Return of the 6 Hour Hell Session: Choose your Own Adventure

December 4, 2019 // Liza Smith

In 2018 I did 4 of these sessions. They came about because I was training for a 36 hour SAS style event where you had no idea what you would be asked to do. I had worked as staff for the event the previous year so I could get some first hand experience and understand a little more about what it might be like. I was talking to Kerry about it during one of our PT sessions and I commented it that it would be really good training to somehow do some longer sessions. About 15 minutes later we had a plan for a 6 hour session where she would plan various workouts for me and I would just turn up and do whatever she gave me. Given the work she was putting in planning this for me the deal was that I could never say no or alter them. The workouts would be as directed. I’m not sure when they became known as Hell Sessions but the descriptions fits. Unfortunately the event I was training for was cancelled so there was no need to do anymore…. until now. As I’m now training for an IronMan I asked Kerry if we could bring it back, with a pure focus on endurance (as the SAS focussed sessions had some stress stuff included, both mental and physical) and because she is awesome, and I think she loves the challenge and seeing how far she can push me, she immediately said yes. We set a date and that was that. 

I arrived at the gym at 12:30 as planned and as soon as I walked in she had a huge grin on her face. I love that she enjoys this and it comes across in her planning and attention to detail. We went to the office to go through the plan and she handed me two beautifully written sheets of A4 paper, written in pink pen for extra effect as she knows I love pink (not much!) 

The two sheets contained 6 workouts. It was a choose your own adventure day so I could do the workouts in any order. Here is how the 6 hours played out:

*Just FYI I haven’t included my scores as honestly why do you care? The one thing I hate about marathon running is that the only thing people generally ask is “what was your time?”. This is why Tough Mudder holds so much appeal to me as it’s all about the personal challenge, teamwork and camaraderie and not about your time. 

Workout 1: 100 Rep Challenge – For Time
100 Burpee Box Jump Overs (over the Jerk Blocks)

I chose to do this one first as I figured doing it later in the day would be awful. I also (wrongly) thought that this was the only burpee workout and I figured get the burpees out of the way. I didn’t go all out as you know, first workout so I broke it down in to ten sets of ten with a 10 to 30 second break between sets. I’m always trying to figure out how to move more efficiently and managed to find a rhythm and technique over the blocks that minimised the amount of work I had to do. 

Workout 2: Row, Jump, Swing – For Time
1000m row, 10 x 24” Box Jump, 10 x 24kg Kettlebell Swing
750m row, 20 x 24” Box Jump, 20 x 20kg Kettlebell Swing
500m row, 30 x 24” Box Jump, 30 x 16kg Kettlebell Swing
500m row, 30 x 24” Box Jump, 30 x 16kg Kettlebell Swing
750m row, 20 x 24” Box Jump, 20 x 20kg Kettlebell Swing
1000m row, 10 x 24” Box Jump, 10 x 24kg Kettlebell Swing

More jumping so I decided again to do this one early on while the legs were still fresh. I paced the row, focussing on consistency with both pace and stroke rate. The box was higher than I’m used to using in a workout as female box height is generally 20”. I liked this element of the challenge and appreciated the fact that I got to use the soft box in case of mishap. 

Workout 3: Weighted Run – For Time
5k Run in 7kg weight vest

Simple. Put the vest on, head out the door and come back 5k later. This outdoor workout was always going to take place at 2pm as Kerry and Toby wanted to get out of the the gym for a change of scenery, to get warm and a coffee 🙂  

I haven’t ever run more than 1 mile on my vest so this was one I was really looking forward. I had no idea how the vest would affect my pacing on a longer run but it felt comfortable and my Zone 2 training must be paying off. I was about 2 minutes slower than usual on an easy 5k and I spent 95% of that time in Zone 2. I managed to get back before Kerry and Toby meaning the gym was still shut but once again they showed why they are the best coaches as my water bottle was waiting for me on the doorstep. 

Workout 4: Push, Pull, Ride – For Meters
For one hour 60kg Prowler Push / Pull (10 meters each way)
Every 50 meters complete:
25 cals on Assault Bike and 30 sec 70kg Hex Bar Hold

I kinda wanted to do this one with tired legs to help work on my endurance, especially as it involves the bike. This may be a controversial statement but I actually love the Assault Bike. I was most concerned about the Hex Bar Hold but this only became really taxing in the last two rounds which was a pleasant surprise. The pull of the prowler is so much easier than the push and the minute I get distracted with the thoughts I lose count, even though I only need to count 5 lengths at a time! This workout become quite monotonous but that was the point right. As Kerry said after “you’re going to be sat on a bike for hours… you need to learn to deal with it” and she’s right. The music during this workout was a pop punk playlist which I really dislike but I embraced this as well as it helped toughen the mind. 

Workout 5: 500 Rep Challenge – For Time
100 x Wall Ball (10lb ball)
100 x 10kg Dumbbell Snatch
100 x 35kg Sumo Deadlift
100 x Jumping Pull Up
100 x Shuttle Run (Burpee)
*Split reps as you wish.

I’d left this workout til late as I liked the look of it and didn’t expect it to be too bad. I was wrong!  This workout stole a little piece of my soul. I’d not noticed the burpee next to shuttle run for one but that wasn’t actually that bad. I’d been feeling really positive before this workout, pleased with how things had been going and how my endurance seems to be improving. Kerry’s advice was to split the reps into 10 rounds of 10 so that is exactly what I did. I started the first two rounds with a 12.5kg dumbbell for the snatch but switched down to 10kg as it was not going up well. The 5 movements together were just hell (so at least on brand for the session I guess!) and every minute of it sucked. It took longer than it should have done as there was much rest… especially during the jumping pull ups, which ended up in sets of 3! 

Workout 6: 40 Min EMOM
Min 1: 15 Cal Ski Erg
Min 2: 50kg D Ball 10 meter carry
Min 3: 10 x Hanging Leg Raise (from Rings)
Min 4: 10 x 10kg Russian Twist
Min 5: Rest

I’d saved this until last as it looked relatively simple and I figured the EMOM format would keep me on point if I started to feel like I wanted to slow down. The 15 cals on the Ski Erg were averaging 45 seconds so I knew I couldn’t relax there but luckily it came after the rest so this was manageable. The 50kg D Ball got switched to 30kg for the last two rounds as my back was pulling slightly when trying to pick it up. To make up for the change it weight we increased the distance. My grip was properly tested in the Leg Raises and again, these got split after the first two rounds. But, 8 rounds later and it was all done. 

A huge thank you to Kerry for all her planning and general evil genius, and Team Cooley (Kerry and Toby) for allowing me to use their space for my training, especially while classes were going on. 

About Liza Smith

Hi, I’m Liza; A badass, mud-loving, bear loving Fitness Professional. I’m happiest when doing Obstacle Course Races, Mud Runs and Triathlons and whilst doing all the training that these hobbies require.

I am a continuing work in progress, always striving to be the best version of me that I can be.

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