One of the many things that puts me above other trainers ( and for that matter other  crossfit trainers), is my ability to spot value in "the old ways",

 

 Whilst other trainers rush around the fitness market like poodles in season, chasing every new fashion to make a buck, Im happy maturely reviewing the tried and tested regimes of Old. For me . Old is anything thing from 20 years ago to 4000. 

The human body hasn't really  changed that much , nor have the emotional and physical challenges we face, or could face,

In the west, we are lucky. Because our ancestors were blood thirsty slavers, drug dealers pirates, and heartless exploiters, we are lucky to live a life of ease  and luxury. Unlike , for example, most people in the 3rd world, we turn a tap on to get some water, but, what if I dropped you, now, in the average  3rd world village. What if you had to walk 3km to get some water. Could you carry the water you need the 3km back to your home ( bearing in mind 1litre =1kg):  

If you had to queue to get aid, and someone gave you a 25kg bag of food, could you haul it home? 

But, the specifics of my on going research has been with the military and other ground based services 

Originally, I had hoped that evaluating the practises of the modern army would unlock useful training secrets, but, where successes in modern training regimes are reported, they tend to be with elite units, who were specially picked for unique physical abilities . In short the training enhanced already existing special ability. I became more interested in locking at those older regimes that had been used to train mass conscripted armies. I thought I would start with the Roman Army, and see where it leads me. This is very much work in progress.

To assist me, Ill be relying on re-enactment specialists, living archeological experimenters  and hollywood and film actors as well as classical scholars and the literature of ancient writers. The great thing is that this will allow me to dress up and play act ( whats not to like!)

So we will start this process by looking at the works of FLAVIUS VEGETIUS RENATUS and his book/manual  "MILITARY MATTERS" 

Thanks to some of the translations on "Sonshi"

 

THE SELECTION OF RECRUITS

The recruiters seemed to prefer "peasants"  as they   "are the most fit to carry arms for they from their infancy have been exposed to all kinds of weather and have been brought up to the hardest labor. They are able to endure the greatest heat of the sun, are unacquainted with the use of baths, and are strangers to the other luxuries of life"

 However, in times of Crisis,   they are sometimes obliged to make levies in the cities. And these men, as soon as enlisted, should be taught to work on entrenchments, to march in ranks, to carry heavy burdens, and to bear the sun and dust.

Their meals should be coarse and moderate; they should be accustomed to lie sometimes in the open air and sometimes in tents. After this, they should be instructed in the use of their arms. And if any long expedition is planned, they should be encamped as far as possible from the temptations of the city;

In the early stages, all recruits were raised from the city, but that was at a time where;"There were no pleasures, no luxuries to enervate them. The Tiber was then their only bath, and in it they refreshed themselves after their exercises and fatigues in the field by swimming"

The recruit didn't have to be tall; "when necessity requires it, the height of a man is not to be regarded so much as his strength"

So what training did these soldiers get ( apart from Formation training!)

Marching. 20 miles in 5 summer miles ( in the common military step) and the full step ( 24 miles in 5 hours)  Marching, not running! Some sources ( Augustus and Hdrian) suggest this should be done 3 times a month.

Running. In order to charge the enemy with great vigor; occupy, an advantageous post" They could  reconnoiter, advance with speed, return with greater celerity and catch an  enemy in a pursuit.

Leaping.   To enable them to pass ditches or "embarrassing eminences" without trouble or difficulty.After all, a soldier who advances with his javelin running and leaping, "dazzles the eyes of his adversary, strikes him with terror"

Vaulting

Vaulting was a keep component: a skill that rarely appears in a modern army

Carry Burdens

Recruits were  obliged (frequently) to carry a weight of not less than sixty pounds (exclusive of their arms), and to march with it (in the ranks). In the field the soldier would have hauled his arms and supplies

"The Roman soldiers, bred in war's alarms,
Bending with unjust loads and heavy arms,
Cheerful their toilsome marches undergo,
And pitch their sudden camp before the foe."

(Virgil) 

Learn to swim

"it is sometimes impossible to pass rivers on bridges, but the flying and pursuing army both are often obliged to swim over them. A sudden melting of snow or fall of rain often makes them overflow their banks, and in such a situation, the danger is as great from ignorance in swimming as from the enemy"

 

Entrench their camps.

Little actual information is given about this process , but it was credited with the success of the legions. It certainly involved, digging, moving earth and the erection of stockade.

THE POST EXERCISE

fighting drills against a post, with shields and swords 2x the weight of normal ones 

"Every soldier, therefore, fixed a post firmly in the ground, about the height of six feet. He basically attacked it ( like a punch bag!)

 

Daily Practise

"Daily practice of the military exercises is much more efficacious towards the health of an army than all the art of medicine." 

Interesting guidelines .

 

 In the modern British Infantry here are some movement standards

"There are 3 (Advanced) Combat Fitness Tests
CFT - 8 miles 44lbs plus weapon 2 hours
ACFT 1 - 1.5 miles 44lbs wearing helmet and weapon 20 minutes
ACFT 2 - Day 1 12 miles 60lbs plus weapon 3.5hours Day 2 12 miles 50lbs plus weapon 3hours

Terrain is not really standard. If you tell someone you did the Brecon CFT they'll suck their teeth but if you say you did the Thetford one they'll be less impressed. Those are the standards but you can always make it harder by putting it on hills and/or over rough terrain. At the end of both the CFT and ACFT 2 you are supposed to do RMTs - Representative Military Tasks things like lifting ammo boxes into the back of a truck or doing a fireman's carry. Again these vary in difficulty and it's up to the PTIs to choose which ones you'll do. There's normally 3 that you have to complete"

 

But, back to Roman basics: some great insight from  aposter on the campfire message board .

 

"Sounds impressive? 4 miles an hour carrying 60lb? Blistering, even by modern military standards?

Some things to bear in mind.

1. Roman miles were shorter. 20 miles = about 18.5 modern miles
2. Roman hours changed in length during the year because they depended on the hours of daylight. A 'summer hour was about an hour and a quarter long in modern terms. 
3. He doesn't say you have to march the full 20 miles with a 60lb pack, and 60 roman pounds = about 43lbs.

So, that's about 3 miles an hour, with the ability to carry a 40lb load for some of it. You'd certainly be expected to carry your FMSO for that sort of distance, which would include shield, helmet, sword, spear, bed roll, cookwear and food ration. However, the legions did also have waggon trains and pack animals.

You also have to remember that Vegetius was an old moaner and what he wrote was a book saying "things aren't as good now in the 5th century as they were in the old days and we should do things like they used to do". 

Walking 18 miles in hobbed caligae or calceae that you're not used to wearing will Biggins you up for weeks, regardless of how quickly you do it."
 

Roman Gladiator  Training: 

 

Ill also be looking at the fitness secrets of Roman Gladiators

It is interesting to note some recent research that indicates that the Gladiators were not muscle bound  with rippling abs, but were "fat Vegetarians" .

But onto my 1st series of observations about Helmet wearing..and its relevance today 

 

 Occupations that involve helmets, frequently create a lot of pain and discomfort in 1st time users, and those who have a poor posture.

 

 

The Barefoot Journey: Ego emo mirus novus Caligae!

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Well, there we are wandering around St Albans, taking in the Roman sites when I came across a  ”Make yourself a pair of Roman Caligae sandals” kit in the Verulamium Museum shop.

It was there that it struck me! Who would know more about walking, running and shoes? The Roman civilisation whose legions marched over and dominated Europe for centuries or ……..Nike?

So Kate kindly did the little bit of stitching required (sorry, I’m such a helpless boy),

kate, our resident caligae stitcher

And there I was POSE running outside St Albans Abbey at 10pm. Could this be the missing factor that barefoot running needs, an inexpensive layer of  leather  for basic protection that won’t interfer with your running style?

We’ve brought them back to Stratford to see if the particular version we bought, or the idea in general, has the potential for widespread application. So I wacked them on for  some POSE practise. As  a covering  for the soles of the feet they were great, but I found they began to rub a bit on top of my big toe ( Im also a wimp) ,

ow! my big toe was rubbed a bit by the nasty leather

Kate came up with this bit of new sandal advice.

Slather the leather and the top of your feet (obviously, not the bottoms) with moisturiser or vaseline, as it makes the bit that could catch or rub, slide. Mind you, the great thing about being a barefoot runner is that if your shoes rub, you just take them off.

But, you know what, I have quite high hopes of finding a hardwearing, problem-free design!

Ego emo mirus novus caligae!