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
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.
Sunday, August 23. 2020
To lose body fat, low carbs is the way to go. But the age-old notion that eating fats and oils makes people fat is nonsense.
Believe it or not, there is a thing called "Rabbit Starvation." You can starve to death on a diet of rabbit meat.
Best nutritional summary I've been able to come up with, applying to most active, exercising people: To lose body fat, low carbs. To gain muscle mass (heavy weights often, ie 4 hrs/wk): lots of all foods 5 times daily. To gain general Fitness for Life (with 2 days of cardio, 2 days of calis, and 2 days of heavy): 5 small meals/day - 2 of them being snacks like yoghurt and nuts, or half a sandwich), with plenty of protein. If too scrawny, hit the weights for 6 months and eat all you can. Nothing wrong with a Big Mac and Fries with a beer if that's your goal. Nutrition has to be in sync with your goals.
Thursday, August 20. 2020
An excellent essay or, more precisely, long excerpt from the book Exercised. One quote:
Wednesday, August 19. 2020
It's high-school physics applied to the body: Levers are classified according to the relative placement of the fulcrum, the resistance and the force.
Any form of exercise can be made more interesting by thinking about the sort of lever action applied in single-joint exercises (like bicep curls or calf raises) or the multiple lever actions applied in complex, multi-joint movements like squats or running.
If you are fortunate enough to use the services of a professional trainer, that trainer will not be focusing on your muscles. He or she will focus on the mechanics of your movement(s) - proper lever use - to make your motion or activity as safe and effective as possible. That's why a trainer will make frequent corrections to your technique: Palms out (or in), wider stance (or narrower), head up (or down), chest up (or down) etc.
Even if you are not a fitness person, everybody knows that there is a right and wrong way to pick up something heavy, or to get out of a chair. It's all leverage.
Friday, August 14. 2020
In line with the Maggie's fitness program, I only swim twice weekly now, with HIIT laps as my pure cardio days. One sprint per 2 laps. Weights and calisthenics on other days.
Tuesday, August 11. 2020
We have plenty of thoughtful readers who use weight-lifting as a part of, or as the entirety, of their fitness programs. That is one of the cool things about an eclectic website.
I take all of your comments on fitness topics seriously.
Clearly, upping my routine after a few months of just running and calisthenics was part of my DOMS. What my genius trainer did for me this morning was to run me through ten minutes of leg stretches and light Tiger Tail rolling before we went to bench press. The pain disappeared.
Go figure. He suggested a heat pad for 10 minutes, then some light Tiger Tail. And yes, he blames it on getting back to more intense work. My pre-April routine was disrupted by gym closure, road running instead of treadmill and stair machine, a week's vacation, and do-it-yourself calisthenics (sadly, not as intense as gym classes). I had been doing 3 days of weights, 1-2 days of calis, and 1-2 days of HIIT cardio. No problems.
Monday, August 10. 2020
So painful that I could hardly do my morning HIIT run this morning. I resorted to fast hill-walks because it seems to be recommended that you keep moving as best you can. Yes, I try to eat enough and to use creatine on weights days.
Seems to me that barbell squats are my culprit. I never get it from Deads or anything else. It lasts 3-4 days, and makes me feel like an elderly gent hobbling around like a crip.
Have any of our readers had this issue?
Monday, August 3. 2020
Sunday, August 2. 2020
I've been doing weights twice weekly in my genius trainer's garage since mid-March, and was running twice/week until it got too damn hot for me, and Mrs. BD and I switched to walks. Walks with a spouse are worth doing, but are not exercise.
Since my big gym has re-opened, apparently the calisthenics classes have been small, say 7 people instead of 30. Fine with me, but harder to hide. Trying to get back to 2 days of heavy wts, 2 days of calis, and 2 days of HIIT cardio. That's the Maggie's program for general fitness and conditioning.
Also, I need the stair machine. It's easy to tell, because when I do barbell squats I have stiff legs for 3 days. One day of soreness is fine, but not 3.
What about our fitness readers?
Wednesday, July 29. 2020
The Maggie's Fitness for Life program includes both. Still, we tend to agree that calisthenics classes offer more bang for the buck (or for the time.)
The logic is that 50 minutes of intense calis (with maybe only 6-10-second breaks between routines) is a good heart stressor while also working on athleticism, balance, flexibility, light-weight endurance muscle work, and body-weight exercises. In addition, most calisthenics classes include specific HIIT routines like rowing sprints. Obviously, each person works at his or her own level.
Some thoughts about it here.
If you take three tough calisthenics classes weekly, do you need to do your own HIIT cardio? Maybe not, because calisthenics classes that keep your heart rate up are stressful cardio. It depends on how intensely you want to condition, and on how ambitious you are. What sorts of circuits do typical calisthenics classes include? Rowing sprints, kettlebell swings, pushups, jumping jacks, jump rope, heavy ropes, body weight squats, heavy ball throws, sandbag slams, floor and core work like planks and crunches, hand weights, stretches, etc etc. Fun stuff, never boring because the routines are only 30-60 seconds each.
We do like the idea of one "long, slow" cardio hour, like swimming, jogging, high-incline walking, stair machine, etc as a recovery day from a week's exertions with heavy weights and calisthenics. There is evidence that "active recovery" like that makes for more effective physical recovery than doing nothing. A 4-5-hour hill hike is a perfect recovery activity from demanding workouts.
With calisthenics, the less spare fat you carry, the better you will do and the more quickly you will move. To shed spare fat, cut the food volume and get rid of those carbs. (Our readers know what carbs are: fruit, juices, grains and grain products, beer, root vegetables, anything with sugar, etc.)
Tuesday, July 28. 2020
I've taken fitness classes which only use bands for resistance. In a way, band workouts are calisthenics with extra resistance.
For general fitness, bands are all the equipment you really need to buy unless you are in a serious muscle-building program. Believe me, the guy in the video did not grow that muscle bulk with bands alone.
Friday, July 24. 2020
Bernarr McFadden invented the American fitness "movement" around the turn of the century.
Not too different from today's fitness gurus. He got women on board with it too, back in the time when prosperity had been signified by a belly for men and women. The opposite, now.
Entertaining podcast: The Crazy, Forgotten Story of America's First Fitness Influencer
Wednesday, July 22. 2020
I never had a flab or weight problem, but before I got into my program I had a weakness and endurance problem which kinda depressed me. Sarcopenia due to physical neglect.
After around 4 years of my almost-daily weights/calisthenics/cardio program, I have gained only about 6 lbs. Probably lost some fat that was not obvious to me so maybe 7-8 lbs. of meat. I do not have a beefy build, so there are natural limits.
Also, probably from weights, my neck size has gone up over an inch. I can't button my dress shirts. Is that bragging? Also, my sports jackets are tight in the shoulders. Trust me, I am not over-muscled by a long shot, just fit, energetic, and functional.
I have enough dress clothing (and every other sort of clothing) to last the rest of my life and more, whether it fits perfectly or not. I am done with new clothing forever. Except maybe workout stuff - they seem to wear out fast. The sneakers, mainly.
Tuesday, July 14. 2020
Singles are excellent, serious cardio. Often, people who get their singles under good control aspire to do double-unders. It's natural ambition.
Where there is some air conditioning in summer, I like jumping for cardio. I enjoy working on my variations, but I still can't get consistent doubleunders.
Friday, July 3. 2020
Wednesday, June 10. 2020
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.
Wednesday, June 3. 2020
Wednesday, May 20. 2020
For a gym workout, the only discipline involved is to get there. Then you get in the groove whether it's a calis class or a yoga class or just doing your own thing.
Luckily for me, I am still working with my trainer 3 days/week. We figured out a way to do it and it is so cut-rate now that I can't afford not to do it. Plus I enjoy the guy's company a lot so we have a good time listening to podcasts. Scott Adams, Mike Rowe, Rogan. Of course, with heavies, you do not hear anything but you do during the rests.
I am getting myself out early for a run twice a week (sprint/walk intervals). The month of May is perfect outdoor running, but I miss the killer stair machine.
What are y'all doing now? Things are looking up around here, headed in the right direction but I don't know whether I want to pay my excessive gym fees in the future.
Tuesday, April 28. 2020
New to Exercise? Here’s Why It’s Never Too Late to Add Strength Training
Wednesday, April 22. 2020
We generally recommend resistance (weights) for strength-building, but some people are just afraid of weights or associate them with body-builders. Wrong, but whatever.
However, there are some exertions which can be useful upper body fitness-builders without weights. Four calisthenics in particular: Pushups, pullups, planks, and Burpees.
These are far from comprehensive, but they cover lots of the basic muscle groups, and proper pushups stress core too. There is a reason these are basics of military basic training.
Another good thing about them is that they can be modified until you can do the real thing. For examples, you can do "girl" pushups (on knees) until you can do real ones. You can do assisted pullups (with bands) until you can do real ones. Everybody can do straight-arm or elbow planks, but duration is the challenge. Aim for several minutes. Shoulder-touch planks are a cool variation. Burpees (with the pushups and jumps) are a great upper-body and whole body calisthenic.
How many? That depends on you. Generally speaking, for a middle-aged (45-75) guy or gal who avoids weights, I'd aim for 25-50 pullups assisted or not, 100 pushups (modified or unmodified), 3 or 4 30-45-second planks, and 50 Burpees. Not all in a row, but on the same day.
(For general fitness without weights, this can (should) be coupled with a day of lower-body body-weight workout (eg lunges, squats, step-ups, box jumps, etc) plus a couple of days of cardio. That all is good enough for casual or club tennis fitness, or for a long day hill hike.)
When life gets back to normal, then we can return to our usual routines. Or maybe just stick with these sorts of things.
Thursday, April 9. 2020
Like everything in the cardio/calisthenic area, these are not strength-builders. Done right, they have close to zero joint impact. They are endurance exercises, and endurance exercises belong in everybody's routine if they want a vigorous life. I see women and men jump-roping for 15 minutes. I cannot do that. After three minutes of either of those exercises, my form falls apart and I become short of breath, probably from not getting good breathing rhythms.
I'm interested in reader opinions on these things.
Sunday, April 5. 2020
Most fitness buffs do not have barbells and racks in their garage or barn, much less a fancy home gym. Still, most have bands, hand weights, some dumbells, maybe a kettlebell or two. TRX straps are versatile and take up no space.
Without barbells, it will be difficult to build strength while away from your gym with their heavy weights, so many of us are stuck doing our weights routines in suboptimal fashion. For example, doing floor bench presses with 10 or 15 lb. hand weights cannot compare with barbell bench presses.
The same applies to dumbell deadlifts.
(Generally-speaking, low reps refers to exertions you can only manage to repeat around 6 times, medium reps refers to exertions you can only manage to repeat 6-15 times, and high reps are over 15 times. High-rep exertions, even to failure, do not build strength but build muscle endurance. Low rep exertions build strength but not endurance.)
It's all explained clearly in this post.
The point I want to make is that, without access to a good supply of varied serious weights, April might have to be a month of endurance weight training instead of strength-building. Why not? It is better than nothing.
That would entail, for example with lower body, squats with dumbells/hand weights X 20 per set, or dumbell deadlifts X 20, or 20 floor bench presses per set instead of 5-10. These sorts of things will slow the strength loss that occurs after 10 days without heavy weight stress.
Your calisthenics days and cardio days are easy at home or outdoors, so no need to discuss that.
Thursday, April 2. 2020
I remember doing 1-mile sprints for training. Long ago. Also remember my 20-mile morning runs. Lucky me - no joint problems. I quit it in time.
Readers know we oppose road running for the toll it takes on joints, but a month, twice a week, is fine with me although I'd like to get back to the treadmill and stair machine for my HIIT.
What did I learn from it? The pounding surprised me, even though I was a road-runner and racer in my youth. I also learned that a hat and gloves might be nice when it's chilly, despite the sweat from the sprints. Finally, it is so much more interesting than watching CNN in the gym.
Maybe I should try biking, but our bikes were all stolen and I will not wear that biking gear.
(Page 1 of 17, totaling 421 entries) » next page