disease that they are perfect the way they are. Is it judgment when your doctor tells you that you are obese and on your way to a heart attack?  Absolutely not. Your doctor cares about your well-being enough to say you are carrying too much fat, that your diet is terrible, that you spend too much time sitting, and that you need to do better.  They invest in educating you if they realize you’re struggling because you’re missing important information.  Find more people like that!  That is a powerful source of external energy to draw on to help you keep going when someone cares about you enough to hold you accountable in reaching your goals.  It might hurt in the moment, but ultimately it leads to us feeling valued.  And feeling valued can get us through some tough things.  Like improving our health and fitness.

Goals must be set if we are to improve and advance as people. We must challenge ourselves and others.  We are human and stumble and fall, but with every effort put in we have opportunity to gain ground, to move forward, to be better than we were before, together.  And if you realize that people in your life are cheering you towards mediocrity maybe it’s time to stop giving them tickets to the game and relegate them to the parking lot for now.  Fill your benches with people who actually want to see you win.

I want to help you set and reach your goals.  I can be part of that support network.  I’m willing to challenge you.  I’m willing to say the things you may not want to hear.  I’m willing to do that because I care about your health and wellness.  And I care about you being able to say that you lived your life and didn’t just exist.

Check out my online coaching options from short-term support to ongoing fitness mentoring, assemble your support team (I hope I’m a part of it) and go Live.


I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.

NOT because I have a problem with goal setting, but rather I believe in goal setting and therefore engage in it year round.

By now, over 90% of New Year’s Resolutions have failed. It is estimated that approximately 80% of people give up on their resolutions by the middle of February.  Gyms actively sell fitness memberships to as many people as possible knowing that less than 20% will actually use their membership for any real length of time.

So the whole New Year thing isn’t working.  Especially when it comes to fitness goals.  That doesn’t mean that goal setting doesn’t work.  Quite the opposite.  We instead need to make some adjustments as to where we are drawing strength to change.

New Year’s goals tend to fail because we draw external strength from a communal magical feeling that this is a special day to help us change, and draw internal strength from our positive feelings about entering a new year and feeling like we have been given a blank slate.  Those feelings wear off!  Fast!!!  We need something stronger to fuel us for the long-term so we can actually get somewhere.

We need internal resolve and we need external support.  In this post I’m going to focus on resolve.

And before you start thinking you have to become some stone-cold, hard-hearted person who shuts off all feeling in order to soldier on… I’m not expecting you to be John Wick.  Resolve is not turning off your feelings.  Instead, it’s choosing to not rely on them to be your fuel or compass.  What does that look like when you set goals?  It means focusing on what you know is going to help you move forward.  It means being SMART.

You’ve probably seen this before, but here’s a very quick review of SMART goal-setting:

Make your goals:
Specific (know exactly what you want to achieve)
Measurable (how will you know when you’re successful?)
Action-oriented (what will you DO to make it happen?)
Realistic (stretch yourself, but be honest with what is possible), and
Time-framed (when will I be done?).

Write it down. Make it a positive statement. Tell others. Recruit allies. You can write a statement like “wouldn’t it be awesome if…” and then set a large goal based on that.

Sign it: “I, Nathan Walton, will do the following specific awesome-yet-possible thing that can be measured in this manner by the following date. <signature>”

Break that down into smaller benchmarks if you need to and get to work. Be consistent over time. And when the goal is health and fitness oriented, I’ve found it very helpful to also book an event where your goal and resolve will be challenged. A place where you can put your achievements into action.

For example, I’ll be running the Ragnar Relay ( with a team, covering 300+ km on the run – only 58 km are mine to run. Yeah. ONLY 58 km! I truly do not know if I can do it. I’ve been training hard and trying to eat right, but also struggling with injury. In less than 2 weeks I will find out if I am successful. And I’ll be honest that while training I have felt excited, frustrated, energetic, utterly depleted, ready for anything, and like a failure.  Feelings change.  My goals haven’t.  And because I’m focusing on what I know is going to help me move forward instead of how I feel on any given day I’m continuing to move forward.  And the result is that even if I fail to meet my larger goal perfectly, I will have pushed myself to be better than I was and will have an incredible experience.

Goal setting is an opportunity to test your resolve.  Testing your resolve is an opportunity to be fully alive.  Running the Ragnar Relay is a life experience I am truly looking forward to.  For me, traveling with my team to cover that kind of distance makes me feel alive.  It’s a fine thing.

And I would like for more people to have that kind of experience.  I’ll write another post about finding good support for meeting your goals, but for now just know that if you are struggling with achieving your goals, especially if you have seen multiple New Years resolutions come and go with no actual change, I would like to help you out.  We can create and work on your SMART goals together.  Whether you would like me to support you for a short period of time or provide ongoing fitness mentoring, your goals are important and I want you to be able to say you’re alive and not just existing.

Be sure to check out the coaching options on my website.  And go Live.

The Naked Foot

A lot of people have ‘foot problems’ these days and yet there’s nothing wrong with how your foot is constructed.

Your foot is made to move – if it wasn’t we could get by with a hinge joint at the ankle and a single chunk of bone to stand on, but instead we have 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments that work together to maintain 3 arches that are an architectural marvel!  Which we then stick inside a shoe that doesn’t allow you to find grip with your toes, denies you of massive amounts of ground feedback information which improves your balance (“proprioception” in fancy health and fitness professional jargon), maybe even restricts it from moving, and points and jams your toes together (hey, who doesn’t want bunions?).  Then we wonder why we have pain, so we pay a lot for orthotic supports to further splint the foot and restrict its movement in a different position.

If you’ve ever watched a toddler, you might be amazed at their range of motion. They drop so easily into a perfect ass-to-grass squat to pick something up; no restriction in the hips, no bending through the low back. They start to run and they develop a higher and stronger arch in the foot and as they learn to go faster (everyone wants to go faster) they naturally rise up onto the forefoot and go. So naturally we put them in shoes to restrict the foot’s ability to move (what Barefoot Ted calls “foot coffins”), and then we tell them to slow down, stop running, and sit down in this chair to further shorten their muscles and reproduce our own dysfunction. The sitting thing is a whole other conversation though….

Your ankle and foot are similar to the wrist and hand in construction and design, yet no one is suggesting we use some manner of motion-control stabilizing splinting orthotic before trusting your hand to perform regular tasks such as hold your coffee mug, carry a box, or hold correct positioning during a push-up.  There is nothing inherently wrong with your hands and wrists that warrants this kind of external support.

There’s nothing wrong with your foot either. Well… I can’t speak to your foot specifically, but generically, your feet are beautiful.

The bones and joints are meant to move, there’s nothing wrong with pronating, and it’s most likely that if you have an issue with foot pain or ankle pain – or knee and hip and low back and and and – you would do better to spend time investing in retraining the way you move and strengthening your hips and feet rather than flushing money down the toilet on ever more expensive shoes.

I’m not saying there’s never a place for orthotics, just like there are times when you need to wear a cast on account of how something is broken. However, if your primary problem is pain and discomfort when walking, running, training, standing around, or getting out of bed, odds are there’s nothing broken, you just need to train yourself to return to full functionality.

I am frequently asked about my Vibram Five Fingers minimalist footwear (my shoes have toes, yo.  You can learn more about Vibram products here: My foot is made to withstand the rigours of standing – and training, and yes, even running – without requiring artificial support, so I wear minimalist shoes at work instead of going barefoot for hygiene reasons and outside for the added protection from hot cement and rocks or otherwise stepping on something that will end my outing.  In my home, it’s bare feet all the way.

Vibram Five Fingers minimalist shoes! Great for all seasons. I’ve got great traction in the snow and ice because my toes can actually do their job and grip! My foot can flex to adapt to the terrain!

I always recommend training barefoot (or as close to barefoot) as often as possible. In the short term, you might be surprised at how sore your foot gets. That isn’t proof of why you shouldn’t do it, this is proof of how weak you’ve let your foot get.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself you could never be a runner because your feet hurt too much, think again.  Maybe you have no dream of running, but don’t rule it out as a possibility. You were born for it.  And if you want to give it a shot, I’m here to help you get started.  If simply walking or standing is causing you foot pain, talk to me, I can help you with that too.

Stronger feet will lead to a stronger body, an increased range of motion and a decrease in pain.  Your feet are your foundation!  Let them do the job they were designed to do and you’ll be another step closer to living long and living strong!



The Scary Dog Test – Do You Have Useful Fitness?

It just makes sense to pursue having an optimum level of health and fitness.  It increases the quality of your own life, and also increases your usefulness to others.

In my last blog post I talked about functional fitness, or in other words the ability to perform basic functions that preserve your life and dignity.  Useful fitness isn’t focused on you, it’s focused on your ability to help others.

Depending on the situation different aspects of fitness may be more or less useful.  Strength comes in handy when helping a friend load their moving truck.  Flexibility comes in handy when crawling into a small space where a young child has gotten stuck.  Endurance comes in handy when you need to run to grab someone’s asthma inhaler during an emergency.

Useful fitness has nothing to do with your inherent value as a human being.  There will never be a question as to whether or not you are valuableBut there is a very real question as to whether you are useful.

Do you have the ability to provide reasonable care for others, or do you need to be cared for?  Can you keep up with a toddler and keep them from running into the road or do you have to call for help for someone else to catch them?  If a dog is frightening them, can you lift them up in your arms or do you have to wait for the owner of the dog to do something?

When an emergency happens are you going to be an asset or a liability?  Will you be one of the people offering help and improving the situation, or will you be one of the people who will be managed as part of the emergency?  Could you provide a walking assist to someone who can’t move fast enough to exit a burning building?  Could you kneel down to provide CPR for someone in cardiac arrest?

Strength, flexibility or endurance may not each be an asset depending on the situation, but weakness, stiffness, and lethargy are never useful.

One additional note that is very important for anyone who has significant physical restrictions (ex. cerebral palsy) or for individuals who shun physical activity because they see themselves as an intellectual.  I can strongly encourage you to do some research into the connection between the brain and exercise.  Physical fitness improves mental fitness.  Your quick and clear thinking is also a useful contribution!

If you want help improving your useful fitness, I’m here for you.  When you do the online intake assessment you can even identify if there is a specific kind of usefulness you would like to develop such as the ability to lift your child, bend down to play with them on the floor, or toss a football with your teen.  Maybe you have a loved one who you know could not exit a building in an emergency and you want the ability to be able to lift and carry or drag them to safety.  Maybe you’ve been feeling foggy and had difficulty concentrating and want to feel more sharp, clear and present.  We can make that happen!  To learn more about fitness coaching and program options click here.

You can help others to live long and live strongBe fit to be useful.