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
Monday, February 17. 2020
My point though, which I repeat to the point of annoying readers, is that you cannot lose weight that way.
Body fat can only be gained, or lost, through nutrition. Exercise is minimal for fat loss. I'd make an exception for those hiking 20 miles/day on the Appalachian Trail while carrying 40-60 lbs of their gear, food, and water. Or their kid.
Friday, February 14. 2020
For St. Valentine's Day, consider how your lover (or lovers) feel, regardless of age. It's good to be appealing to a lover unless you are a billionaire.
A great exercise to add to your conditioning routines (any sled is fine). It's a total body exercise:
Wednesday, February 12. 2020
We posted about conditioning and related topics last week. We talked about measuring progress. I'd say that if you can get through my Friday morning fitness class, and if your body weight is right for you, you are in decent condition. But when you begin, you plain suck and hate yourself because you are not in good condition.
Newbies have trouble at first, but the ones who stick with it religiously make good progress.
That class is cardio and endurance, but those things are important. A 4-minute rower sprint is a bitch. I can not sprint for 4 minutes, have to pace myself.
So although it's difficult to put a number on fitness class performance, you can get a sense over time about how you are doing/surviving a class. Or you can compare yourself with others, which is a bad idea but difficult not to.
At my gym, the classes are free. Usually it's 50/50 guys and gals in early morning. They kick your ass, start the day right. Give it a try for a few months, and see what happens. I do one or two weekly, and count it as my calisthenics. Difficult to call it "fun," but there is some comaraderie.
An hour after finishing, you feel great.
Thursday, February 6. 2020
We discussed "training" vs "exercise" a week or so ago.
But what do people mean by "physical conditioning"? After all, it's a something that most people exercise to maintain or achieve. When people commit to a daily or near-daily exercise program, conditioning is what most people are after. They are in crappy physical condition (sedentary, overweight or underweight, flabby muscles, poor cardio and muscular endurance, low energy, agility, posture, or power, etc).
They are not after mighty muscles, winning marathons, or entering the Crossfit Games. Most people just want to move from a poor or mediocre physical condition to the best condition they can reach given their age, sex, and physical architecture. And, really, people want to look in good condition too instead of looking like they are going to seed, over the hill. That's not a good look to present to the world.
When you see trainers working with clients in the gym, they are usually working towards general conditioning. That's why they do so many varied things in an hour: ball throws, some weights but not too heavy, combat bike sprints, lunges, kettlebell stuff, body weight squats, box jumps, band walks, machine rows, sled pushes and pulls, etc etc. A full mix of good conditioning exercises. Trainers in most gyms rarely have the opportunity do do real training.
The Maggie's Fitness for Life program is basically a general conditioning program - but it can be a general fitness training program if you keep records and graph performance. What can we easily graph? The weights we move, speed and endurance with "cardio", our own weight, and similar. It is difficult to graph out our performance with calisthenics and calisthenics classes, but it's easy to know how many pushups or pullups we can do, or how many kettlebell swings with a given weight.
So I guess my point today is that the Maggie's Fitness for Life Program can easily be turned into a training program by keeping records of most of the components (especially the weights and cardio speed/endurance parts). Oh, also, body weight - some need more weight and muscle, some need less body fat.
What is the Maggie's program? Readers know what it is: 2 days of weight training (powerlifts and accessory weights), 2 days of cardio with HIIT, 2 days of calisthenics/fitness class, and one recovery day of some sort of enjoyable recreational activity after church. This doesn't include most recreational sports, because they do not really count. Recreation is the reward.
Tuesday, February 4. 2020
In other words, a long walk, a jog, a mile swim, and banging manageable weights around for a while do not require a dose of 20-30 gms of protein afterwards (whether in ordinary food or as a supplement).
People in serious training programs probably do need 20 or so gms of protein within an hour or two after, and the easist way to get that is in some sort of protein shake. Very few people want solid food after a tough workout.
This makes sense to me: ARE PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS GOOD FOR HEALTH? HERE'S WHAT EXPERTS SAY
Saturday, February 1. 2020
Friday, January 31. 2020
A reader noted yesterday that "exercise isn't training."
Photo is people exercising. You can tell, because they are smiling and having fun together.
The reader is correct. We use the term "exercise" to apply to many sorts of movement, from taking a walk to taking a calisthenics class to throwing weights around in the gym. Random efforts in the gym do not lead to much progress but do keep you moving.
Training refers to a program for measureable fitness improvement, whether in endurance, strength, power, or all of the above. (The Maggie's Program of weights, calis, and cardio is designed for "all of the above").
For example, if you swim a mile daily that's exercise, but it's training if you aim to reduce your time a bit each week or two by adding anaerobic sprints. Eventually, you will reach your limit and you can call that new level "exercise" again.
Another example: If you go for a 3-mile jog most mornings (many people do 3-5 mile runs most mornings, which I do not recommend doing on roads), that's exercise. It's great for the mind. If you mix it up with speedy segments to steadily reduce the time, it's endurance training.
A final example, from weight training: Let's use deadlifts because they are foundational for general sturdiness. Barbell or kettlebell, but barbell is better because you can do more weight. If you do 5 progressive sets of what you can do, it's exercise. If your plan is to add 5 or 10 lbs to your final set of, say 5 reps every month or two, you are training.
So "training" is about progressive goals, steadily upping intensity and stress. That is why so many people take their phones in the gym. It's not for texting; it's to follow their program and to map progress.
Yesterday's cardio/calis post was an hour of exercise, not training. Quite intense endurance exercise with plenty of cardio stress, but mostly do-able (I can not jump rope for 3 minutes). It was a high-level "recovery day." A lower-level recovery day might be 50 minutes on a treadmill or elliptical (boring), or a 4-hour mountain hike (not boring, especially with company).
My final point is that exercise is great, especially for maintaining a level of physical functioning and for the mental benefits. However, many of us who catch the fitness virus want to see steady gains in various areas of fitness. That's where the training program begins. You keep your records, and have a plan to surpass them. Trainers are experts at that for any level of fitness.
In the first year or two of a daily or near-daily training program, people advance rapidly. That is partly neuro-muscular (getting used to it), and partly because beginners are often in poor condition. After a year or two, progress slows and can often be discouraging. That's just the way it is if you choose to play this game. When you attain a new speed or a new weight, though, the success feels good.
Whether your goal in life is intellectual, spiritual, or physical, it takes dedication, effort, time, and strain. Of course.
But it is only in fitness where you can easily graph it out over time. On your iphone.
Thursday, January 30. 2020
I disagree. Similar things done to excess days in a row can be overtraining. It is impossible to overtrain with a mixed fitness program like Maggie's, done 6-7 hours/week.
What might entail overtraining? Max deadlifts two or three days in a row.10- 20 mile speed runs two or three days in a row. In other words, intense efforts without recovery time.
This morning, a pal and I did a recovery day together to make it fun. We both did powerlifts yesterday. Her cardio fitness is amazing, so I wanted the challenge of trying to keep up with her for an hour. A workout partner can be a good thing.
Here's what we did (I barely kept up - no breaks unless indicated):
5 minutes elliptical warm-up, just to break a sweat
30-sec water break
2 minute mixed jump rope
(Two rounds of the above, then 30-sec water break)
3 minute mixed jump rope routines
(2 rounds of that, then 30-sec water)
Set of 20 goblet squats (light kettlebells)
(2 rounds of that, then 30-sec water/rest)
Set of 20 stepup and overhead press (hand weights)
That's an example of a recovery day of cardio and calisthenics. After 24 hours with good sleep you will be ready for hard things a day or two later. In many ways, an hour of heavy is easier.
It's good to take one day off weekly for just fun recreation regardless of age.
Wednesday, January 29. 2020
For real muscle magic, steroids and maybe GH. Do not touch that stuff though, friends. It is bad juju.
Amusingly, the only other supplement the Greysteel doctor recommends is coffee. Without a cup at 4:30 in the morning, there is no way I could get my head into effort.
Here's the Greysteel doc on Creatine. Good basic energy physiology. The stuff works like a little battery.
Friday, January 24. 2020
Here's an addendum to my Wednesday post about recovery: Do Older People Need Longer to Recover from Exercise?
What is "older"? But anyway, generally the answer is no, especially once you are into a month or so of a daily fitness program. Nobody can benefit from heavy deadlifts every day, or HIIT every day. For general fitness (maybe not for master athletes in training), mixing it up for an hour or so daily works best.
At any age, get your 20 gms or so of protein after a workout. It can't hurt.
Wednesday, January 22. 2020
The most intense forms of exercise - heavy weight sessions, sprinting (HIIT sessions of any form), or God forbid, distance running - benefit from 48-72 hours of "recovery." This is age-dependent because youthful bodies can handle almost anything.
People over 35 should not do weights on the same muscles two days in a row. If you do heavy weights (eg powerlifts) twice weekly, even then it's best to focus on different lifts each session. "Overtraining" can be a problem for obsessive exercisers.
Recovery means getting protein you need, good sleep (reparative growth hormone operates during sleep), and maybe making sure to roll out your muscles.
"Recovery" does not mean taking a day off from physical activity. How it is done depends on age and level of fitness. For example, fit 35-75 year-olds can use an hour of calisthenics with hand weights as a day of "active recovery" from weight-lifting, but unfit people might just benefit from a long-slow hour of non-cardio "cardio" as recovery. People have to listen to what their body is telling them, but not to their "lazy voice." It can be difficult to tell the difference.
We usually think of 45 minutes of calisthenics as active recovery for fit people under age 75 or so. Calisthenics sessions do not require more than 24 hours of recovery. Indeed, in my gym there is a cohort of around 40 men and women of all ages who do nothing more than 6-7 calisthenics 6 am classes each week. It clearly works well for their fitness, but lacks the bone and muscle strength components of strength training.
Recovery is one reason for the design of the Maggie's fitness program. Weights, Calis, Cardio, rinse and repeat and take one day for sports or hiking to enjoy your improving condition.
What about days off entirely from activity other than walking around? Such days hardly need to be planned, because life interferes regularly enough with our virtuous routines.
Monday, January 13. 2020
He makes a number of good points, and not just about strength training.
For one thing, he makes a useful distinction between exercise and training. Exercising is using or maintaining what you've got. Training is about steadily building ability, whether in strength, endurance, etc.
I like his idea of the Minimum Effective Dose, which is pretty much what my trainer guides me through - just enough needed to show slow but steady improvement.
Thursday, January 9. 2020
Readers know that, for the strength-building and maintenance part of fitness, we prefer compound exercises to the isolated muscle exercises which many gym machines offer.
We all see people going from machine to machine in the gym and wonder why they bother because they could get far more bang for their buck (and time) with compound resistance movements. Sometimes the machine-users are body-builders and body-sculptors, but that ain't us.
Accessory strength exercises are fine if you have the time, but the compound ones are the priorities: Deadlift, Barbell Squat, Bench Press, Pullups (or pull downs), Rows and Dips, Overhead Press. Five or 6 sets of each of those once (or even twice weekly if young or very fit) will produce a good sturdy foundation for life whether male or female, young or old.
No compound exertion stresses as many muscle groups at once as the Deadlift. Here's the list of the muscles challenged in the traditional Deadlift:
Gluteus Maximus: Butt
If you punch in gender and age, you can get some average Deadlift standards here. I am in the Intermediate strength range now, aiming higher. I can not move 300 lbs. two inches off the floor. Point is, do one's best and keep advancing by small increments.
Wednesday, January 8. 2020
From the article:
Tuesday, January 7. 2020
As a guy who can not face breakfast other than coffee with the occasional cigar, I rely on a protein shake for after my 2 and sometimes 3 mornings/wk of powerlifting. I don't know anybody who can or wants to eat food after a morning workout.
People ought to get about 20 gms of protein after a heavy weights session, so a good breakfast for heavy lifters (but not body-builders - not talking about them) would be a couple of hard-boiled eggs unless they are trying hard to put on weight. I can't stand solid food in the morning, so I do a protein shake (from Amazon) after a lifting hour and after a very tough calisthenics class too when they include more weights.
I throw some frozen berries or a banana in the blender for a little carbs etc. I use the vegetable protein powder cuz I became lactose-intolerant. Funny, tho - I seem to tolerate ice cream just fine...but I do not need to lose any fat anyway since Mrs. BD says I am "cut". I suspect I am naturally pudgy like one of my grandpas, but that's not going to happen. My Dad was 6'4", lean, and hard as rebar, but I sadly didn't get that gene. Gotta work with what we get.
With my daily workout plan (6-7 hrs/wk), I am supposed to have two slices of chicken or meat mid-day, and an apple or some raw vegetables. I try to do that too, but any mid-day food makes me sleepy and lazy. Not good for being productive and useful.
Real athletes who workout 4+ hrs/day have entirely different nutritional demands. At Maggie's we just address us ordinary fitness folks. Sedentary people? They do not need much food at all but, curiously, they have greater appetites than active people. Probably recreational/boredom/ritual feeding. Something to do.
Tuesday, December 31. 2019
The Maggie's Fitness for Life program includes about a one-hour session of aerobic endurance exercise per week. For true cardiac exercise, we include plenty of HIIT cardio whether in calisthenics or sprints. That tends to be anaerobic.
Why do we include the endurance work at all? For ordinary functionality. We figure that if you can swim for an hour, or do the stair machine or high-inclined treadmill for an hour, well then a 6-hour hike, a day of skiing or basketball ought to be manageable. We strongly oppose road running.
So pure endurance work is only about 15% of our program although we assume most people also do fun recreational things like sports or hiking which do not count as exertion. Mark Rippetoe has other ideas. He is convinced that endurance exercise is a waste of time, and sometimes deleterious.
He is a smart guy, and might be right. Our Maggie's program attempts to strike a balance between strength-building (2 hours/wk of powerlifts and accessory weights), calisthenics (athleticism, balance, agility, HIIT, some strength), and "cardio" (an hour total of HIIT intervals with good rest intervals, and an hour of strenuous but aerobic endurance things). No need to do the hour of HIIT, for example, at the same session. In fact, not a good idea. Mix and match 1/2 hours of different categories but if doing weights, always do them first.
Most fitness trainers consider an hour of endurance work as a "recovery day," but I do not. For me, a half hour on the Stairmaster and a half hour doing high incline walks and jogs on the treadmill leaves me limp for a while.
Final word of 2019: Exercise for fat loss is nonsense. That is 99% nutritional. However, exercise does reduce appetite.
Monday, December 30. 2019
Monday is a weights day, so I did my best to kick my own ass with a mix of things. With trainer I would do barbell squats and bench. I want to inspire our readers...
4 sets of goblet squats (instead of barbell squats)
Yes, I do them in various supersets. I felt pretty beat-up at the end, ready for a ten-minute nap at 6:30 am before work. Pushing oneself to the max is the hard part for me, the mental part. I never feel like doing any of it until I get in the cage to fight the bear. Some of you know what I mean. The bear is one's own sloth. Sloth is a sin, by the way, so it's worth resisting like other disgusting temptations. I do try to turn my back on sinful temptations. Not a saint, tho.
Saturday, December 28. 2019
Tuesday, December 10. 2019
My gyms have very few dedicated body-builders but I notice that even they will do an occasional treatmill run or 10 minutes on the Jacob's Ladder. They also tend to be the only people, besides me, who jump rope regularly. (Jumping is great HIIT cardio, and almost fun if you mix up your jumps. Takes a little skill and practice, but that's a cool challenge.)
I also notice that some gym regulars (ok, gym rats) do almost entirely weights, some only take daily calisthenics classes at 6 am (30 people in my class this morning), and some only do "cardio" on the treadmills, ellipticals, or Stairmaster.
Because the Maggie's Fitness for Life program is designed for endurance, energy, athleticism, and to stall or reverse the effects of sloth and age (and to look good, too) more than just to build muscle mass, I think general fitness is worth any possible compromise in growth of muscle. BTW, strength and muscle mass are not necessarily equivalents.
That said, no reason not to keep trying to improve one's deads, squats, and benches. Sturdiness.
Addendum: I have little doubt that training for distance running is a problem for weight training. I was just thinking about gym work. Distance work (marathon, +) takes a serious toll.
What do our readers think?
Friday, December 6. 2019
After the neuromuscular system wakes up and is ready for action, progress slows down a lot. Physical architecture, frailties, and age are of course possible obstacles too.
Lack of progress, and plateaus, can be discouraging with large muscle group strength. I think my max 1-rep deadlift has only increased by about 20 lbs in the past year. 2020 will improve by 10 lbs, maybe, because I am fighting ageing. Small muscles improve more quickly (eg arms, but even backs improve fairly quickly - pullups)).
In my experience, the aspects of fitness that improve most dramatically and quickly in the Maggie's Fitness for Life program are endurance and energy. Precious things. Two days of weights/wk is not enough for serious strength-building, but the part of our program with 2 days of calis and the 2 days of HIIT cardio will get you fit for most recreational activities like sports, day-long hill hiking, etc.
Any age or gender. Give it a try. Include the barbells. A good Christmas/New Year present to oneself is a badass sexy and highly functional physique but, God knows, it takes discipline. Nothing pleasant about it except the slow progress.
I have a retired friend who has taken on learning Mandarin as his retirement project. I'd rather face a nasty, ugly barbell.
Thursday, December 5. 2019
In my view, squats are not as total-body as deadlifts. Anyway, best to do both because synergy. Barbell squats are of course the best stressor for building or maintaining lower body strength, but there are plenty of squat exercises in the Calisthenic category that are worth doing in a Calisthenics routine:
Why Calisthenics category? Because they are lower stress, mainly aerobic endurance things that can be done daily without more than 24 hr recovery.
Wednesday, December 4. 2019
How Many Reps of Deadlifts Should I Do When I Workout? (Ignore that guy's mention of lifting belts- he's in another league of lifting.)
5X5 is one standard, but it depends on your goals same as everything else in life. Just one set of 5X5/wk is better than nothing but will not be enough to become a powerful lifter.
Because my goal is to maximize general fitness, endurance, and energy, and to minimize deterioration rather than to become a serious powerlifter, I alternate every couple of weeks between 5X5 heavy, and 8-rep pyramids of, say, 6X8. I also throw in one set of rack lifts/wk to work on my sticking point with my max lifts. Why not? It's just more mental and physical challenge. It builds character and sex appeal.
Remember that when we discuss weight training we mean to integrate it into the Maggie's Fitness for Life program which means approximately 2 days calisthenics, 2 days weight training, and 2 days of cardio with lots of HIIT. Around 6-7 hrs/wk, not including sports and recreation. Also, appropriate nutrition for fitness of course.
No promise you'll live longer, but guarantee you'll live better and look better.
Tuesday, December 3. 2019
Monday, December 2. 2019
Like most topics that come up here, many will find some boring as hell - but others will find them useful and informative. If you don't like our fitness info, just leave it alone. I just hope that our fitness info has been useful, if not inspiring, to some readers.
Squats and Deads are crucial to building or maintaining physical sturdiness and functionality for any gender, any age (above childhood). When you decide to take them on as a component of your strength routines, you will naturally want continuous improvement. We all want to see results, but strength results come slowly especially after age 35-40.
Either that, or decide that you want to maintain yourself where you are now. That's ok too as long as it is not easy because workouts are meant to be "work," ie difficult and unpleasant. A walk in the park is no "exercise" for healthy people.
Deads are called "The King of Strength Exercises" because they are a functional, total body exertion. Squats are entirely functional. Because exercise time is limited for working people, a 5X5 of barbell squats and another day with 5X5 deads is a decent lower body foundation. Go heavy.
For today, Deadlift vs. Squat Muscles
Monday, November 25. 2019
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