For those reading in real-time: Yes, I am posting this right before Thanksgiving for a reason. 😛
In The Valkyrie Project, and it’s sequel Weathering the Past, our protagonist — Ana Callif — does some fairly routine ass-kicking, at least by today’s standards. She fights (a lot), runs (a lot), jumps, sneaks around, and fights (some more). Even scurrying across the roof of a skybridge over dozens of lanes of flying cars has become a bit believable when you’ve got twenty years of Ethan Hunt and Jason Bourne (and let us not forget another 30+ years of James Bond) under your belt.
But I’ve started working out (more than just running/elliptical) this year (actually since last December), and after being a runner pretty much exclusively my entire life, I have come to realize that these agents of espionage must have a pretty killer training plan that we never actually get to see or read about. It’s not like Rocky where the training montage is expected so you can see how hard he’s working. Even the recent Daredevil series just kind of goes with the assumption that: He’s blind, so his heightened senses also include increased heart size and red blood cells that can carry oxygen to his muscles faster during anaerobic activity. He doesn’t have to go to the gym and do jumping lunges or mountain climbers or sumo squats. Just as Ana can sprint up a hill while being shot at or wrestle some dude in an elevator or sprint up way too many stairs (or any number of other crazy ridiculous stunts which I’m trying not to spoil for those who haven’t read the books), she also is never shown lifting a finger outside all these missions. I definitely think the missions help to keep her in shape, but there’s no mention of push-ups, burpees, weights, or duck walking. Yet if she wasn’t already prepared for the task physically, I don’t think the Agency would even let her out the door.
So, how do these people get in shape in the first place?
In this post I’ve put together my hypothesis in the form of a workout. It’s similar to workouts I’ve seen and done (which kicked my ass), so while I’m not a certified professional trainer or anything, I’m fairly sure this would get you into, if not World Class Super Spy shape, then something much closer than most of us probably are now (myself included).
The Valkyrie Project Workout
We’ll start with a warm-up and then 3 circuits (though the Valkyries probably do it at least twice through depending on how much time they have). The circuits are only about 7 minutes each. They’re intended to be hard and you do them as hard as you can. Get that heart rate up and keep it up while you work those muscles. When you’re training to be an International Super Spy, you don’t have all the time in the world to work out (I’m going with that assumption, even though really, you probably do). You’ve got to read a lot about missions, study other languages, learn to imitate other people, practice walking in heels (if you’re a Valkyrie), hit the gun range, and then take a long flight somewhere. So you’ve got to keep your workouts short and to the point.
In the interest of efficiency again, you will need at most a set of hand weights for these moves (though most don’t require any weights).
Warm-Up (30 seconds each – twice through)
Backward Swinging Arm Circles (Big rotation)
Half-squat with leg rotation (ideally with knee straight and full rotation) – This is just a half-squat with a chorus line kick
Static lunges with torso rotation (with hand weight)
Leg swings – one leg at a time, swing it out to the side while keeping your body straight up and down
Circuit 1 (30 seconds for each numbered exercise)
1. Half Crow Push-ups – 30 seconds; bend one leg and bring it toward your elbow as you do a push-up
2. Kettlebell swing with squat (you can use your hand weight as a kettlebell)
3. Sumo Squats with overhead tricep press (tricep extension)
4. Mountain climbers
6. V-sit into Hollow Ab Lift (similar to Hollow Rock but with a bit more control going from the V-sit to the Hollowed out position)
7. Plank twist
Circuit 2 (30 seconds for each numbered exercise)
1. Superman with shoulder press (hand weights)
2. Renegade row with push-up
3. Forearm plank push-ups
4. Squat jumps
5. Plank moguls
6. Pike crunch (raise legs and touch toes)
7. Sit-up with leg extension (alternating sides – kind of like a bicycle sit-up)
Circuit 3 (30 seconds for each numbered exercise)
1. Duck walk
2. Chair pose with reverse fly (this is a combo, so you might have to search for a couple videos to get the idea)
3. Side lunge with front raise
4. Double-time butt kicks (basically, as fast as you think you can do them, double that)
5. Jumping lunges
6. Sit-up with Russian Twist
7. Roll-up followed by pike crunch
Always important to stretch things out after a work-out. Most people do this by stretching whatever hurts for about 5 seconds, and with time so limited, you would think the Valkyries would probably follow that routine as well. Well, some of them do, I can assure you. Ana is probably one of them. But some of them follow the prescribed stretching routine, which is as follows…
Standing Hamstring Stretch – Place one leg at a time on a chair and lean forward to stretch hamstring; 90 seconds each. Keep back straight when leaning in to stretch. You can do this seated on the floor with one leg bent if you want.
Standing Quad Stretch – One leg at a time for 90 seconds each.
Crowd Pleaser – Stretch for the groin: Sitting on the ground place the soles of the feet together and lean forward. Hold for 90 seconds. (Noticing a pattern here?)
Standing Calf Stretch – Place hands on the wall or back of a chair. One leg forward, the other straight back. Try to keep the heel on the ground for the best stretch. Hold each leg for… 90 seconds! No deviation here.
So there you go. And yes, I did just basically pick all the hardest moves that I know of and string them together. But I did actually do this workout after designing it to check if it was really as hard as I thought it would be, and actually is was quite doable. Certainly not easy – it’s harder than a lot of similar workouts I’ve done, but I’m sure if I wanted to spend five minutes searching instead of making up my own, I could find a lot of harder workouts. But they wouldn’t be called the Valkyrie Project workout, now would they?
As Weathering The Past nears readiness for publication, I’m trying to figure out ways to market it without just pimping the book directly; to say something besides just “buy my book!”
So, to give you an idea of the different aspects that went into writing the second book in the The Valkyrie Project series and, honestly, just to share some music that I really like, I’ve made the playlists that I used when writing Weathering The Past public on Spotify. (Since Spotify is free, I believe anyone should be able to listen just by giving them your email address – or a fake email if you really want)
I think (okay, I know) most writers have playlists that they use when writing to get them in the right mood or mindset. I don’t remember seeing any post more than just a single album, artist, or playlist for their writing, though. I’m guessing they have them, but they’re just trying to be concise. Since the scenes in my books vary in tone and emotion (I hope!), it definitely helps me to have a particular playlist to help with the kind of scene I’m writing.
For Weathering The Past, there were three main types of feelings that I wanted to get. Not all of the scenes match up to one of these three exactly, but for the most part, I found that three lists was a good number to work with. The first… well, there is a lot of action in the book. So, I needed a playlist that would get me psyched up. I considered using Barney’s Get Psyched Mix from How I Met Your Mother, but it’s a bit heavy on the 80’s and I like to stay current on my music. So, I seeded a playlist with some classic Get Psyched songs and then slowly evolved it, adding new songs to replace ones that I got tired of, to end up with the current Valkyrie Project – Amped mix. You’re lucky because I went through a bit of an EDM phase in the middle, most of which has been culled, replaced with songs that I think are generally more palatable.
The next most prevalent emotion was ‘tension’ or ‘drama’. This generally meant slower, quieter, and mostly instrumental tracks. Selections from a lot of movie and video game scores. Some of these were used for action scenes as well, but the kind of action scenes where something very dramatic is culminating or coming to a head. I think you’ll get a good idea of what I mean when you hear it… Valkyrie Project – Dramatic.
Finally, there is the Valkyrie Project – Emotion list. This was used for scenes where I was trying to rip tears from the eyes of readers. I don’t think there’s as many of those in Weathering The Past as compared to The Valkyrie Project, though. That was a conscious effort on my part to make it a bit lighter, include more ‘fun’, and go with more of the scenes that would fit into the ‘Dramatic’ playlist rather than ‘Emotion.’ Based on feedback from the early readers who have finished both books, I don’t think I did as as good a job of that as I wanted, but the overall feedback was very positive for the second book, so I’m not going beat myself up too much.
As I begin work on the third book in the series, I will continue to listen to and to evolve these playlists, so go ahead and ‘Follow’ them to take advantage of Spotify’s excellent notification system.