Way before I started training in Glima, I came across a blog post written by Tyr Neilsen of the Academy of The Viking Martial Arts in Norway. I was researching at the time, trying to find somewhere in the UK that I could learn the art and having no luck I spread my search into Scandinavia. I’d been messaging schools for Brokartok in Iceland and teachers of Lausatok in Sweden (I didn’t even know the difference back then), I’d messaged Tyr too at the academy in Norway and nobody was getting back to me. All my leads were dead but I continued researching, reading, learning and this one post about the Viking Fit Challenge really got under my skin. I added it to my routine and eventually it just became something I did every day.
I’m a lifelong martial artist who’s studied Judo and Muay Thai and a Boxing Coach too but those things were always sidelined for my day job as a Nutritional Therapist. Reading Tyr’s post about simplifying fitness, breaking it down into a core set of movements in a short workout, competing with yourself to drive improvement and his tips on diet fitted in absolutely with everything I already knew and did, and taught my clients to do.
Eventually after much pestering, Tyr and I began talking and what then happened over the course of the following year was what became the birth of Glima in the UK. Tyr became my teacher and mentor and I now use a version of the VFC as part of my Glíma warmup at training sessions and Masterclasses which my students really look forward too as we train 100% outdoors mostly in the mud (wink).
During all of that time I wanted to do justice to Tyr’s Viking Fit Challenge by spreading it here in the UK and to supplement it with a little of my own input on the nutrition aspect to make it an all round health movement which anyone can do, anywhere at any time. In my version I’ve stripped it down to three basic movements which can be done with no more equipment than a chair. Combined they hit virtually every muscle group in the body particularly the core. It’s essentially a HiiT workout so it combines intense cardio with resistance and because it utilises little more than body weight to create the resistance you can do it in your living room, bedroom, hotel room if you travel or are on holiday and can’t get to a gym and so there is absolutely nothing to stop you getting Viking fit. Here’s a link to Tyr’s original post.
And so here it is, the UK Glíma - Viking Fit Challenge!
First of all this is a 3 minute workout, at least to begin with - as you get fitter there are options to develop it so that it evolves as you improve. You’ll need to be able to time your challenge, this can simply be with your watch or a clock, I like to use an app which I preset to alert me when an exercise ends and I need to start the next one. There are lots of fitness timers out there, I use ‘Boxing iTimer’ set to 3 x 1 minute rounds with a 10 second round end notice. And you’ll need a little space and a chair, small table or the arm of your sofa can also work.
Exercise 1: - Pushups
Pushups done correctly engage your triceps, chest, back, core and legs.
How: Make sure you stay nice and straight, don’t swing your hips up and down. It’s like a Yoga plank but you just bend at the elbow.
(If you have a weak upper body, core or both start to increase your strength by completing this exercise with your knees down, on all fours, and build up slowly to a full pushup.)
Exercise 2: Squats
Squats done correctly engage your shoulders, core, back, butt and thighs.
How: Stand with feet about a shoulder width apart, arms out straight or crossed in front. Keep your back nice and straight and lower yourself down by bending your knees, as you come back up clench your butt muscles (Glutes) and relax them for the down squat.
(If you have knee problems switch this exercise to a Glute Bridge. How: Lay on your back, feet down and knees bent, thrust up from the hips lifting your hips as high as you can, clench on the up, relax on the down)
Exercise 3: Tricep Dips
Dips done correctly engage your lower back, core, shoulders, triceps & chest.
Grab your chair, sit on the edge with your hands on the edge either side, walk your feet out until your legs are nice and straight then lift your butt off and dip down by bending your elbows while keeping your back and legs tense in more or less an ‘L’ shape.
(If you have trouble with dips bend your knees and bring your feet closer to the chair a little at a time until you find a comfortable position. This will take some pressure off your shoulders, the closer your feet, the less weight on your shoulders)
Are you ready?
Timer set to 3 minutes, push to the max on every repetition of every exercise, GO!
1 minute - Pushups
1 minute - Squats
1 minute - Dips
Now log it with the date and how many of each you managed and all you have to do is go 1 push, squat or dip better next time and you’re on the road to improvement!
Evolve your workout as your fitness level improves
Do not underestimate the power of simplicity. I promise you this - the first time you do this routine it will be hard! I recommend you start very slowly, remember how many of each exercise you did, log them with a pen and paper (old school) or on a note on your phone (new school) with the date. Do this every time you complete a workout so you can see for yourself how you are improving, remember you are in competition only with yourself (unless of course you want to Viking Fit Challenge your friends!).
As your fitness improves your count for each exercise will increase. When you’re ready to go to the next level, here’s how:
1: Complete & Repeat
Simply finish the first set of three exercises, give yourself a break of between 60 down to 10 seconds (progressively less as your fitness improves) and do it again!
2: Add an exercise
So far we’re equipment free but if you have a kettlebell or dumbbells, pull-up bar or any exercise equipment at home use them. Alternatively try; Burpees, Mountain climbers, squat thrusts, steps (using your stairs) anything at all the important thing is that:
a) you do it
b) you count it and
c) you keep on improving
3: Multiple Workouts
A workout of any description for any length of time is great and a workout is anything that breaks a sweat and gets your heart pumping. The VFC is so simple, and so quick, why not do it twice, three times a day or more. The only thing stopping you is you!
And one final note on exercise before we move on to nutrition - GET OUTSIDE! Exercising is not only good for your physical health but your mental health benefits too, and it has been proven that getting outside to workout improves those numbers. This isn’t the Cosy Fit Challenge it’s the VIKING FIT CHALLENGE so take it outdoors and train like a Viking!
Now this is a subject that I hold dearly to my heart, so much so that I find myself regularly raging like a Berserker at TV and social media advertising promising overnight results with this diet and that. I spent years training, years teaching and I’m going to summarise those years with a three word statement which you can quote me on about the diet industry and their products - “They’re all bullshit.”
If you have to pay for a supplement, a meal replacement, a plan, a magic tea or any of the plethora of pseudoscientific junk out there - you have been sold to.
Nutrition is simple, the Viking diet personified that simplicity. Fresh and seasonal meat, fish, nuts, seeds, berries, fruits and vegetables. Yes I know it’s 2019, many of us are vegetarian or vegan and you know what, that’s cool. Just don’t get drawn in to some multi-million pound empire telling you what’s good for you because chances are it’s not. If it comes in a packet, if it has a list of ingredients, if it has a marketing budget it is a processed food item or supplement created to make somebody money. Their healthy bank balance supersedes your actual health. And to use a similar analogy, If you treat your health like a bank balance and invest well it will pay out with interest.
And so, the bottom line here, the take home info which you should remember is this - For better health now and for life, keep it simple. Simple workouts, simple diet, just move more and eat right.
Unless you have an underlying health issue nothing should stop you thriving for free. No gym membership, no subscription to pills, shakes or plans, just you moving and eating. It’s what we did since the dawn of the human race right up until convenience and advertising came along. Get back to those ancestral roots, you deserve it, your family deserves it and there’s nothing stopping it happing right now.
Warmup is not essential but recommended. Personally I like to do a set of these exercises slowly for about 15-20 seconds each before I go at the full three minute set. Alternatively running on the spot for a minute or skipping if you have a rope makes for a great all round warmup.
Exercise shouldn’t hurt, if you experience any new pains while exercising stop and go and see your GP. Aching after exercising is normal, it is a sign you have worked muscle cells to the point of bursting and supported by a good diet they will rebuild, stronger. Times that by the 32.7 trillion cells in the human body and it makes for a stronger you.
Diet also shouldn’t hurt, if you are hungry, tired or craving something please listen to your body. It knows what it needs, feed it. You’ve heard that old saying, “you are what you eat”, it is absolutely true. Food is not just fuel, those 32.7 billion cells in your body are constantly dying and replenishing, the food you consume feeds not just your belly but those new cells. Want healthy cells - eat healthy food.
About the author
Alex Rogers is the Founder and Chairman of the UKGF and highest graded Glíma Instructor in the UK. He is a level 3 Personal Trainer and Level 5 Nutritional Therapist specialising in Naturopathic Therapies for Obesity and diet related morbidities including Diabetes and other lifestyle diseases.