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, January 11. 2018
For those who believe that you can burn fat with exercise (I do not), this format does keep your metabolism elevated for up to one or two hours after finishing. These sorts of things do not build strength. That's not what they are for. They are for energy, agility, and cardio endurance. Some powerlifters like to take the class because, despite their size and strength, they want agility, quickness, and endurance too. They have little of those.
I take a 50-minute class weekly which is basically Met Con but not labeled as such. A typical routine in that class might be a 20-second kettlebell swing followed immediately by 20-seconds of pushups followed by 30 seconds of mountain climbers, then a 5-second rest before repeating 3 times. Then a 30-second rest before going into the next triplet of calisthenics (which might be a similar pattern with 20-seconds of burpees, 30-second rower sprints, and 30-second squat and presses. The timing is everything.
I can testify that this format improves general conditioning, because when I began with it I couldn't really complete the class and stole seconds of rest time. I still steal a couple of seconds of rest time to catch my breath but I can get through the class.
More on the topic below the fold -
Continue reading "Met-Con training"
Tuesday, January 9. 2018
In my view, physical fitness is mainly for full-life functionality, energy, and fun - not to prevent death. Delaying death is fine, of course, if the life before death arrives is full, productive, and physically, mentally, and spiritually engaging.
In civilized cultures, generally your odds are almost 50/50 heart disease or cancer unless you are one of those who just dies from decrepitude, feebleness, and general body rot. What's your preference? Mine is to go via a quick cardiac arrythmia or a stroke while doing something fun, and too far from any medical help that might force me to survive with a nasty disability which would damage my dignity and make me a burden on others.
Everybody in western cultures has some degree of arterial disease after age 40 or 50 whether it is diagnosable or not. It's part of ageing, especially in an affluent society with plenty of good antibiotics available to make sure you don't die of pneumonia.
If you care, this study suggests that stressful aerobic cardio exercise 5 days/week is beneficial for cardiac health. That means keeping your heart rate at around 65-70% of your max for an hour. That is neither easy not comfortable because it means to stay intensely aerobic, ie huffing and puffing and sweating - but at a rate to be able to keep it up. In fact, it's a bitch to do. That's why few do it.
More efficient to do anaerobic HIIT in my opinion. They didn't study that.
A bit more below the fold -
Continue reading "Exercise and heart disease"
Wednesday, January 3. 2018
But can he run (not jog) a mile? Readers know we favor a balance of HIIT Cardio (total 1/2 hr/wk), Endurance "cardio" (1 hr/wk), serious weights (2 sessions/wk), and calisthenics (2 sessions/wk) for full functional fitness. I doubt that Rippetoe would argue with that, but he is mostly a weights guy. I don't know about our readers, but I find a one-hour calisthenics class to be more challenging - and more satisfying at the end - than anything else I do. They get you jumping and moving like a 16 year-old. The endorphins make you feel like you can take on the world, but you can hardly walk or talk. That tells you that you have done something hard.
Age is no barrier to any fitness pursuit. The body is made to adapt to demands. The discipline to make those stress and dietary demands is the hardest part, but it builds character. No pain, no gain. Best not to wait until you are scared into it by a nasty problem.
Saturday, December 30. 2017
Deads are about picking up heavy stuff, and putting it back on the floor. A basic functional effort and good training for how to pick things up without back strain.
They are demanding of every lever in your body. For men and women especially after age 40: Why deads belong in any fitness program: Deadlifts are important, and you should be doing them. Here’s why.
Good technique is essential. Do them wrong (eg lifting with your back istead of your legs) and you can hurt yourself. Do them right - it's not complicated - and your whole body gets stronger including your back. Deadlifts prevent aging! Mrs. BD does them weekly, and swears
Besides general fitness, just doing 5 sets (including a warm-up set) of heavy deads once-weekly has been great for my posture. Generally finishing with my 6-8-rep max. I only aim for a max one-rep effort every couple of months, just for fun (?). Since I am not a big strong guy, I can probably only get to around 300 with a trap bar at this point, and that is good enough for government work. With a plain bar, my grip tends to fail first. (I do need to work on my grip strength.)
Mens sana in corpore sano. (The former is a tougher challenge than the latter.)
(An important deadlift tip - and for barbell squats too - that is rarely mentioned: Make sure your bowels are well-emptied first. The intra-abdominal pressure gets high with heavy weights, and you do not want an accident. Farts are expected, but...)
Friday, December 29. 2017
At the same time, moving at all is probably a better idea than not moving. It burns no fat (not that you need that) and builds no strength, but certainly helps maintain some minimal degree of endurance and mobility.
I tried to introduce one hour of this sort of thing into my weekly regimen a few months ago as a "recovery day" (with a mix of treadmill, stairmaster, and elliptical) but I just can't stay with it. My body seems to insist on bursting into one-minute sprints in the course of it every several minutes, thus converting it to HIIT. Maybe it's because I am in half-decent shape, but my body just wants to pound it every few minutes instead of slogging along. I guess that's a good effect of my fitness training - energy.
Wednesday, December 27. 2017
I get his point, but I do not think that fitness is equivalent to physical labor. Our carpenter lifts weights in the gym with the intention of continuing to be able to carry heavy things at work through his 70s. In my case, I have always done all of the outdoor labor at the HQ and the farm that I have time for (ie weekends), but I never saw any fitness gains from that. It is enjoyable for me, though.
For house-cleaning and laundry, we have two high-energy Polish immigrants who leave everything spotless, neat, and sparkling. Their only requirement of us is that there be no clutter, nothing on the floor, and nothing on any surfaces.
When you have day jobs, nobody wants to spend a weekend house-cleaning and doing laundry. Heck, we even do our workouts Sunday morning before church.
Friday, December 22. 2017
Our friendly little neighborhood gym has been running a challenge test (a general fitness race) through the month of December.
Here's how it works: A 60-second sprint on the row erg, an exactly 3-minute rest, then a 60-second sprint on the ski erg. Then your trainer adds up your total meters and posts it on the board. Only trainers can record the test.
They post your name, age, and total meters on the white board. There is a column for men and one for the women. Talk about exposure - but it is highly motivational. If you repeat the test (which everybody does to try to improve their score), your highest score goes on the board.
The reason this is a good general fitness test is because it is cardio fitness combined with maximum power (power= strength x speed) demands from the entire body. I felt like puking for 10 minutes afterwards which I feel is evidence of genuine effort.
I managed to just break the 500 meter mark this week, but there are guys with over 600. The women are mostly in the 300s. A 74 year-old guy had a 545 so I feel I definitely have to beat that codger. I have a week to get there.
In fitness, you mostly compete with yourself but it's fun to see how you measure up once in a while. Reality hurts, but truth is good for the soul.
Wednesday, December 20. 2017
The sad answer is "Not really." Only moving the heavy weights can improve strength efficiently, but some calisthenics can at least maintain strength, prevent muscle decay, and maybe build a little strength too if not just muscle endurance.
That post mentioned some of those key lower body exercises.
Below the fold, good video tips on often-neglected Side Lunges and correct technique for Body-Weight Squats (We believe in "Ass To Grass").
Continue reading "Lower body fitness"
Sunday, December 17. 2017
With help from friends and readers. Let's face it: people will avoid hard things unless they work up some self-discipline.
Please feel free to add more loser excuses in the Comments
It's too early
It's too late
I have too much to do
I'm right in the middle of something
I'm having trouble getting going today
I just ate
I'm too hungry
I think I have a cold coming on
I feel too tired today
I have errands to do
I'll start in the New Year (Right! Meaning in 2019)
I need to lose some weight first (Right! Meaning never)
I have a morning appointment (right - probably "early" - like 8 o'clock, by which time most people have exercised, showered, dressed, checked their emails, and are at work or on the way to it)
I might just go for a nice walk instead
I'll get to it later (of course you will)
I had a hard day yesterday
My stomach doesn't feel right
I hate the gym (It's a playground for adults seeking health and vigor. What's to dislike about that?)
It's (snowing, raining, too windy)
It's too cold out
It's too hot out
I deserve some rest time (Really? Convince me that you deserve anything)
I feel a twinge in my (foot, leg, knee, hip, back, shoulder, etc)
I didn't sleep well last night
I'm too distracted/upset about (whatever)
I know I ought to...
I'm just a lazy low-energy SOB by nature, and that's not my fault.
Finding excuses for everything in life is just my nature - and my nature is not my fault.
Friday, December 15. 2017
Stronger legs without weights? For weekend mountain hikers and fitness nuts. Piano-movers may ignore this post.
Walking, jogging, running, and elliptical don't do anything to build lower body strength. Those things are about cardio and endurance - which are also useful things to pursue with exercise.
Strength for full functionality is something different. It's not easy to build lower body (hips, glutes, legs) strength without heavy weight exercises like deadlifts and barbell squats, but there are some exercises that can help get in shape for skiing, mountain hiking, etc. - and are good cardio too. I generally do 3 sets of each of them once weekly in addition to my heavy weight regimen:
- Mountain Climbers - 50-100/set (left+right = 1). They toughen your core too, because it's a dynamic plank.
- Body weight squats. I combine them with 90 degree 10-second squat-sits every 10 squats. It burns.
- Squat and press, with lighter hand weights - a good full-body calisthenic. Or Step Up and Press.
- Lunges - forward, backwards, sideways. I do them with lightish hand weights, like 10 lbs.
- Kettlebell swings. Don't use your back - use your hips.
- Box jumps or jumping squats
- Stairmaster machine, at whatever speed you can handle. Your body adapts quickly to this demand. People say it's a fat-burner too but I doubt it unless you go for 45 minutes at a brisk pace. (the first 20 minutes of any cardio exercise burns zero fat)
Thursday, December 7. 2017
Yesterday we had some agreement and some disagreement on the topic of the value or the role of "Long, slow, " aka aerobic, cardio workouts in a fitness or conditioning program.
My Conditioning program, which I hope to continue until something knocks me out of the ring, includes some pure cardio but it is a balanced and varied program designed to address all of the aspects of physical fitness.
What's the rationale, and what's that program? (Somewhat lengthy post below) -
Continue reading "Aerobic exercise, and balanced fitness programs in general for ordinary people"
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?