We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, September 20. 2023
I like a walking stick - a fallen branch broken to length - when taking a tramp without a firearm. It just feels good. Fact is that a walking stick or hiking poles put you almost on three or four legs, and also lessen the wear and tear on middle-aged joints. Especially on hills.
I thought they were nurdy until I saw everybody using them (except us) during our hiking trip in the Dolomites. My Mom always used them after her knees went sour.
We have a hiking trip coming up in a while to the Hebrides and Outer Hebrides (quite similar to Johnson and Boswell's), and their main recommendations are rain gear, hiking poles, day-pack, and waterproof hiking boots. Leave the sun screen at home. I assume they provide the whiskey. The hiking part will be about 7 hrs/day, with fishing boat lifts between islands. Spartan B&Bs with Highland "cuisine." Hmmmm.
It's gloomy and nasty up there in Trump's maternal homeland, and it's easy to understand why so many of them jumped on boats in Glasgow and Liverpool to come to America where the livin' is easy and there ain't no Lairds.
BTW, if you are new to the delightful Boswell, I recommend all of his stuff. In many ways, he was more interesting and amusing than Dr. Johnson who was pedantic - but who could also slide the knife deftly into somebody's pretensions. Also, Johnson knew everything.
Pic is LL Bean telescoping poles.
Tuesday, September 5. 2023
Interesting, possibly controversial topic. I do not trust Dr. Google, but one of my two hernias became visible after deadlifts. Maybe it's been brewing for years.
I also know that I often err in holding my breath with heavy weights. Wrong technique, I know. I try to do it all correctly but sometimes forget, or just strain to my max to get it done like any ordinary foolish person.
Surgeon is going to fix them sooner. He says it's a myth about weights and hernias. He's a smart, experienced, and pleasant guy. Whatever. I'll do whatever he says.
Friday, September 1. 2023
A Stairmaster machine is for cardio and lower body strength/fitness. I use it as part of my cardio days.
It's not much good going slowly and ponderously ffor 40 minutes. For me, the trick is to vary the speed every few minutes, from requiring 2 steps at a time to a slow climb to catch my breath.
It's excellent for hiking fitness. I hate the damn thing, so I try to approach it as a challenge instead of as a chore. I put on a Scott Adams podcast and go for a while. 15-20 minutes.
Cardio days for me entail of mix of elliptical, treadmill HIIT, maybe some rowing, and lastly the Stairmaster to make sure I have no gas left in the tank.
Monday, August 14. 2023
Saturday, August 12. 2023
Friday, July 21. 2023
Nothing wrong with "getting big" in my view. The more somebody can move weight, the better. Makes for more usefulness. When I see roofers climbing up ladders with sheets of plywood, I admire.
Funny thing is, they tend to be wiry guys.
I wouldn't mind gaining 6 lbs. of pure muscle, but I can't. It's physical architecture, bred in the bone. That might be part of why our Physical Fitness posts focus on all-round conditioning.
Arguments about high-reps vs. heavy will go on forever, including here. I
Low Weight + High Reps = More Strength. How do you build muscle: more reps or more weight? Learn why lifting light weights is perfect for gaining muscle.
Thursday, July 13. 2023
That might not apply to 8 hours on the Appalachian Trail or a day job as a lumberjack, but it is certainly true for me with my 1-hr daily exercises. The more consistently I exercise, the less interest I have in food and the smaller the portions I can handle. This effect is most pronounced with demanding cardio and calisthenic exercise, not much with strength exercise or with sports. There is a theory that the effect has something to do with Peptide YY.
Nobody wants to eat anything after a hour of tough cardio exercise and that suppressive effect tends to last 24 hrs.
Maybe it makes some genetic sense. If you need to move yourself vigorously and frequently, the less fat you have on you the better you can avoid becoming part of a Tiger Dinner Party. Hunger is an interesting instinct and only recently has it been studied biochemically. One thing we know for certain is that subjective hunger or attraction to food is not a signal for a need for nourishment for most adults in a food-rich environment.
Overweight people seem to have the strongest subjective hunger, and sedentary people tend to have stronger appetites. Cause or effect? Chicken or egg?
Monday, June 19. 2023
Not addressing seeking hypertrophy or "getting big".
Nothing wrong with wanting to "get big," but our focus is maintaining fitness and functionality. Furthermore, not all male bodies, or few female bodies, can "get big" anyway. It depends on physical architecture mostly, and also how much time you want to put into one thing. Some people do heavy weights 3-4X/wk. Heavy. I don't have the time or vanity, so fine.
Well, I do have my share of vanity but whatever. Sun's out, guns out. I do not wish to be unattractive to my wife, for starters. I do not want to be a lazy, sedentary, late middle-aged slob although that might be fine.
Anyway, What's the best heavy weights routine for general conditioning? I used to do them 5X5 three times/wk, but I wanted or needed to do 2 days of HIIT cardio and about 2 days of calisthenics, and it got to be too much. Satisfying, but too much.
My trainer now has me doing high reps with weights - like 15 warm-up, then 12/10/8/6. It's hard. Might be better for me. I'd be better off adding 4 sets of deads/wk, maybe. Can do that.
Saturday, June 17. 2023
Lots of people have, let's say, interesting nutritional habits.
To each his or her own, I guess. Luckily for me, nutrition gives me little joy - unless beer is nutrition. (One thing that gives me joy is leaving the damn gym after a workout.) I'm not skinny, but fit for age. Wait - that's a lie because I do enjoy a few slices of a rare ribeye.
Zero carb eating is not especially about losing fat (altho it works for that). Jordan Peterson only consumes steak and bubbly water for some wacky reason. Lex said he is sort-of similar. Whatever, but they should do a daily or weekly multivit. That's fine despite being a little idiosyncratic.
Fortunately, we have learned that dietary fat is harmless, and also necessary.
Lots of people find too much eating makes them less sharp and more lazy. I'm like that. My trainer, who pushes me to eat more, always notices that I am stronger after a day without food, like, after some GI problem.
My nutrition has been mainly Thai take-out lately. Convenient. One $11 take-out meal is 2-3 meals for me. I tend to eat once or twice daily, not by discipline but for lack of interest and because food makes me tired. I am also a very slow eater and tend to stop the minute any hunger goes away.
So people are different, but food is not medicine. Again, not talking about getting rid of surplus body fat even though that's a good idea for life fitness and vanity.
Wednesday, June 7. 2023
A few tricks to raise pushup intensity and effectiveness, and lower the reps:
- lower yourself on a count of 5 instead of full speed,
Mix and match. It's harder. After a while, people can just crank out regular pushups without much sweat. This applies to gals also. We advise not doing 50 of these modified pushups daily, however. Every other day, at most.
What are pushups good for? You can call them a calisthenic but they are upper-body strength-builders.
Saturday, May 13. 2023
Thursday, May 4. 2023
Why is a cold beer so delicious after a day of skiing? Possibly because the only water you've had since your morning coffee was a single hot cocoa. Even a Bud Lite tastes good at such moments.
Regardless of weather, it's easy to get low on water without realizing it. Competitive swimmers know this well. A rule of thumb is that if you do not need to pee on some regular basis, your hydration might be low. Yes, it's easier for guys.
Hiking for more than a couple of hours requires liquids. It surely can perk you up when you mistake wilting for fatigue. The best plan is to stay ahead of it.
Somewhat related, Is coffee dehydrating? (No)
Tuesday, May 2. 2023
I haven't had blisters from either urban hiking, wilderness hikes, or hunting, for many years. I used to get them mostly from urban hikes, and they ruin the enjoyment. I use liner socks and the right shoes or boots for the purpose.
For the mountain hikes around Sedona, I could have used my Meindls, but did not anticipate the rockiness.
Monday, May 1. 2023
I've read enough about hiking pacing. Whatever people or experts say, it depends on your fitness, your weight, your natural pacing, somewhat (but hopefully not too much on age) - and the terrain. Especially the altitude change and the amount of rocky or bouldery trail.
The thing people estimate is 2-3 miles/hour, but it depends on terrain. An hour of 5-600-foot altitude change slows you down, especially with rocky trails. Also, on how much you want to look at birds, take in the landscape, or take a photo.
Since Mrs. BD and I are no longer 20 years old, we always use hiking boots and carry hiking poles. Don't always need the latter, but when needed they are good to have for the tricky, rocky, clambering, steep, slippery parts. Sometimes only for balance, but I grew up with a walking stick broken from the woods. Feels natural to me.
Our hiking pals in Arizona last week are speed demons, no matter how steep or rocky. We can't keep up. We catch up with them waiting happily for us in the shade of a lone juniper drinking water and having a granola bar, but impatient to keep climbing.
Over years as amateurs we have learned a few things about day hiking: Skip breakfast except for coffee, because food saps your energy. Drink water before you want it. Do not stop and rest for long. Keep a rhythm. Keep your eyes on the rocks and roots on the ground, and you'd hate to step on a rattlesnake. Mentally grind it out when needed because you always have miles left in ya even if you feel like you don't. 6-7 miles of rocky hill hiking is plenty for me for a 6 AM morning hike.
Then a 20-minute nap. Plenty of time later in the day for a less strenuous expedition.
Sunday, April 16. 2023
I think about 5 hours is all, maybe 6, over this weekend. It's Spring here, so time for weekend functional movementss instead of gym. Unlike gym, beer is permitted here. But damn, my wheelbarrow broke so more deadlifts than I wanted.
- Till vegetable garden (mostly for tomatoes, but some squash too despite the f-ing squash borers) with shovel, and prepare trenches for tomatoes in a month or so. I will like to put some annual flowers in there too, for fun. Also, Mouse Melons and cucumbers. Someday, I want to make an herb garden, but now I just stick them in pots or anywhere. Thyme is my favorite flavor, and it lives forever.
- Prune all shrubs, roses, peach tree, and fig tree.
- Fertilize all shrubs and the rhubarb patch too. Late to do that, but better late than never. Really should have dumped a pile of manure on the rhubarb before it emerged.
- Fertilize lawn. Man, my lawn is not up to snuff. I found a spot where the coyotes like to poop.
- Planted all of the indoor seasonal narcissi in the front garden
- Put wren houses out and repair Screech Owl nest box (too late for that?).
Saturday, April 15. 2023
Let's get two things straight first:
- An hour of physical activity daily, just walking, jogging, or swimming laps, is better than nothing. It's minimal to maintain functionality.
- You can't lose fat through exercise. That's about food.
I've been chatting with doctors lately - my cardiologist for my annual stress test (no symptoms, no problems) and the internist who works out in my gym at 5 am. Oh, and my pure weights friend who is my internist (he is buff at 60). They joke about people who do long/slow exercise instead of weights and HIIT, but they are wrong to disparage people who make the effort to do anything more than sit on their asses.
Of course, though, I know what the docs are talking about.
Let's just talk about cardiac fitness rather than just the ability to hike for 5 or 6 hours. The reasons to do "cardio" exercises are only secondarily for general endurance - they mean to address the heart muscle. That means Cardiac Output when needed, and improving heart vasculature (so you can maybe survive your first heart attack). People who just do "cardio" things do not build or maintain much strength.
That gets us to HIIT. HIIT is a serious cardiac stressor. It's sort-of fun too if you like to sweat. Yes, heavy weights are heart stressors too, but only for seconds. Our Maggie's calisthenics routines are too, to a degree, although they are more oriented to athleticism.
For people who like fitness, one way to do cardio days (assuming you do 2 weights days and 2 calisthenic/sports days) is to use the hour or so to mix in the HIIT with just trucking along. That's how the idea is designed to work anyway.
Low-Intensity Cardio Training: What Is It & How Does It Work? (Note that they assume that low intensity is just one part of a fitness program)
Is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) the Most Efficient Way to Work Out? A simple guide to high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, the fitness trend du jour.
Eventually, we will all break down, get frail, and die (or die before we get frail), but why not make the most of today? Fitness is not about life span.
Tuesday, April 11. 2023
Wednesday, March 22. 2023
We do not believe that fitness can extend life very much. Fitness is mainly for vitality.
Calisthenics are the best thing for maintaining fitness. If you hate weights too much (weights are for building muscle) or find all "cardio" boring, a daily hour or less of calisthenic workouts might be for you.
They entail enough cardio if you take few breaks between exercises to keep your heart rate up, and at least help maintain muscle strength.
If you take the classes at a gym (recommended) you will do circuits of around 10-12 exercises for 50 minutes depending on rests. Good stuff. If on your own in a gym, it is more feasible to do circuits as below. That's what I do on my calis days.
A sample of my routines below the fold - if you can do all of these circuits in 50 minutes, that's amazing. I can not:
Continue reading "Revisiting Calisthenics (for the 10th time)"
Monday, March 20. 2023
It's good to be fit, trim, strong, with good endurance. It's not so easy in middle age, and clearly many or most people don't care. That's OK.
We have posted about this a number of times: How to Lose Body Fat: The Science-Backed Ways That Actually Work
It's funny that, a few generations ago, being heavy was a sign of prosperity in the Western World. Today, it's sort-of the opposite. Weight has curiously become politicized the same as a messy house or kitchen. This lady claims that fat is not your fault. In some sense, that is true because some people are better at discerning what is enough. Fact is, in first world cultures, it takes surprisingly little food to be fit and healthy. Recreational and emotional eating are real things.
Wednesday, March 15. 2023
I only do one set of 6 of each weekly. Or weakly. Not body-building, but it is body-maintenance. I do increase the weights periodically so I am not going backwards. I find the barbell squats more challenging, and appreciate having a spotter behind me when I approach my limit. With deads, of course, you can just drop the bar if you have to. I love the sound of dropped barbells in the morning.
Wednesday, February 1. 2023
I like to think of these routines as supporting agility, athleticism, balance, cardio, etc. Not for muscle-building.
We've suggested overly-ambitious calis routines in the past. Takes too much time. Here's our (me and Mrs. BD's) current routine. Even sticking to just one or two items each time, it can be hard to put it all into 60 minutes. Mrs. suggested starting from the bottom the next time.
3 min elliptical
Body-weight walking lunges, forwards and backwards
Kettle bell swings
Box squats or box jumps
Tuesday, January 31. 2023
Sunday, January 22. 2023
An athletic friend who is around my age was saying that he ought to begin weight training. He never has tried it, but nobody likes the effects (or the sight) of lost muscle mass.
Experienced trainers can work with you on endurance, agility, balance, strength, cardio, general conditioning - whatever you want. So the first question he or she should ask you, on a first meeting, is your goals. You can even mention weight loss if that is a goal, in which case a trainer will offer advice on a nutritional plan. (An honest trainer, though, will tell you that exercise is only an adjunct to appropriate nutrition, not a substitute.)
Second thing the new trainer should run through is medical history and active medical issues. You might be asked to get a cardiac stress test, or other check-ups.
The third thing a new trainer will do is to run you through a number of exercises to assess your condition. They like to get a baseline. These exercises will check your endurance, cardio fitness, upper and lower body strength, balance, etc. You just do your best, no matter how lame it is.
The fourth thing a trainer will do is to recommend a plan for you. In my case, it has been 2 days of weights with him, 2 days or calisthenics recommended by him, and 2 days of HIIT cardio. One of these days I will cut him back to 1 day/wk for the weights I am not comfortable doing alone, like barbell squats, bench press. Even if you exercise on your own, it is a good idea to learn the right technique for everything. There is even a right and wrong way to do something as simple as Jump Rope, or Farmers' Walk:
Wednesday, January 18. 2023
We've written about this topic in the past, but it's worth reviewing the misconceptions about cardio fitness and cardio exercise. (Remember, in our view, "cardio" should be only 1/3 of your exercise program beacuse it does little for muscle and bone strength, and little for athleticism.)
Any exercise, from walking to weight-lifting, makes more demand on heart function than sitting or lying down. So cardio exercise has a spectrum from very light to maximum intensity. Simply put, the core purpose of "cardio" exercise is to maintain or upgrade heart function (cardiac condition is measured by things like a Cardiac Stress Test with Echo, Stroke Volume, Cardiac Output, cardiac vasculature, and left ventricle size to some extent). Like weight-lifting for skeletal muscle, it requires stress, relative to your conditioning and medical condition.
With lighter stresses (eg non-sprint, endurance-oriented swimming laps, jogging, rowing, stair machine, elliptical, etc) we are putting our hearts to some use, but we are working more on general time endurance than cardio. (Lots of people do those things thinking that they involve fat-burning, but don't count on that to work if you do 1 hour/day.) For people who are not training for specific goals, building endurance is great for life. Nobody wants to slow down or feel tired during ordinary recreational activities like sports or hiking. These non-sprint exercises aim for around 70% of one's max heart rate to make it worth your precious time.
The higher the physical demand - the intensity of an exertion for your level of fitness - the more you are training your heart rather than just using it. The highest levels of exertion (say, with sets of deadlifts near 80% of your max, or with 30-second sprints) are anaerobic and can push your heart rate to 90% of your max. That heart-pounding rest time or slow time is to catch up on oxygen.
For endurance, an hour of lap swimming, cycling, jogging, elliptical, stair machine, ski machine, rower, etc at around 70% of your max heart rate is where you ought to be, if in decent health. Over time, you will need to raise the speed to get to those heart rates. These exercises do nothing much to build muscle or bone strength.
For maximum cardiac fitness (with bonus endurance benefits as well), mixing in sprints which get your HR to 80-90% of your max should be included. Bursts of intensity. In the Maggie's Fitness for Life program, the other good sources of intense cardiac stress are the powerlifts and calisthenics. Ideally, some of all of those because there is more to fitness than cardiac fitness. Fitness is a package deal.
An interesting detail is that to up your game in any area of exertion, it's always a good idea to do what you do not usually do. Explosive linebackers get better with distance running, distance runners get better with weights and sprints, heavy lifters get better with calisthenics. Balance.
Thursday, January 12. 2023
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