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, 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:
Thursday, March 1. 2018
Where I work out, we have to do Birthday Burpees. That is, your age in burpees on your birthday. Not non-stop, of course... unless you can. Burpees are plyometric calisthenics.
This beast of a calisthenic was invented by Dr. Royal Burpee.
I hate the way some people can make them look easy and fluid.
Tuesday, February 27. 2018
No metcon exercises require much technical training or athletic ability. It's the repetition that gets you. These classes will kick your ass more than any hour of powerlifting. The routines and the rest times are timed to the second (eg 5-second rests and 15-second rests). Your real rest and recovery comes after the 50 minutes is over.
Trainers who run metcon classes usually vary the routines from week to week. Right now, I do one metcon class/week to complement the other exercises I do. I'd like to fit in another. My experience is that at 5 or 6 AM you really are not eager to face this trial, but after a 5-minute warm up with all the friendly people, you feel ready to get going. You might hate to go, but are always glad you went. I am not the oldest guy or gal in my class, but I guess I am on the upper level of age with more than a touch of grey. So what? Bring water.
Is metcon different from HIIT? Yes. That's why I squeeze in 1/2 hour of HIIT every week. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN METCON AND HIIT?
For example, the guy below runs a two-ring metcon circus. (Sometimes my classes actually require four rings. A quarter will be running sprints, a quarter rowing sprints, a quarter squat and presses, and a quarter doing burpees). "Five, four, three, two, one - Switch!" A Metcon routine example:
Friday, February 23. 2018
Image: My selfie just to show how buff I have become with my program after almost two years.
We dare not presume to tell our smart readers what to do to build and maintain fitness. We are telling you what we do, based on our research and the advice from our very stable genius trainers.
This is not about fat loss. That is nutritional. This is only about building and maintaining full functionality despite the efforts of Father Time (patriarchal, isn't that?) to destroy our bodies, spirits, and minds.
Monday: Hour of powerlifts and weights, #1 sequence
No program is perfect, but this at least covers all the bases of strength, calis, and cardio. Biggest challenge is keeping one's weight increasing a bit in a relentless program like this.
Note: doing the same thing any two days in a row is not a good idea, because weights need recovery, and the same cardio becomes too efficient to be effective. Need to keep your adaptation off-balance. I alas have no sports this winter, for various reasons.
Asterisks below the fold -
Continue reading "My middle-aged Fitness Program, for 2018"
Tuesday, February 20. 2018
The useful article related to aging is here.
also, re weights:
I disagree with the powerlifts to failure. I do tend to agree with that "repetitions x sets x load" equation for most men and women over 45 or 50. Still, we aren't talking about light weights. We're talking about 25-30% of your one-rep max. Younger folks, or experienced exercisers, can ramp up the load. Generally speaking, at any age, the max number of reps for powerlift sets should be 10-12. For smaller muscle groups (eg arms, calves) it's fine and safe to burn it out with 20 reps.
Use it (stress it) or lose it.
Sunday, February 18. 2018
Our strength potential has a lot to do with genetic physical architecture. However, this is a statistical phenomenon, not a law. Two reasons why shorter people can be "stronger":
- More compact muscle mass. A smaller person might have the same genetic muscle base as a 6'2" person.
- The laws of levers. Most physical movements involve Third Class Levers of bone, tendon, and muscle. Longer bones mean the range of motion (say, in inches) in a physical effort has further to go, and is thus more challenging. When the fulcrum is in the same place, and the lever is longer, it takes more force to move. Basic mechanics.
So if your 5'8" friend can bench more than you, this might be part of why that is. Speaking statistically, of course, because there are plenty of short weak people and plenty of giant strong people (like Thor, in photo).
Thursday, February 15. 2018
For powerlifting and related high-resistance exercises, we tend to alternate between higher (10) rep days and lower (5-6) rep days. Obviously, the number of reps reflects the max weights that we can do at those reps. 10 reps means you can't do 11 with good form.
Of course, over time you keep upping the weights.
Our format is to do a light warm-up with the specific exercise, then only four-five working sets. And that's it for my weekly deadlifts, for example. A younger person could do more each week (like twice), but there is a time consideration too.
Our typical weight exercises are below the fold -
Continue reading "Weights: 5- rep and 10-rep days"
Wednesday, February 14. 2018
The universality and popularity of general fitness programs is partly because they have nothing to do with physical talent.
Your genetics do determine many of your physical capabilities at advanced levels, but rarely at ordinary levels. Short people can be fine basketball players, for example - but not at a college level. Long-limbed people can do good bench presses and deadlifts, although not as readily as compact people. Everybody can run, swim, and do bench presses. Most people are physically effective but not blessed with special talents. That is why general fitness is popular - anybody can engage in it.
Besides your physique/physical structure, genes determine your ratio of fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscle fibers, your neuromuscular connections, your brain-neuromuscular responses, eye-hand coordination, your aggressiveness and energy, lung volume, etc.
Not to mention non-genetic factors like drive, training, and practice.
The point I wish to make is that, as with musical talent or intellectual horsepower, everybody has a level at which they can best perform, and few people ever reach those levels. In fitness, your only competitor needs to be yourself from last month.
Of course, we all have varying degrees of competitiveness, but that should never be any obstacle. Not one of our readers will play in the NFL, the NBA, or in the US Open. Or, for that matter, perform in the NYC Ballet.
My advice, to be able to engage in the fullness of life, is to get out and move hard every day with weights, calisthenics, cardio, etc - and to do a lousy job of it if need be because there are no grades. Giving it your all is all that is required.
Tuesday, February 13. 2018
How often do you feel "bursting with physical energy"? It's a wonderful feeling. We see it in kids all the time. They have to run, have to move, have to dance, have to climb, can't sit still. It's hard to know what it's about, though.
Feeling as energetic as a 7 year-old, with that need for physical activity, is rare in those over 30. A sedentary lifestyle (roughly defined as less than 6-8 hours of exertion/week - not including walking unless elderly) is a mental habit rather than a measure of any sort of true physical "energy." Energy, however, accrues to the energetic even though we will never be 7 again.
I make distinctions between these biological and psychological things:
1. The drive, need, and desire for challenging physical activity that derives from high fitness (Get Up and Go is a result of fitness + attitude),
OK, so subjective "energy" is not mainly related to actual physical "energy". Same word, different things. #3 is of most interest to me even though it has nothing to do with how much Get Up and Go you feel when you wake up in the morning. I have a strong bias in favor of those with that Go Go attitude regardless of age or physical conditioning.
Energy details below the fold -
Continue reading "Energy and exercise"
Wednesday, February 7. 2018
For ordinary "functional" fitness, lots of people skip the weights and do body-weight lower body strength workouts. These are the basuc things you need to hike up hills all day. Body-weight Lunges and Squats . And although Stair Machines are usually considered a cardio/endurance activity, they are a body-weight lower body muscle stressor for sure so I consider them cardio/calisthenic if done at a good intensity.
Predictably, I come down to my usual recommendations: Do all of it: Weights for strength and bone, cardio for heart, endurance, and stamina, and body-weight exercise/calisthenics for everything.
This 15- minute set of leg calisthenics with no breaks from Mindy looks good and tough. I would find it challenging at the least. Feel the burn. An hour of calisthenics like this will make you feel great the rest of the day.
Saturday, February 3. 2018
The thing about an hour of calisthenics is that, like your cardio/HIIT, it needs no more than a 24-hr recovery so you can do them the day after your weights day. My preferred sequence is Wts Mon, Calis Tues, Cardio Weds, Wts Thurs, Calis and/or Cardio Fri, Calis Sat.
After a ten-minute warm-up on elliptical, the rest below the fold:
Continue reading "A calisthenics day yesterday"
Tuesday, January 30. 2018
Even in overweight America there are plenty of under-developed (lacking muscle) or even scrawny (I don't mean anorectic) guys and gals who want to work on their strength, endurance, and overall fitness for life or to improve their athletic performance in some area. Chestless men and bony women.
My trainer tells me it's always an interesting challenge for him to train endomorphs (basically, skinny runner's builds) or, even more difficult, thinner or under-developed people with middle-aged guts.
People built like this will likely never have big muscles, but big muscles and functional fitness are not the same thing at all. Women, of course, can not build bulging muscles under any ordinary or non-chemical circumstances.
Weights and good nutrition are the keys to a sturdy body, but everything else is needed for balanced fitness too. A typical first-year program would be something like this:
- Weight-lifting 3 hours/wk (under age 45, 3/wk; older, maybe only 2- 2 1/2 hrs/wk with slower progress)
You can't build muscle without adding a little fat to your bones along with it. The added nutrition to support a program like this, for the skinny or the under-developed, might be something like this:
- protein and fruit shake after workouts
This volume of food intake can be a challenge for many, so it is something to work up to gradually. For most people to gain solid (vs fat) weight, the food intake will need to match the exercise intensity.
A program like that ought to be able to build 1 lb/month of solid (not flab) gain. A 10-12 lb gain in 12 months would be a good target. More might be too much because muscle builds very slowly. Let the scale be your guide and nourish yourself accordingly. If there is a gut, it should eliminate it. A gut on an under-developed guy or gal is not useful in life except in times of famine.
nb: Physically under-developed + overweight is an entirely different topic, as we have posted in the past
Friday, January 26. 2018
Want to be fit and trim, attractive, high-energy, light on your feet, and signaling that you have your act together?
You know the popular approaches:
- Low-carb Atkins-like plan. This means fats, protein, and non-root vegetables and greens, with nuts and berries to complete the nutrition. This makes physiologic sense because it trains your body to burn your fat for energy instead of the carbs you shovel into it normally.
- Small but ordinary meals. Eg, a hard-boiled egg and coffee for breakfast, half a sandwich for lunch, a couple of slices of cheese for a snack, and a half-portion of supper. This is a sustainable approach for most people, but it still might not work for you. It works great as a maintenance program for me, but I do not need to lose any fat and I do not have a voracious appetite. By the way, eating "until full" is disgusting and has nothing to do with nutrition. It's just a measure of how much you have stretched your stomach or ignore satiety signals. Normal people eat until satisfied, not until full. "Stuffed" is for the Thanksgiving turkey, or on Thanksgiving.
- Keep a nutrition calendar. Write down everything you put in your mouth. It's even more effective if you include Why you ate that donut. Bored? Tempted by flavor? Anxious? etc. Best idea: When those things happen, do something else as a diversion. If you are overweight, your subjective appetite is a liar because your body is lazy and doesn't want the hassle of burning your fat.
- Exercise is basically useless for fat-burning in any ordinary time frame unless combined with a nutrition program of caloric or carb restriction. However, this is not an argument for a sedentary life. Furthermore, intense exercisers should have a small dose of carbs/sugar before a session to be most effective at pushing the effort.
I have written about the "False Hunger" of the overweight in the past. Paradoxically, the people who least need food experience hunger more than fit people, and consume food more avidly. I think it's usually an effect of being overweight, not a cause, but everybody is different.
Often forgotten: Fruit and fruit juices do not really belong on any fat-burning program. A glass of OJ or apple juice is the same as a Coke. The Big Fruit industry somehow convinced people that there was something "healthy" about fruit. There is not. Fruit is dessert, a treat. Neither do cereals or grains, except minimally, belong on a fat-burning plan.
Lifting things off the ground is as basic and functional as any exercise gets. I disagree with Dr. Rusin's concern about ordinary barbell deadlifts, but he makes a good case for doing trap bar deads here.
One can certainly move heavier weight with the Trap and, for lower body strength, that's the most important thing. He also says that the Trap deadlift combines aspects of squat too. It does, but is not a substitute for squats.
For what it's worth, I switch from Trap to bar every once in a while, if only to keep it varied and interesting. (Unlike Mrs. BD, I hate deads - which means I need to do them.)
The only wisdom I can impart about the essential Deadlift is to use correct technique, and keep the weight high enough that your max reps are 6-10. With those large muscles, it's not a high-rep game.
Wednesday, January 24. 2018
13 Benefits of Weightlifting That No One Tells You About. That mini- article omits many benefits that resistance exercise provides as a component of a fitness program. One is simply resisting the muscular deterioration of ageing, and another is posture.
A reminder: With weights, go heavy or you're wasting your time. You get your high-rep exercise with your calisthenics, some of which use hand weights and kettlebells.
Friday, January 19. 2018
Let's say you are pudgy or fat and want to commit to a 6-7 day per week serious fitness program (something like the programs we recommend on Maggie's - not simply walking, aerobic swimming, or an hour trudging on a treadmill) to both lose fat and to get into fighting shape in general - high-energy, strong, trim, athletic, and fully-functional for life.
You have competing goals, fat loss and strength-building, which makes it complicated. So what sort of nutritional plan do you need for our programs of weights, calisthenics, HIIT, etc?
As readers know, fat loss is 90% nutritional under ordinary conditions. For sedentary people (less than 5-8 hrs/wk of strenuous physical activity), we recommend a low carb diet - lots of filler vegetables and greens, meat and fat. But if you are committing to an arduous daily exercise program too, you will need some amount of daily carbs and extra protein to sustain your exercise and to build/repair muscles happily damaged by exertion.
Nobody writes about this, but I have the correct advice.
For overweight serious exercisers only, use the scale as your guide. If you lose 2-4 lbs/month in your program, that's fine. If you lose much more than that, up your carbs and dietary volume a bit. If you lose less, lower your carbs and volume.
The reason is that too-rapid weight loss will interfere with your fitness and strength-building goals. If you want both, you have to balance these goals. You have to consider that, if you are doing weight training (which everybody ought to do), a male can actually gain 1/4 lb/month in muscle in the beginning months while losing fat at the same time.
I'd recommend as a starting point for overweight daily hard-exercisers a carb intake of mostly one fruit and a bowl of oatmeal daily, and allow for one or two light beers too, or a glass of wine, for sanity. No dessert, bread, potato, pasta, rice, etc. Then get on the scale after one month of the program and feed yourself accordingly. Never get on the scale more often than twice a month - preferably once monthly. And always at the same time of day.
nb: For relatively in-shape exercisers, the recommendations would be entirely different.
Sunday, January 14. 2018
Sedentary is generally defined as less than 5-7 hours of strenuous physical activity per week. That's a low bar, since many or most adults that I know seem to have a sport they play either seasonally or year-round at least once weekly.
What is "strenuous" naturally depends on the level of fitness, so it is easier to define what is not a strenuous hour, like walking. Basketball is strenuous, Baseball and golf are not. Heavy sweat is one measure of "strenuous", as is heart rate or deadlift weight. For example, many "cardio" exercises can be done strenuously or non-strenuously. Swimming, running, biking/spinning, and rowing can be done one of three ways: semi-comfortably, energetically, and full-out anaerobic sprints. The only way to make them "strenuous" is to do them for time x distance so you can compete with yourself.
When it comes to weights and calisthenics, "strenuous" is fairly obvious: if you can't do any more weight reps or pushups or jumping jacks, and your sweat is dripping on the floor, it was strenuous. "Strenuous" implies "strain," ie going beyond comfort to serious mental and physical effort despite discomfort and stress.
The CDC offers two levels of recommendations for adults, one for "Benefit" and one for "More Benefit". Their "More Benefit" recommendations turn out to be very similar to the sorts of programs discussed on our website: combinations of weights, HIIT cardio + endurance cardio, and calisthenics. Many people are rightly distrustful of government advice, but since it happens to roughly correspond to ours it might give their experts some credibility.
(They have separate recommendations for older than 65-70, but I see no reason for that. There is no necessary or observable correlation between age and fitness in adults).
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"