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, December 6. 2017
You will often see people swimming half-miles of laps, on the elliptical for 45 minutes while reading the newspaper or watching TV, jogging on the treadmill for 60 minutes. If viewed as recreation, that's fine and it might feel good but there are minimal fitness gains to it. Why?
- Aerobic cardio doesn't build strength or burn fat with any effectiveness. Anyway, you don't need to get rid of any fat, do you?
To improve cardio effectiveness and endurance (except for those in the deconditioned, geritatric, or heart-disease categories) you need to up the intensity and reduce the time spent. That means sprints and other HIIT-style efforts which are anaerobic stressors. Another cardio thing you can do is to vary your cardio work-outs. Doing the same thing repeatedly (eg jogging) becomes useless as your body adapts to that one thing and it becomes too easy.
I say that if you can breathe or talk, it isn't exertion: it's recreation.
My preference for cardio/endurance fitness is to combine it in high-intensity calisthenics classes or high-stress machines like Jacob's Ladder or Stairmaster. I'll do rowing or running sprints too sometimes, but I like those things that address full-body muscular conditioning along with difficult cardio. It's time- efficient to combine the conditioning with the cardio.
Wednesday, November 29. 2017
I am a believer in calisthenics for flexibility, athleticism, cardio, agility, vigor, sexuality, and mental health. A great way to roll out of bed and begin the day by getting the blood moving and to wake up the brain. (Their virtual jump rope is good but real would be better.)
Sunday, November 26. 2017
It is a memorable tune. I think this cute tune was written by the deplorable Pete Seeger, here done by Dulcimer Dave.
Be brave. Even sturdy people have to summon up some courage sometimes to do what has to be done. Be bold and try a cardio/calisthenics class at your local
Let's face it. Some people are high energy, some low. Low-energy, though, is remediable even if over age 50. It takes courage to go the first time. After that, you get to know all the nice people, get the idea of the routines, and it becomes a kind of terrible painful fun. There is no expectation that you can do everything that is demanded by the Boss. He says "Give me 30 slap push-ups." So you do fifteen with your dance partner. I have a great partner for the pairing exercises with a maybe-60 year-old gal with the most brilliant smile in the world. Beware, Mrs. BD. Well, you just do your best, sweat up a storm, learn some humility, and limp out of the place after 50 or 60 mins, all pumped up and ready for a quick nap before you begin your day. Most people are still lolling in bed so you get to feel morally and spiritually superior.
As I have said, we have athletes in their 20s, and a bunch of men and women in their late 60s, and everything in between. Some are heavy, some are perfect. It's friendly with an upbeat feeling, but there is little time to talk because you can never catch your breath. Still I do my best with wise-ass commentary as you might expect from me.
OK, so we were outside for 20 minutes at 29 degrees (F) for the warm-up in the parking lot. Shorts and t-shirts. We warmed up quick with sprints, jogs, jump rope, before we went indoors. Wonderful to work up a warm-up sweat in below-freezing weather. To make it more fun, we tossed little beach footballs around during it all.
Anything beats sitting. Get-up-and-go has to be practiced and nurtured, like everything else. Just three of those cardio/calis sessions a week would do anybody a lot of good for energy, balance and agility, and general joie de vivre, even though it's not what our serious fitness recommendations are. It's not about strength as much as about preventing deterioration, decay, and laziness. Good for your sex life too. Let's not forget that detail.
Thursday, November 16. 2017
A balanced fitness program at any age has to include Strength (resistance, mainly the powerlifts for time-efficiency), Calisthenics, and Cardio. (As I have said, 5 1/2-6 hrs/week is all it takes to get into fighting shape - 2 hrs of mostly heavy wts, 2 hrs of calis, and 1 1/2-2 hrs of cardio.)
Cardio training is for general energy and endurance - but it is also to help you survive your first heart attack and to fend off senility. Weight training and Calisthenics do not require any age adjustments, but cardio training generally does because your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) tends to decline with age (or in my case, is actually suppressed by my BP pills).
This site explains how to calculate where your baseline cardio training heart rate needs to be - around 70-80% of MHR. That's baseline cardio training - not your sprints.
A few points below the fold -
Continue reading "Cardio workouts for the over-40 and over-50 group"
Wednesday, November 15. 2017
As we have posted in the past, jumping is an excellent almost zero-impact (you land on your toes with soft knees) cardio stressor (roughly equivalent to sprinting depending on your turn speed), and there are countless step variations to work on to keep it fun (one-footed, spread-leg, running man, split jumps, skipping, etc etc). Varying the speed and extending the duration also keep it interesting. If you can do a minute or two of double unders, I tip my hat to ya.
Jumping is not just for guys, but it's mostly guys who do it to train their athleticism. Watching a skilled jumper vary his steps and speeds seemingly effortlessly (it's not), as if almost weightless, is a thing of beauty. I use jumping as an HIIT component of my Cardio or Calisthenics days. I only go for a few minutes per set, but good jumpers go for 10, 20, or 30 minutes. I just do not have that kind of endurance....yet.
We recommend the Rx Smart Gear ropes. You have to get the right length for your height, and you have to pick a cable weight. The lightest ones are not for amateurs, and the heaviest ones are a bitch but a heck of a one-minute cardio workout. If a beginner, go for a beginner rope.
I like the guy in the video below the fold -
Continue reading "Best jump ropes"
Friday, November 3. 2017
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 much harder. After a while, people can just crank out regular pushups without a sweat. This applies to gals also. We advise not doing 50 of these modified pushups daily, however. Every other day, at most.
Monday, October 30. 2017
I recommend that chin-up hang though. It's great.
Wednesday, October 25. 2017
I got 100 in on most days but I was not perfect. I do my best physical work in the gym, not home. Got my 100 today, sets of 15, 20 and 25.
There is no doubt that your chest and shoulder muscles respond to this sort of
From now on, I am probably going to plan on the 100 mostly on my Calisthenic Days, not daily. These weeks were a good start for my push-ups, for sure. I find the first set the hardest. I will now do a set of 15 as a warm-up set, then they get easier.
I had planned the next 4 weeks to be a 100-Burpee/day Challenge, but I can't do it. It just kills my injured shoulder to the point that I can't sleep on my right side. Maybe 100 Mountain Climbers? Or is that too easy? With Mountain Climbers, it's all about the speed. Mountain Climbers are HIIT Cardio/Calisthenics, not strength-building but definitely fitness-building.
Monday, October 23. 2017
Other than hibernating animals, few animals are adapted to handle the sort of abundance that humans have remarkably produced with brains capable of entirely changing the planet's surface and modifying nutritional sources for its own purposes. Humans are nutritional outliers, and it is not "natural." In a sense, humans are not natural animals because of the extent to which they remake nature for their convenience.
One example: What Does It Mean to Be Fat-Adapted?
It means you have trained your body to adapt to a plentiful flow of fresh carbs and sugars (sugar is carbs and vice-versa) so it takes the burden off using fat as a fuel. Intake trains the body that way. Thus what we term the "False Hunger" of overweight people. Human physiology will never adapt to modern abundance of food because fatness tends to kill or disable people after child-bearing years.
Among other reasons, Fat Adaptation is one of the reasons heavy people feel more hunger and end up consuming food more avidly and in higher volume than trim people. In fact, overweight people have zero dietary energy requirements and minimal nutritional requirements despite subjective hunger.
Thursday, October 19. 2017
Fitness Review: Bodybuilding, Athletic Conditioning, Cardio/ Endurance Training, Powerlifting, etc.,
You can be fat and very strong, but unable to hike a mountain vigorously for 6 hours. You can be a fast runner or swimmer but unfit in most ways other than cardio endurance.
To participate to the maximum in all that life offers or demands, we preach a doctrine of "Fitness for Life." This is not training for a specific purpose (ie a specific sport, pure strength, or aesthetics), but just to maintain or, preferably, improve fitness after age 30 or 40 or 50 or whatever for people with relatively sedentary (less than 5 hrs/wk of physically-challenging or strenuous effort - not walking). Balanced, general functional fitness for strength, endurance, and athleticism builds energy, attractiveness and sexuality, effectiveness - and the mental toughness that comes from the discipline of physical training.
First, some terms:
Conditioning, or Athletic Conditioning, usually refers to your overall athletic preparedness. "Conditioning" can focus on retrieving or building your speed, agility, endurance, muscle fitness, body composition, and the like. General conditioning-specific activities, like calisthenics, often just use body weight and some light weights with very high reps (20+), and no rest. Burpees, lunges, box jumps, ball slams, roll-ups, and step-ups are classic conditioning exercises but there are tons of them.
Cardio/endurance training is one compnent of the above. An hour of intense, no-rest calisthenics is powerful and exhausting cardio/endurance training, as is HIIT cardio. If you aren't short of breath, it's not "cardio." (It's not "exercise" either. "Exercise" refers to exertion.) For naturalistic HIIT, a tough tennis lesson where coach runs you ragged, or a basketball game.
Bodybuilding is an approach to balanced muscle improvement. It entails about 5 sets of semi-high reps (8-12) of 50-70% of your max weights, with only a minute rest between sets. Contrary to the sound of it, it's not primarily meant to look good at the beach (but nobody wants to look nasty with lots or all of their clothes off).
Powerlifting is an approach designed to improve brute strength and power. This entails lower reps with higher weights, and more rest between sets. Often, out of shape newbies need a good period of powerlifting before shifting to bodybuilding. Experienced people often alternate between the body-building approach and the powerlift approach every few months to maintain muscle function.
All of the above play a role in general fitness.
I'll review our recommendations for people in half-decent health below the fold. Feel free to offer comments or critiques.
Continue reading "Fitness Review: Bodybuilding, Athletic Conditioning, Cardio/ Endurance Training, Powerlifting, etc.,"
Thursday, October 12. 2017
"Conditioning" is about speed, agility, HIIT cardio, endurance, explosiveness, and muscle use. Energy, stamina, and get-up-and-go. It is not about strength or strength-training, which is why lots of calisthenics are involved. In a tough conditioning hour, you can never catch your breath so it is intense cardio. Good stuff for life.
I am in the sorry 25% who routinely flunk our Sat. AM calisthenics ("Athletic Conditioning") class. By flunking, I mean being unable to complete the trainer's expectations on at least half of the exercises in the time allowed. I hate failure, so I give it my all and come up short. We 25% are calling ourselves the "Masters Class" and we are all age 45 or more. However, several 50+ and 60+ do make the passing grade. Bravo for them because this sort of thing is great to prevent physical deterioration.
If it were high school or college, we would ask for extra time due to disability but, instead, we do our best and accept the fail. Reality is a bitch. Do better next week, or just give up and rightly despise yourself forever for being a loser.
Details below the fold -
Continue reading "Flunked again: Success is good for ego but failure is good for the soul."
Tuesday, October 10. 2017
Since we're on a month of our push-up challenge, a few ideas:
- go as low as you can
Monday, October 9. 2017
My genius trainer thinks these are ridiculous, but they are a routine part of the calisthenic classes I take. All I can say is that they keep your heart rate up and your body in explosive and fatiguing motion. Basically, explosive jumping jacks.
How many can you do? I can do about 10, not 25.
Thursday, October 5. 2017
Photo is a lady doing guy push-ups
100 is getting easier already. I had to take one day off, though, for "recovery". We did a 3-hour woodsy hill hike instead. Well, now I am doing sets of 15 instead of 10, and next week it will be sets of 20. Raise that efficiency despite the burn. One thing I notice is that the quicker you do them, the better.
Also, I do not do the push-ups on my bench press day. That would not be sensible.
Two years ago, I could hardly do 3 pushups. My shoulder pain problem didn't help (it has improved a lot with exercise), but I was weak too. OK, I do not have a muscular build but I am somewhat fit for my age and build at this point. Plenty of guys my age are fitter than me and I still suck and can't do pull ups. My goal for this 100/day challenge is to do 50 in one set with good form. I'll be satisfied with that. Or maybe I won't be.
A good part of fitness is that you can pursue it even if you have no special athletic talent and are not highly coordinated. The only sport I can play with any competence at all now is tennis, but fitness can be a sport or hobby of its own and it's good for mental, spiritual, physical, and sexual health. We all want to approach life with as much vigor as we can muster for as long as we can.
How are our readers doing with this game? The gals too. Any cheaters? Any quitters?
Monday, October 2. 2017
Mrs. BD and I are back in weekend hiking mode. I really do not like vigorous hikes when it's above 75 degrees F.
Let's talk about non-winter hiking pants for men and women. Water-repellent, not waterproof. (For waterproof, you can roll up those light-weight REI waterproof overpants in your daypack. With a good long zipper, they are easy to pull over your hiking boots if you are a cat and hate getting wet.)
Hiking and trekking pants are for long hikes with serious terrain, not for two-hour walks in the woods in nice weather when cut-off blue jean are perfect if there are no bugs. I've tested out several pairs of hiking pants. To be comfortable on hills, they have to have a little stretch to them. They also have to resist tears from brush and to be rugged enough to hold up to rock scrapes and random falls. Plus it is nice if they are light-weight, not baggy, and comfortable.
The baggy ones are not pleasant to wear, and flap like crazy in wind. Most of the ones that are convertible to shorts are baggy. I like my Prana hiking pants, which are also great for weekend chores.
Many regular mountain hikers like Montane (example in photo). I guess REI has most of the ordinary things that outdoor active people might need.
What sorts of things do you use for rugged hiking?
Thursday, September 28. 2017
I pretty much follow something like the Maggie's program of a combination of weight-lifting, calisthenics, and endurance cardio. About 5 hours weekly but I also play sports one night/week and on weekends. I watch my nutrition carefully because many middle-aged women have a tendency to get sloppy regardless of their exercise program. (No rational amount of exertion can produce fat loss, unfortunately, but physical exertion does reduce subjective hunger and "false hunger" - the hunger that overweight people experience.)
Regarding muscle maintenance and strength-building in middle age (40+), I want to highlight a paragraph from yesterday's post:
Note that it says "to failure." That is the key, and that is the tricky part because the mental "I give up" almost always precedes the muscles giving up. Fighting that mental part is the discipline of exertion, and why trainers know they can almost always say "C'mon, give me one or two more." Women have no need to fear developing the hard or bulging muscles of their fit and athletic menfolk. That can't happen naturally with females.
To hedge your bets on the current consensus, I suggest going heavy with the weights on power lifts occasionally. You might even see your 1RM increase if you dare to check it (with a spotter) every few months.
Wednesday, September 27. 2017
Physical (and mental) fitness begin slowly going downhill after age 30-35 and accelerate thereafter. Deconditioning by avoiding strenuous exertion makes it worse. I am a skeptic about mental exercise, but not about the role of exercise in slowing natural physical decline.
Skeletal muscles, and the bones to which they attach (muscle stress is what keeps bones strong), undergo continual alteration and renovation. They are both adaptive: they respond to lack of stress by weakening or atrophying, and to stress by becoming more robust. This occurs regardless of age. Those 80 year-old women I see lifting weights in the gym are doing a smart thing. Weights are good for females.
There is also growing evidence that regular intense physical exertion is good for maintaining mental functioning. It's definitely good for mental health.
Monday, September 25. 2017
The idea is to do 100 daily, whether it's 1 or 5 or 10 or 20+ at a time. Just do 100 total with proper form (down low, back and legs like a plank and no dropping your butt). Obviously this is not for those fitter folks who can just get down and do 100 in a row without breaking a sweat. I'll begin with ten sets of ten and try to up the reps in each set each day with a goal of two sets of 50. Women can either do Pushups for women, or the basic version. Supposedly it can tighten gals' boobs, but don't ask me. I just do not want to develop Man-Boobs.
Men can not do Pushups for Women, of course. That would be shameful (although I confess I was forced to, recently. I can't do 50 man pushups in a row - yet).
100 is not a lot for 24 hours, and over time it gets more efficient, more at a time. Probably not a bad idea for those who never do pushups to begin with 30 for the first day, then 50 the next day, then 70, then 100.
Warning: The next Maggie's 30-day challenge in November will be similar, but for Burpees. We want to keep our readers alive. We need every one of our readers to keep getting the big bucks from Dunkin Donuts and Bob Dylan.
This is fun:
Wednesday, September 20. 2017
The essential two are:
They seem simple, but must be done with correct form and enough reps to matter. Youtube videos are good for that instruction. Both of the above can be made more cardio- and plyometrically-demanding with squat-jumps and jumping lunges, or more strength-building by adding hand weights.
The other mostly-lower body calis I do weekly are Jumping Burpees, Low Box Jumps, Mountain Climbers, High Step and Press, and Kettlebell Swings. All of the latter are also, at least for me, intense cardio exercises that I count as HIIT Cardio. I do calis in rotations of 3 or 4 of them and do my best to minimize breathing breaks. I mix in some planks, jump rope, etc.
Exercise Tip: Do your calis the days after weights, not the days before weights. That is, if you are over age 40. Calis do not technically require any recovery time, but at some point I think best to put in a cardio day between calis and weights.
Sunday, September 17. 2017
These two upper-body calisthenics are classics for good reason - they are simple, and efficient by stressing many muscle groups. These are mainly guy exercises, because males have greater, or greater potential, upper body strength and power than most women (so women commonly do assisted pull-ups and knee push-ups. But women have boobs, so there's that...).
I've been focusing on Push-ups lately because our Saturday morning class expects 200 of them in the course of an exercise session (for the guys and the gals). That's a lot, for me anyway, with or without my shoulder's damn traumatic arthritis. "Push-ups are basic strength-building total body exercises that strengthen the upper body and improve the core strength. Several muscle groups in the chest, arms, shoulder, triceps, back, and neck work simultaneously during a push-up." Yes, you tense your core (belly and back) like a board, but you have to breathe too. Little puffs.
Here's a simple challenge program to get you to 60 pushups in one go - or at least in one day. A healthy male under age 75 or 80 can quickly get to 50 pushups in a row, and work up from there if they want. Lots of guys aim to do 100 in a row. Why not 99?
Next, inclined pull-ups, aka inverted rows. These are mainly back, but secondarily shoulder and arm stressors (as are dumbell rows). Like regular pull-ups, you can do these overhand or underhand. I do them with TRX straps and alternate overhand and underhand.
Regular Pull-ups are primarily back muscle exercises (you do not pull with your arms - you thrust your elbows down with your back muscles). Chin-ups (palms facing you) engage more arm strength. Unassisted pullups are difficult for most middle-aged men, and for most women. Some tips for working up to your first pull-up.
If a guy can do 10 pull-ups, he's got darn good upper body fitness. I can't - but I could when I was 16. I will try but I doubt I will get to ten again. I saw a middle-aged gal do three sets of ten (unassisted) last week. She was a fit lady, no bulging muscles at all and only slight kipping.
The thing about exercises with multiple muscle groups is that the weak link fails first. Thus, to make your back work hard with pull-ups, you need to be able to keep a hold on to the darn bar with your forearms. Many humans are like T-Rex: puny arms, strong thighs.
Tuesday, September 12. 2017
Lots of Americans try to stay fit to extend the energetic, functional, productive and profitable part of their life span for as long as they can. It takes work but, as I say, only 5 1/2-6 hours of unpleasant work/week before or after work, and rational nutritional habits so you aren't over- or under- weight.
Mrs. BD and I tried a new fitness class early Sat. morning. We might be naturally lazy, but will not put up with that deplorable character flaw. Like my sister preaches about life, "Ignore how you feel. Always Go Do It."
More below the fold, with two calisthenics I can barely do -
Continue reading "Life in America: I am not Fit yet. How about you?"
Thursday, September 7. 2017
"Cardio" is sort-of a misnomer because all exertion raises heart rate. However, it is a shorthand that people use for forms of exercise which do not use heavy weights.
Let's keep it simple. To put an activity in the cardio category, you have to be continuously sweaty and short of breath (but not out of breath - that is anaerobic HIIT exercise) for about an hour. I ignore heart rate, but many people keep track of it. Thus walking, hiking, comfortable swimming, biking to the beach, are not exertion in any sense. They are just "living life" - the rewards of fitness. You know it's exertion (aka "exercise", as opposed to recreation) if you'd rather avoid it, if it sucks to be doing it, and if you want a nap after.
1. So-called "fat burning" cardio. Another misnomer because this doesn't burn fat worth a darn (nor does any form of one-hour exercise). This refers to around 60 minutes of aerobic exercise at a pace short of sprinting but with the maximum pace you can maintain for an hour. This is endurance exercise which does not stress the heart very much but puts it to good use. Running, elliptical, stairmaster, speedy biking, treadmill, speedy swimming are all typical "fat-burner" exercises. I mix them up without breaks to avoid boredom.
2. HIIT cardio. This is true cardiac fitness training. Often, it refers to exercise with 10-60-second wind sprints (or even more for some people) of maximum anaerobic effort relieved by slower but comparably-lengthed intervals. If you can do those intervals for 10 minutes without a full break before the next round, I am mighty impressed. I can't. I can only do about 3 reps of intervals without needing a minute break to lean on something while trying not to barf. HIIT cardio might help you survive your first heart attack because it increases heart vasculature. Regular bouts of HIIT will raise your level of performance on the "fat-burners" too. For HIIT, I use speed rope, combat bike, sometimes Stair machine or ski machine. Could just do running sprints outdoors.
3. Calisthenics. An hour of mixed calisthenics with no rest breaks is "general conditioning." It combines aerobic cardio, some bursts of anaerobic cardio, some explosive movements, and full-body muscle use (but not strength building). Typical cali routines include burpees, step-ups, pushups, running in place, planks, dips, ball slams, box jumps, mountain climbers, kettlebell swings, squats with light weights, lunges, roll-ups, heavy ropes, band walks, jumping jacks. Some activities like martial arts or playing sports contain calisthenic-like mixes. However, bear in mind that athletes use calisthenics to train to perform their best in the sports themselves. Sports are fun, not physical training.
Continue reading "Getting fit for Fall: Three kinds of "cardio" exercise"
Monday, September 4. 2017
2 good links from Time magazine:
The New Science of Exercise. Challenging exercise is medicine.
A good Time supplement (you have to buy it) The Science of Exercise: Younger. Smarter. Stronger.
Wednesday, August 30. 2017
Everything goes downhill quickly - cardio, endurance, speed, strength. Measurably downhill in 10 days. Unfortunately, things do not ratchet up in a positive direction unless you keep pushing it. In fact, there is no ratchet. There is only uphill or downhill.
That's why Mrs. BD and I try to stick to a fitness regime even on vacation. Too much time and money invested in it to let it slip away. Time off is like blowing your savings.
Friday, August 25. 2017
There must be an adaptive aspect to that. It explains why body-builders and getting-in-shape exercisers (those who are not in the fat or overweight category, but just a little 5-6-lb pudgy with undeveloped muscles) need to force-feed themselves their five small meals (large snacks instead of "meals") daily to support their fitness-building. Over months, some of those fat pounds can be replaced by solid muscle pounds in other places.
Overweight people, on the other hand, have many weeks or even months of survival energy stores already on board and really only need several 30-gm doses of protein daily if they are embarking on a strenuous daily fitness program because body fat is a fine energy source. Certainly not three regular American meals/day if they want to get in fighting shape. We have discussed the various forms of eating (ritualistic, social/recreational, impulsive/emotional, false hunger, etc.) here.
In the first case and in the second, we see that subjective "appetite" can be a trickster for adults. I could build an analogy to sexual instincts, but I won't. Goals, logic, and discipline are powerful human tools. Perhaps our most powerful.
Side note: If you enjoy difficult fitness training, you have a problem. Like grammar school, you are supposed to hate almost everything about it. If you don't hate it, and if it isn't mentally and physically painful and aversive, try a new program. If you hate it, but feel glad you did it afterwards, great, because that is life's deal in most ways. If your daily life is strenuous physical work, you can ignore all of this.