The 2016 Challenge and how I pulled through!


For this weeks blog I have decided to write about my experience in doing the 2016 challenge, the lead up, the challenge itself and the aftermath.

What is the 2016 Challenge you say?

The 2016 Challenge came from a Calisthenics group called the Bar-barians, who are well known for their intense gruelling physical workouts that test you mentally as well as physically.
Every year they do a challenge with as many reps in it as the year no. so this years no. was 2016.
2016 it’s not a little No.

So what was involved in this years challenge?

100 Muscle Ups
500 Pull-ups
500 Pushups
400 Squats
300 Dips
216 Knee Raises/Sit-ups/Leg Raises (I chose knee raises)

Knee Raise

The Buildup (Trepidation)
Was I ready to do this?

I hadn’t been doing a lot of high rep work recently, as of late due my workouts had been unplanned and tended to focus more on high end work rather than hitting the basics.
I still had been doing some of the basics but the volume was low and this was just due to how busy we had been during the construction of the gym and for me finishing of my work as a Personal Trainer at another gym.
So this was playing on my mind – did I have what it takes to get through this?

The other things that had been playing on my mind was a couple of minor injuries.

I had been experiencing a bit of pain in my left forearm recently. I knew from previous experience with slight strains in the forearm that gripping would eventually exacerbate the issue and there was going to be a lot of gripping in this challenge!

So for the days leading up to the challenge I did a lot of work stretching and strengthening my forearms with broomstick exercises, routinely massaging and stretching the area.
Every night I would spray Zen Herbal Liniment on it every night which would heat up the affected area to get blood into the forearm to help the healing process further.

The other issue was that I had some bruising in my left lower back and hip which was restricting my movement, so I had to wait for that to heal enough to enable me to squat and land on the ground with out experiencing pain. This also involved spraying Zen onto the affected area as well.

Once I felt physically capable to take on the challenge I switched my mind onto the mental challenge and working out just how I was going to tackle it.

The Process (Breaking it down)
I had several trains of thought on how to approach this challenge and how to break it down.
My first thought was to try and get the hardest exercises out of the way first i.e. MuscleUps, Pull-ups etc.
However I decided against this as I was concerned that I would hit failure points on individual exercises and I thought that this also might make the workout take more time.
So instead I chose to break this down in rounds where I did every exercise in a particular order with achievable rep nos. for each exercise each round. By using achievable rep nos. I worked in a sub-maximal threshold during the course of the workout (less than maximal effort)

The order I chose for my exercises was
Knee Raises

Basically I tried to get the hardest exercises out of the way first but stationed exercises in-between that wouldn’t hit the same muscle groups e.g. MuscleUps, Squats, Pull-ups – Dips, Knee Raises, Pushups.

I would then give myself at least 2-3 minutes between each round so that I could recover effectively.
This way working within a sub-maximal threshold with longer rest periodsI could ensure that I didn’t hit failure points during the course of the challenge.
Basically I wanted to ensure that I didn’t encounter muscular fatigue and end up not being able to get through the rounds, bearing in mind I still had a job to do after this (a rather physical one at that) which requires me to demonstrate exercises and help other people through exercises that they are doing.
So there was a fair amount of self preservation in my mind during this.

I even went to the lengths of ensuring that I didn’t have music that would hype me up.
I wanted to stay composed during the challenge and when I did rest I didn’t stay still, I kept moving, walking around the gym. Chatting with people when they were around. Refilling my water bottle things like that. I wasn’t going to allow my body the opportunity to seize up!

Lastly I devised a system to keep count of the nos.
This was no workout to be added up in your head, as soon as you get tired you will lose track!
So I used a pad, pen and my mobile phone as a calculator. Making sure I was marking off nos. against each exercise and also totalling the nos. to double-check.


The Workout!!!

5th January 2016

So I stuck to my plan.
Rounds with achievable rep nos. and plenty of rest.
I really warmed myself up beforehand, forearm work, active-passive & protraction – retraction work.
Hold a deep squat, get the body feeling limber (important for recovery as much as warming up)
Hydrating myself throughout the course, this was doubly important not just to keep the body moving but also because it was a really hot day so hydration was key.
Tick the nos. off as we go through, making sure I kept count – there was no way I was going to do more than I had to thats for sure!


About 1000 reps in I hit a sticking point……

A really hot day, gripping and sliding my hands over bars.
Sure my hands are pretty tough but I could feel the skin on my palms wearing to the point where I knew I was going to start blistering and shedding skin.
Not cool…
I mentioned before about still being able to demonstrate exercises, pretty hard to do when your hands sting at there slightest touch.
I hadn’t thought about this at all – what do I do now?

So I taped my hands up with climbing tape (Goat tape)
At first it was just the middle of my hands but then when I resumed doing MuscleUps I realised that the tape was just moving around and not protecting my hands like it was supposed to.
So I ended up taping all the way around my wrists as well, over the hands and back through.
I did this a no. of times throughout the workout to preserve my hands.
It restricted the movement in my hands but hey anything that enabled me to actually get through it without tearing off large chunks of skin was good with me 🙂

I knew that due to the uneven nos. with the exercises that I would run through some exercises faster than others.
Knee Raises were the first to go, then Squats, then MuscleUps, then Dips.
This left me with Pull-ups and Push-ups – 500 each of these exercises meant that they were always going to be the last to be completed.
Initially I was doing 10 Pull-ups and 20 Pushups each round but as I went through dropping off other exercises I would add another set of Pull-ups at the end of the round.
Until I got to the point of Push-ups and Pull-ups only.
So to get through these I backed them together in a round of 10 Pull-ups, 10 Pushups, 10 Pull-ups, 10 Pushups and 10 Pull-ups until I got closer to the end and could feel myself fatiguing further whereby I reduced the reps to 5 for each with shorter rest periods.

It ending up taking me 3 hours and 50 minutes give or take but I made it through, it was done.


The Aftermath….

So I expected that I was going to go through some pretty tough times after this one.
To say it was a big workout is an understatement really

What could I do to reduce the severity of the recovery after all of that work?
I wasn’t concerned about my lower body so much, the Squats were like a rest station during the course of that workout.
But the upper body…….
I expected to be in a world of hurt.


After a photo at the end, I got straight into rehab.
I did a 2 minute shoulder stretch, making sure I stretched the Lats as much as possible at the same time. I did a no. of other stretches, really made sure I stretched out the forearms, the biceps, chest everything that I could.
Drank a lot of fluid, ate some food – kept moving.
Went home, had a cold shower, freshened myself up (had a coffee – not actually that great for recovery but believe me it was worth it) and then came back to work.

We had a photo and video shoot that afternoon so whilst I wasn’t at my best I still did some work on the Gymnastic Rings along with some Handstands.

Kept moving, ate my lunch (very late in the day) had a client come in, trained my client then took a class. Demonstrated some exercises. Kept moving (notice a theme here?)
Did some more stretches.

Went home, ate dinner, entertained a guest. Helped put my daughter and her friend to bed. Did the dishes. Kept moving around.
Eventually I lounged around for a little while before going to bed.

The next day, a little stiff but better than I expected.
Rolled out at the gym, did some stretches and a very small training session that mainly involved handstands. Not many but kept moving. Worked on my forearms with a broomstick.
Took classes and had a relatively normal day.
**I was slightly concerned at this point that I might experience the dreaded second day DOMs**

The next day.
I woke up and gingerly moved, expected a wave of pain and stiffness to wash over me.
A little stiffer than normal perhaps but better than the day before.
Got up expected it might hit me once I was moving around, nothing…..
Had coffee, a shower, breakfast. Still ok – surprised but thankful it seemed that I had made all of the right moves.Sure I was a bit more tired than usual on both days but thats better than I had ever expected!

So I’m not exactly waiting for 2017 to come around for obvious reasons 😉
However I’m not freaked out by the prospect of next years challenge, yeah it will be tough but I now know that I can get through it and if I play my cards right then I can get through it in pretty good shape plus next time around I can be better prepared yeah.
However I am crossing my fingers that we don’t end up with more Pull-ups next time, more squats would be nice!


Calisthenics Coach

**A word to the wise – I wouldn’t recommend this workout to somebody just starting out on their training journey, it does take sometime to condition not only your muscles, but the tendons, joints, ligaments and connective tissue to deal with a workload like this. You could if you wished try a watered down version or attempt to hit the nos. over a period of time rather than in a single session 🙂

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