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
Tuesday, April 6. 2021
As ladder drills become more complex, and as you become speedier with them, the brain sometimes conks out and you have to start over. Icky Shuffles often mess me up.
You can get some driveway chalk and just make a ladder on the driveway. I can't do them as quickly as athletes, but as usual I do my best.
Calisthenics+Cardio, with agility and balance challenges. Excellent warm-ups and cool-downs.
Wednesday, March 31. 2021
The NYT warns about doing too much. I don't think that is much of an issue for 99.99% of people.
People who do Soul Cycle and similar programs, if done daily, might exceed those sprint warnings - if you believe them. Still, sprinting is like flying. It feels good.
As we have discussed before, HIIT is true Cardio exercise, meaning that it is designed to stress, not just use, the heart muscle. The goals are to improve or maintain heart function and to increase your odds of surviving your first unfortunate "cardic event" by developing collateral blood supply.
As we have also discussed here, it is sprints which have this effect. Exertions commonly grouped as "cardio" - like biking, swimming laps, jogging, rowing - are worth doing to maintain general endurance but do not get the heart rate to the 70-90% max that efficiently stresses the heart to the point of heart muscle development. Same idea as curls for the biceps.
Assuming you have a well-balanced fitness program (weights, calisthenics, and both types of cardio), two 20-minute sessions/wk of HIIT is good. Most calisthenics circuits include bits of HIIT too, such as speed rope, heavy ropes, or row sprints.
Obviously, all of this depends on age and level of fitness.
What is a typical 20-30-minute HIIT session? It's 30-60-sec. all-out sprints followed by 60-80 seconds of slow recovery. Rinse and repeat. The sprints are anaerobic.
The way I do it is to include sprints in one weights recovery day, which is like an hour of treadmill jogging, fast-walking, or elliptical, interspersing sprints in it. It keeps it interesting. On another day, I do 20-min of HIIT and then 30 minutes of weights or accesssory weights. You do not need to monitor your heart rate, because you know dqrn well when you are going all-out.
What is cardio? And what is the difference between cardio and high intensity interval training? And why is there a place for both? That piece is reasonable, but seems to assume that the only fitness exercise anybody does is "cardio." That is surely better than nothing but it is not a balanced fitness routine.
Tuesday, March 30. 2021
My new weights trainer is more of a high-rep guy (8-12) than my previous guy was (more 5X5). I think it's because it's what he feels I need for right now. All I can say is that he makes it damn difficult. And no, I do not really need to use a mask in my gym. People fake it.
A video is not really a substitute for a trainer who can critique your form right at the moment, but this guy is good. Best mental trick: Push the floor away from the bar.
Wednesday, March 24. 2021
I have been asked what use my levels of fitness are, and my reasons for pursuing fitness in the ways that I do.
Probably maintaining vigor is my first item, and a vigorous attitude towards life. I like to say "yes" to doing things. About five years ago I felt tired on a hunting trip, and I hated myself for it. That was my wake-up call. Does bedroom vitality matter too, and being appealing to a spouse? Um, yeah. Duh.
Second, the health issue. It is not about living longer because that is not up to us but to fate. Still, nobody wants to become overweight, frail, or rickety sooner than necessary.
Third, to be honest, is looking vital and fit instead of looking older. Posture and movement matter to others. Call it vanity, but it is much more than that. People react differently, as they do to clothing and manners.
Fourth (but not really fourth), I like to be able to do useful and fun things. I need to be able to hike over hill and dale for 12 miles, or scramble boulders, with Mrs. BD and friends. I need to be able to stack 2 cords of wood dumped in my courtyard (as I did this weekend) and to do all of the yard work I have time for. I need to be able to handle my chainsaw. If my right shoulder were not so damaged, I'd love to live on the tennis court. I guess I am restless and love physical activity. I need to be agile and useful on a boat too. I wish I had more sports but I have always had more enthusiasm than athletic talent.
Nutrition is one of my problems. I am not underweight, but I just do not enjoy eating anymore. Some love it, but for me it just is like required fuel no matter how tasty. I have had minimal appetite since I began my intensive exercise program some years ago so I force myself.
RJP keeps nagging me about strength. Fair enough, but two days of weights is all I can fit in right now. Pre-covid I was doing 2 1/2 hrs of weights/wk. Deads are the best thing for me. Regarding recovery, I may not do enough but I feel that I do. Whenever I feel unable to get out of bed at 4:30 AM after a powerlift day, I don't. I love feeling stronger but have competing goals.
Saturday, March 20. 2021
I'll do my best to field readers' questions about the Maggie's Fitness for Life suggestions (which readers know includes sessions of heavy weights, sessions of calisthenics, and sessions of HIIT cardio plus maybe some plain "cardio."
Ask me, and I will attempt to explain the rationale. Bear in mind that exercise is not for fat loss
I keep getting caught up by our own anti-spam filter, so I will post further responses to questions here:
Unless somebody is a well-experienced gym rat, we recommend using an experienced trainer to make personal recommendations.
Injuries are avoided by correct techniques.
Road-running is terrible. Treadmill or trails, not so much.
Most gyms are open now. For the weight-training part of your program bands are no substitute for dumbells and barbells, but are better than nothing.
That is surely better than nothing, but I tend to view my workouts as a sort of torture. Then I derive the life benefits. We recommend balanced exercise programs, so one has to hate a lot of it. It hurts.
RJP asked us this question:
Since you bring up calisthenics again, I'll ask the same (unanswered) question from a previous post:
In your day-to-day life, where exactly are you applying all this hard-earned endurance? What makes you think you won't have enough endurance for those activities if you build up more strength?
Why do you think getting your squat and deadlift up will hamper your ability to do things like burpees?
Our program recommendations (4-6 hrs/wk) are designed for general life functionality. That includes sports and things like hiking 15 miles. It is "general," not designed for body-building or marathon-running.
Squats and deadlifts will not harm your burpees. Every category of exercise makes demands on, and builds on, different energy systems. Power, agility, and endurance are completely different. That's the reason for a mix.
I will welcome more questions...
Wednesday, March 17. 2021
Thursday, March 11. 2021
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 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 of 3. That's what I do on my calis days and will continue to do until they get rid of their mask rules. I can not do these things with masks.
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)"
Saturday, March 6. 2021
The Maggie's Fitness for Life Program is of course somewhat controversial. All fitness programs are.
Our program is 2 days/wk of heavy weights, 2 days of calisthenics, and 2 days of cardio (meaning heart stress - HIIT, jump rope, stair machine, etc).
Besides plain obsessionalism, I do heavy weights twice/week with a trainer, and no need for a trainer for the other things. Right now, I need to be pushed hard with heavy and he is needed for that. Rightly or wrongly, he pushes me past my limits.
We do not prefer tough calis on the day before weights because tough calis need a bit of recovery too, and for the over-40 crowd maybe a bit more than 24 hrs.
Anybody with a touch of gray, I believe, needs 2 days of recovery after lifting heavy. Calis and cardio more or less count for that.
What are your views?
Friday, March 5. 2021
Our readers know that the Maggie's Farm Fitness for Life Program includes two days of calisthenics, and that we view calis as valuable for toughness and athleticism, but not so much for strength-building.
(It is best not to do calis on the day before a weights day.)
Lunges are a basic calisthenic exercise, whether just body weight, hand weights, or the many variations.
Monday, February 22. 2021
To ease into, or back into, barbell squats, try sets of box squats. To make them tougher, hold a heavy ball or dumbell instead of a barbell.
Friday, February 19. 2021
I remember doing that, back before I concluded that road-running was a bad idea. It truly is more fun to run in weather.
So he is 82 and out running, and I am much younger and doing HIIT on a stupid treadmill.
Wednesday, February 10. 2021
Moving heavy weights is extremely difficult and frequently impossible - or feels impossible. When you move up a notch, it requires as much will power as muscle power. You have to make a loud noise to do it and my place allows those necessary ejaculations. Farts also can occur with intense exertion. I believe in will power, and believe it can be trained in a willing trainee. Physical training is 50% mental training, learning to do what you can't do. It takes a trusted trainer or gym partner to help you past your limit. Just words like "You can do it" or "Gimme one more" or "C'mon, you got it" have a powerful effect - which is the power of a positive relationship. Psychotherapy.
Does a little magic help, if only for placebo effect?
Most dietary supplements are pure scam. However, we use some of them.
- For example, I take a multivit once in a while, when I remember. Maybe only little brats with terrible eating habits need them. I take them for the magic.
- Mrs. BD and I make whey protein shakes with berries for after heavy lifting mornings, or use overpriced commercial protein shakes. It's quicker and easier than cooking food. Otherwise, I'll have a hard-boiled egg or two if I can get them down. We keep a bunch of them in the fridge. Supposed to get a protein blast after ripping up muscles with weights. Probably magic, but who knows? If underweight is a problem, add some carbs to breakfast. I should, but I don't want them.
- Creatine? Why not? It can't hurt, and probably can add some power to bursts of heavy lifting - full power- lifting and pushing. Application of more power means more muscle damage which leads to more strength. Alternative is to eat lots of steak. For other sorts of exercise it does nothing.
- Caffeine? It is one of the basic necessary food groups along with nicotine and beer, so I try to meet my minimum daily requirements as determined by Expert Government Scientists.
Them's the breaks, I guess.
What you mostly lose from those times away is endurance. At least for me, physical endurance declines before muscle strength does.
I can pretty much manage the same weights, but fewer reps. And my cardio and calisthenics things are kind of sad compared to a year ago.
Use it or lose it is correct. I am back daily for my gym workouts, and it feels harder than before. I think working back gradually might be best, taking a couple of months to get there.
What about you?
Friday, February 5. 2021
Why do people with any fat stores ever feel hungry, or eat anything at all, considering they may have 1-5 month's worth of energy stored as fat? (We term the hunger experienced by overweight people "False Hunger," because it is.) Except in the truly malnourished or extremely fit, low body-fat athletes, hunger is rarely a signal of an energy deficit or of any nutritional need.
Think about it. Even normal-weight (neither overweight nor underweight) people carry 8-10 weeks of energy stored in fat if they can only access it.
You can consider appetite in the pudgy or overweight, not to mention the obese, to be a design flaw based on the hunting and gathering, and, earlier, just plain gathering condition of human existence, same as the other great apes who only become overweight in captivity. Agriculture and food abundance, along with sedentary life, exposed the design flaw for people who overnourish themselves. Of course, physical inadequacy is another side effect.
Here are a few issues (below) -
Continue reading "Why do overweight people ever feel hunger? (re-posted)"
Wednesday, February 3. 2021
A good thing about dumbbell resistance exercises is that you don't need a spotter. In addition, you can have them at home if you are still gym-phobic.
For strength maintenance, you have to go heavy. Hand weights with high reps are calisthenics, not strength.
Thursday, January 14. 2021
As I have not really discussed in the past, there are plenty of gray zones between the three, and few exertions are purely in one category (excepting sprints which are real cardio).
Burpees might be the ultimate calisthenic. SEALS do a lot of them. The more you can do, the better overall shape you are probably in. My personal trainer/Boss wants us to do Birthday Burpees, meaning our age in burpee reps. As they say in New York, fugettaboutit.
I do sets of ten (with the pushups) in between weights sets on weights days. Might not be ideal to do that, but it is my routine, and I like routine.
Wednesday, January 13. 2021
Among the machine options, the rower and the stair machines are most designed to help build some strength along with the heart stress. The advantage of the rower is that it is pretty much total body, and when you up the resistance, it's some strength along with the cardio.
To beat a dead horse, cardio is meant to be about heart fitness, so if your heart rate is not where you want it then all it is about is physical endurance (which is not a bad thing in itself).
The Maggie's protocol advises sprints for cardiac fitness, not long-slow. Long-slow, like walking or swimming laps, is fine for ordinary endurance and maintenance. It all depends on one's goals.
I like mixing up my cardio days with variety to avoid boredom. Treadmill sprints, rower, stair machine, ski machine. Usually only 30 minutes, then I finish my hour with accessory weights.
Reminder for January fitness people: unless you are a unicorn, do not use exercise to lose weight. That's not what it is for, and it only works for the rare unicorn. Exercise can be good for muscle weight gain, though, especially weight training. Losing fat is about nutrition.
Sunday, January 3. 2021
Thursday, December 3. 2020
Tuesday, December 1. 2020
Sunday, November 29. 2020
I tend to think of bands as ways to intensify the calisthenics part of the fitness triad. Many people are not very disciplined with home exercise (including me), but anything stressful is good.
- Resistance bands with handles
- Resistance bands without handles
Wednesday, September 30. 2020
Deads strengthen the "posterior chain," from neck to the soles of your feet. We tend to view deads as a legs exertion, but no, not only. That's why they are an invaluable totaly body exertion.
That posterior chain of muscles is what it makes it possible to be bipedal and to stand up straight instead of slouching. It's counterbalanced by various anterior muscle groups, expecially the abs.
I am no body-builder guy, but after 4 years of including deads in my routine twice weekly (pushing the weights, admittedly, but gradually with high-rep days and low rep days), I can no longer button my dress shirts. 2" more. That's crazy, not what I wanted but it just happened. Brooks Brothers shirts ain't cheap, and I fairly often wear jacket and tie at work, especially for meetings when it is expected. I don't have a single dress shirt that I can button now.
Deads are the single best way, and most efficient way, to stay sturdy after age 40.
Thursday, September 10. 2020
If you work out, say, 4 1/2 hours weekly (on 4 days) you can maintain or improve your physical condition, so it is worth doing if you have ambition limits, time limits, or need rest days. Way better than nothing but you will probably be disappointed by the pace of your gains compared to a 6 day program.
Here's what we would suggest:
-2 conditioning classes/week (combo of calisthenics, cardio, and light weights). If gym-phobic, it's difficult to do on one's own. Long-time readers know what these sorts of classes involve.
- 2 half-hour sessions of powerlifts (squats, bench, and rows one day; deads, pull-downs, and triceps the other) coupled with 2 half-hour sessions of HIIT cardio - no time for long slow - plus two 15-min sessions of selected auxiliary exercises
- If daily walks, jogs, or some sports are also in your life, you would be doing more exertion than most people.
Monday, September 7. 2020
Yes, mood and attitude are part of general fitness. Mens sana in corpore sano.
Up here, it's hiking season, getting towards hunting season and skiing season. Carpe diem, readers. Life is short.
Wednesday, August 26. 2020
I think I can pass the Army test. NOT the SEAL test. Can't bang out 100 pushups right now, or carry a man on my back for five miles.
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