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, March 22. 2023
Revisiting Calisthenics (for the 10th time)
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)"
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 13:48 | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, March 20. 2023
Body fat and fitness
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.
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 13:23 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, March 15. 2023
More on Squats vs. Deadlifts
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.
Deadlift vs. Squat: Muscles Worked, Benefits, and Strength Ratio
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 14:02 | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, February 1. 2023
More on Calisthenics
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
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 14:18 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
Tuesday, January 31. 2023
How much exercise is needed to live longer?
Massive study uncovers how much exercise is needed to live longer
I am skeptical about these claims, but I think life goes much better if you are fit.
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 17:37 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)
Sunday, January 22. 2023
Starting with a trainer
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:
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 13:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, January 18. 2023
Cardio Training vs. Endurance Training
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.
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in Physical Fitness at 14:23 | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, January 12. 2023
No pain, no gain? Science debunks yet another exercise myth
You don’t have to “feel the burn” to see improvements to your health and well-being.
Some readers may have disagreements with this, as do I.
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 17:08 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, January 2. 2023
Fitness Nonsense, and Healthism
For example, they make the point that exercise is, generally, useless for weight loss. Weight is nutritional - period. There surely are genetic effects on body architecture and maybe even on satiety-signalling.
Is exercise useful for cognitive functioning? Dubious.
Also, the point that the current thing about "lots of fruits and vegetables" is nonsense. Food is not medicine. Nothing wrong about those things though as long as you do not think of them as magic.
Fitness goals, I agree, are primarily about feeling good, maintaining functionality and vitality, and looking good for as long as possible. Those make life better. 6+ hours/week is good.
I stand by the Maggie's Fitness for Life program: Weights, calisthenics, and cardio. With a little luck, it might slow your fate in a wheelchair.
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in Physical Fitness at 14:20 | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)
Friday, December 9. 2022
The Only 8 Exercises Men Need to Get Lean
That is false advertising. As we often assert, the only way to be lean is through appropriate nutrition. Improving strength, agility, endurance, etc. require putting in serious exertion which, it seems, most people do not have the heart for. It is not fun. Yes, many Americans eat too much. "Healthy" or not, just too much of it.
I think that I have confessed in the past that the real reasons I appear so disciplined with daily early AM workouts are 1: to get my head in a good place for the day, 2: to fend off age and loss of function, and 3: to not look like I am over the hill. I am fortunate in a way that food is not a big mptivator for me. I like fine food but it doesn't do much for my soul.
Still, these are excellent strength workouts for men, women, and all of the other "genders". I prefer pull-ups to pull-downs, even if assisted, but that's just my preference.
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 13:41 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, November 30. 2022
Cardio update, and the Talk Test
I have posted most of these concepts in the past, but it's time to revisit them.
First off, people use the term to refer to different things. Some use it to refer to anything that raises your heart rate at all, such as walking, hiking, or swimming aerobic laps. Anything we do to remain active, if not to reach for better levels of fitness, is worthwhile.
Why is low-intensity activity worthwhile? Because it helps maintain a current level of function. Keep walking 1-3 miles daily, and odds are you will keep doing it until something physical intervenes. That's all that most people want.
However, I think of "cardio" as heart-centered exertion. That means stressing the heart with the goal of improving fitness and conditioning. While my favorite forms of cardio (treadmill, stair machine, rower) keep many muscle groups busy if not stressed, the goal is cardiac muscle power. That is why cardio focus is almost 1/3rd of the Maggie's Fitness for Life program.
How do you stress your heart muscle, rather than just using it a little bit? By making high demands just as you can do with other muscles. That means sprints on your favorite "cardio" forms. That's assuming your doctor tells you that you are fit for intensity.
Regardless of the exercise, it's easy to know when you are sprinting because it's all-out for 30-60 seconds at intervals. That is HIIT. Sprints are anaerobic, not aerobic. People claim that heavy weight-lifting can have the same effect, and that is likely true. Still, I feel a couple of hours/week of HIIT cardio is a good supplement, plus endurance, plus mental health.
Why Exercise Intensity Is Important
Talk Test and Monitoring Exercise Intensity. It's a simpler measure than heart rate.
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in Physical Fitness at 14:01 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
Sunday, November 13. 2022
Why do overweight people ever feel hunger? (re-posted)
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)"
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in Medical, Physical Fitness, Psychology, and Dr. Bliss at 16:06 | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)
Friday, November 4. 2022
Doing physical sturdiness correctly
This youtube is correct, but makes it sound complicated. It's not. Main tip is that you push the world away with your legs. And keep back straight. No way to hurt yourself with this.
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 14:40 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, October 26. 2022
My point though, which I repeat to the point of annoying readers, is that you cannot lose weight that way.
From a practical standpoint, body fat can only be gained, or lost, through nutrition. Exercise is minimal for fat loss. I'd make an exception for those hiking 15 miles/day on the Appalachian Trail while carrying 40-60 lbs of gear, food, and water. Or the kid.
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in Physical Fitness at 16:56 | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (0)
Friday, October 21. 2022
It's Burpee Day
All calisthenics are fairly intense, but the Burpee is up there. Burpee basics, re-posted:
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 14:38 | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, October 19. 2022
The Farmer's Walk
It is a functional total body stressor, especially as your kettlebells or dumbells get heavier. If you get to a weight where your grip fails due to grip strength or sweat, you can use a towel around the weight. Maintain posture. It's sort of fun to walk until failure.
Farmer's Walk: Benefits, Techniques, and Muscles Worked
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 11:38 | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, October 12. 2022
It takes months to feel, or see, results. The nutritional part is the easy part. 8 hours of sleep is ridiculous. No adult needs that much.
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in Physical Fitness at 14:36 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
Weight-lifting and the brain
High-intensity resistance training is good for your brain, according to a new Israeli study.
There is nothing wrong with low-intensity exercise (better than not moving at all), but as for heart, muscles, bones - and now maybe brain - the harder it is, the better.
Unfortunately, hard things are unpleasant. Self-improvement is not fun, but it's just a choice.
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in Physical Fitness at 13:50 | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, September 28. 2022
Fitnesss goals are simpler than most life goals
Fitness goals are simple and measurable. Furthermore, the relative mindlessness of it is a relief from the stresses that other life goals give us. For me, workout sessions lift me out of my mind into a pure animal zone of bodily effort. It is my form of meditation (if meditation implies emptying one's mind). Playing sports does something like that, as does sex. Regardless of age, don't underestimate the importance of sex.
I do not mean to say that sports are mindless, but once you get used to a sport, much of it is reflex. That is training: Down the line or cross-court.
Recreation: Hiking, sports, swimming, and general functioning/vitality are rewards for fitness.
Posted by Dr. Joy Bliss in Physical Fitness at 15:18 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, September 21. 2022
Deadlifts (and maybe squats) are the best complex exertion one can do. We've claimed that ad nauseum. Which muscles do you want to stress with deadlifts? Core, glutes and hamstrings, legs, posterior chain, neck and trapezius. Got to go heavy.
Deadlift standards by sex (not gender) and age.
It’s Never Too Late to Start Lifting. Here’s How. As intimidating as strength training may seem, it's relatively easy to get a steady regimen off the ground. A good essay.
Useful: How to breathe when lifting weights
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 14:02 | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, September 14. 2022
Strength training for runners
How to Get Started With Strength Training if You Want to Run Faster
A good rule of thumb is to mix in the opposite of what you usually do. Muscle-builders need to do cardio, runners need weights, etc.
We do not recommend road running or jogging. Treadmill or soft track is a bit better, but your joints do not like sustained pounding. In time, your joints will punish you. We do recommend sprinting as good cardio stress. It might be just me, but I hate bikes. Loved them as a kid, but not anymore.
Best idea: Move hard for an hour or so daily.
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 14:59 | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, September 5. 2022
In the end, I respect work of any sort. We sedentary workers have to workout in gyms etc. to try to remain mentally and physically fit for life. It is difficult and unpleasant, but afterwards you feel wonderful. Or not.
A new calisthenic for y'all: Inchworms. People call it a warmup or a rest, but I do not. It's a bitch of an exertion if you do 10 per set:
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 14:17 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
Tuesday, August 23. 2022
How do strong muscles keep your brain healthy? There’s a robust molecular language being spoken between your muscles and your brain.
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 16:38 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
Tuesday, August 16. 2022
Tell me what is inaccurate, misleading, or wrong in this article
It seems likely correct that 5-6 days of working out, in varying forms, is good for building or maintaining fitness, but tell me what the weaknesses are in this piece: Exercise answer: Research shows it’s how often you do it, not how much
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 15:58 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, August 3. 2022
The physiology of endurance fitness
OK, OK, I know all of the arguments. The Maggie's fitness formula includes lots of everything for good reasons. Balance, agility, explosive power, strength, endurance, nutrition and proper weight, etc.
Endurance (say, jogging 5 or ten miles, or hiking 10 miles with a pack), is about your Slow-twitch muscle fibers and the number of mitochondria they contain. These can be trained, but not with heavy weights: it is more about the slog.
I see mountain hikers in training. They put on a weight vest and jump on the Stairmaster for an hour or two. At higher speeds, I would consider that cardio plus calisthenics plus leg strength. No need to do that for most people under 40, but sometimes we all have to connect with our inner masochist if we want to improve.
I have an elderly friend who takes his daily 3-mile walk with a backpack filled with old textbooks.
Posted by Bird Dog in Physical Fitness at 15:47 | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)
(Page 1 of 21, totaling 511 entries) » next page