Test your lim­its.

Men's Health (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY DEAN STATTMANN

I’m an­chored to the floor of a 1.5m-deep pool by the 15kg dumb­bells clutched in my white-knuck­led fists. My mis­sion is not for the faint of heart: crawl the length of the pool (25m) un­der­wa­ter, drag­ging the dumb­bells with me. I’m half­way there, too, when I see the rest of my ten-per­son class head to the sur­face for air. I join them, re­leas­ing the weights and flail­ing to the sur­face, ears ring­ing, lungs burn­ing.

Be­fore this drill, I was told that the gutwrench­ing feel­ing of need­ing to breathe wasn’t death’s door­mat. I could fight past any ini­tial dis­com­fort in my chest and stay un­der­wa­ter for at least a few sec­onds, ac­cord­ing to the train­ers. So I lin­gered un­der the choppy water of the in­door swim­ming pool at Chelsea Piers Fit­ness in Man­hat­tan to test that the­ory.

Sure, I came up for air be­fore com­plet­ing my mis­sion, but I felt a sense of ac­com­plish­ment – and that burn­ing in my lungs.

Two ac­tiv­i­ties into the fourhour work­shop from Ex­treme Per­for­mance Train­ing, bet­ter known as XPT, that’s ex­actly how I’m sup­posed to feel. The brain­child of surf le­gend Laird Hamil­ton and his vol­ley­ball­star wife, Gabby Reece, XPT bills it­self as more than just an­other kilo­joule-burn­ing, sweatin­duc­ing fit­ness class. It wants to ma­nip­u­late your ba­sic hu­man abil­ity to adapt to stress, push­ing your phys­i­cal and men­tal lim­its – and amp­ing your per­for­mance in the process.

Ev­ery­thing about XPT is sup­posed to be un­com­fort­able, from that un­der­wa­ter pool drill (called a rep­tile crawl; see next page) to the freez­ing-cold ice bath (more on that later) to the struc­ture of the whole class. In­stead of hour-long ses­sions that tax your body but leave plenty of phys­i­cal (and men­tal) re­cov­ery time, XPT clin­ics are fourhour small-group work­shops (listed on­line at that teach Hamil­ton and Reece’s “Breathe, Move, Re­cover” cur­ricu­lum. As time­con­sum­ing as that may be, XPT is gain­ing steam: by next year, it plans to go from just 60 cer­ti­fied train­ers to 300 train­ers, a mo­bile app, and a re­treat ex­pe­ri­ence.

XPT saw its in­for­mal start about a decade ago. That’s when Hamil­ton and Reece started invit­ing friends over for im­promptu pool­side work­outs at their Mal­ibu home, and it ex­plains why so much of this takes place un­der­wa­ter. Hamil­ton, af­ter all, fa­mously car­ried large rocks un­der­wa­ter in his work­outs and re­mains an icon of ath­letic longevity at 54. “The birth of XPT is about as or­ganic as it gets,” says Josh Fly, an XPT-cer­ti­fied coach and one of three di­rec­tors at this work­shop.

Not that I’m in the water for the en­tire clinic. Be­fore hit­ting the pool, I sit through an hour-long class on per­for­mance breath­ing, and this sets the tone for all the chal­lenges that fol­low. You can fight the urge to breathe, XPT in­struc­tor Fabian Kut­tner says, be­cause that urge is not nec­es­sar­ily due to a lack of oxy­gen. When car­bon diox­ide lev­els rise in the blood, she says, haemoglobin con­tin­ues to re­lease oxy­gen, so your body has enough to ex­tend your time un­der the sur­face past the point when you feel you need to breathe.

The rep­tile crawl and an­other un­der­wa­ter drill, the ammo carry (see side­bar), chal­lenge us to stay un­der­wa­ter longer on a sin­gle breath, ex­plor­ing the bound­aries of our lungs’ dis­com­fort dur­ing XPT’s swim­ming por­tion.

Af­ter that, we hit a bas­ket­ball court and a sand pit for 30 min­utes of high-in­ten­sity train­ing. It’s the kind of boot-camp-style ses­sion we’ve all done be­fore (noth­ing ground­break­ing here); but as I go through the medicine-ball slams, high-knees, bear crawls and push-ups, I re­alise just how

men­tal the pool chal­lenges were: my body is barely tired. By the time I’m done with that, I’m ready for the fi­nal hour of the work­shop, the “re­cov­ery” por­tion. Even here, XPT man­ages to push me to my lim­its.

We wrap up the work­shop by al­ter­nat­ing 15-minute ses­sions in a 105°C sauna with three min­utes in a -1°C ice bath.

The sauna, a trav­el­ling hot box that goes to all work­shops, isn’t too bad, but the bit­ter cold of the ice bath drives a few peo­ple to hop out af­ter just a minute.

I stay in. Yes, it’s pure, ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain. But af­ter sur­viv­ing the rep­tile crawl in the pool, I know my body can take just about any­thing. An ice bath can help you re­cover from your tough­est work­outs. Just do it the right way, says XPT in­struc­tor Josh Fly.

“Find a bath that’s long and deep enough to fit your whole body. Fill it with enough water so that, with ice, it will reach just be­low your armpits when you’re sit­ting in­side. Add two 5kg bags of ice. (You want the bath to be be­tween -1° and 1°C.) When you’re ready, climb in feet­first, drop down onto your butt, and then dunk your head. Bring your head back above water and set­tle into a com­fort­able po­si­tion, head and back rest­ing on the back of the bath. Fo­cus on your breath, in­hal­ing and ex­hal­ing deeply through your nose. It’s com­mon to be caught off-guard – or even to hy­per­ven­ti­late mildly – be­cause of the ex­treme cold. Fo­cus on things that calm your mind. Stay in for up to three min­utes; when you’re ready to get out, dunk your head once more be­fore leav­ing the bath.”


“Why are we not swim­ming?...”Part 1: Breathe (one hour)

“...We’re def­i­nitely swim­ming now...”

“...So the water part must be over....”


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