How To Train Like a Royal Marine​​

Turbocharge your workout with core strengthening and kettlebells​

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Former Royal Marine-turned-kettlebell jedi, Phil McDougall put the ELLE Team through their paces during a Wednesday Workout, while his bulldog Henry of Cambridge looked on and made sure we were doing our planks properly.

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Here he shares his tips on injury-proofing your run, strengthening your core and how to fire up your metabolism every morning. Clue: you need to eat it straight after your morning coffee.

Plus some serious fitness myth busting.

STATISTICALLY, RUNNING IS THE MOST HARMFUL FORM OF EXERCISE

According to a US study (where you're a runner if you run at least once a week) more than 80% of runners injure themselves - to the point that prevents them from running - at least once a year. This is a direct result of the fact that most people spend all day in the seated position. With this in mind, here are my top running tips:-

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  • Take up yoga and attend at least two classes per week, ideally a lot more. Turn your body into an efficient machine of flexible, strong elastic bands and you'll run faster and safer than ever before.
  • Learn to breathe. Put one hand on your chest, one hand on your belly and take a deep breath. Did your chest hand move? If so, your brain has forgotten how to breathe because of too much sitting in a chair.
  • Work on your balance, proprioception and core engagement. Can you balance on one leg with your eyes closed for more than 30 seconds? If not, you're at high risk of a running injury. Every time you brush your teeth, close your eyes and stand on one leg (barefoot). Over the weeks, existing knee pains may go away and other magical things will start happening. 

SIT-UPS TRAIN YOUR CORE TO BE WORSE AT ITS JOB

Considering that your core's function is mainly to resist movement, not create movement, a sit-up arguably trains your core to be worse at its job.

Instead try these exercises:-

  • Loaded suitcase carry. Stand tall with shoulders externally rotated so palms face forwards (Tadasana, mountain pose), squeeze your lats and triceps, hold something heavy in one hand, then walk. If you lose perfect symmetry, your load is too heavy. If you can walk for longer than 30 seconds, it's too light. Boom! Your obliques are on fire.
  • Leopard crawl. All fours, knees directly under hips, toes tucked under. Lift knees off the floor by one to two inches, crawl forwards and backwards for a set amount of time (30 seconds for a beginner, 10 minutes for a competitive fighter). Focus points: maintain knees close to the ground; maintain a neutral spine; eliminate left-to-right bum movement (balance a ball on your sacrum to help achieve this); left hand always leaves and touches the ground at exactly the same time as the right foot, and vice versa; move slowly and control every part of every movement. This lights up the entire torso.
  • Kettlebell get up (Google: "Neghar Fonooni Turkish Get Up"). Focus points: keep a tight grip of the KB handle, keep shoulders pulled as far away from your ears as possible, view it as seven separate controlled movements and own the kettlebell all the way up and all the way down.

EAT A GRAPEFRUIT AFTER DRINKING YOUR MORNING COFFEE

Grapefruits contain an ingredient that increases the duration of the metabolism-boosting effects of caffeine. Depending on your DNA, you'll naturally burn calories for longer after eating the fruit. At the risk of stating the obvious, don't drink caffeine later than noon. Rely on a healthy diet (good fats, vegetables and protein) to keep you buzzing with energy for the rest of the day.

THE KETTLEBELL SWING IS THE BEST EXERCISE EVER

With correct technique, heavy kettlebell swing intervals will give you the best bang for your exercise buck. Hardstyle swings are the greatest exercise that I know of for producing athletic bodies. They produce butt burn like nothing else; they work the entire anterior and posterior chains at the same time and have a huge carry-over effect to so many other aspects of fitness.

Kettlebell Jedi. Sports & Remedial Therapist. Strength & Movement Coach. Personal Trainer www.philipmcdougall.com

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