Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jacob's Ladder

Train Like an Olympian - interview with Exercise Perth


And I know I’m not the only one singing songs of praise at the re-opening of Jacobs Ladder – or Jake, as I affectionately know it/him.  Because every time I frequent Perth’s own stairway to heaven (or hell, depending on your viewpoint) I struggle to see the steps through the (sweaty) people.

Yes I know, Jake has been back in operation for some time (since June 21 actually). And some of you may have even completely forgotten about its three-month closure after the landslide caused by the significant March 22 storm. But I haven’t forgotten; it was a bleak time in my life!

You have surely worked out by now that I am one of those weirdos who actually relishes in the feeling of my heart pounding through my chest with each considerable stride up Jake’s steps. (Actually, you probably worked that out after reading just the first word of this blog)!

Yes, I’m a masochist.

And I’m also a sadist to some degree. But only because I know that physical exertion is very good for us. Humans were built to move!

But, as is the case with all respected Personal Trainers, I am of the belief that fitness is a combination of strength, stamina and suppleness. And fitness is just one cog in the “wellness” wheel.

And that is why I reckon the person who coined the slogan, “no pain, no gain” needs to be shot! Because while it might be a creed for some people to live by, it is a hapless phrase for much of the population (i.e. those who hate exercise, and those who are misinformed about human kinetics).

I do get very frustrated when I see people running, jumping, lifting, rowing, or doing any activity, with poor technique. Only because I know they are probably doing themselves more good than harm, despite their best intentions.

Invariably each time I visit Jake I see people busting their guts to get up and down those 242 steps as fast as they can and as many times as possible.

Many of those people start with an eager sprint from the bottom and a good majority are barely crawling the last few flights. Little wonder many of these “weekend warriors” never return to the steps and are turned away from exercise for life.

To all those people, I say, “respect the ladder!”

Jacobs Ladder is not for the faint-hearted. It is a grueling test of one’s physical and mental fitness. But if used correctly it is a wonderful training tool for everyone and anyone. Think about it – it’s free to use, it’s in a central location and it is definitely challenging.

I recently re-introduced a client to Jacobs Ladder. She knew of it, but associated it with pain and therefore was hesitant to go back to it. But after constantly complaining of sore joints from years of running (probably with poor technique), she reluctantly bit the bullet.

In the first session I had my client complete six HALF repetitions of Jake.
My rules for ascending the ladder were/are as follows;
  1. Climb only every second step
  2. Land your whole foot on each ascent
  3. Brace your abdominals
  4. Keep your back straight
  5. Stand all the way up to tall on each ascent (i.e. straight legs)
  6. No hands on the railing or on your own legs
And on the way down I encouraged my client to take as much time as was necessary to ensure she was in total control. I advised her to use the railing if necessary. (As you might expect the “weekend warriors” raced down the ladder. If they don’t yet have buggered knees and hips now, chances are they will soon!)

My friend’s heart rate was still close to maximum at the top (despite only climbing half the ladder), but she was in control and was using excellent technique.
After the first session, her legs were shaking a little and she had a bit of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) for the next couple of days. But not so much that it put her off.
In that session I presented to my client a training session that was challenging (for her), yet achievable. And after just one session, she took charge of her own Jacobs Ladder training.

A couple of weeks on from that first session, my client has now increased her Jacobs’ sessions to 3 x ½ reps (a good warm up), 3 x ¾ reps and 2 x full reps. It takes her just half an hour to complete, and in that time she gets a good huffy puffy workout but also a good strength workout for her legs.

Jacobs Ladder reaches from Mounts Bay Road to Cliff Street on the border of Kings Park. It is free to the public and open at all hours.

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