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Staying fit- what to do?


I’m having trouble making sure I hit all the pain points in my own training. I have a simply enormous variety of exercises and practices that I should be keeping up with. Such as:

Meditation: Awareness of Breathing, Body Scan, Mantra, Movement.

Breathing exercises: Wim Hof method, standing qigong, the Crane, 9 breaths, the Health QiGong form.

Bodyweight exercises: push-ups (many kinds), pull-ups, plank/killer plank, squats (many kinds), quadruped movement.

Leg technique: kicks (front, round, side, back, hook, stomp, crescent inside, crescent outside), leg swings. Footwork drills (accressere discrescere, 4 guards, rapier footwork form, smallsword footwork and lunges etc. etc.) 7-way hips.

Weights: Kettlebells: overhead press, Turkish Get-Up. Small dumbbells: turns, rolls, wings. Clubs: figure 8s, cutty-cutty, krump-schiel-zwerch, squats. Long stick: figure 8s, static catch, twisting catch, feed-through, prima-quarta extensions, play. Short stick: shoulder mobilisation routine, shoulder stretches.

Stretches/ flexibility training: Hamstrings, single leg extension, back arch, forward bend, side bend, twists left and right, four-way wrists, shoulders.

Skills practice:

Pell: sword and buckler, longsword, rapier, sabre, sidesword

Point control: sword and buckler, longsword, rapier, sabre, sidesword, smallsword

Handling drills: sword and buckler, longsword, rapier, sabre, sidesword, smallsword, long stick/spear.

Forms: Longsword, Rapier, Sword and Buckler, T’ai Chi, Health qg.

Massage: knees-feet; elbows-hands

(All of these except the meditation are included in depth on the Solo Training Course. I’m currently working on a standalone meditation course based on a six-week series of classes that is just finishing up.)

There are lots of ways to categorise these activities. Some are very much therapeutic (such as the forearm turns, rolls, and wings with small weights, which are part of my tendonitis prevention routines), others are more about developing or maintaining overall strength and fitness. Massage is only remedial, some skills training is also conditioning (such as kicks), some don’t seem to fit in a simple box. This makes organising them into a clear system hard.

My usual approach is to simply do what my body feels is necessary. My body is very good at telling me what it needs now, but not so good at predicting what it will wish it had done in five years’ time. I need to take a more deliberate approach. This may mean dropping some training altogether- as a deliberate choice, rather than an accidental ‘oh, I haven’t done that in two years’ realisation, and doubling down on the things that work. 

The overall goal is to be fit enough and skilled enough to do my job properly now, and sensible enough to be still able to do my job properly when I’m 70 or 80 (because why retire? From swords? Really?). Most of my exercises are either sword-skill specific, or establishing the necessary ranges of motion under load (so, strength/flexibility combinations), or about creating a state of mind, or deliberately adjusting my metabolism.

I probably could develop a simplified routine that hits all the bases, but I’d get bored of it quite quickly, and it would inevitably become less effective as my body adapted to it. And I’d lose a lot of the fun stuff. As it stands, a normal session will include some breathing, some conditioning, some skills, and some remedial work. I usually do the meditation separately, and the flexibility stretches also separately, at night.

I control my weight through diet (following the principle that you can’t outrun your mouth), so weight loss/gain/control is not a consideration.

I know from experience that writing out a training program for a weekly or monthly routine will be an excellent theoretical exercise but I won’t stick to it for more than maybe a couple of days unless I’m doing it with a group of people. So one option would be to lay out say a month’s worth of training sessions and publish it as a class program, recruit students onto the course, and then I’d have to stick to it.

Another option would be to just keep all my toys handy, and play with the ones I feel like every day. That’s pretty much what I’ve done in the past, and especially with the help of the regular Monday, Wednesday, and Friday exercise sessions, it works quite well but not perfectly. If you'd like to join in you can find the sessions here.

The Zoom recordings (when I remember to hit the button) are uploaded on the Solo Course. You can see today's session on my vimeo channel here:

Friends, readers, and students, lend me your brains. What should I do to bring order to this galaxy?

And while you're here, let me invite you to the best party this weekend: my AMA video hangout with Jess Finley on Sunday. Join us!

I'm sure you have an opinion: do share!

4 Responses

  1. How did you realize you needed tendonitis prevention? The usual way, i.e. you’ve had it before? I’m struggling with a bout of it myself at the moment and it’s keeping me away from the sword.

    1. I had severe tendonitis in my 20s. If I keep up my preventive routines it stays away, but if I slack off it’s back in a matter of days. Have a look at my body maintenance course (it’s free) at to see what I do. It may help you.

  2. Could you try to group the exercises so that you could have some kind of token for every group (like an object needed in the exercise) and then put a some tape on them every week: remove the tape when you do that group of exercise. When one token has many pieces of tape on it, you know you have slacked too much on that. Or if you know you will forget to put the tape, just keep the tokens on a place where they gather dust fast and remove dust only when training (or have someone else to do the taping for you). Also you could determine how many pieces of tape one token can collect at maximum and also group the tokens somewhere you see them to have a weekly routine, or at least a suggestion for one.

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