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, May 3. 2018
Since a study came out a few years ago, based on BMI, that heavy people live longer and healthier than thinner people, many heavy people applauded the news.
Of course, that study was nonsense. Overweight people are prone to countless ailments from arthritis to heart disease to breast cancer to Alzheimer's. BMI is not a crude measure, it is a useless measure. Just one of many reasons is that anybody with decent muscle development will come out as overweight on BMI. It turned out that those "heavy but healthy" statistics were due to the number of well-developed individuals in the study which BMI rated as overweight.
In fact, it turns out that higher muscle mass correlates with reduced risk of illness and death. (Well, risk of death is 100% but they mean sooner rather than later.)
A meaningful gauge of being overweight for your build and fitness is your Body Fat percentage. The simplest way to do this is to have somebody use the body fat caliper method on you. That does not measure intra-abdominal fat deposits, but it assumes a correlation. Your doctor's nurse knows how to do that. There are other ways too. (An easier way is to study yourself naked in a mirror.)
This site has two charts, one depicting "ideal" fat percentages based on fitness, and the second based on age. As an athletic female, I like to be around 25-30%. Seems disgusting for your body to be 30% lard, doesn't it? It can be fine for a slender lady, though.
Just for fun, no ab exercises will give you 6-pack abs. Killer abs are all about fat. "Good abs" are visible in men at around 8% body fat, and in women around 12%. Those are either highly-athletic (ie well-beyond "fit" percentages) or otherwise verging on anorectic. I will not recommend any %s lower than those, even for models and ballet dancers, and, generally, feel that those %s are too low for regular fit people. 20% is fine for a regular fit male who plays sports and works out.
Below the fold, photos for comparison of men and women with varying body fat percentages.
Continue reading "Overweight but healthy? Sorry."
Sunday, April 29. 2018
Our recommendation is that 1/3 of fitness training/conditioning (ie about 2 hrs/wk) be basic weight-training with gradually-increasing weights as tolerated. (Our simple plan is 2 hrs mixed cardio, 2 hrs calisthenics, 2 hrs weights, even though there is plenty of overlap to make it all synergistic.)
Friday, April 27. 2018
We had a comprehensive post on the mostly- "cardio" component (which is ideally about 1/3 of a fitness/conditioning program) earlier this week. A few related points from a somewhat different point of view:
- High-intensity cardio training is more about building Athleticism rather than the General Fitness for Life that most people desire. We use the term Athleticism to refer to the high levels of general fitness. More hard core. Many of our fitness posts here tend to have Athleticism goals - but why not set high goals? High goals and failure build character, right? My Dad taught me that.
- Generally speaking, cardio training can refer to anything that elevates the heart rate above walking, whether for short bursts of max intensity or for an hour of, for example, jogging or a few hours of hill-hiking. It's all relative though, depending on one's level of conditioning. For some elderly or overweight, a 3-5 mile hike might count as cardio exercise. For many, a 10-mile hike or a 3-mile jog is pure recreation and not cardio exertion at all.
Much more on the topic, from my point of view, below the fold -
Continue reading "Cardio exercise: a different view"
Tuesday, April 24. 2018
Since it was a bit of a hiking weekend, I decided to consider the topic from a health and fitness standpoint rather than from a fun and adventure standpoint. What I will say generally applies to all aerobic activities (ie rowing, biking, swimming, etc).
- First off, most articles we search discuss these topics in terms of weight loss and calorie-burning. That is nonsense. Unless you devote several hours/day to these things with a carb-restricted diet, they will do nothing for your fat. Let's take that off the table and accept that body fat is about nutritional choices and nothing else.
- Second, we are talking about things which are often referred to as "cardio" fitness and cardio training. They really are not cardio training without the high heart rate which can not be attained for healthy people through walking or jogging. Similarly for skeletal muscle strength. For general endurance, good. True "cardio training" entails repeated anaerobic sprints of almost any activity (often termed HIIT. You can do HIIT with kettlebell swings, wall ball slams, road-sprints, sprint pool laps, or anything that stresses the heck out of you for 30-60 seconds). 15-20 minutes (including rests) of HIIT accomplishes far more for cardio fitness than an hour of aerobic activity.
Third, recreational hiking, jogging, swimming, biking, rowing are more the happy rewards of fitness than stimuli to increased fitness. I can hike 10 miles because I am somewhat fit, not to become fit. Nonetheless, they are the sorts of things that distinguish an "active" person from a "sedentary". "Sedentary" roughly refers to a person with less than 8-10 hours/week of intentional, vigorous physical activity (not strolling, or housework or easy stuff), or less than 6 hours of high-intensity physical activity/week. A good measure of "high-intensity" is that you are short of breath most of the time.
- Except for newbies, the elderly, or the infirm, the above relatively low-intensity aerobic activities (I hesitate to term them "exercise" because they lack the high exertion component) are just fine for maintaining mobility and endurance for casual activities. They do not increase fitness once you can do them. Any healthy person can walk 10 miles, jog 3-5 miles, or swim a mile of laps. Still, aerobic endurance is a handy thing for life enjoyment.
- Walking and jogging put the same lower-body muscles to use. Both are easy on the hamstrings, which can lead to a muscle imbalance if jogging is your only activity. Anyway, these are not strength-builders or meaningful cardio training (because there is not a high-enough cardio stress once you have adapted to them).
- Jogging on cement or asphalt on a daily basis will come back to your joints at some point. For "long, slow", once/week is enough for a fit person who works out daily in other ways along with recreational physical activities such as sports. Running is speedy jogging with a long stride and sprinting is sprinting.
More on the topic below the fold -
Continue reading "What good is walking or jogging? Or other aerobic activities?"
Thursday, April 19. 2018
My friend's son benched 505 last week. He is a serious lifter, a hunk of granite. Going for your one-rep max in powerlifts (bench, squat, deadlifts) is not a great idea for us "functional fitness" people. There is no need at all to do it except as a feat. For general fitness, keeping powerlift reps in the 3-10 range is correct for heavier weights.
You can guess your one-rep max by extrapolating from your 3 or 4-rep max. I do not have a lifter build (have a runner's build), but I go for barbell deadlift one-reps about twice a year, just for kicks and to be stupid. I discovered that I can not deadlift 275 lbs this week - just up to my knees. Damn. I know a gal who deads 300 lbs. Strong, fit gal with no visible muscle mass. Perhaps I did not warm up for it right...
With the powerlifts, always warm up light and work up, usually 5 total sets with a good rest between sets. If you want to be stupid like me once in a while, How to Warm Up for a One-Rep Max
If you like to use a trap bar for deadlifts (I do, occasionally), you can move much more weight than with the barbell. I have never tried a one-rep max with the trap bar.
Below the fold, a few words on other, non-powerlift pure strength exercises -
Continue reading "One-rep max (and strength in general)"
Wednesday, April 18. 2018
People have different goals for physical training. Aspiring or real athletes have a training program designed for their specific sport. Training for tennis is different than rowing training. Endurance training is an entirely different thing. Some people (very few, though) in the gym only care about lifting heavy and nothing else. Good for them. They have a goal. Some people simply jog on the treadmill every day, sit on the exercise bike reading the news, or swim laps, etc. Putting in the time. I don't know why they do that (the elderly excepted), but they are convinced it's good for them and they are doing something besides sitting so that's good.
However, most people just want what we discuss here: Fitness for Life. That means fitness for recreational sports and activities, an energetic and vigorous approach to life with enough strength to handle tough things and enough endurance to never feel tired or lazy. Not to mention the considerable mental benefits.
I think many people (as I did) suddenly hit a point at which one is forced to face the limits of energy, or strength, endurance, vitality, agility, power - whatever. It is depressing. That is the Come To Jesus moment.
That is why we focus our fitness posts on general, functional, fitness rather than on specialized forms of training. The physical basics: Cardio, Calisthenics, Muscle and bone Strength.
Tuesday, April 17. 2018
That is about dietary fat. If you are concerned about hyperlipidemia, let your doc treat it if it concerns you. There are many alternatives for that.
To lose body fat, only a low carb diet works. Your body converts all carbs to sugar and then stores the excess sugar as fat. Dietary fat doesn't make people fat. Everybody knows what carbs are: sweets, fruits, dessert, root vegetables, juices, beer, grains, grain products eg pasta and bread, beans, corn, etc. The comfort foods.
To gain or maintain weight, eat plenty of everything including apple pie, ice cream, beer, Big Macs - and 70-100 gms of protein daily if you do heavy exercise (eg weights).
Can you lose weight with an hour of daily exercise? It depends on the intensity of that hour, but it's not a realistic effect for most. Still, it is worth doing for countless other good reasons including mental well-being and energy. Intense exercise tends to reduce appetite, so there's that too.
Powerline's Scott Johnson got the memo.
Saturday, April 14. 2018
Tuesday, April 10. 2018
Is jumping a hard impact on joints? Nope. Properly done, the steps are lighter than those of ordinary walking which pounds your heels. Ankle hops, not real jumps.
Since I have been jumping at my gym, I see more and more guys doing it. Few gals do it, maybe because of the boing-boing. One of the guys, a tall slender black dude, is a jump rope artist. He is like a dancer, varying his form from singles to doubles to side steps to scissor steps to running man to single-leg hops, seemingly effortlessly with small efficient steps. I want to get there, but I never will.
At this point, I can do singles for fairly long (but I rarely do them for more than a couple of minutes at a time), Running Man, and I am beginning to get relaxed with scissor step and the jack step. It's all about rhythm, cool and relaxed, just letting the rope go on autopilot.
Here's the scissor step. If you have learned Running Man, it's pretty easy to get the hang of it. She is pretty good, but I think the steps ideally are smaller and lighter. For good form, note how her arms and hands never change position.
(Jump Rope Jacks below the fold -)
Continue reading "Jump Rope Fun"
Thursday, April 5. 2018
From what is known now, only intense physical effort can delay it (ie heavy weights, sprints, maybe high-volume anaerobic calisthenics, and the like. Comfortable or aerobic exercise doesn't help). Many claim it can be reversed to some extent, and I think it can.
That is from a somewhat grim article explaining physical performance and ageing, mainly focused on running but applicable to all physical activity. Yes, high-intensity exertion does raise levels of growth hormone, and that is good.
They also recommend supplemental creatine for middle-aged, and above, heavy daily exercisers. There is good evidence for its helpfulness. Especially for those over age 30, supplemental creatine (naturally found mostly in red meat and especially in rare red meat) permits a higher level of intensity of exertion for sprinting and weight-lifting, resulting in more muscle stress, resulting in stronger muscle repair (protein synthesis) during a recovery day or two.
Strength Training Helps to Stop Age Related Muscle Loss. Mind you, "training" means it is unpleasant and highly aversive for good reason: it's hateful, stressful work requiring delayed gratification, not recreation. Not for everybody (obviously).
Wednesday, April 4. 2018
HIIT (High-intensity interval training) comes in many forms. As usual, everybody has his opinion about it. The general format is 30-60-second full-out sprints followed by active recovery (slow) intervals at a 1:1 or 1:2 time ratio. For me, the !:2 works best. For example, when I do HIIT on the treadmill I do 60-second sprints followed by 2-minute slow walks but I probably should do 30-sec sprints with 60-sec walks. Trouble is that it takes several seconds to get anything up to max speed.
- Speed? Obviously the pace of a "sprint" depends on fitness level. All that matters is that you give it everything you've got. Pace will improve over weeks.
- Warm-up? A 5-10-minute warm up before an HIIT session is recommended. My habit is a 10-minute low-resistance elliptical before I do any exercise at all. Gets everything warmed-up without fatigue and reduces risk of cramps or sprains.
- How many HIIT reps? Generally 5-10 is the limit. Stop when the quality of the sprints deteriorate noticeably. I aim for 10, but it depends on the day.
- Jump right in to HIIT? No, not if over age 40. Crawl, walk, then run.
- Does a tough hour of calisthenics count as HIIT? Sort-of, but not entirely. Thing is, people usually do not do calisthenics at max pace. They pace themselves (as do I) to be able to complete the routine. 60 seconds of max intensity/speed of jumping jacks is very tough. 60 seconds of warm-up jumping jacks is not so tough.
- How often can you do HIIT? As often as you want, but you won't have time for your other exercises if you do them daily.
- Does HIIT build strength? Really only cardiac strength. Keeps the muscles working and functional, though.
- Are things like Soul Cycle HIIT? Yes, they are.
- Does HIIT build endurance? Yes, generally-speaking. While some different energy systems and muscle fibers are activated by different forms of activity, a good sprinting regimen builds endurance. That's why endurance/distance athletes use HIIT in their training programs. Marathoners today run sprints to train, as do distance swimmers and bikers.
- What forms? Almost anything. Probably ideal to vary it week to week. Swim, run, speed jump rope, combat bike, rower, ski erg - whatever you can speed up and slow down with. I see good jumpers do 15 minutes of HIIT - with all the jump rope variations and the speeds up and down. It's like a dance. I can not do 15 minutes of jump rope at any speed.
- Time? Say you do a ten-minute warm-up and then 20 minutes of HIIT. What to do afterwards to fill out your daily hour of exercise? Well, I do whatever I want to fit in. Some calisthenics like pushups, pullups, curls, goblet squats, lunges, etc. Stay busy. There is no end to things to do. An hour goes by fast.
- What about weight-loss and fat-burning? No exercise does much for that. That's nutritional. If you are fat, you eat too much, and it will slow you down. Too skinny? Grab a Big Mac with fries.
- What about "Long, slow"? "Long, slow" exercises like an hour of fast walk, jogging, swims, biking, etc are fine for maintaining endurance but do not count as cardio training because they do not raise the heart rate high enough. As I have said, I often do an hour of "long,slow" weekly, mixing it up between elliptical, stair machine, and treadmill or rower unless there is a multi-hour hill hike instead. My genius trainer approves of these things as a "recovery day," not as exertion. For fitness beginners, though, they can feel exertional.
Thursday, March 29. 2018
"The most difficult fitness exercise is dragging your lazy, useless ass to the gym."
My genius trainer.
Tuesday, March 27. 2018
Image shows two things: the difference between half squat and full squat, and terrible form in the second image
Squats (and deadlifts) are the two most functional muscular exercises. The former is getting up, and the latter is picking up stuff.
Squats are known as "The King of Exercises" because so many muscle groups are stressed. They are also said to be beneficial for knee joints.
Squats come in many forms: the basic barbell back squat (a power lift), and calisthenics like body-weight squats, squat-and press, side squats, squat jumps, heavy ball wall throws, etc.
After we did 3 sets of jumping squats and 3 sets of body weight squat-and-holds this morning in 6 AM class I have been thinking about how to deepen my barbell squats. With body-weight or hand weights, I can do full squats easily, but with heavier weight I do not go below 45 degrees. It's partly confidence and partly weakness.
To do full squats with barbell weights (instead of half-squats, 45 degrees) I think I need to reset my barbell squat program with the plain bar (45 lbs) or light weights and to try to work up quickly from there. I'm convinced that the full squat is the real deal.
What about you?
Below the fold, image depicting all of the muscles engaged in a full squat. She's using dumbells, but it is not as if gals cannot do barbell squats. They sure can, and using the bar makes it more reliable to keep a chest-up posture. On the other hand, dumbell squats get you low if you touch the dumbells to the ground...but on the third hand, barbell back squats let you squat with more weight than your grip is strong.
Continue reading "Deep Squats?"
Saturday, March 24. 2018
Three sets of 15 reps of the heaviest kettlebell you can maintain form with. Good stuff - wakes up your hammies too. It's a hip thrust/hip hinge.
These guys talk too much. Sorry about that.
Friday, March 23. 2018
The scrawny learn that they need to push themselves to build themselves up for strength and endurance, and the pudgy are forced to realize how much their pudge slows them down. Therefore they are motivated to pay more attention to their nutritional habits so they can keep up.
A physiological factor is that an hour of daily exertion tends to reduce appetite in pudgy adults. Exertion means "hard to do." Scrawny people may have to force-feed themselves somewhat. Athletic and physically-active people tend to consume what they need, not so much what they want.
So that is how an hour of daily cardio, calisthenics, and weights helps get people into fighting shape. The exertion itself is a minor factor but it is a motivator. Physical maintenance.
Thursday, March 22. 2018
There are many things called that people term "cardio." However, Cardio means highly-elevated heart rate. Nothing wrong with ordinary swimming, jogging, stair-climbing, walking, rowing, etc for recovery days, but they do not do much for conditioning except for the infirm.
For cardio conditioning, use brief all-out sprints in all of the above. 30-60-second sprints, then a 60-second breather before the next one. That's HIIT - a good component of fitness training.
It took me a while to go from jogging to sprinting, but it has been worth it. Sprinting is an endurance-builder.
Still, as we say, doing anything is better than sitting.
Wednesday, March 21. 2018
What is "Conditioning"? It's basic physical maintenance. Five conditioning classes a week is not a bad idea for beginners. Gotta start somewhere.
As usual, government is a bit behind the times but that is not a bad plan for a beginner. It's difficult to make a general statement given that age, starting condition, diet, body build, level of fat, physical limitations, etc. all are factors. I'll disagree with the "moderately-intense" weasel-wording because, depending on age and condition, "Cardio" condtioning means high heart rate.
For the less ambitious, though, I have no argument with moving every day, however minimally. Walking or swimming can't hurt you, but our focus here has been to encourage committed fitness ambition for the best, energetic, adventurous, vigorous life possible. Sounds corny but that's just where we are. Pushing the envelope, feeling the pain.
More below the fold -
Continue reading ""Conditioning" classes"
Saturday, March 17. 2018
After a few weeks of these simple low-impact calisthenics/cardio daily, you can begin to advance, lengthen, and intensify your overall program. Ignore those calories - it's not true and it means nothing.
These trainers talk kind of silly, but that's normal. The girl shows you how to modify if you can't keep up with the guy yet:
Wednesday, March 14. 2018
Every few weeks, I will cut a day out for recovery if I feel I need it. That's an age factor, I think. However, consistency is key.
Two years of that program will get anybody of any age, gender, or condition into decent fitness - with the appropriate nutrition for weight-gain or loss. Physical renovation, literally. Lean, no bulging muscles but just solid strength, endurance, and athleticism. I am towards the northern region of middle age, so I can speak to this with some authority. Not to mention a deplorable history of intermittent tobacco abuse.
Re the calisthenics component, right now I take one cross-train class/week (basically no-rest cardio/calis, lots of burpees, rowing, mountain climbers, and jumping around), and a mixed calis/HIIT session I do on my own for 75 minutes/wk on Sat. morning.
Typically I do 3 circuits of each group of four exercises until my time runs out. I see many guys and gals doing similar sorts of circuits on their own at the gym, but classes push the cardio and sweat harder than many will do on their own.
Below the fold, the typical circuits I use after a 5-minute elliptical warm-up and calf stretch. It's not classic HIIT, but it works in the same way. I do classic HIIT weekly on the treadmill - 30-sec sprint, 2 min slow walk.
This is classic old-fashioned "exercise" (asterisks for the things I consider HIIT) --
Continue reading "Mixing your Calisthenics Day(s) with HIIT - Old-fashioned "exercise""
Thursday, March 8. 2018
Thus we raise the intensity. Instead of lifting light rocks from the field all day, we do 4 sets of heavy deadlifts, and done. Instead of jogging for one or two hours, we do 30-45-second sprints.
Furthermore, a good balanced program can pack that in with minimal or no risk of injury, unlike somebody who shovel-digs ditches all day. The thing is, in the western world very few jobs require day-long heavy lifting any more. That is all mechanized.
Today, even professional tennis players (and all athletes) do their gym programs in addition to their sport training. Playing a sport is more of a use of fitness rather than a cause of fitness. Even many people who do a lot of work with their bodies (eg carpenters) go to the gym to stay fit for their work.
As readers know from endless repetition, we recommend, for general fitness for life for men and women, a balanced program of resistance training (heavy weights), calisthenics, and cardio (meaning heart rate elevated well-above comfort). We also recommend nutrition approaches to meet your fitness goals.
Tuesday, March 6. 2018
I have had enough success with patients who want fat loss over the past 12 months with Contrave to feel that it is worth a mention. It's a magic elixir of Wellbutrin and Naltrexone. Both seem to have a measurable effect of reducing cravings of all sorts. No, it's not quite magic but it can reduce greed and take some of the burden from self-restraint.
I have posted in the past about how subjective hunger (aka "false hunger") is common in the overweight who have no caloric needs at all but who tend to desire more intake and to eat more avidly, more rapidly, than normal-weight people. It may have something to do with the loss of satiety signals, or ignoring them. Insulin sensitivity plays a role, for sure, and that is produced by poor or excessive eating habits. Psychological factors too. All we really know is that, if you are overweight and hungry, something is out of whack because you do not really need any food at all.
(As I have asserted in the past, exercise does nothing meaningful for fat loss. I'll make one exception to that: compulsive exercisers who work out for hours daily, but they usually are living on organic lettuce from Whole Foods too. One other factor: for most people, heavy-duty cardio and weights do tend to reduce appetite. People in rigorous daily fitness programs therefore need to follow nutritional programs to make sure their intake is sufficient to support their efforts or they can risk losing muscle while their bodies are undergoing renovation. This only applies to body renovation projects, not maintenance)
A book (h/t Dr. Helen at Instapundit): Younger Next Year for Women: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy - Until You're 80 and Beyond
Monday, March 5. 2018
Start with 30-60 second sets.
Saturday, March 3. 2018
It's good to do them forward and also sideways on a box. It they are too easy for 20 reps with each leg, raise the height or grab a hand weight or kettlebell to raise the intensity.
3 sets of 15-20 on each leg is good leg exercise - quads, glutes, and hammies. With exercises like this, use a 30-40-second plank as a recovery before the next set so you aren't just standing around. These step-ups will help with your box jumps too - not to mention your mountain hiking which is the important thing because fitness may be made in the gym (and with nutrition) but it is for living life vigorously rather than being a lazy book-reading and internet-surfing slob like I used to be.
Friday, March 2. 2018
As I become fitter, my ability to do box jumps is improving. I am now able to do a good series of 18" box jumps. The young athletes I see get much higher. Although these are muscle- and agility-training exercises, they are also HIIT cardio. 15 box jumps gets my heart pounding through my chest. (My gyms use soft boxes, to avoid bleeding shins. Crossfit uses hard boxes, of course.)
The beginner basics: