Podcast: Head of Section Returns!

At long last, our beloved Head of Section has returned from his secret mission! Jamie and Sandy interview Joseph Darlington about where he’s been, what’s next for Being James Bond, and of course theorize and discuss the James Bond series and the upcoming film, SPECTRE!

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MovNat: A Workout Worthy of Bond

To hear the entire podcast, including Jamie and Sandy’s discussion of MovNat, scroll to the bottom of this page and click the link.

Also, the book Sandy was referring to as “Burn” is in fact Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey.  Check it out!

Before I was a James Bond fan, I was a Tarzan fan.  I read all the books and thrilled to his ability to navigate the outdoor world, no matter what was thrown at him.  Rock wall?  He’d find a way. Cover 10 miles in the jungle before the Bull Mangani attacked Jane and the rest of the safari? No problem.

So you can imagine how I felt the first time I saw the YouTube video entititled “The Workout The World Forgot.”  In it, a fellow named Erwan Le Corre lifts logs and carries them down rivers, climbs trees, clambers over seemingly impassible rock walls, scrambles down mountainsides covered in scree, swims down pristine rivers, and grapples with opponents that challenge him.  It’s intoxicating to watch.

And what’s amazing is that he does it all in nothing but a pair of shorts.  He’s not even wearing any shoes.

It took me back to the now-famous chase scene at the beginning of Casino Royale in 2006, when Bond chased the bomb-maker Mollaka (played by parkour luminary Sébastien Foucan) through a construction site and scrambled to keep up while Mollaka lept, climbed, and vaulted his way through the scene.  It was easily my favorite ever Bond movie chase.

Le Corre is the founder of MovNat, a fitness methodology that strives to free human beings from the artificial world we’ve created and return us to a time when our bodies were strong, supple, capable, and most importantly, useful.  MovNat is about throwing away the gym mentality of reps, programming, “no pain – no gain,” and isolation from the natural world.  Instead, the methods of MovNat come from what Le Corre calls the basic movement skills of the human body in the natural environment:  the locomotive skills of walking, running, jumping, balancing, crawling, climbing, and swimming; and also the manipulative skills of lifting, carrying, throwing and catching.

This sounds pretty basic.  And frankly, it should be.  Had we grown up in an environment like our pre-modern civilization ancestors, we’d be doing all these things instinctively because we’d have grown up doing them just for survival.  But here’s the rub:  because we haven’t grown up doing these things regularly, we’ve forgotten how and have to relearn.  We also have to retrain our bodies to do these things because modern conveniences like chairs, cars, unnatural workout regimens, and even things like shoes and beds have warped our bodies out of proper alignment and strength.

This hasn’t just made us stiff and inflexible in the ways that matter, it’s made us sick, weak, and more susceptible to injury.  Not only are our bodies capable of the feats the Le Corre shows in the many MovNat videos, they actually expect us to do them regularly.  The specialization of the world of athletics is actually hurting us more than it’s helping.  No where is that more clear today than in the world of youth athletics.  Our kids, who thirty years ago were outside running, playing, exploring woods, wrestling, and swimming are now suffering from injuries that used to be only seen at the highest ranks of athletics: ACL injuries, rotator cuff problems, worn joints, back problems, and more.  Being pushed into athletic specialization at a young age has made our kids more fragile.

And these are the lucky kids – the ones who actually get exercise.

MovNat was greatly influenced by the works of Georges Hébert.  Hébert was a French Navy officer who pioneered a physical philosophy called La Methode Naturelle or the Natural Method.  Prior to World War I, Hébert witnessed a volcanic eruption on the island of Martinique, where he was aghast at the number of people who had lost the ability, through disuse, of people to save themselves or others from the disaster.  They simply couldn’t do things like lift another person and carry them, or climb rubble, or even have the instinct to try these things.  He dedicated himself to a study of how primitive people moved and exercised, and described the overall goal of his method as making people not only strong, but altruistic.  His his personal motto was, “Être fort pour être utile” (“Being strong to be useful”).

MovNat carries on that goal.  It starts by introducing people to many of these movements at a very easy and sometimes almost humiliatingly basic level and then slowly increasing the difficulty of the movement.  For instance, jumping and landing is first practiced by jumping three or four feet straight in front of you and landing.  It seems simple, until you learn how to land properly and absorb the impact with your knees and a slight elastic squat.  The next step might be a precision jump and land – from one mat to another, for example.  That might be followed by jumping onto a two-by-four without falling off, then from one log to another to work landing on unbalanced surfaces.

Another example might be crawling.  You learn the basic foot hand crawl – and learn the proper form for it (keep your back parallel to the ground, not sticking your butt up in the air, and moving your left foot and right hand in tandem, followed by the right foot and left hand).  Then you move to a narrower surface to do this, followed by a trip back to the two-by-four, and then the log.  Or down some stairs.

Everything in MovNat is done in progressions, to re-teach our bodies how to move properly and effectively.  And I speak from experience when I say that it works not only the body, but also the way we see the world.  You no longer just see a wall in front of you, for example, but rather you start looking for ways to climb the wall – where handholds might be, how much of a runup you might need to get to them, how you might use that trash can or railing to boost yourself slightly, and more.  It changes the way you look at the world.

Think of Bond and his pursuit of Mollaka in Casino Royale again.  He may not have Mollaka’s parkour skills, but he figures out ways to get where he needs to go to stay on the bomb-maker’s tail.  That’s the essence of MovNat – knowing how to use your body to be useful and get the job done.

MovNat seminars are now held all over the world.  Everything from half-day seminars in your home town to five-day retreats to places like West Virginia, Thailand, Brazil, New Mexico, and more are taking place all over the world.  And there are MovNat certfied trainers throughout the world who can teach you these fundamental movement techiques and help you improve your body to be useful to yourself and others.

So what can you expect when you take a MovNat training seminar?

First, it’s important to go in with the right attitude.  So much of the training will seem to be rudimentary and almost insulting at times.  And frankly, depending on your past exercise and athletic history, some of it may be.  But be open-minded.  You’re going to learn about things you’ve been doing wrong and how those things may have led to injuries or other limitations in your movement capabilities.  Too much sitting, for example, may make it difficult for you to attain a deep squat, which is a perfectly natural way for humans to rest. You’ll learn how all the warnings to never squat with your knees in front of your toes arei nothing more than trying to help broken people (from too much sitting) avoid breaking themselves further – but a supple MovNat-trained person will have no problem attaining a deep, restful squat.  You’ll learn how to land when you jump.  You’ll learn proper balance techniques and how to lift a log to your shoulder that, frankly, you’ll never believe you could.

Second, listen to everything that is told to you.  Yes, it may all seem easy, as we said before.  But all these skills you’ll learn are going to build on themselves and each other.  Missing a step in between is going to make the transitions to more challenging movements harder for you.  Don’t miss a step.

Third, get ready to be taken out of your comfort zone. Most MovNat training sessions take place outdoors.  You may find yourself walking down a stream holding a log, such as Le Corre does in the “Workout the World Forgot” video.  Or crab-walking down a steep ravine.  Or doing a hand-foot crawl across a log over a stream.  Or deadlifting and playing catch with rocks.  Or even belly crawling through the leaves and dirt of a local park.  You don’t know what you’ll encounter because that’s the way life really is.  Being MovNat-trained means getting yourself ready for anything.

But I promise you this: when you’re finished, you’ll never take movement for granted again. You’re going to see and experience the world in a different way, knowing that you’re on the path to “being strong to be useful.”  You’re going to be more in touch with your own body, knowing what movements in craves and most importantly a ton of ways to feed that craving.

It’s at this point that MovNat becomes less of a workout and more of a practice – like Yoga or a martial art.

If you’re like me, MovNat will lead to a drive for bigger challenges like obstacle course races such as Tough Mudder or Warrior Dash.  It may lead you to learn parkour or take on competitions like American Ninja Warrior.  Or it may just be a way for you to keep loose, enjoy the great outdoors, and keep up with your kids’ playtime.

Whatever your physical endeavors, MovNat can improve them by making your movements more natural and healthful.  Check out the website at http://www.movnat.com for more.

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Learn a Foreign Language Like Bond

Please welcome long-time forum member and friend Serge Gorodish, who takes us on a trip through the world of learning languages.  Bond knew a lot of languages, and it’s a great way to really get to know the places you’re traveling to!

Don’t forget, you can hear the whole podcast, including comments by Jamie and Sandy, by scrolling to the bottom of this article, or by clicking on the podcast link at the top of the page!

Also, the book Jamie mentioned in the podcast is: Express Yourself!: The Essential Guide to International Understanding





…or in other words, “Bond, James Bond” in Mandarin Chinese. Hello BJB listeners, this is Gorodish, Serge Gorodish, and today I’d like to give you a few pointers and some encouragement on foreign language study.

According to Ian Fleming, Bond had an excellent command of German and French. In the films, we see Bond using Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, Pashto, Russian, etc. with ease and confidence. A second language is almost like a superpower—it opens up a whole world otherwise invisible.

Learning and using foreign languages has long been one of my favorite activities. A second language can be the key to job opportunities, to travel, and even to romance. It’s also a source of pleasure that anyone can experience at little to no expense.

Perhaps your previous foreign-language experience is limited to school classes. Some enjoy these while others find them boring and frustrating. If you’re among the latter I encourage you to take a look around at the new approaches and resources available these days, many for free. It’s a whole new world for language learners. I used to have to scour the bookstores to find a single book on a slightly unusual language like Japanese. Now with a few keystrokes I can find dictionaries, videos, music, even conversation partners for hundreds of languages. There’s never been a better time to master a language.

Using a foreign language has five facets: speaking, listening, reading, writing, and cultural competence. One of my favorite tools for practicing speaking is also my method of choice for attacking a new language—it’s the Pimsleur course, named after the linguist Paul Pimsleur, who originated the method. A Pimsleur course appears deceptively simple. Each lesson is a recording with instructions to repeat this, say that, etc., with lots of repetition to help things sink in. All you have to do is listen attentively and follow instructions. The content is carefully designed to gradually ramp up in complexity.

Think about it. Speaking a foreign language is a physical skill, like skiing, for example. You must train your mouth to move in new and unaccustomed patterns, and the more practice you get, the more gracefully and precisely you’ll be able to do it and the less you’ll stumble.

A typical language class gives each student a few minutes at most of actual speaking time. The Pimsleur method gives you lots of speaking practice in perfect privacy. A typical course consists of 30 half-hour lessons. Some of the more popular languages offer three course levels—that is, 90 lessons. By the 90th lesson, you’ll be surprised how much you’ve learned to say. Pimsleur courses are easily available for sale on-line. Admittedly, they don’t come cheap, but I have been able to borrow quite a few for free from my local library.

My second suggestion concerns listening. Listening is the hardest aspect of a foreign language because you can’t go at your own pace but must take it as fast as it comes. Any foreign language student knows the satisfaction of correctly formulating and asking a question, only to be taken down a peg when the reply is completely incomrehensible.

The solution is obvious once pointed out. To get better at listening, you need to spend more time listening—a lot of time. Fortunately listening takes less energy than speaking or writing and can be multitasked with other activities such as driving or housework.  To do this you need audio to listen to. Try foreign-language soundtracks of your favorite movies, music, audio books… dedicated Websites such as ChinesePod.com also provide audio tracks for download along with transcripts, vocabulary lists, and other study tools. Aim for audio that’s a little beyond your comfort zone. I have found that with repeated listening a recording gradually becomes more comprehensible.

Maybe you deal with someone regularly whose primary language is not English. I’m thinking of a server in a favorite restaurant, a manicurist, or other professionals of this type. My third suggestion is to take such opportunities to master alimited realm of discourse. For example, learn how to order in a restaurant, how to ask for the check, and conduct other restaurant-related business. This is a much more manageable goal than trying to converse on every subject under the sun. Your efforts will make you look cool and most likely make you a favorite customer.

My fourth suggestion is to make use of spaced-repetition software. This is a far more sophisticated version of old-fashioned flashcards. The software presents “cards” (I’m making air quotes as I say “cards”) according to a carefully calculated tapering schedule of review so that you can keep up with ever-increasing vocabulary. Several space-repetition programs are available. I personally use Anki, which is available for free. Among its many capabilities is the power to synchronize and access your “cards” across several platforms such as a Web browser or cell phone. This is a very flexible tool which can do much more than just vocabulary once you become an expert user.

A fifth suggestion is to employ mnemonic techniques to help memorize vocabulary, grammar, etc. The harsh truth is that approaching fluency in a foreign language entails memorizing ten thousand words and more. Mnemonic (that is, memory-training) techniques are a huge help in this.

A key tenet of mnemonic techniques is the mind retains images much better than words. Here’s an example. The word “grapefruit” in French is pamplemousse. To fix this in your mind, indulge your childish side and notice thatpamplemousse sounds a lot like pimple-moose. We’ll use a mental image to burn this into our brains. Picture a moose covered with pimples—giant pimples that look exactly like grapefruits. Take a moment to see that image in your mind’s eye. Absurd? Repulsive, even? Yes, and that’s the point. Once you visualize it, that image will be burned into your brain.

Take a moment tomorrow to ask yourself what “grapefruit” is in French. Do you want to bet you will remember? Over time, with repeated use of the word, the image fades, to be replaced with natural and immediate recall of the word.

This example only scratches the surface of memory techniques. Much more can be learned from the many books available as well as the Web.

My sixth and final suggestion: don’t forget to have fun. Earlier I said learning a foreign language is like skiing. Learning a foreign language is truly a journey with no end. You will never be “done.” But just like with skiing, you can have fun and excitement from Day One, even if you never reach Olympic level.

When possible, I like to combine foreign-language with travel in a mutually complementary way: it is equally true to say that I travel for the purpose of study and I study for the purpose of travel. Pick a place to visit—say, Prague. I would lead up to my trip with six months or a year of studying Czech. This phase is training for the mission. Then on the trip, the mission itself, I not only use what I’ve learned but take notes on interesting words and phrases that I encounter. Pick up a few books or magazines for which I can get the English equivalent. After the trip, I keep studying, including all those notes that I took. This phase is enhanced by pleasant memories. Even particular words or sentences bring to mind where I was when I first noticed them.

So, to summarize the main points: (1) Try a Pimsleur course to get started in a new language and to get your mouth used to the feel of a new language. That’s P-I-M-S-L-E-U-R. (2) Spend lots of time listening to audio just beyond your comfort level. (3) Take the opportunities offered by your daily interactions, perhaps to master a language in a specialized realm of discourse. (4) Use spaced-repetitition software, such as Anki (that’s A-N-K-I) to keep up with your vocabulary.  (5) Use mnemonic techniques to dramatically amplify your memory power. I recommend the classic introduction How to Develop a Super-Power Memory by Harry Lorayne (that’s L-O-R-A-Y-N-E). (6) and finally, don’t forget to have fun.

I want to close with a story that shows you never know when or how a foreign language may prove useful. Some weeks ago I was preparing to make a trip to Texas via a U.S. air carrier that shall remain nameless. I went on-line to select my seat for the flight, only to be informed that this could only be done by telephone. Calling the customer-service line, and running the gauntlet of the push-button menu, I finally got a recording which said that due to the current east-coast snowstorm they were too busy to talk to me, and I should go on-line, following which it hung up on me. This was the classic rock versus hard place.

In a flash of inspiration, I called the Japanese-language customer service line. This time there was no phone tree, merely a pleasant woman who picked up the phone and courteously and efficiently took care of my needs. I got what I needed and felt cool doing it.

So, until next time, this is Serge Gorodish, reminding you to keep living like James Bond—and, whatever it is that you’re doing right now, why not do it with a little style?

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Bond Behind the Wheel

For the podcast associated with this post, including Jamie and Sandy’s commentary on the topic, scroll to the bottom of the post!

Hello everyone, this is your host Gary Perkins AKA GP007 on the forum with an audio presentation for BeingJamesBond.com. I would like to offer a big thanks to Sandy Shepard and Jamie Fellrath for affording me this opportunity to present to you some tips, advice and guidance on the world of high speed driving. So without further ado let’s put the car into gear, drop the clutch and speed into the podcast!

Since the invention of the modern automobile in 1886, mankind has had a professed love affair with speed, wind in the hair and the open road. The romantic and hypnotizing lure of the road is something that draws us in and rarely let’s go once it has taken hold.

Car chases and high speed driving are associated with both classic and modern Hollywood films. In fact, this action sequence has become a staple of any respectable action film due to its ability to get the audience’s adrenaline pumping even though they aren’t the one physically behind the wheel. The James Bond canon of films has many memorable car chases and automobiles featured from the very first film, Dr. No, where 007 is instructing the chauffeur to evade a suspicious following vehicle, to Roger Moore pushing a Citroen 2CV to its physical limits in For Your Eyes Only, to The Quantum of Solace where Daniel Craig deftly maneuvers his Aston Martin DBS on a scenic cliff-side road bordering the Italian Lakes with what must have been a very irate Mr. White riding in the trunk.

One thing we can ascertain from the Bond films is that James Bond not only appreciates the finest in food, drink and clothing but also he has quite an affinity for fine automobiles. While most of us probably can’t afford a brand new Aston Martin, Lotus or Range Rover, what we can do is shop smart and equip our own vehicles to suit our quest for living like James Bond.

So the first step is to seek out your perfect Bond car. For those of you with a vehicle already, this may be a part which may not necessarily apply to you at the moment but there may be a point later down the line where you will upgrade your current car. While Bond drives many exotic cars, there are many that you can have for a very fair price and some that you may have thought were out of reach but could be within your budget. In Tomorrow Never Dies, 007 uses his cell phone to control his 1997 BMW 750iL. This full size sedan (as well as the closely equipped 740iL) can be regularly found on car classified sites for between $4,000 to $7,000 depending on the mileage and condition. When shopping for a used vehicle, especially one with high mileage over 100,000, it would be wise to consult a mechanic to give the car a once over for any trouble spots to let you know if you are being sold a reliable car or a never ending money pit.

So perhaps a used car of that age or body style may not be your first choice of Bond car. Maybe you would just like a car you can style to fit your personality and taste. The options here are virtuously limitless with many foreign and domestic brands putting together sharp, well-styled and equipped automobiles. Sadly we don’t have a Q Branch to issue us the latest and greatest in state of the art transportation, so outside of the internet car classified ads, the most common way to purchase a car is to visit your local dealership. Car buying can be a blend of savvy, mathematics, and outright battle. You want to make sure you get the best deal you can so you’re not overpaying, and the dealership wants to profit as much as they can to meet sales figures. You may have to dig deep into your 007 skills of persuasion and intuitively reading people and situations to make sure you have the confidence to get the car you want at the price you want. As a word of caution, make sure that your personal tastes, fantasies or emotions don’t cause you to buy more car than you can afford! You’d look ridiculous driving a new Mercedes and rolling change for gasoline (petrol for our UK listeners).

When buying a car new or used, there are several websites and publications you can use to help you make your decision. Autotrader.com, Edmunds.com, and Consumer Reports are wonderful resources to research not only cost and availability but also reliability, reviews and any issues you may run into in the future. Keep in mind that while some problems are major such as engine issues, transmission issues, major oil leaks or structural damage, there are some that can be fixed with a little bit of a basic mechanical skill like changing fluids, replacing spark plugs or learning how to use a good buffer to restore the paint’s gloss and shine. At the end of the day you want to make a good decision based upon both your mechanical skills and the cost the car out of pocket. Remember to always get an insurance quote prior to purchasing. While you may get a great deal on a brand new Lexus, the insurance costs may take you outside of your budget.

With the way automobiles are equipped today, you would think you had Q himself installing all of the toys and gadgetry. While local laws may prevent you from installing rocket launchers or machine guns, you can have some essentials such as a GPS navigation device, dash camera or even something as simple as an interface for your MP3 player to enhance your driving experience. Today most smartphones are equipped with enough tech to combine the majority of these devices into one simple package.

So you have the car, you have the gadgets, so how can you learn to drive like James Bond? There are many driving schools and classes you can attend to teach you some of the basics of defensive driving or how to power a car through a race course. In this podcast I can give you some of the basics to help get you started.

First is what’s called your driving position. This is the relationship of your body in the seat as it is to the distance between you and the steering wheel as well as how your hands are placed on the steering wheel and how your feet interact with the pedals. While sitting in the seat itself, the driver’s back should be flat against the back of the seat with the buttocks squarely tucked into the corner created at the intersection of the seat back and bottom.

The underside of the legs should be in contact with the seat bottom. Your wrists should sit on the top of the steering wheel at the bend of the wrist and you should be able to flex your wrists fully downward. Your feet should be able to reach the pedals easily where you can maintain a comfortable bend in your knees. On the steering wheel your hands should be at a 9 and 3 position as you would see them on a clock face. This is contrary to the 10 and 2 position which you probably learned in your driving license manual. The 9 and 3 position gives the driver more control and range of motion on the wheel when you are entering or leaving corners. Remember to relax your grip on the wheel to allow more feedback to be felt through your fingers.

Now that you have a proper seating position, let’s talk about acceleration and braking. There are two words you should always associate with acceleration and braking…gentle and smooth. In both cases, remember that the car’s tires have a limit to the traction they can provide whether the surface is wet or dry. Depending on the car’s suspension setup, you should brake rapidly upon entering a corner and gradually decrease your braking and go onto the accelerator as you begin to leave it. A stiffer suspension allows you to brake harder than that of a softer setup. A softer suspension will cause the front end of the car to dive the nose towards the pavement, thus, loading the suspension by compressing the front springs which will also push the front tires onto the road giving you more traction. If you release the brake too quickly, you run the risk of changing the traction level too drastically which can result in the car not turning in the direction you plan to travel. As you leave the corner, applying the accelerator gently and smoothly will ensure that you don’t send too much power to the wheels, risking a loss of traction. Assessing the car you’re driving as well as the surface you’re on will pay dividends towards how aggressively you are able to maneuver your vehicle. On the street, you may not push your car as you would on a racetrack, however, you may be called upon to perform an emergency maneuver if someone pulls out in front of you so this information is still applicable depending on your situation.

Lastly, let’s talk about cornering. There are 3 distinct points to a corner: The turn-in point, the apex and the exit point. The turn-in point, is where turning begins. The apex is the point where the car reaches the furthest point on the inside of the turn. It is at this point where you should be accelerating out of the corner towards the exit point. The exit is where the car is driving straight again. Essentially what you are trying to do is turn the corner into as much of a straight line as possible. The path you follow to do this is called the racing line. As long as you can determine the proper line through the corner, by judging there the apex is, you can go through the corner at the fastest speed. One key in cornering is to be sure to look ahead of where your car is. In other words, look at the apex of the corner and not at the hood of the car and as you move past the apex look towards the exit point and so on. Where the eyes go, the head will follow. When it comes to cornering, as I was told at the Audi Driving Experience, “Squealing tires are happy tires.

High performance driving is both a science and an art. I hope that this podcast has given you some basic information on how to enhance both your driving experience and driving technique. For further information on how to enhance your driving skills you can visit some of the websites used to help make this podcast including www.turnfast.com, www.autotrader.com and www.edmunds.com. For driving schools and instruction you can check out the world famous Skip Barber Racing School at www.skipbarber.com .

One final word of note, remember that safety during operation of a motor vehicle is your responsibility. There is a time and a place for everything but remember that speeding, erratic maneuvering and any form of racing are illegal and dangerous to you and others on the roads. It is also worth saying that drinking and driving is not only illegal but extremely irresponsible and dangerous. And with that, I bring this podcast to an end. I would like to once again thank Jamie Fellrath and Sandy Shepard for giving me the opportunity to present this information to you. So buckle up, put on Backseat Driver from the Tomorrow Never Dies soundtrack, and for god’s sake 007 try to bring it back in one piece!

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James Bond in Geneva, Switzerland

Long time listener Liam McCarney is this week’s submitter: he’s living part of the year in Geneva, Switzerland, and wants to share his knowledge of this amazing city with everyone!  Even though the city hasn’t been in a Bond movie (yet?), Geneva and Switzerland have some important connections to Ian Fleming and the character of James Bond.

Listen to the podcast itself, with Sandy and Jamie’s commentary, at the bottom of this post.

The City of Calvin is also the City of Fleming and Bond!

I’d like to share some tips and background on a city which is very Bond, and where I have the good fortune to spend most of the year, but has been unfairly overlooked by the film franchise so far. In Goldfinger we see Bond board a plane to Geneva, and the city’s name on his car’s navigation system as he starts driving through Switzerland (decades before GPS!), but we see nothing of the city itself.

Not only is Geneva, with the lake area, a kind of Swiss Riviera and a playground for luxury travel, which is quite Bond-like in itself; it has some very concrete connections to 007. Danjaq, the holding company responsible for the copyright and trademarks of the James Bond film franchise, is based in nearby Lausanne (I happened upon the brass plate one day walking past the offices).

Despite its small size (about 400,000 people) Geneva has all the resources and facilities of an international capital, and Ian Fleming thought it worth including in his book on “Thrilling Cities”, along with the likes of Tokyo, New York and Hong Kong!

Many famous historical figures and writers have ventured here over the centuries, including Julius Caesar (he camped near the lake and his mention of “Genaua” is the earliest known written reference to Geneva). Literary figures include Lord Byron, Mary Shelley (who wrote Frankenstein here during the miserable summer of 1816), Voltaire (who took refuge here whenever he made France too hot to hold him – you can visit his Château in the village of Ferney-Voltaire just across the border), Rousseau (a citizen of Geneva), Goethe, Schiller, Ian Fleming and… James Bond!

Fleming himself spent a year studying at the Université de Genève and working at the League of Nations, and for a while was engaged to a Swiss girl. They only broke up because his mother strongly disapproved of the match. In Fleming’s novels (and in John Pearson’s biography of James Bond based on the novels, which fills in quite a few gaps in Fleming’s narrative and is one of my most treasured books), James Bond’s father was a Highland Scot and his mother Swiss, from the nearby canton of Vaud. I was very happy to see Andrew Bond and Monique Delacroix referred to by name in Skyfall. The film series as a whole contains few references to Bond’s roots, but I think the Daniel Craig films are attempting to construct a more serious and consistent narrative.

James also studied here and honed his skiing skills. John Pearson tells us about the time he accepted a challenge from an arrogant ski instructor to try going down a potentially deadly slope near Chamonix. The University here still organizes ski trips into the nearby French Alps, in which I’ve been a frequent and enthusiastic participant, but with friendlier instructors than young Bond had! I love skiing anyway, but it’s a bonus to feel like I’m following in Fleming’s and in Bond’s footsteps!

As an aside, I think I should mention that the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service changed my life. It inspired me both to choose Switzerland rather than France or Germany for my first University year abroad, and to learn to ski. I’ve ended up spending most of my adult life in the land of banks, watches, chocolate, skiing and neutrality. As is the case for many serious fans, for me James Bond is more than entertainment – he’s an ideal, someone who has his personality and life totally together, and an inspiration to bring more style, variety and adventure into my own life.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from student life, Geneva boasts many Bond-worthy five-star hotels by the lake, each with its own distinct character. In fact there are more luxury hotels here – often with Bentleys or Aston Martins parked outside – than budget hotels, and there are many places to spend a pleasant evening with a Bond Girl in elegant surroundings. You can find almost any cuisine here, since Geneva’s 400,000 people represent all but 7 of the world’s nationalities! I find Geneva is a good city to eat Italian or Thai, and increasingly, Japanese or Korean, as well as local Swiss specialties. The cheese-based dishes of fondue and raclette need no introduction, but try also Rösti (a whole plate of potatoes sliced in a similar way to hash browns, often with ham, bacon or cheese added), Zürich-style minced veal with a mushroom sauce and rice, and perch fillets from the lake. Traditionally, fondue is prepared by men, and anyone who loses a piece of bread in the cheese has to pay for the whole table. Fondue and raclette are winter dishes, accompanied by white wine.

I’m afraid the Swiss don’t exactly specialize in cheap night-time entertainment! In discos and nightclubs, expect to pay at least 10 francs per drink, and by that I mean soft drinks! Order something like a bottle of wine or a cocktail and you’ll easily pay the price of a good meal. And it’s no good asking for water: they’ll give you mineral water and charge you 10 francs for that too. Regular bars and student-oriented places, I was pleased to see, serve drinks at less outlandish prices.

If you are just going out for a drink most restaurants have areas where you can have a drink without having to order a full meal. In the warmer months THE place where young people hang out in great numbers is Place Molard. On summer evenings the Old Town is also thronging with people and is a pleasant place to sit outside.

Swiss wine, unfortunately, is almost unheard of outside the country, so you should definitely try some local wine. If you have a chance to dine out at the Swissôtel Metropole, their wine list has a most impressive selection of Swiss wines – the canton of Geneva alone contains practically every grape variety. Most Swiss wines come from the French-speaking area, and there are many vineyards to be seen along the lake between Geneva and Montreux. Several wines from Ticino can be found all over Switzerland. Less well-known and smaller-scale wine production takes place in many German-speaking areas, including the city of Zürich and the Berner Oberland. These varieties are especially worth trying, as you may never encounter them anywhere else.

As well as watches and clichéd Swiss souvenirs such as cowbells, cuckoo clocks and other ornaments, chocolate is everywhere and has been molded into every shape and form imaginable and indeed unimaginable. You are absolutely spoilt for choice. During my first year in Switzerland, I overindulged in chocolate and endured quite an ordeal in the dentist’s chair on returning home! These days Lindt and Toblerone can be found anywhere in the world, so try the specialist “chocolateries” for something new or unusual. Supermarkets and department stores also have wide selections of chocolate. You can often find the exact same item cheaper than in souvenir shops.

Upscale shopping is very big here. There are many stores, indeed a few entire streets, where if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it! I’ve seen Brioni suits and shirts on display, and of course lots of Rolex and Omega watches, in the world’s watchmaking capital. While my budget doesn’t stretch that far, I have always been able to dress well at reasonable prices, avoiding overpriced brand names while still finding variety and good quality. Electronics, thanks in part to much lower sales taxes, have also traditionally been cheaper than in neighboring countries. Note that unlike North America, where you hardly notice that it’s Sunday because everything is open, the Swiss like a good old-fashioned Sunday with nearly everything closed, so plan your shopping accordingly.

You can practise almost any sport here; water sports in summer and of course skiing in winter. While there is rarely any snow in and around Geneva itself, there are a number of ski resorts in the French and Swiss Alps an hour or two away by car. The most famous is Chamonix, but I find it’s largely just a name. I prefer to ski in nearby Contamines for the wide, spacious slopes, and in Avoriaz, on the French/Swiss border on the other side of Montreux, for the spectacular scenery. Chamonix is nonetheless a pleasant town surrounded by several ski resorts, including Grand-Montet, where if you’re lucky you can ski until the very end of April, thanks to the high altitude.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas for a romantic moment with your Bond Girl. Try dinner at the classy Les Armures Restaurant in the Vieille Ville or Old Town, where Bill Clinton once dined. Another place to dine in style is Caviar House at Rue du Rhône 30, which also owns a delicatessen. I went there with my favorite Bond girl to celebrate the release of two Bond movies. The Italian restaurant Lacustre, located almost right on the water, is one of the city’s most scenic dining spots. In summer many lakeside bars spring up, where you can enjoy a drink, a snack or an ice-cream.

As an alternative to a restaurant meal, you can go to Caviar House or Globus (a department store with a basement full of gourmet specialties from around the world) to pick up some refined nibbles and wine. Then, weather permitting, you can have a picnic by the lake. My favorite time for this is dusk, when lots of colorful lights are reflected in the water. A romantic but not usually overcrowded spot is the pier leading out to the Jet d’Eau, the world’s tallest waterjet, which can reach 145m when there is no wind. If you’re adventurous, you can walk right up to the railing if the wind is blowing enough of the spray away from you. The Jet d’Eau dates from 1891, the 600th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation, and began as a device for regulating water pressure for some local industry. It looks spectacular lit up at night, and during the day it sometimes has its own rainbow.

A somewhat downmarket, but still picturesque feature of Geneva is the Bains des Pâquis, basically a lakeside swimming area centered on a concrete pier, on the opposite side of the lake from the Jet d’Eau, which includes a sauna, hammam and… one of the best and most reasonably priced fondue restaurants in town! I recently sat outside on a winter evening with a couple of friends, admiring the view, with fondue and hot wine to keep us warm. The lake water is quite clean almost everywhere, and the water temperature in summer, while admittedly not equaling that of the Florida Keys, is perfectly adequate for swimming, though hardier swimmers don’t wait for summer! You can also have breakfast at the Bains des Pâquis and enjoy morning concerts in summer.

There are various daytime and evening boat cruises on offer, which have an obvious romantic appeal, and the finest spot in town for breakfast is on the 3rd-floor terrasse of the Kempinski hotel with a superb view of the lake. I arrived one morning on a night train from Milan and my favourite Bond girl was waiting for me at the station. I had deliberately put on my tuxedo to make it a more Bond moment. We made our way to the hotel to have a buffet breakfast. On that beautiful sunny June morning we were treated to a view of the annual boat regatta on the lake departing Geneva.

On a clear day, to have a spectacular view of the whole canton of Geneva (a canton is the Swiss equivalent of a US state, but with a bit more independence) you can take Bus no.8 to Veyrier. Make sure to board a bus marked “Veyrier-Douane” (customs). Then cross the border into France and take the cablecar up the nearby Grand-Salève mountain. There is a restaurant at the top, as well as a lot of walking trails. Some very energetic souls walk or even bicycle all the way up the Salève! From the lake (and a few other spots in the city) you can have an excellent view of the Mont-Blanc on a clear day. Closer to Geneva than the Mont-Blanc are the Grand-Salève and the Petit-Salève. On the other side are the Jura mountains, sometimes skiable, but less reliable for snow than the Alps.

All these nearby mountains are in France. The canton of Geneva could have expanded its territory after Napoleon, but the very Protestant Genevois didn’t want too many Catholics in their midst. As a result, Geneva has just 6 km of border connecting it to the rest of Switzerland and is virtually surrounded by French mountains, making the territory just about impossible to defend. During WWII the Swiss government decided they would not even try to protect it in the case of a German invasion, but would rather have the Swiss army retreat to more easily defendable Alpine areas.

There are several other noteworthy Bond locations in Switzerland. The two most famous, Piz Gloria in the Berner Oberland from OHMSS, and the Verzasca dam from Goldeneye, have been adequately discussed in previous podcasts, so I will be brief with just a couple of quick tips. To reach Piz Gloria, you will probably need to change trains several times, as is common given Swiss topography. To allow yourself enough time to appreciate the experience, make it a full-day trip and be sure to check the weather conditions and that it’s actually open that day. Once a year (usually in November) the cable car shuts down for maintenance. Note also that the last ascent is at 4 pm. There is the option of taking a series of four (!) cablecars up from Stechelberg, but I found it a much more enjoyable route taking the train from Interlaken to Lauterbrünnen, then Mürren, the ski resort which features in OHMSS, where you can take the cablecar directly to the top.

If going to the Verzasca dam from the Geneva area, you will probably have to change trains in Domodossola (Italy), so don’t forget your passport. A number of locations from the southeastern Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, and from northern Italy, appear in John Gardner’s novel “Nobody Lives Forever”, where Bond struggles to protect himself and his two beautiful companions, as well as his housekeeper May and Miss Moneypenny, from SPECTRE, who have put a price on his head.

Another Berner Oberland Bond location, again featured not in any film, but in John Gardner’s novel “Never Send Flowers”, is the Hotel Victoria Jungfrau in Interlaken, one of the Leading Hotels of the World. Bond must have stayed in quite a few of those! Here literary Bond meets his match for the first time since Tracy and gets into a serious relationship with a beautiful Swiss agent. The Gstaad area, also in the Berner Oberland and long home to Sir Roger Moore, offers a vast skiing area with around 200 km of slopes. There are day tickets available including train fare and lift pass.

As well as the Berner Oberland, in OHMSS we see the historic center of Bern, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The streets around the famous clock tower are very pleasant and picturesque, and there is a good selection of restaurants with outside tables in the big square leading to the Swiss Federal Parliament. Swiss politics are low-key with very little pomp and ceremony – you may well bump into a government minister in the street or on a tram! In the film we also briefly see the Bärengraben, or bear pit. The bear is the symbol of Bern, as the city was named after the first animal its founder caught on a hunting expedition. I used to feel sorry for the bears, stuck in such a confined concrete space, but they have now been moved to a much more suitable spot by the river Aare. A swim in this fast-flowing river is something for the adventurous!

The only downside to this unique and amazing country are the painful Swiss prices. For the last few years, a Swiss franc has been worth slightly more than a dollar, but $100 in the US will go quite a bit further than 100 francs in Geneva! But many places of interest cost little or nothing to visit, and most restaurants, even in luxury hotels, have reasonably priced menus at lunchtime. Recently, Swiss businesses in general, aware of the skewed exchange rates and cross-border competition, have started making some efforts to cut prices. Trains are also expensive, but it’s possible to buy special rail passes which allow unlimited travel almost anywhere in Switzerland for one or more days.

I imagine most serious Bond fans will know better, but on my various travels, I’ve encountered quite a few people who confuse Switzerland with Sweden, or the adjectives “Swedish” and “Swiss”. I explain as patiently as I can that while the two countries may be close in alphabetical order, they’re geographically as far apart as Maryland and Texas!

Sometimes people also ask me if I speak good Swiss, but there is no language called “Swiss”. The three official languages are German, French and Italian, depending on the region. A fourth language is spoken by about 60,000 people in parts of the eastern canton of Graubünden containing St. Moritz. Rumantsch is similar to Italian, but is considered a separate language and the people won’t be pleased if you refer to it as a dialect. In the German-speaking regions, people read and write standard German, but speak their local dialects. Every city and every valley speaks differently, and despite speaking fluent German, I find conversations in Swiss-German dialects difficult or impossible to follow. In the southeastern canton of Ticino (Lugano, Locarno, Bellinzona) Italian is the local language, while in Geneva, as in most of Western Switzerland, the main language is French. It’s pretty standard French, except for a few local words and expressions, and the Swiss (fortunately!) speak more slowly than the French. Increasingly, not always mastering their compatriots’ languages, the Swiss have taken to speaking more and more English to one another!

As in most countries, Swiss society is gradually becoming less formal. People tend to be reserved, but generally courteous and friendly once the ice is broken. I find the German-speaking Swiss to be more friendly and sociable than the Genevois. (As an interesting note, people with Geneva roots going back several generations are at most a third of the city’s population). Similarly to France, kisses on the cheek are a common greeting, the difference being that the Swiss add a third kiss.

We often see Bond catching a local festival. The Swiss National Day is August 1 st, which in Geneva is followed by the Fêtes de Genève. A highlight of the annual Geneva festival is the spectacular fireworks display over the lake. If you’re not lucky enough to have a hotel room overlooking the lake, and want a totally unobstructed view, you will need to get to the Pont du Mont-Blanc bridge about two hours beforehand. Another great Geneva festival, the Escalade, takes place in December, which commemorates the night in 1602 when the Genevois successfully defended themselves against an attempt by the Duke of Savoie (now the bordering region of France) to sack the city. Enjoy lots of atmosphere, hot wine in the streets, and parades in period costume, where the local government officials join in and open up the historic municipal offices in the old city to the public.

August 1st commemorates the day in 1291 when the first three cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden got together for mutual defense, in particular against the Austrian Habsburg Empire. Controlling the Alpine Gotthard pass gave the Swiss a great deal of strategic leverage. Over the centuries, other cantons gradually joined this loose confederation, which became a more unitary state with the 1848 Constitution. Famously neutral for the past 200 years, managing to sit out both World Wars, Switzerland in previous centuries produced some of the most ferocious and feared warriors in Europe. The only remaining Swiss mercenary army serving abroad are the Vatican’s Swiss guards, who still wear a uniform designed by Michelangelo. Most young Swiss men are required to do periodic military service, a policy known as “armed neutrality”, and keep their weapons at home. Despite this and a high gun ownership rate generally, gun murders are rare.

As for Geneva, it was an important city-state from the Middle Ages, loosely linked to the Germanic Holy Roman Empire. In the 16th Century it was a major center of the Reformation, at which time it became known as the “Protestant Rome” and the “City of Calvin”. Under Calvin’s stern and puritanical influence, Geneva people were allowed do little with their money except save and invest it, which helped the growth of Swiss banking. Geneva remained an independent city-state until it joined the Swiss Confederation in 1815, after a brief period of annexation under Napoleon.

The Swiss, a very independent people, have never joined the European Union. In a 2001 referendum on whether to open membership negotiations, there was a 77% No vote. Unlike the EU system of directives from above, the Swiss have an exemplary system of direct democracy, where all important decisions, be they on a federal, cantonal, or local level, are put to a popular vote.

Geneva is surprisingly poorly served for intercontinental flights. Flying in from North America or Asia, you may have to change somewhere like London, Paris, Frankfurt, Helsinki or Dubai. Once here, you can get a free ticket at baggage reclaim, valid for 80 minutes, to take you anywhere in the city. After that, hotels often provide free public transportation tickets for the duration of your stay.

I enjoy the Geneva motor show every March, which features Bentleys, BMWs, Aston Martins and other Bond cars, but I don’t want to own a car here if someone’s giving it away. Traffic moves at a snail’s pace, you’re never allowed to turn where you want to, and it’s impossible to park. The Swiss may have a reputation for being law-abiding, but Geneva is plagued by impatient and careless drivers. Beware of luxury cars and diplomatic plates, whose drivers tend to think they own the road.

Some visitors will nevertheless find renting a car useful in order to visit out-of-the-way places. As in all of continental Europe, you drive on the right. Speed limits are 120 km/h on motorways and 80 km/h on other country roads, and 30 or 50 km/h in built-up areas. Radar units are everywhere. Neat, ordered Switzerland isn’t the best country to have a race like James Bond and Xenia Onatopp at the beginning of Goldeneye – the Swiss police are pretty merciless about speeding and other traffic violations, and it isn’t too hard to lose your license. For the motorways you will need to display a sticker on the windshield with the calendar year on it and for this you pay a tax of 40 francs, which covers the rest of the year. Better than the French and Italian motorway systems, where you have to pay tolls every time. Needless to say, some mountain routes will be impassible in winter or may require snow tires. Fuel has always been cheaper in Switzerland than in any neighboring country.

Despite the best efforts of the local media to portray Geneva as the new Bogota, there is no need to live in fear of what might happen on the streets. The Swiss have a low crime rate, combined with proportionally fewer police officers than almost any other country. However don’t automatically drop your guard. Violent crime is quite rare, but petty theft and pickpocketing unfortunately are not.

The climate is not as chilly as you might expect for such a mountainous country. Indeed, thanks to the lake, Geneva enjoys a milder climate than any other part of Switzerland except Ticino, and Mediterranean-type weather in summer. Nevertheless, winters are quite cold, though not as much so as, say, a Canadian winter. Expect temperatures hovering around freezing and (rarely) a day or two of snow, but the lake itself never freezes. Beware of “la bise” though, a strong cold wind, which during a really cold snap can blow lots of water off the lake’s surface, causing some quite spectacular ice formations around the shore. Spring and fall have generally pleasant temperatures with a fair amount of rainfall. In summer expect days of sweltering heat punctuated now and then by thunderstorms. In July and August temperatures of 30°, or even 35°C are not uncommon. Humidity can build up, but the thunderstorms bring some welcome coolness.

Let me finish by mentioning a few more places of interest.

Yet another distinctive Swiss timepiece is the flower clock, outside the Jardin Anglais, a park located beside the main traffic bridge, the Pont du Mont-Blanc. It’s THE place to be photographed for some reason, and you will see coachloads of tourists of various nationalities making brief stops there for that very purpose. The clock has a different design every year.

The walled Old Town has remained virtually unchanged for centuries and looks much as Rousseau knew it. It is full of cosy bars and restaurants, varied and interesting antique shops, and dominated by the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, where you can climb to the top for an unparalleled view of the city.

Henri Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, hailed from Geneva and the Red Cross Museum is located near the United Nations. In fact the Red Cross symbol is simply an inversion of the Swiss flag. The European Headquarters of the UN offers tours on weekdays. The Palais Wilson, where Fleming worked for the League of Nations, now houses the UN High Commission on Human Rights.

A village a short train ride from Geneva in the canton of Vaud, and where Fleming stayed, is Coppet. The château was bought in 1784 by Jacques Necker, French finance minister under Louis XVI. His daughter, Madame de Staël, was a notable literary and intellectual figure of the time. Frequent guided tours are available during the day. The château is open from March to October.

I hope someday Geneva is used as a Bond movie location. Maybe when the producers are casting for the next film, I should suggest it and send them a picture of an award I won for acting in a school Shakespeare play. If it’s a Bond film, I’d be more than satisfied with being a humble extra!

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Podcast: A Trip to a Firing Range

Join Jamie and Sandy as they present forum member John McGregor’s submission about your first trip to a shooting range.  John is the cohost of the Gunfighter Cast and an instructor for Sig Sauer, so you are in for a real treat here!

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A Trip to a Firing Range

Forum member John Mc, AKA John McGregor of the Gunfighter Cast, joins us today with his tips on taking your first trip to a trip to a firing range – from what to bring, what to expect, picking a weapon (if you don’t have your own), how to behave on the range and more.  This is a lot of great information from a fantastically experienced presenter.

John left us with some fantastic show notes that he wanted to leave with everyone!

Listen to the podcast itself, with Sandy and Jamie’s commentary, at the bottom of this post.

Trip to a typical American commercial gun range to shoot a handgun.

Introduction: John McGregor, Retired Law Enforcement Officer, Firearms Instructor, Adjunct Instructor for Sig Sauer Academy since 2003, host of Gunfighter Cast, a podcast which discusses firearms equipment and training as it relates to self-defense from a military, law enforcement and responsible citizen perspective. www.gunfightercast.com

Manage expectations. Going to a firearms range and renting a pistol is not going to make you an expert shooter, anymore than renting a sportscar is going to make you a race car driver.

If you want to learn to how to be a proficient shooter, consider taking a class. One such class that I teach at Sig Sauer Academy is an 8 hour class called Handgun Orientation.

In that class we cover:

  • Firearms Safety
  • Different type of handguns and how to load, unload and make sure they are empty
  • Foundational shooting techniques
  • Ammunition and how it works
  • Range drills
  • Firearms maintenance
  • Firearms related laws including Use of Force

There is no way all that can be covered in one brief podcast episode. Think of this episode more like a typical trip to the bowling alley. You are not trying to become a professional bowler, you just want to have some fun and try your skill at hitting something across the room without embarrassing yourself.

Find a commercial firearms range in your area. Just like most businesses it should be clean and well lit. If its dark and dirty, find somewhere else.

TIP ONE: Plan your visit for early in the day during the week. Ranges are typically busiest on during the evenings and on weekends. By going to the range when it is not so busy, you may get some extra attention and not be rushed in a sea of customers.

TIP TWO: Bring a friend. Unfortunately, people have attempted suicide at commercial gun ranges. If you show up alone with no previous firearms experience or concealed carry permit, the range may not let you shoot by yourself.

TIP THREE: Assuming you don’t have a handgun of your own, you will need to rent one. Rather than trying to make sense of the 20-30 pistols in the case, ask to shoot a Glock 17.

Why not a Walther PPK or a Walther P99? A Walther PPK has actually harder to shoot because of its smaller size. It also has a slightly more complicated operating system than the Glock 17. A P99 operates similarly to the Glock but it is not as universally available. If you ask for a Glock 17, 99% of the ranges that rent pistols will have one. The Glock has no external safety levers or decocking levers to figure out. And by choosing a Glock 17 you are also choosing your caliber, which in this case is 9mm. Some pistols come in multiple calibers. A Glock 17 is not my personal favorite, but by choosing a Glock 17 you are avoiding having to make a lot of choices and appear indecisive. As far as a James Bond tie in, you only have to look back to the last James Bond movie, Skyfall. Bond uses one that he takes from a bad guy to capture Silva, and Mallory uses one during the attack at the public inquiry.

The paperwork is the next step. Bring identification. Plan on answering questions that will confirm you can legally possess a firearm, such as questions about your criminal history, any active court orders, or any history of drug use. They may ask you about your experience with firearms. Be honest. That will give them the opportunity to give you additional guidance. Plus they will be assessing your skills anyway and will be able to tell if you have no idea what you are doing pretty quickly.

Plan on reading and signing a Release of Liability and Assumption of Risk waiver.

Plan on reading the a list of the range’s firearm safety rules. There will be many. Take the time to read them and ask questions if you have them.

Of all the rules, there are two concepts that if followed will keep you from hurting yourself, hurting someone else, or getting yelled at because you are doing something unsafe. Muzzle Management and Trigger Finger Discipline.

Muzzle Management: Keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times. The muzzle is the end of the firearm where the bullet comes out of. A safe direction is a direction where, if the pistol were to fire, there would be no chance of personal injury and the minimal amount of property damage. Imagine the clerk behind the counter hands you the Glock 17 you requested. If you hold the pistol like you have seen hundreds of time on TV and in movies you are probably standing across the counter pointing the pistol at the clerk. That is not acceptable. Before you touch a firearm, think about where the safest direction is to keep the muzzle pointed. In the retail area, it will probably be down. On the range, the pistol must stay pointed down range, the wall behind the targets.

Trigger Finger Discipline: When you hold a pistol, your thumb will be on one side of the grip. Your middle, ring and pinky fingers will wrap around the other side of the grip. Your index finger will naturally want to rest on the trigger. This is how the engineers designed the firearm to feel comfortable. Resist the urge to touch the trigger and instead touch your index finger to the side of the pistol above the trigger. Anytime the pistol is in your hand and you are not firing the pistol, the index finger should be pressed into the side of the pistol above the trigger.

The clerk will show you your pistol. Other than the trigger there are only two controls you will want to be familiar with. On the left side of frame by the bottom of the guard that protects the trigger is a button you press when you want to remove the magazine from the pistol. On the left side toward the back of the slide is a slide catch lever. You can use it to lock the slide to manually lock the slide to the rear. The magazines should lock the slide to the rear automatically when they are empty.

The clerk will show you how to load your magazine. The magazine is what holds your ammunition for insertion into the pistol. If you look at your ammunition, you will see that the front is round and the back is flat. If you look at the magazine you will see that the front is round and the back is flat. Those are clues which will tell you which direction to load your ammunition into your magazine.

The clerk will show you how to get your pistol and ammunition onto the range. Commercial ranges in my area give you a plastic tote which will contain the pistol and ammunition with which to carry your gear to the range.

Besides renting a firearm and purchasing your ammuntion, you will have to rent or purchase eye protection and hearing protection, and purchase targets. Once you have made your purchases, you are ready to head to the range.

TIP FOUR: Put your eye and ear protection on in the sales area before heading into the range. Someone may be there before you already shooting.

Find your assigned lane. Your lane should consist of side walls and a table for your gear. Take your pistol and place it on the table so that the muzzle faces away from you pointing towards the targets. This is the downrange direction.

Attach your target and place it at about three yards away. It will seem close, but I will describe a drill that you can use to start your session at this distance.

Before you load the pistol, experiment with some foundational shooting techniques. Put two hands on the pistol and point it down range.

Stance. Just stand comfortably. A common mistake for first time shooters is to lean back away from the pistol. They are trying to get as far away from the pistol as possible. This will lead you to lose your balance with the pistol is fired.

Grip. There are at least a couple. For your first trip to the range, just make sure that both of your thumbs are on the same side of the pistol. If you have one thumb on each side of the pistol, when you fire the pistol the slide will come back and strike the top thumb. It is a self correcting error, because you will not want to do it again.

Sight alignment. Look at the front site. There is a dot on it. Look at the rear sight. It is a U shaped notch. Imagine you drew a horizontal line across the top of the rear sight. You now have a small square/rectangle. Think of that square/rectangle as a TV screen. Hold the pistol so you can see the front site dot on your rear sight “TV Screen”.

Sight picture. Keeping the front site dot on the rear sight TV screen, move the pistol until the dot is over the area where you want to hit on the target. Focus on the dot, not the target or the rear sight.

Move your index finger to touch the trigger. Smoothly press it to the rear. If done properly the front site should still be visible. It is ok if the front site is moving around a little. We all have a natural arc of movement. Repeat pressing the trigger a few times. Place the pistol back down on the table in front of you, muzzle down range.

Load your magazine with 5 rounds. The magazine will hold more rounds, but by starting out with just 5 rounds it reducing the chance of fatigue, both from loading the magazine and from shooting the pistol.

Pick up the pistol with the hand you pull the trigger with. Remember muzzle management and trigger finger discipline. You are about to load your pistol Pick up your magazine in the other hand. Insert the magazine into the grip of the pistol until it clicks. Try to pull on the bottom of the magazine to see if it comes out. If it does not it is properly seated. If it comes out, try again. With the hand you used to insert the magazine, grab the back of the slide, right below the rear sight. Pull back as far as it will go and release. Don’t try to help the slide forward. Just let it go. Your pistol is now loaded.

Don’t worry too much about stance and grip. Just make sure you are balanced and both thumbs are on the same side of the pistol.

Align the sights and float the dot over the center of your target. Find the trigger with your index finger and smoothly press it back until the pistol fires. When the pistol fires, take your finger off the trigger and place it on side of the pistol above the trigger. When you are ready to continue, float the dot and smoothly press the trigger repeatedly until the slide stays locked in the rearward position and the pistol will no longer fire. Press the magazine release on the left side of the pistol by the bottom of the trigger guard to remove the magazine from the pistol. Place the pistol on the table in front of you with the muzzle pointing down range.

Other drills: One hole drill, longer distance, take your time.

When you have fired your last round of ammunition for the day, leave the slide of the pistol locked to the rear, and return your equipment to the rental counter in the same manner you brought it out to the range. Keep your targets to show your friends.

Pay the clerk for your purchases and rentals.

LAST TIP: Way back when you were filling out paperwork, the range probably kept your ID. Make sure you don’t leave without it.

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Travel like Bond to Austria

An overview of Austria – but first, a bit about Bond 24, SPECTRE.

Bond 24, entitled SPECTRE, is due to be released on November 6th of this year. While details of the Skyfall follow-up remain under wraps, we know Bond will receive a cryptic message from his past that will lead him to uncover the “terrible truth” behind the shadowy organization, while M – played by Ralph Fiennes – battles political forces that want to shut down the British secret service.

Speaking of the plot, SPECTRE had a stumbling block out the gate, when the original scripts were stolen by a group calling themselves the Guardians of Peace, during the cyberattack on the computers of Sony Pictures Entertainment. The film’s producers enlisted additional writers to help make changes to the script – and most particularly to the ending – after the script was leaked to the public.

SPECTRE is, of course, the shadowy apolitical terrorist organization created by Bond author Ian Fleming. It first appeared in his 9th Bond novel, Thunderball, and is an acronym for SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. It is the organization Dr Julius No worked for in the movie, which, in the book, was the USSR. Fleming believed that the Cold War might end during the time it would take to produce the film, which would leave it looking dated; he therefore thought it better to create a politically neutral enemy for Bond. Fleming’s SPECTRE has elements inspired by mafia syndicates and organized crime rings that were actively hunted by law enforcement in the 1950s. The strict codes of loyalty and silence, and the hard retributions that followed violations, were hallmarks of U.S. gangster rings, Mafia, the Chinese Tongs/Triads and the Japanese Yakuza/Black Dragon Society.

SPECTRE is led by supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, or “the man petting the white Persian cat” in the films. His identity was revealed in You Only Live Twice, then he appears in 3 more Bond films before it’s implied that he’s killed in the opening credits of For Your Eyes Only. He is perhaps the iconic Bond villain, variously portrayed by Donald Pleasance, Charles Gray, Telly Savalas and Max Von Sydow, as well as inspiring the character of Dr Evil in Mike Myers’ Austin Powers films. In the books, his 2nd in command is Emilio Largo, who appeared in Thunderball – both the novel and the movie – as well as the movie Never Say Never Again (which I’ll talk about in a minute).

In Bond 24, Oscar-winning Austrian actor Christoph Waltz is to play a character called Oberhausen. This is the name of the climbing and skiing instructor from Fleming’s books who taught Bond while he was at Fettes College. It is not yet clear, however, whether there is any connection between Waltz’s screen role and Blofeld. Asked if he would be the head of the terrorism organization, Waltz said: ‘No. No. It’s more interesting than that.’

The Bond producers only regained the rights to use the names Blofeld, Largo and SPECTRE a year ago, after settling a long-running legal case with the estate of Kevin McClory.

The dispute has been ongoing since 1959, when writer McClory suggested a Bond set in the Bahamas to Ian Fleming. The idea eventually formed the basis of the novel Thunderball, as well as its film adaptation. Fleming and McClory collaborated but later had a falling out, and the courts ruled that the Dublin-born McClory owned “significant elements of the 007 mythos.” As such, McClory was able to produce the “unofficial” 1983 Bond film Never Say Never Again, restoring Sean Connery to the Bond role one last time.

Though McClory, who died in 2006, was legally prohibited from making new Bond films, the settlement means rights to characters introduced in Thunderball are once more available to Danjaq, the producer of the rest of the Bond films. This is why the 2006 adaptation of Fleming’s novel Casino Royale had to use a “SPECTRE-esque” organization called “Quantum,” which may have seemed odd to fans with a knowledge of SPECTRE, but not of the lawsuit!

The deal also paves the way for Never Say Never Again to be included in official collections alongside Octopussy, the “official,” Roger Moore-headed, Bond film, which was also released in 1983. Now there’s a question – would it remain the step-child “Bond 13 1/2,” or would we suddenly skip from Bond 24 to…Bond 26, leaving out the ¼ century Bond 25 in the count? Or maybe even suddenly re-name this one Bond 25…? Hmmmmm…..


Austrian locations for Bond 24 – SPECTRE = include Obertilliach [OH-bear-tilliac], a ski area located near the Italian border, as well as Lake Altaussee [AHHH‘lt-aus’say], which also offers skiing, but could make for a great water chase…and has several miles of winding roads perfect for the new Aston Martin DB 10. The Austrian ski resort of Sölden [Zuu-den], where the first World Cup races of the season are often held, is also featured. In some of the initial photos released from the movie’s filming, one can see the gondola leading up to the modern ICE Q Restaurant in Sölden [Zuu-den], a new restaurant at the top of the mountain. It is slightly reminiscent of Piz Gloria [PITZ Glowria], the famous Swiss location in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.


As my husband is Austrian, this podcast, in Head of Section “style,” is designed to keep you from putting your foot in your mouth if you decide to visit this lovely country.


While Austrians and Germans speak the same language – or nearly – they share a troubled history and have a hard time putting up with each other. Germans think of Austrians as one might a troublesome young nephew. Austrians think of Germans as a stuffy, stick-in-the mud wealthy autocratic uncle.

This Austro-German opposition reflects the dichotomy between the prototypical Austrian and the prototypical Prussian. The former is a Catholic traditionalist, courteous and amiable. But this can be viewed derisively, in German eyes, as being “dissembling and slimy,” as Waltz recently said in his interview on Conan O’brien, when asked the difference between Austrians and Germans. On the other hand, the prototypical Prussian-German, in Austrian eyes, is a stiff Protestant, arrogant and excessively formal, uptight, too direct, and lacking in humor, with a penchant for lecturing the whole world. Counterintuitively, the stuffy German is likely to get loud and sloppy at Oktoberfest, whereas the amiable Austrian is far more likely to enjoy a friendly but less “tankard-clinking” evening in a wine garden with friends.

Austrians are proud of their contributions to world civilization. They see themselves as modern, liberal and cultured. Austrians have a great love for the outdoors, such as walking, skiing, climbing, and hiking. The rate of women working outside the home is one of the highest in the industrialized world.

Whereas an outsider might lump Austrians in with Oktoberfest-tankard-clinking, beer-drinking Germans, in actuality, as I just mentioned, Austrians are far more likely to be drinking wine or coffee, both of which they take quite seriously. In fact, Vienna, the capital of Austria, gets its name from the Latin “Vin De Bona,” or “good wine.” There is archaeological evidence of wine cultivation in Austria going back 4,000 years.

And we’re not talking sweet German riesling wine, either. Austria’s main production is its crisp dry white wine, Gruner Veltleiner. This minerally wine has recently made its way to the states, and is featured in Heurigers – wine gardens – in Austria. If you see a pine branch hanging outside of a location in Austria, it means that they have wine waiting for you to try. Because of ancient tax laws, these wine gardens didn’t used to be able to offer food – they do now of course, but in a sort of picnic fashion – so often you will see people bringing their own food to the wine garden and purchasing their libations there. Quite the opposite of some spots in the States, which are “BYOB”!

One of my personal favorite Austrian wines is actually the effervescent Stürm – wine, usually Gruner, that is only a few days or weeks old. It is bubbly, refreshing, not too alcoholic… and it isn’t available for very long, or outside of the actual winery making the wine! I’m always sad when we visit Austria outside of Stürm season, and always wistfully ask!

The delicious, first-class Austrian red wines – such as Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt – are generally snapped up by the Austrians themselves and rarely make it outside the country’s borders.

My husband and I have spent many a wonderful day in Austria going from pine branch’d locale to pine branch’d locale –it would be difficult to stress how important wine – not beer! – is to Austrians!

In passing, the country is also home to Riedel, makers of some of the most expensive wine glasses in the world. In a bit, I will discuss a few of the protocols of drinking and eating in Austria – but first, back to the history of the Austrians and the Germans!


Back in the 18th century, Frederick the Great snatched almost the whole of Silesia from the Austrians. In 1866, at the Battle of Königgrätz, Wilhelm The First’s Prussian army crushed Emperor Franz Joseph’s imperial Austrian forces. But after World War I and the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the severely reduced Austrian state fared far worse than even her sister Germany – where we have seen the newsreels of people trying to purchase bread with a wheelbarrow of cash. So it’s no wonder that, scarcely 20 years later, there was little resistance to the Anschluss, their country’s annexation by the Third Reich.

When it comes to the Second World War, it’s important to understand that, while Salzburg has become a tourist mecca for fans of the movie The Sound of Music, most Austrians did not have it so lucky. The Von Trapps were an exceedingly wealthy family, and if you opposed the German Reich, you could not just “climb any mountain” to escape. My father-in-law was conscripted into the German Army, as was any regular Austrian. It was fight or be imprisoned – or worse. My mother-in-law’s first husband was “disappeared.” Asking an Austrian if they “love” the Sound of Music is always a bad idea – a mistake that I made when first dating my husband, because I actually do like that movie. They feel that it implies anyone could get away from the Anschluss. And as an aside – Eidelweiss is NOT an Austrian song, it was invented for the movie – so if you’re a fan don’t think that will bring you closer to an Austrian by “knowing” it!


The relationship of Austria to Germany could be compared to that of the Irish and the English. Austrians actually do have a Celtic heritage, which Germans do not. Austria is the location of the first characteristically Celtic culture to exist, and possesses one of the largest collections of Celtic artifacts in Europe. Celtic Austria became culturally Romanized under Roman rule, and only culturally Germanized after Germanic invasions.

Since my husband is Austrian, a week doesn’t pass when a friendly – he would likely say “overly friendly” – American tries to “guess where his accent is from.” The conversation normally goes something like this:

“I sense that you have an accent – where are you from?”


“No, no” they say, – as if my husband is stupid – “I mean, where are you FROM? Is it Germany?”

Cold look – “No.”

I step in as the baffled American can’t quite figure out why they are being looked at as if they stepped in dog doo. I offer,

“My husband is Austrian.”

“Oh!” they enthuse, “I love the kangaroos!”

I know that you’re smiling, but this happens more often than you can imagine. In fact, they sell a Tshirt in the tourist shops in Vienna that shows milk cows up on their hind legs hopping through bucolic fields, with a caption that says, “No, it’s Aus-TREE-uh.”


If you are faced with the situation of wanting to make conversation with someone like my husband, and you believe that the accent is “German-ish”, here is a tip: Always Guess Austrian. A German will be amused – an Austrian will be impressed. If you guess Germany, an Austrian will be insulted. I tend to do this also when I meet someone that I think might be from either Australia or New Zealand – I always guess New Zealand, and if the person is indeed a Kiwi, they are always flattered that I “didn’t call them an Australian.”


And now, some helpful hints if you find yourself in Austria. One thing you will find is that while Austrians speak German, it’s not the German that you learned in school, or that’s spoken in Germany! Their accent is not as hard, and their “ch” sound is softer. Although my husband would laugh at my pronunciation, the German word for I – Ich – is pronounced more like “Ish.” The language is very melodic to listen to. I had German for years in college, and I usually can’t make out what is being said! I guess the best way I can explain it is that “Austrian German” sounds a bit like Jamaican English.

One idiom that you definitely want to know is the traditional Austrian greeting of “Servus.” The greeting evolved from commoners greeting their lords with the words: servus humillimus, Domine spectabilis, meaning your humble servant, my noble Lord. No subservience is implied in its modern use – just like an agnostic might say “God Bless You” after you sneeze. And as an aside, “Gesundheit” means “Health,” and actually is not used in either Germany or Austria – in Germany, you’re more likely to hear “Geht’s wieder?” (Better now?)  and in Austria, “Zum Wohl” (“to your health”)).

But back to “Servus.” This greeting takes the place of “Guten Tag” or “Guten Morgen” – the German form of Hello – AND Tshuss or Auf Weidersehen, the German form of Goodbye. “Servus” can even be a toast.

You will also hear the phrase “Grüß Gott” – or ‘God Greet You’ – often used by people you don’t know, such as a merchant. In Austria, like in France, it’s very important to greet any shop keeper when you enter their establishment, and also when you exit. (You can say “Servus” in both cases.) The reason merchants in France and Austria are sometimes viewed as “standoffish” is that you are expected to greet them, first. If you’re nervous to try out your accent, “Hallo” is also is used by modern Austrians as a greeting.


Drinking and eating is very important in Austria. I am not going to even get into the protocol surrounding coffee – if you want that, you’ll need to ask me a question in the Forum! But let’s just cover a few things so that you won’t look hopelessly rude if you’re asked to a meal, or drinks, by an Austrian.

At business or social occasions, shake hands with everyone present–men, women and children—women before men, then children. If you’re a woman, you should offer your hand first, as an Austrian man will not reach out to you – it’s your responsibility to reach out to him. Shake hands again when leaving. If you are a woman and you extend your hand, and an older Viennese man kisses it, accept this tradition graciously. Men also enter restaurants before women – I always like to think this is to be sure “the coast is clear of ruffians” – so don’t expect a man to step back and allow you to pass, and if you’re a woman, try to step back so that this can happen seamlessly.

While a (usually) older Viennese man might kiss a woman’s hand, a foreign man should not kiss the hand of an Austrian woman, as it’s not expected and may come as a shock. Kissing, hugging, touching and physical closeness in public are not common, and this is definitely a reserved society where a greeting does not involve a kiss or two on the cheeks! If you are in Austria with your mate, it’s really best to leave public displays of affection for your hotel room, as they will make people around you feel embarrassed.

Austrians are suspicious of hyperbole, promises that sound too good to be true, or displays of emotion. In fact, in many situations, Austrians will be direct to the point of bluntness. This is not an attempt to be rude, it is simply indicative of their desire to move the discussion along. Austrians also may find personal compliments embarrassing, so if you’re going to compliment someone, be sure that you are sincere, but low key. If you enthuse – because you’re an American and we are an enthusiastic people – you may find the necklace, ring, hat or scarf that you went on about tucked away in your purse after you leave!

As a final note about body postures that you might not know are rude, don’t put hands in your pockets while speaking to anyone. It has a connotation that you’re “counting the change in your pockets” instead of listening.


If you want to try your hand at the German language, always use the formal word ‘Sie’ for “you” unless invited to use the informal ‘du’. People are generally addressed by their academic title and surname, and you may be referred to simply by your surname. This is not a culture that uses first names except with family and close friends. Titles are important, and when people are probing you what you do for a living, or about your education they are usually trying to figure out how to address you. If you are, for example, a woman who has a PhD, you might be introduced as Frau Doktor Mueller – from then on, you are likely to be referred to as Frau Doktor. Oh, and all women over 18 are Frau, even if they are not married. Just go with the flow – don’t make the American gaff of saying “oh, just call me Sandy” or thinking that referring to an older woman as “Fraulein” will imply that she “looks young.” It’s just considered insulting.

If you do not have an honorific title, you may just be referred to as Herr or Frau, with or without your surname. Again, this is the way things work in Austria – don’t try to impose the American “first name basis” on people unless you’ve gotten quite familiar with them. As an analogy, if you know the German language, when someone states that you can use “du” in referring to them instead of “Sie,” that is when you are likely to also be able to ask whether you can call them by their first name. I, however, after 20 years, still refer to my father in law by Herr and his last name, though we do use the informal “du” with one another. And he formally asked if he could use my first name when addressing me – well after my husband and I were married.


Drinking has its own ceremonial protocol in Austria, in which eye-contact plays a central role. 

When clinking glasses, Austrians take a moment to make eye contact and say “Prost” to each person in the round. It means “to your health.” The most important part of this is to have eye contact with the person you are toasting – NOT with your glass. Since toasting started when people didn’t trust one another and would “clink tankards” so that a bit of the liquid would slop from one into the other – proving that you were not poisoning the person you were drinking with – if you look at the glass, it’s considered a symbol of distrust . . . as if you are watching to ensure that none of their “poisoned liquid” made it into your glass!


If you’re invited to dinner, don’t begin eating until the hostess or host says ‘mahlzeit’ or ‘Guten Appetit’. The host gives the first toast – don’t forget to look the person you’re toasting with in the eye as you say Prost! If you are the honored guest, you offer a toast of thanks to the host at the end of the meal.

As Austria is Catholic, grace might be said over the meal, so it’s a good idea to just wait until the host or hostess has taken a bite before you eat or drink anything at your setting. But “Mahlzeit” or “Guten Appetit” will always come after the Grace (and before the host picks up their own fork) – so that’s your cue! If you are at an informal gathering and are perhaps served before others, if the hostess says “Mahlzeit” to you, it basically means “go ahead and eat.” It took me a while to realize that they really mean it – they want you to eat while your food is hot.

If you are eating a nice meal in Austria, and you’d like to compliment the chef, one way of doing that is cutting your food with the side of your fork as opposed to using your knife. This lets the chef or hostess know that whatever they cooked is so tender that you don’t even need a knife. When it comes to the ubiquitous dumplings – never, ever cut a dumpling. Instead, hold it with your knife, and break it apart with your fork. And perhaps it goes without saying, but in this country, you eat with your fork in your left hand and cut with your knife in your right – no “switching off” fork and knife. Forks are used tines up, as opposed to the bulk of Britain where forks are used tines down, and food is piled up the back.

Totally stuffed? Be sure to eat everything served to you, then put your fork and knife side-by-side on your plate with the handles facing right to show that you’re done. An open knife and fork on your plate means you would like more food or that you are not yet finished eating – and if you’re at a restaurant or having a multicourse meal, everyone – including the waiter waiting to clear the table – will wait until all knives and forks are in this position! If you are having a meal with chopsticks, the opposite is true – crossed chopsticks means that you are finished, whereas aligned chopsticks mean that you’re “ready to continue using them” – in other words – are still hungry. And by the way – You’re an adult – unless you’re allergic, you need to eat everything that was served to you in a private home. It’s the height of rudeness not to.

In a restaurant, the person who extends the invitation pays the bill. Austrians will not appreciate a struggle over the bill. Reciprocate with a lunch or dinner invitation before you leave the country. Usually the tip left is whatever change there is from the bills you hand the waiter, though in some establishments this is changing to a 5% tip.

I hope that this rather long podcast gives you not only some updates on SPECTRE, but also some hints on how to act during your next trip to Austria. Remember – like in Paris – you will always be treated better if you dress like Bond, not like a blue-jeans-wearing, backpack-toting American. Toast with your eyes, greet shopkeepers coming and going, and go with the flow. I look forward to hearing about your trip! Servus!

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Podcast: Austria

Sandy gives us her tips and tricks, as well as the must-knows, about travel to the nation of Austria!

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Put Your Fitness to the Test with Crossfit

What is Crossfit? – Sandy Shepard

Most of what you will hear on this podcast is straight from Crossfit.com and the Crossfit Journal found there. If you’re interested in Functional Fitness, it’s a great place to start.

The definition of CrossFit is:

Constantly Varied, High Intensity, Functional Movement.

Basically, Crossfit aims to build a program that will best prepare you for any physical contingency — whether you’re 8 or 80.

After looking at all sport and physical tasks collectively, Crossfit figured out what physical skills and adaptations would be the most universally useful in any given situation. So basically, the “specialty” of Crossfit is in not specializing.

Crossfit, at its very base, is a fitness regimen developed by Coach Greg Glassman over several decades. He was the first person in history to define “fitness” in a way that is both meaningful and measurable.

The Crossfit definition of Fitness is “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains” – I will describe what that means in a second – and again, CrossFit is defined as the program that optimizes Fitness, as defined this way.

Crossfit is also a community of people that do the WOD – which stands for Workout Of The Day – together in a box, which is Crossfit’s word for a gym. WODs are short – you’re never at the box, including warmup and cooldown, longer than an hour, and it will have been quite a workout! Sometimes it’s as short as 15-30 minutes.

Crossfit is an open source community, which means that Crossfit HQ offers an extensive amount of free content, including workouts, as well as the Crossfit Journal, on the crossfit.com website. It’s also open source because, as explained by our instructor when I obtained my Level 1 Crossfit certification, “If someone was to compete at a Crossfit competition and came to that competition without doing any of the current Crossfit workout regimes, we would pick that person’s brain and we would incorporate what he or she did as long as it’s done in a healthy, repeatable way – because we don’t believe that our way is the only way. We think it’s the best way – until someone proves us wrong – at which point, we’ll change that way.”

Often, Ironman athletes are considered the “fittest people on Earth.” I myself have of course done an Ironman, and in actuality, that is the furthest thing from the truth. When you do any sport, you are a specialist in that sport. So, when you take the Ironman for example, you can put together a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a marathon in fewer than 17 hours. But can you climb a rope? Can you lift a heavy box over your head? Probably not.

Crossfit aims for a broad, non-specific fitness that fits what everyone needs to do, every day. Though you might say that your grandma doesn’t need to deadlift, what happens when she drives to the store, brings her groceries home, and then puts them down to put her key in the lock – now needs to lift them back up? What about “hoisting” that bag of groceries up and onto the kitchen counter? Depending upon your gramma, that’s likely a one-arm clean. What about putting a box up on a high shelf? Clean, and press. What about squatting down to the toilet, and getting back up without having to “push up” with her hands? That’s a squat.

That is why the definition of Crossfit is a training program of Constantly Varied, High Intensity, Functional Movement. A “functional” movement is one that actually does a useful function. My example was just a clean and press – picking up a box from the floor, and putting it up on a high shelf. Now, if you work out in the gym, you might work out your legs on a press machine, your biceps on a bicep machine, and your shoulders on a shoulder press. But by having done all these pieces, do you think that you could do the movement of a clean and press? Likely not – you have trained these muscles in isolation, not as a functional movement. If instead you work on a clean and press in a Crossfit gym, you will be told that it’s important to get the movement right, first; second, to be able to do the movement correctly over and over, and THEN to be able to do the movement correctly, over and over, at “intensity” – whether that’s fast, or with weight.

Crossfit has a lot of detractors, who say that people get hurt “all the time” doing Crossfit. But in actuality, what usually happens is that the person doing the workout decides not to stick to the Crossfit method of training, which is, again, get the move right, THEN get it right over and over, THEN add intensity. Instead, they see a person lifting a heavy weight, or doing the movement in a lot shorter time than they are, and they do NOT have the movement right – much less correct over and over! – and they just go for intensity. And pull something, or get hurt, and blame it on Crossfit instead of their own ego.

Going back to the Crossfit definition of Fitness – which is increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains – Crossfit is all about tracking and improving your results in a number of areas. Crossfit encompasses weight training – whether you’re doing the move with a PVC pipe or a barbell – gymnastics training, which means basically “bodyweight” moves like handstands, or even a dip or pushup or situp – and metabolic conditioning, like rowing, running, and such. The programming of Crossfit is such that Rest days are also incorporated into the training regime. Why? Because you do not build muscle when you are working out. You build it at rest. As we used to say when I was doing traithlons, Nutrition and Rest are the “4th sport” that you need to dial in right.

But what does “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains” mean? Imagine a graph, with time on the horizontal axis, and “force” on the vertical. “Force” is your work output for a certain move. You might only be able to move a heavy weight a few times, or a minute or two. You might be able to move a lighter weight for longer. If you plot a graph of all the movements and all the times, you will get a curve, which will be high on the left – which would represent high force, low time – and lower/tapering at the right – which will represent lower force, and longer time.

Under that curve, if you were to shade it, is your “work capacity.” That is how much “work” you can do over the horizontal time, and the vertical “workout modes” axes.

And that’s what Crossfit wants to address – it wants to push that curve upwards. It wants to increase your work capacity, so that you’re able to exert more force over the same amount of time, or to exert the same amount of force over a shorter period of time.

One of the most important parts of Crossfit is that it’s measurable. When you do a WOD – remember, Workout Of The Day – your time, or weights, or however that WOD is measured is put up on a whiteboard. You’re expected to keep track of how you are doing – whether by using a software program such as BeyondTheWhiteboard.com or even an Excel spreadsheet. This will keep track of what you did that particular move at, on that particular day. More importantly, it helps you to push the work capacity curve up, because if you got to let’s say 50 pounds at the end of the WOD that day, then you’re going to aim to get to 60 pounds – or at least 51 pounds! – the next time you do that sort of movement. By keeping track, you can also see what you need to work on, and you can celebrate your successes, where you are able to move your work capacity curve upwards.

If you want to make this a bit more complex, imagine that this particular work capacity curve is for your age right now. Add a “Z” access for 3-D – which would be an axis for your age. Next year, you move forward 1 year on that Z axis. This allows you to plot your work capacity not only for that one year, but over time. You will have a three-dimensional figure that will show you your actual work capacity over not only time, but also over years.

But let’s do what Head of Section does, and help you look like you know what you’re doing the first time you approach a Crossfit Box. If you want to join a Crossfit Box, you will need to take an On-Ramp class. This class will teach you all the movements that you will be expected to know when you actually do your first WOD. It will cover how to correctly lift things, press things over your head, support your body weight, understand how to stabilize your body, and the like.

You will also learn some of the acronyms that are used in Crossfit. An “AMRAP” means As Many Repetitions As Possible – usually in a certain time frame. An “EMOM” means “Every Minute On The Minute.” So you’re given a certain amount of a workout to do – say, like 5 pushups – and you do that in a minute, and you get to rest until the minute is up. (If it takes more than a minute for you to do that thing, you don’t get the rest!) A “Tabata” is named after the coach who invented it in Japan, it’s 8 rounds of 20 seconds going as hard as you can, 10 seconds rest. A “double under” is jumping rope, with the rope passing under your feet 2 times in a single jump. An “RM” is a “rep max.” so a WOD that says “figure out your 3RM” means that you are going to be figuring out what weight you can do the movement at, 3 times only, then you fail (this will come up in a second!)

There are also set workouts in Crossfit, which are done so that you can have a benchmark that every Crossfitter worldwide has. These are either called “The Girls” because they are named after women (such as Fran), or they are called the “Hero” workouts because they are named after heroes – usually police, or military – who died protecting our freedoms. Once you’ve started doing Crossfit, you will be watching a TV show, like happened to me recently with NCIS, and a character will walk in wrecked from a workout and turn to another character and just say “Fran.” It’s a funny thing to be “in the know” about. As a communal thing, you can go to a box in another state, or county, and the coach will often ask you what your 1RM, 3RM, 5RM, or perhaps your “Fran time” is.

Why should you know this? Because, as will also be explained to you in your OnRamp course, Crossfit is all about Scaling the workout.

What does Scaling mean? It means that everyone that is doing the workout should be using the same “perceived exertion” to get that workout done.

This is the beauty of Crossfit. As I wrote on my BeABondGirl.com blog, Crossfit is a bit like golf in this. In golf, you are given a “handicap” which you get to subtract from your score at the end. So let’s say you are playing a pro golfer with a handicap of zero, and you have the highest handicap that you can get (which I believe is 42 – which happens to be MY handicap). If you play a round and the pro comes back with a score of 100, and you have a score of 141, you win. Because you get to subtract 42 from your score, and 141 minus 42 gives you 99.

So, if you walk into your Crossfit box on your first day after your OnRamp, and the WOD on the whiteboard is something that you know you can’t do, you ask the coach how to SCALE that WOD.

The whiteboard will be listing the WOD at what is called “Rx” – as in, the “prescription” weights or times. But that Rx has a presumption. That presumption is that it is a certain percentage of the perceived exertion of a standard, fit crossfitter’s time or weight for that workout.

So let’s say that you walk into the box on that “first read WOD” day, and the Whiteboard says that the WOD is to do a 7 minute AMRAP – remember, as many rounds as possible? – of 3 80 pound deadlifts, 20 pushups, and 10 pullups.

You know that 80 pounds is WAY over even your ONE rep max for deadlifts. So you ask the coach how to scale that workout, or, more particularly, what does that workout presume? You’d ask, “what percentage of my 3 rep max should that deadlift be?” And the coach might say to you something like “It’s supposed to be heavy, so that should be at least 80% of your 3 rep max.”

Maybe you don’t have a list of your weight maxes yet – because the presumption was this was your first “real WOD” at Crossfit! But ultimately you WILL have those numbers. In this particular case, as it’s your first day – tell the coach that – and she will work with you to figure out a weight that will mimic what the WOD is looking for.

But a year later, if 80 pound deadlifts are still higher than 80% of your 3 rep max, you take your 3 rep max, multiply it by .80, and THAT is what you put on your bar. Ta-da! That’s what scaling is about!

The other part of this WOD was pushups and pullups – for pushups, perhaps you are going to do fewer of them, or perhaps you are going to do them with a band slung under your belly and attached to the vertical stanchions to take some of your weight – same for the pullups – perhaps you will be slinging a band up and over the horizontal bar and putting a foot in it, so that that band is taking part of that weight.

As our mythical WOD was a 7 minute AMRAP, you will keep track of how many rounds you are able to do 3 deadlifts, 20 pushups, and 10 pullups – however those are scaled for you. And as a side note, if you don’t get a round done, when you are giving the coach your score, you give him the number of rounds that you completed, and then the number of movements you completed in the partial round. So if you happened to get through the pushups in this case but no pullups, your partial round would be 23 – 3 deadlifts and 20 pushups.

Once you’ve finished the WOD, you will want to do some mobility. Most boxes have a warm-up before the WOD, and then a warm-down or mobility – foam rolling, stretching, and the like – afterwards. Don’t forget to do this, if even for 5 minutes! It’s an important part of the workout.

Most boxes also have a workout that is before the WOD, where you are working on a skill or a lift or a movement. So that might mean that you have a 5×5 for a weight – meaning you are lifting that weight 5 times for 5 rounds, increasing the weight each time. This is how you figure out what your weight maxes are. If you fail on the final round, well, now you have your 5 rep max for that weight. Similarly, you might be asked to work on your 3 rep max, or your time for a 200 meter run, or how long you can hold a handstand against the wall. These are all skills, movements and weights that you will track and measure, to help you guage your fitness.

Not only will this help, but – again presuming that the WOD we discussed was indeed your first day – you now also have some sort of idea of what your “scaling” will look like for deadlifts, pushups, and pullups as they were presented to you today. Log that, and then work on improving it!

It’s my personal belief that Crossfit is for everyone, because it is based on functional movements that everyone must do in their daily lives. It is non-specific exercises, and you might be asked to flip a tire, or pull a sled, or climb a rope, or jump over someone lying on the ground. As long as you remember that you must get the movement exactly right (even if scaled), first, THEN doing it right over and over, second, and THEN doing it with intensity, you’ll have great results with Crossfit. As you get better at the functional movement – or, in other words, stop scaling so much – you will of necessity need to cut back on the amount you are doing or the intensity until you can work back up … but that’s the beauty of it. In no time, you will be able to do the movements as prescribed – “at Rx” – if you do them CORRECTLY and keep your ego in check. Have fun!

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