Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Weekly Training Regime That Got Outlander's Sam Heughan in Top Shape

By James White, Men's Health South Africa

James White is the founder of Roark Gyms. While Sam Heughan was in South Africa shooting a season of Outlander, it was James’s responsibility to get him strong, fit and shredded for his physically grueling role… and his cover model shoot for Men’s Health SA.

**Editor's note: If you would like to own this edition of Men's Health, SA, here is the link!  Buy a digital copy of the August issue of Men’s Health South Africa, featuring Sam Heughan

Sam Heughan sweated for every fibre of muscle on his cover model body, under the expert guidance of his personal trainer. Here’s how he built his formidable physique.

A typical week of training Sam would look like this:

  • Monday: Upper body work with a hypertrophy (muscle building) bias.
  • Tuesday: Legs day with a real focus on front squats as his quads, glutes and midsection needed strengthening and building.
  • Wednesday: Hellish mix of weights and cardio.
  • Thursday: Upper body hypertrophy again.
  • Friday: The 1000 Rep Challenge – a session in which we did 1000 repetitions made up of different exercises. This may sound like a huge amount of work, but we used it as a recovery session with the weights being light and the heart rate staying in a fat burning zone between 100 and 120 beats per minute.
  • Saturday: Weights and cardio, similar to Wednesday in that we really dialed up the intensity of the session.
  • Sunday: Steady state cardio, usually a 1h30 walk or slow cycle, once again staying in the 100 to 120 beat per minute zone. This serves as recovery as well as an essential part of the leaning out process.

One of the secret ingredients to getting lean is this steady state cardio work.

Most people would be surprised at how hard it is to walk for an hour and a half. It requires a lot of dedication to set aside this amount of time, but it’s the only way to build a big fitness base while burning fat without impacting on muscle growth. It’s a technique that body builders have been successfully employing for years.

Photograph: Sean Laurenz

You’ll notice that we only had two days a week where we went really hard in the gym.

Most people have no idea what ‘hard’ truly entails and there’s only one way to find out – by doing it.

The difficulty of these sessions involves a hybrid between duration and intensity, where the person exercising is required to produce more work, at a greater intensity, the further they go into the workout. An example of a hard session would be:
30 rounds of 30 seconds of work on the rower, 90 seconds of ‘rest’ doing push ups. Start at 151 metres of work in the first 30 seconds, and increase by 1 metre each round, therefore ending at 180 meters in the final 30 seconds. In the 90 seconds ‘rest’, perform 10 strict push-ups.

The above format requires the participant to row further in the same time period as the workout progresses. This will result in roughly 5000 meters of rowing at a high intensity, as well as 300 push ups.

Photograph: Sean Laurenz

I love using the Assault Bike, Concept 2 Rower and Ski Erg for these sessions. These machines are extremely simple to use which almost completely eliminates the risk of injury. Their computers are also very accurate and provide a lot of valuable information that’s useful to compare the output and performance of different training sessions.

I love ‘hiding’ work from my clients.

We predominantly used bodyweight movements as ‘fillers’ during warm ups or in between sets. If the workout is properly set up with varying spikes of intensity, most people will focus on the weight they lifted or the cardio work they did as opposed to the push ups or pull ups – which are just as valuable – that they performed in what would normally be a rest period. 
The takeaway here is don’t waste time. Set an hour for yourself in the gym and fill that hour with as much constructive work as possible. If you’re doing five sets of five bench press as your strength set, why not get on an exercise bike in the three minutes between sets and get your heart rate to 120 beats per minute? Instead of taking arbitrary breaks during your warm up, why not fill that time with push-ups or air squats? It’s very easy to do five push-ups every five minutes during your hour gym session. Most people wouldn’t even consider this a lot of work, yet if you did this five days a week for a year you would have done 14,400 push ups you wouldn’t have ordinarily done. Imagine having that base of work banked in your body.

Photograph: Sean Laurenz

Sam had fantastic results, but they didn’t come easily.

Just because he’s famous doesn’t mean he doesn’t hurt the same as you and me. I feel that the main thing he learnt from training with me is that there’s a time to reign in your intensity and there’s a time to let it loose. In managing his intensity levels and heart rate Sam was able to get to a single body fat percentage while not losing any weight, meaning he packed on some muscle in the process.

Caitriona Balfe Talks Outlander Season 3, Romantic Reunions, and Sam Heughan

By Antonia Blyth, Elle

What's going to happen when the star-crossed lovers finally reunite?

Okay, she might have thought Jamie was dead, but still, when Outlander's Claire went back to her 1940s life, leaving him to deal with the Battle of Culloden in ye olden days, it did seem a bit harsh. But fear not—as we've seen in the Outlander season three trailer, our favorite time-traveling couple will finally be reunited after 20 years on Starz come September. Sounds like the most romantic moment ever, doesn't it?

But, according to Caitriona Balfe, who plays Claire, reality might get in the way of the mushy lovefest we're expecting. "I think maybe the obvious way of doing the reunion would be violins playing, and angels singing, and a sun shaft coming through the window," she told at Starz's TCA party in Los Angeles. "I hope that what we've done is try and ground it as much in realism as we can. I think it's really awkward, and funny, and sweet, and endearing."

It's only natural that after 20 years apart, a lot has happened to the two as they've lived separate lives. Claire and Jamie have a daughter he's never seen, Claire's become a doctor, and there's major drama with her husband Frank. So, just a few small issues then.

"I think Claire and Jamie have both had each other on pedestals for 20 years," Balfe said. "So when you finally see the object of your love and desire again in the flesh, it throws out everything you thought you would do." Their separation doesn't sound like the kind of thing that a quick catch-up over coffee would adequately cover, but luckily it sounds like the pair's off-the-charts chemistry will win the day. "I think they're not quite sure what to do with their bodies or their words," she said. Sounds like things will get pretty steamy, then.

But will the couple stay together for good this time? "I think that physically and emotionally, even though we don't show this part of the journey ever, of her passing through time, I think it takes an awful lot from someone," Balfe said of Claire's time-traveling. Still, given just how difficult her travel through the stones is, she's not going to undertake it lightly: "I think each time is quite dangerous. You're never sure if you're going to land in the right time, or any of those things. I would have to imagine, and I don't know, because I have not read past book four, but I would have to imagine that once she finds Jamie again, she's not going to let him out of her sights for too long."
It also helps that Balfe doesn't hate playing opposite the gorgeous Sam Heughan as Jamie. "I feel very fortunate that I have a partner like him to work with, it's all good," she said. Then she gave us a cheeky smile and added, "He's a god, let's be honest. He's as good in real life as he is on TV."

A god? Good, we're on the same page then.

Outlander | Parallel Lives | STARZ

“Outlander” Showrunner Reveals When Jamie and Claire Will Reunite in Season 3

By Linda Ge, TV Editor, The Tracking Board

Photo: Steffan Hill/Starz

showrunner Ron Moore revealed that Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) will reunite about five episodes into the third season during the show’s panel at the Television Critics’ Association’s summer press tour Friday.

The showrunner also said Season 3 of the Starz fantasy drama could have been split into two seasons due to the high page count of Voyager, the Diana Gabaldon book upon which it is based.

“We did talk about that before we approached the season, just in terms of page count, it’s the biggest book, we thought, well maybe this is too much material for one season,” Moore said. “But once we put the cards on the board and we saw, well there’s five episodes right here just in Jamie’s story and in the reunion of the two characters. So now you’re almost halfway through the season and that felt like about the right pace… I don’t think we were too tempted to stretch it out. Sometimes sheer page count in a novel doesn’t translate to pages on the screen.”

Moore also said the show is not bound to cover one book per season going forward, though each of the first three seasons thus far have covered one book each.

“Each season we approach with fresh eyes,” he said. “We’re not bound to do a season a book, we haven’t said we’re going to combine them or split them or anything, we’ve just said we’re open to whatever is the best way to tell this particular era on the show.”

Outlander Season 3 premieres Sunday, September 10 at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Top 11 Spooky Places to Visit in Scotland

Featured on Scotland - The Gateway to Scotland

Scotland is certainly a spooky place, not just on Halloween. Our long bloody history set in remote forests, castles and glens is the ideal fodder for many gruesome tales of ghosts and ghouls.

Scotland is a nation of storytellers and throughout the centuries accounts persist of the spirits of real people who died in tragic or horrific circumstances. Of apparitions that appear at certain times of the night, or on certain days of the year – perhaps when they were murdered. And of strange, eerie sounds that pierce the chilled Scottish air.

Hauntings seem to have no set boundaries. Ghosts have been reported on bleak roads, in old theatres and ancient graveyards across the land. Is it just a draught seeping through an ancient wall or something altogether more sinister. In Scotland you can never be too sure.

1. Scotland’s Spookiest Street

Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh. The street leading from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse is known as “The Royal Mile”, with dark and spooky lanes leading off. One, Mary King’s Close, was bricked up during an outbreak of plague and only recently re-opened. Said to be the most haunted place in the Scottish capital, the spirit of a young girl has often been seen. Guided tours will take you to the close, Greyfriars cemetery, where the ghosts of covenanters who were tortured and executed linger, and also to the place where body snatchers Burke and Hare first dug up corpses to sell for use in medical experiments.

2. Roslyn Chapel

A few miles to the south-east of Edinburgh. Made famous by the novel and movie “The Da Vinci Code”, this working church was built for the Sinclair family in the fifteenth century. Ghostly flames apparently flicker in the burial vault when one of the Sinclairs is about to die, and an apparition of the apprentice who carved the famous Apprentice Pillar and was then murdered by his teacher, can sometimes be seen or heard.

3. Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle was the home to the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Trouble, intrigue and death were never far from their walls. Stirling is not short of a ghost story or two. Some of their origins are clear, others are shrouded in even more secrets. The Pink Lady falls into the latter category.

Some say she was a pretty noblewoman engaged to a brave knights who starved to death inside Stirling Castle – while under an English siege in 1304 - during the Wars of Independence. She in turn died, not from malnourishment but from the pain of a broken heart.

Her spirit roams the castle awaiting the day their souls will be entwined once more.

Others say she is Mary Witherspoon, a victim of Grave Robbers who sold bodies to educated men for dissection. While the robbers were brought to justice her ghost still seeks her mortal remains. People report a faint scent of rose-blossom in the air before she appears, her favourite flower.

4. Fyvie Castle

Just north of Aberdeen, this castle is haunted by the spectre of Lilias Drummond who died there in 1601. Some believe she was starved to death by her husband, others that she died from a broken heart. Whatever the truth, it is said that Lilias’s ghost carved her name on the stone window sill of her husband’s bedroom on the night that he took a new bride. The writing can still be seen and the green-ghost of Lilias appears when time bodes ill for the owners of Fyvie. A dead drummer and a haunted trumpeter are also believed to haunt the Castle – with the trumpet sounding when death is near.

5. Cruden Bay

On the Aberdeenshire coast and to the east of Fyvie, Cruden Bay is a pleasant looking fishing village. But in the 19th century it was the holiday haunt of Bram Stoker. The ruins of Slains Castle, which drape down from the headland inspired his vision of Count Dracula’s Castle. The Kilmarnock Arms Inn, where Stoker stayed in 1895, is still there. Would you risk a visit to the place where Count Dracula was brought to life?

6. Cawdor Castle

Shakespeare’s Macbeth was given the title of Thane of Cawdor in the classic story or power and revenge. While the castle did not exist during the time of the real Macbeth, could the stories of Cawdor Castle, close to Nairn near inverness, be stranger than Shakespeare’s fiction.

One ghost is thought to be the daughter of and earl of Cawdor. A wayward lass who insulted her father by flattering an enemy chieftain’s son. When the Earl discovered their tryst she fled to the highest tower of the castle as he followed in murderous pursuit. She lowered herself from the window to escape the threats of her father. He showed no mercy and chopped off her hands sending her to her death.

Visitors have reported seeing the ghost of this handless girl still roaming the castle.

7. Dunstaffnage Castle

On the west coast of Scotland, close to the town of Oban, the castle is more than thirteen hundred years old. Besieged and rebuilt many times it was visited by Robert the Bruce, King James IV and Flora Macdonald – who was imprisoned at Dunstaffnage after helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape Scotland following the Battle of Culloden. A lady dressed in green walks the ramparts when momentous events are about to unfold for the castle owners, Clan Campbell. When smiling the fortune will be good. But if she is seen weeping, trouble lies ahead. The castle is open daily, with restricted hours during the winter.

8. The Home of Walter Scott at Abbotsford House

Abbotsford House in the Scottish Borders, was the home of novelist Sir Walter Scott. When you visit you can walk his library and even sit in his dining room. Be careful though. That is where the great man died after exhausting himself writing in an attempt to pay off huge debts. Might you catch a glimpse of his ghost?

9. Culloden Moor

It was here on a windswept patch of ground near Inverness that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rebel army was crushed by government troops in 1746. The Prince’s army was made up of Scottish clans like the Stuarts, the Macdonalds and the Frasers. Many were slaughtered after the battle was over. Cairns, or rock monuments, stand where these men died. Visions of the battle and apparitions at the memorial cairns are said to occur in this sorrowful place. A refurbished visitor centre is open all year round.

10. Edinburgh Castle

The castle has a long and bloody historyand is reputed to be haunted by many ghosts, including that of a headless drummer boy. His appearance is said to be a warning that the castle is about to be besieged and was first seen in 1650 before Oliver Cromwell and his English army attacked. The castle is now a major tourist venue and is home to the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny an ancient rock on which the Kings of Scots were crowned.

11. Overton Bridge

A modern day mystery, the Overton Bridge in West Dunbartonshire has been the site of many unexplained dog suicides. The dogs are reported to take the plunge from exact same spot on the same side of the bridge. Some of those lucky enough to survive are said to return moments later to try again. It is alleged Overton Bridge has taken the lives of 50 unfortunate canine companions.

There have been many attempts to explain the phenomena. Some think the problem lies with mink trails leading over the side of the bridge. However, in Celtic beliefs Overton Bridge is called a "thin place" where the realms of the living and the dead cross. Others believe that dogs are super sensitive to the spirits and spooked enough by the bridge to take their own lives.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Outlander’s Sam Heughan on Why Season 3 Is “Like Having a Death in the Family”

By: Joanna Robinson, Vanity Fair

By Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

It’s been just under four months since Outlander fans had to say good-bye to Claire and Jamie Fraser during the emotional Season 2 finale. But it’s also a long wait until the time-traveling, star-crossed couple returns to Starz for Season 3 next April. Thankfully, in the meantime, there’s a new Blu-ray edition of Season 2 out on Tuesday, November 1. And, for the true devotees to both the show and the Diana Gabaldon novels, there’s also a special Collector’s Edition that features an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming Outlander novel “Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone.” Outlander star Sam Heughan took a break from his grueling 11-month shooting schedule to reflect back on Season 2 and give a preview of why Season 3 feels like “a different show.” (Hint: It has to do with him missing co-star Caitriona Balfe.) 

Vanity Fair: After the overwhelmingly warm reception for Season 1, was there a particular fan reaction to Season 2 that you did not see coming?

Sam Heughan: I think the first half of the season set in France was quite complicated, and it certainly wasn't going back over the old ground of Season 1. I think we were very aware that the first season was this young relationship and about new love. We wanted to show something a bit more complicated [in Season 2]. I think fans were surprised. People tune in expecting the same show or the same sort of scenes and, yeah, I think we surprised fans with that.

I know you hear from fans who are put out or surprised by changes from the books. Was there any particular book aspect left out of Season 2 that you felt like fans were most hoping to see and didn’t?

Diana is all over this. I mean, I have constant e-mail updates, several times a day, about things she’s watched or things she’s read. We confer a lot, probably more than the producers want us to. There’s always going to be little details that will be missed because the show is only an hour-long episode each week. I know myself and Caitriona, we read the books and if we can sneak in a small detail that may not be in the script or even just that we know ourselves, that going from one scene to another, that something's happened in between that maybe we haven't been able to show, but at least we know it and, hopefully, in some way it manifests itself. Hopefully it’s all in Diana’s world. I know that she said herself that Season 2, especially at the start, was kind of complex and difficult to make into episodic TV. 

There’s a behind-the-scenes feature on the Blu-ray of you, Caitriona, and Graham McTavish prepping for your big Season 2 fight scene. Can you tease anything about what fans might not know about how you prepare for combat? 

Yeah, I mean, my God, the show is incredible. Not to give away much, but today, one minute I was on a horse riding across the Scottish countryside, and then I'm somewhere else in studio, and then I'm laying in a cot. But that particular Season 2 scene was very emotional. I absolutely loved doing a fight scene with Graham; I've always wanted to. He absolutely hated me fighting him. We actually shot several alternate endings to the fight because, obviously, in the book, Claire isn't complicit. We thought, Jamie and Claire are a couple and they need to be both guilty of this deed. It's not that Claire wants to kill anyone—she's not a killer, she's a hero—but she wants to aid Jamie and she basically ends up being complicit in the death of Dougal. 

It was very funny because we were actually shooting a pick up on that and we didn't have Caitriona there at the time; it was actually a double's hands that are on the dagger. Graham was very wary of this double pushing too hard down on him that he might actually get stabbed. He was just this very hard man complaining that someone was pushing a fake dagger too hard on him.

Of course, with any Blu-ray, there are deleted scenes included here. Which deleted Season 2 scene were you most devastated not to see included in the original episodes?

There was one recently that was released on social media; it was the “Faith” scene. Certainly, from my perspective, you got to see a lot more of Jamie and his angst. I mean, he’s kind of not present for most of that episode. I think that's important, that's an important cut. We go on that journey with Claire and see her go through all the stages of grief and mourning and then some sort of brittle resolve. Almost, in a way, we didn't want the camera to blink from her. I think that’s what was decided. Watching Jamie also go through it, well, absolutely, it’s another side. I certainly know that I really felt very strong in that scene. I felt that it was a very awkward place for Jamie to be that will have some sort of repercussion—even now in Season 3. I don’t think Jamie or Claire get over the loss of Faith. I think it’s wonderful that the fans actually get to see a glimpse into some of the other work that we do that’s not always on the screen.

I’ve heard you say that, as opposed to Caitriona with her elaborate costumes, it only takes you five minutes to get into wardrobe when Jamie is wearing the kilt. But I was curious, since we’re going to jump forward several years in Season 3, if you have some extra time in makeup chair this year and if you can tell us anything about what older Jaime looks like? 

I mean, I’m probably not allowed to say much, but I think we all know that the books do span a great amount of time. Season 3, in particular, yeah, I mean, there was an aging process. There was definitely a different look to the characters, but you’ll have to tune in to find out, I guess. But even in Season 1, I had hours and hours of prosthetic makeup whenever the back scarring was on or Jamie got shot or injured. By no means does that stop in Season 3 so, yes, there’s been a lot of very long days where I’ve been in makeup.

The end of Season 2 saw Claire back in her own timeline so I really don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that you filmed a good part of Season 3 without Caitriona. Since you two have been such close partners on this whole experience, what was it like to go on without her? 

Yeah. Honestly, it’s like having a death in the family. Well, I don’t know, I mean, it’s just like a different show. It’s hard to separate yourself from the character. Jamie’s present, living in his world, and Claire’s present and living in her world, and they both believe the other is dead. It’s always hard when we’re apart, actually, because she’s a great person, great to come to work with, and a very good actress. But I think it all adds to the reunion—if there’s a reunion, or when there’s a reunion—well you know there’s one in the books. It should be very special.

Do you have a fondest memory from Season 2 that you’re excited for the fans to re-live via the Blu-ray?

Wow. Whoa, that's tough, I think—Paris was almost like another world and it was great fun—but for us getting back to Scotland, to Lallybroch, and then to having all the MacKenzies turn up, Graham McTavish as Dougal and Stephen Walters as Angus and all the others. It was so rewarding to be in Scotland with the wind and the rain and the cold and everyone was miserable but kind of happy because we were back and it felt like coming home. I think it’s a very sad ending because we all knew that people were going to die— that’s what history tells us—that's what Jamie and Claire are fighting to stop is the end of these people. So it’s a bittersweet return home to Scotland. In the back of your mind, you’re aware that it’s sort of coming to a close.

Joanna Robinson is a Hollywood writer covering TV and film for

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"Outlander' Season 3 Premiere Episode Script Written by Ronald Moore; Expect More Sexy Scenes

*Blog editor's note: Really happy to hear that MAYBE, Ron and team listened to the fan's displeasure over the lack of intimacy in Season 2, but a bit wary nonetheless.  He admits there will be more "sexy scenes" but doesn't specify between whom. (Is anyone really looking forward to Jamie and his other dalliances or too much Claire and Frank?)

Article by Sachin Trivedi, IBT, Australia

Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore answered a few fan questions about “Outlander” Season 3 recently. Moore revealed that he has written the script of the premiere episode, and shared other titbits about the new season online.

Moore took some time from his busy schedule to answer a few fan questions on his official Twitter page. When he revealed that he had written the script for the premiere episode, the fans had more questions about it. The fans wanted to know why the first episode was important enough to demand his personal attention, and they wondered if he wanted to set the tone for the season. Another fan wanted to know if they have already filmed the episode.

Both Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser) and Moore released videos from the first day of filming online. The videos showed the filming of scenes related to the Battle of Culloden. While the previous season was a build-up to this big battle there were no actual action sequences of the fights featured.

Jamie is expected to rush back to take part in the action, alongside the other Highlanders in “Outlander” Season 3. There are at least two major deaths expected in this battle. The TV series will then show the viewers the aftermath of the battle.

Moore teased that the filming is “off to a great start” and they have “almost finished with block one.” The next season is based on Diana Gabaldon’s book “Voyager.” The producer said that his team is still considering their options about where to film the scenes involving ships.

The big event the fans are looking forward to in “Outlander” Season 3 is the reunion of Jamie and Claire (Caitriona Balfe). The two characters will be separated at the beginning, as Claire is still in the future when the last season ended, and she was considering travelling back through time again. When asked in which episode the two characters will be reunited, Moore chose not to reveal that information. He did, however, tease that there will “definitely” be more sexy scenes on the show this time around.