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, May 10. 2017
It's "settled science" that we can do cardio, calisthenics, and isolated muscle high-rep weights (eg curls, body-weight exercises, calf-lifts, pull-downs, heavy hands, sports) daily with no recovery problem, especially under age 65 or 70.
For power lifts with serious weight, it's a matter of some dispute. Every gal and guy wants to build strength as a component of his/her fitness aspirations, and everybody has an opinion about it of course, but there is no dispute that only weights build bone, ligament, and muscle strength. Everybody likes strength training - it is terribly challenging to mind, soul, and body but IT IS BRIEF.
Having read all I can, and discussing the topic with my docs (who are committed exercisers) and my genius trainer, I think doing powerlifts twice weekly (half one day, the other half of them the other) is just barely enough for the over-45 year-old group. Three days/wk of weight training might be optimal for strength, but then where would you find morning time for your cardio and calis? We need a balanced routine to build or maintain General Fitness for Life. We are talking strength here, not Body-Building which I feel is a dumb but harmless sport.
Younger people can handle more lifting than older, but younger people often work longer hours than the middle-aged so have a harder time finding time. They have kids to feed and to take to school in the morning.
Tuesday, May 9. 2017
I tend to disagree with his "moderate exercise" theme, but it all depends on your goals and level of motivation. You can't build strength, or speed, with moderate exercise but maybe most people don't aim to do either but just stay normal-fit. I'd kinda like to be extra-fit for my age, or at least "well-preserved," and I am getting there.
Thursday, May 4. 2017
Every person has his (or her) own ideas - and goals - about fitness. Here's another question for our readers: Let's say you're an over-40 or over-50 or over-60 year old guy or gal who has put in the time and discipline for two years to get back in good shape after the child-rearing years of self-neglect and over-working to save for tuitions, etc., etc.
You've done your weights, cardio, and calis religiously. Worked hard at fitness 6 days/wk, suffered, strained, sweated, and endured aches and pains especially when you didn't feel like doing anything but reading a book. You tried to eat enough protein to rebuild muscle. You found time to do it all even when you felt you had no time or energy.
Now you are trim and light on your feet, the belly is gone, you have muscles you haven't had since you were 21 or maybe never had, you look pretty acceptable nude (even if not an underwear model), you have a military posture, your sex drive is up, you can pound out 30 minutes of intervals on the elliptical or sprints on the track, you can jump and lift stuff and you don't get fatigued at the end of the day. You have settled into a routine of eating right and sleeping right, and your body and mind now have gotten into the habit of demanding some effortful physical work every day to feel fully alive. In other words, your animal self likes what you have achieved because you have done justice to one of God's gifts to you.
You are a happy middle-aged Spartan, ready for whatever life brings. While you can always improve regardless of age, you feel sort-of ready to lay off the aggressive daily boot camp effort and aim for smaller gradual improvement but primarily for maintenance of your fitness because, after all, apoptosis is the enemy. I just call it entropy.
For example, I do not feel a desire to run any 10K races anymore (but I could), or deadlift twice my weight (but I would like to and I am getting there), but I think I am reluctantly concluding that we can't ramp it down much because, with each year of age, we are swimming upstream against a stronger current. Regardless of what we do to keep body and mind youthfully vigorous, sooner or later the current will win and sweep us out to the cosmic sea.
I'd like the opinions of readers on this.
Wednesday, April 26. 2017
I am not referring to Battle Ropes, although I do like those as part of a calisthenics circuit. I am talking about heavy jump ropes.
Readers know I have become a fan of jump rope for calisthenics/cardio exercise. Unlike some of my fellow exercisers, I can not do a solid series of double-unders yet but I can do Running Man at length. During a set, I try to alternate Running Man with ordinary singles. I generally use an RX Smart Gear "Buff" 3.4 oz. rope, which is not a light speed rope.
I decided to try a 1 lb. rope last week for a few 45-second sets, aiming for 60 seconds. That is not weighted handles: it's the rope itself that weighs a pound. If you can jump rope at all, you can use this monster and it kicks your ass once you get it moving.
I did not expect it to take as much out of my entire body as it does. A man-killer. It was the first time in two years that I actually found myself sitting on a bench after a set of anything. That is shameful but, dammit, I just found myself sitting.
Give it a try sometime, for the fun of it. Like a set of burpees with jumps, you know that if you survive it you probably will not die of a heart attack, that day anyway.
Monday, April 24. 2017
My opinion: That is not a strength-building workout but it isn't a bad simple calisthenic workout for those who must exercise on their living room floor and have no access to fun calisthenic toys like kettlebells, heavy balls, pull-up bars, jump ropes, floor ladders, step-up boxes, etc.
Still, I'd say that that circuit repeated for 45 minutes would be an ok calisthenic workout. 9 minutes is nothing. Calis do not build strength but they certainly help maintain vigor. In other words, 45 minutes of that is a heck of a lot better than sitting on your ass.
We stand by our recommendations: Resistance + Calis + Cardio for overall fitness for life.
Thursday, April 20. 2017
From The Ultimate Guide to Sets and Reps for Strength Training, I think these are pretty good common-sense guidelines for the powerlifts, based on your goals. For powerlifts, however, I would not ever go over 10 reps per set. Instead, up the weight or the sets. Too many muscle twinges can happen with higher rep powerlifts, I believe. Higher reps for small or isolated muscles are fine, eg tricep push-downs, calf lifts, curls.
Exercisers need to know their max, approximately, for their powerlifts. For example, if I can deadlift 300 lbs for one or two reps, my 80% intensity is 240 lbs. What I do with powerlifts (not saying it's the best thing to do) is a warm-up set of 10 at 50%, then 4 working sets which gradually work up to about 80%. Just for fun, about once a month I will see if I can increase my max for 1 or 2 reps but I don't count that as a working set.
Tuesday, April 18. 2017
It's the recovery from the controlled damage and stress which produces the improvement.
All forms of personal growth require high stress to produce improvement, whether physical, mental, or emotional.
The purpose of intense physical exertion itself is to break you down, to damage muscles, to stress tendons, ligaments, bones, and neuromuscular connections to the point that they are forced to adapt. That is why only very difficult and unpleasant physical demands get results.
Building strength and power is meant to wreck your body and to blow your mind, but in a careful, controlled way.
We have all had the experience of feeling like a deadlift barbell is glued to the floor. Then somebody else, or your own head, says "You can do this, just get it off the floor" and suddenly "giving it your all" shifts and the meaning of "your all" expands into new territory.
With exercise, we should gain muscle weight. Unless we're fat, we should put on solid weight.
After an hour or so of power lifting, we recommend 48 hrs. with just an hour of Active Recovery before another day's power lifting. Passive Recovery is just decent sleep and adequate protein intake (over 80 gms/day). Active Recovery gets the blood moving, includes activities which require minimal recovery time, like calisthenics, cardio intervals, speed walking, etc. - just no heavy weights.
It all works together that way, at least for the middle-aged, in 5 or so hours of structured exercise - which is less time than most people waste watching TV and movies:
Continue reading "Exercise doesn't make you stronger "
Wednesday, April 12. 2017
You can use Trap (Hex) bars for squats or deadlifts.
I have used them a few times but the change disrupts my accustomed form. The idea (which makes sense) is that the centering of weight, the more natural grip, and the kindness to a sore lower back permit you to pile more weight on the bar, thus stressing your body more.
Have you tried it?
Wednesday, April 5. 2017
We post here frequently about the components of general fitness and physical training goals: strength, athleticism, power, endurance, etc. The variety of exercises that we recommend are stressing and training neuro-muscular and cardiac systems.
However, while we are stressing and challenging our bodies in all of the ways needed for balanced fitness, we are also training our metabolic energy systems for higher capactiy and efficiency. There is no need to know anything about it, but it is interesting.
It's basic high school biology. Animals (and plants) use ATP as an energy source for cellular functioning. ATP is generated and regenerated in the mitochondria.
However, our resting ATP batteries store very little reserve energy so 5- 20 seconds of high intensity, maximum anaerobic effort (eg 20-second sprints and HIIT sprints, or a set of heavy deadlifts) require instant regeneration of ATP. That's our "emergency" Phosphagen System. After depleted, it takes a couple of minutes to restore itself which is why you rest between deadlift sets or walk ("active recovery") between sprints. The Phosphagen system is trained by stressing it, but it has its limits.
After 10-20 seconds of high intensity, our cells turn to splitting sugar (mainly derived from carbs unless you have a Coke before exercise) - Glycolysis - to produce more ATP. This energy system, also requiring no oxygen, can keep us going for up to 2 minutes of intense effort. Like the Phosphagen system, Glycolysis is trained by short bursts of high intensity exertions of any sort.
A body can't live long, though, without oxygen. Both of the above are anaerobic (oxygen-independent) systems and neither can be sustained for very long without rest and oxygen to restore them. Aerobic exertion (using oxygen to burn sugars and fats - the Aerobic System -) can slowly but almost endlessly produce enough energy to maintain us during less intense activity in which we maintain a pretty good oxygen balance (or at rest, for that matter). Aerobic energy systems are trained and stressed by, say, 1-hour endurance exercises which keep the heart rate continuously well-above a walking heart rate, eg continuous calisthenics, and non-sprinting exercises like swimming speedy but not sprinting laps, treadmill intervals but not HIIT intervals, jogging, and similar exercises when you can breathe uncomfortably but effectively-enough to keep going.
Can aerobic exercise count as "cardio" exercise? Sort-of, maybe. It depends on where you keep your heart rate. High-intensity, high heart-rate bursts are the best heart-stressors and if it doesn't kill you it will make it stronger. Endurance is a different matter. Is normal walking "exercise"? Basically, no. It's just basic functioning unless it's fast and over 5 miles. "Cardio" means heart rate significantly elevated above walking.
Aerobic metabolism is highly efficient, which is why it takes 3 hours on an elliptical to burn the calories (270) in one plain bagel. It is why you can not lose weight by exercising unless you are fast- hiking 8 hrs/day on minimal caloric intake for a week or two. The average sedentary person (meaning under 5-10,000 "steps" daily with no other stressful exercise) probably needs less than 2000 calories per day to maintain their status quo. Remarkably, in the USA, it is not unusual for one single cheap meal to provide that much energy. In all of human history, remarkable indeed. Caloric abundance has a downside, thus the "overweight crisis" especially among our American poor.
A balanced fitness program (resistance, calisthenics, cardio, and endurance) ends up stressing all 3 energy systems without your having to think about it at all. That is just one of the many reasons why we endorse balanced fitness exercise programs instead of a single path (such as all weights, or all aerobics).
Good summary of exercise and energy systems here.
Wednesday, March 29. 2017
We're working on a new game: Pistols. It's like a one-legged squat. Try it from your chair. It's not easy and you might have to begin from a higher perch and work your way lower. You will see what it feels like for elderly people to get up from a chair without using their arms.
The gal in the vid has short legs so she uses a stool for her foot to get the 90 degree knee angle. It stresses lots of accessory leg and core muscles because of the balance challenge. One foot must be solidly-planted, one in the air. We're adding this to our calis repertoire, and I am going to get out of chairs one-legged from now on. Just think of how many times/day you get up from a chair. Why not use it as a good exercise?
Sorry for the horrible music.
Friday, March 24. 2017
"Athleticism" is a measure of physical functionality or functionalities, but everybody's graph has a different shape.
Genius Trainer and I were watching some NCAA reruns on TV while I was resting between deadlift sets, and we talked about the role of "quickness" in basketball. We separated the dancelike but predatory quicksilver moves in elite basketball players from speed, which is an entirely different quality, and proceeded to break down athleticism into components (some more valuable for some endeavors, some for others) during other between-set rests as we worked the weight up for 5 sets.
We came up with quite a few: power (= strengthXspeed), pure strength, speed (running speed), agility (rapid precision of bodily position. balance, and posture), quickness (of instant movement, acceleration/deceleration and directional changes), explosiveness (power bursts), situational awareness (mental), overall physical endurance, stability, mobility, flexibility, and all kinds of eye-hand and other sorts of coordination talents which are difficult to put into words.
I don't watch basketball but I used to enjoy playing it quite a bit in high school because it took a lot of movement and total concentration, despite basically sucking at it. Like everything in life, you can train all of these things but biology is foundational and you can't shine sh-t.
Elite basketball players, it seems to me, have the largest collection of athletic components.
Thursday, March 23. 2017
I only have two kettlebell exercises in my miscellaneous assortment of Calisthenic circuits: Swings and Farmer Walks. Sometimes I do walking swings and sometimes stationary.
I keep the weight to a level when I can keep good swing technique with sets of 10-15. It is more demanding than it looks. As in any exercise, technique is key to avoid injury and for best gain. For Farmer Walks, I use the heaviest I can hang on to for a minute or two while maintaining strong posture.
Some Kettlebell exercises
Do y'all use them in your calisthenic routines?
Monday, March 13. 2017
Exercisers generally want their barbell squats (or even their air squats and goblet squats) to get the butt as close to the floor as possible (ass to the grass). That is, lower than parallel (the photo shows a great example - that little gal is stronger than I am or will ever be but, in a half-hearted defense, shorter people have an easier time with squats because the range of motion is shorter. Same goes for bench press with smaller people - shorter levers).
Everybody needs squats unless there is a medical problem.
I am working on lowering by using gradually-lower box squats and lightening the weights. It is always too easy for me to find my sticking point after a few reps and then I lighten the weight.
Why bother going below parallel? Because it's another tough challenge to take on, and because it stresses all of the muscles involved in squatting even further. Stresses willpower too and we all need to strengthen that. That article doesn't even cover all of the accessory muscles involved in balance and core stability. Total body stress including your heart which pounds like it is at the edge but what doesn't kill ya makes you stronger, I hope...and you could do worse than croak on the gym floor.
I am thinking that I ought to do lighter-weight deep squats once a week, and my usual almost-parallel squats once a week. I have weak quads even after 2 years of this, relatively-speaking. I know we have a few powerful squatters at Maggie's, though.
Keep those knees out!
Wednesday, March 8. 2017
Most leg strengthening exercises stress more than legs alone, but we call them "Legs" anyway because they mostly engage lower body. Many guys neglect lower body strength in favor of chests and arms.
Cardio doesn't do it at all - runners, for example, tend not to have much leg strength. Also, distance running isn't really a cardio stress anyway - pure endurance. I used to run for miles and hike hills all day, but my legs became neither strong or powerful. Especially for women, lower body bone strength can only be maintained with resistance exercise.
For strength, (not talking about cardio or endurance here) I try to keep it simple. For functional fitness and to postpone muscle deterioration, I think all an ordinary person needs to do are five sets (with increasing reps and/or weights over time) of most or many of these basics, weekly. Some are more Calisthenics, some plain Resistance - R or C:
Barbell squats - R
Calf lifts - C, Leg press - R, and leg extensions and curls - R, are optional approaches to building up strength for the big leg efforts, but not substitutes
When you think about it, most of these exercises stress not only lower body but core too and sometimes arms and shoulders. Furthermore, they all are cardio exercises to some degree: A barbell squat routine of 5 sets will leave you gasping for a few minutes, as will just one set 15 of kettlebell swings.
I would not advise doing Deads and Barbell Squats, or any leg "R" - on the same day or more than weekly. Recovery time is needed for the big muscles. "C" lower body exertions can be done as much as you want. I tend to do calis as circuits, and Rs as dedicated efforts.
Sunday, March 5. 2017
Hiking is not walking. Hiking is mainly about speed to destination, and hills at the least and gravelly scrambling at the most. Except for the steeps, hiking takes endurance and the steeps demand leg endurance if not strength too, especially with a pack.
We have two hiking trips planned in the next few months, one in Georgia (USA) and one in the Outer Hebrides. With 2 years of hard training, Mrs. BD and I are probably fitter than most people of our ages and life habits, but I am not sure about 6-7 hours of up and down the Highlands. Hills or mountains, whatever - serious hiking with poles and packs every day for ten days with no rest days.
The leg strength we build from deadlifts and barbell squats is great and useful, but it's not endurance. Our cardio intervals are probably most relevant for efficient endurance-building, but I think we ought to add to that plenty of stairmaster time and a weekly weekend 4-6 hr uphill hike on top of our usual fitness routine. Speed hike, not casual hike.
I think we ought to do Mt. Washington (if and when the snow melts). I am the rare outdoor person in New England who has not tackled the Presidential Range, and I should do it. Several pals of ours love to do the hut-to-hut thing up there, but I admit that I like a good bed and a good shower daily, and real good "unhealthy" food. Sheesh, I am the person who loves Urban Hiking because there is more to look at than trees and rocks, and there are fun food trucks with Falafel and stuff.
I hate myself when I need a sit-down on a serious hike.
What would you do to prepare for serious hiking trips?
Sunday, February 26. 2017
However, this is not really using the powder as a supplement. I's just using it as breakfast with 25-30 gms of protein. Otherwise, my breakfast would be just two mugs of coffee.
Most trainers tell weight-lifters to have a dose of protein after heavy lifting. It sounds logical, but nutrition is a field packed with superstition and magical thinking. Other forms of exercise do not require a shot of protein because they do not produce muscle fiber damage.
Powders as supplement would, I think, entail maybe twice-daily use in addition to normal balanced meals. Since I can't get on board with three normal balanced meals, I probably should do a second dose of powder protein to make sure I have enough daily protein.
Or maybe it's all magical marketing: Protein Powder and the Promise of Transformation
What's your view?
Saturday, February 25. 2017
With calis, it's all about the circuits or what I call the circus in which you are the performing animal.
Don't forget to breathe during tough calisthenics - and everything else! We find the best way to remember to breathe during exercise is to make sure to exhale and the inhale will take care of itself. Coaches and trainers should say "Exhale," not "breathe." Oxygen is very good stuff for aerobic organisms.
Thursday, February 23. 2017
Our dogma is that general Fitness for Life (as compared with more specific exercise goals) entails a balance of strength-training, calisthenics for muscle-use, agility, balance, and endurance, and some cardio intervals for heart strength and endurance. Plus decent nutrition to support the program goals.
Contrary to some biases and misconceptions, strength training is not mainly for muscle-head gym rats. It's for everybody's fitness if they don't do a manual labor job. It fights the deterioration of age.
Even people whose work entails plenty of lifting can benefit from strength training. If you do not learn the correct ways to exert your body, you can easily injure it or wear it out. Weight training teaches how to move things safely.
There are three basic categories of lifting: Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting.
Pure Bodybuilding focuses on muscle definition and appearance. Bodybuilding emphasizes individual muscle development over functional groups. General, functional strength training usually needs to include some more isolated muscle groups to work towards larger muscle groups, but does not focus on muscle definition.
Powerlifting is about developing power (defined as strength X speed). The fundamentals are squats, bench, deads, overhead press. Perhaps pull-ups.
Olympic tends to be a more technical sport. It is totally cool, but it's not for me.
General strength fitness training for ordinary people is a hybrid approach borrowing from all three types, but always including Powerlifting (which takes a lot of time with the necessary rest minute between sets). For example, a week's worth of my strength training often includes some sets of most of these: bench, deads, barbell squats, pull-downs, pull-ups, rows, press-downs, dips, curls, overhead press, hamstring curls, inclined bench press, sometimes leg press. Mrs. BD does some Olympic lifts too (amazing to me) but my shoulder can't handle them.
From the article:
Tuesday, February 21. 2017
If you are in bad shape, you will not be able to do many, or even one. That feels pathetic and unmanly to most guys. I recall that my Dad had the habit of morning pull-ups and push-ups well into his mid-70s before work (worked until 76). He kept that part of his Basic Training going. He was naturally wiry and strong anyway.
Only the fittest women can do any because they have less native upper body strength and tend to have a higher fat/muscle ratio. Many middle-aged guys find their paltry pull-up counts to be deeply humiliating, and rightly so. Weakness is shameful for most guys, even more so than ignorance, for evolutionary reasons. In fitness training, humiliation and failure are always on the agenda. That builds character, victory does not.
One good test to assess your pull-up potential is to jump up to a bar and see how long you can hang with your chin at bar level. That is, in fact, a good strengthening exercise in itself for beginners. Count the seconds that you can hang up there before slowly collapsing.
Chin-ups and pull-ups test primarily back muscles, and secondarily arms and core. Three sets/wk is plenty. The technique is not to muscle one's way up with your arms, but to lift your chin to the bar by driving your elbows down with full power.
As far as I'm concerned, pull-ups can be viewed as either weight-training or as calisthenics. It's a body weight, multi-muscle group stress and, if 15 reps gets easy, just put on a weight vest to keep it challenging. Here's how to Do More Than One Stinking Pull-Up
Are kipping pull-ups cheating? It depends. Certainly anybody would prefer to do more dead-hang pull-ups if they could. They are hard. All exercise is agonizing, though, if done right. No pain, no gain.
Saturday, February 18. 2017
I regret any times I have linked those sorts of things because everybody's starting point is different and natural strength and body type vary enormously across people. For example, shorter guys with shorter arms can lift much better than taller guys. While I feel it is essential to have exercise goals to avoid going through the motions, the only reasonable short-term goals are to be stronger and fitter than you were a month ago.
I think it is fun to make 4-month fitness goals, but they should be based on where you are, and not somebody else's (except your trainer's, if you use one).
Look, nobody reading Maggie's (I think) is a Lifter-lifter. They are fitness lifters like me. This is reasonable: How Strong Should I Be For My Age, Size, Height, Weight & Gender?
Friday, February 17. 2017
I like a walking stick - a fallen branch broken to length - when taking a tramp without a firearm. It just feels good. Fact is that a walking stick or hiking poles put you almost on three or four legs, and also lessen the wear and tear on middle-aged joints. Especially on hills.
I thought they were nurdy until I saw everybody using them (except us) during our hiking trip in the Dolomites. My Mom always used them after her knees went sour.
We have a hiking trip coming up in a while to the Hebrides and Outer Hebrides (quite similar to Johnson and Boswell's), and their main recommendations are rain gear, hiking poles, day-pack, and waterproof hiking boots. Leave the sun screen at home. I assume they provide the whiskey. The hiking part will be about 7 hrs/day, with fishing boat lifts between islands. Spartan B&Bs with Highland "cuisine." Hmmmm.
It's gloomy and nasty up there in Trump's maternal homeland (Stornaway), and it's easy to understand why so many of them jumped on boats in Glasgow and Liverpool to come to America where the livin' is easy and there ain't no Lairds.
BTW, if you are new to the delightful Boswell, I recommend all of his stuff. In many ways, he was more interesting and amusing than Dr. Johnson who was pedantic - but who could also slide the knife deftly into somebody's pretensions. Johnson knew everything.
Pic is LL Bean telescoping poles.
Thursday, February 16. 2017
Strength + Calisthenics + Cardio = A balanced diet of exercise for all ages
We need strength training (weight training) to prevent muscle atrophy, to build muscle and bone, to maintain our best functionality, and so we can do Calisthenics and play sports with force. Also, to look good. Looking good does matter in life.
We need Calisthenics (which includes sports) to make full use of all of our muscles, to maintain athleticism, endurance, sexuality, general vigor, and mental happiness
We need some high-intensity Cardio to build or maintain endurance and heart strength
- A person can be very strong but have terrible cardio endurance and terrible agility; runners can have great aerobic cardio endurance but be weak in bone and muscle and unable to handle an hour of intense calis because they have mistakenly aerobically-trained exclusively. The aerobic cardio fitness fad of recent decades was/is greatly overrated. It was over-sold and it damaged a lot of joints. Anyway, the three components are interdependent and overlap to varying degrees: lunges are strength + calis, jump rope and jumping jacks are calis+ cardio, all weight training provides brief but intense cardio stress, etc.
- As a footnote, but not a trivial one, I usually add proper nutrition because a demanding fitness program requires it. The 5-hr/wk program we espouse for general Fitness For Life (approx 2 hrs of weights, approx 1 hr of Calis, and approx 1 hr of cardio (2 half-hr sessions of cardio intervals) demands more protein and maybe more carbs than the ordinary sedentary person needs to survive. If your fitness requires weight gain for bone and muscle development, obviously more protein, fats, and carbs. If your fitness requires fat loss, obviously less carbs. Hard exercise can never eliminate excess fat but it can inspire nutritional sanity.
Wednesday, February 15. 2017
Good goals for me would be just to get from the Novice to the Int. level for my age. That should be more than sufficient for general fitness but 10 pull-ups is pie in the sky for me now so maybe fully Novice is good enough. I had no idea of how weak I had become when I began my exercise program, because I was fully-functional and never challenged.
Anyway, I will never be a serious lifter. Just a middle-aged general fitness lifter. Glad I got ahead of the downward curve. Well, not ahead of it but at least before it became hopeless. I did nail 2 reps of my personal record deadlift this morning, and feel proud about that. (Hey, make sure you poop well before lifting or you could have a little problem.)
I made trainer feel good about himself, too. Loves to see his clients persist and succeed. Onward and upward.
Studying late at night for a Chem exam, resisting a donut, keeping climbing when your legs say "No," doing one more bench rep when your arms say "I can't", saying "Hi" to a pretty girl who is too good for you, giving your exasperating guitar practice one more half hour, bucking up for one more damn intimidating job interview, getting through a pile of paperwork. A doctor once told me that the toughest person he knew was a agoraphobic and social phobic who by sheer willpower forced herself to leave her house and re-enter society despite her terror.
Everybody wants to fight against his own limitations, fears, flaws, and weaknesses, and nobody wants to feel mentally or physically weak.
When I consider mental toughness I think of warriors facing a wall of spears or machine guns, but in our (or my) pampered and decadent American life we often have to go out of our way to seek out character tests and character challenges. We can easily avoid most of them if we wish to, but our life is diminished by it.
I think shame, self-disgust, and self-disappointment are some of the unpleasant consequences of confronting some of our weaknesses and limitations. It is failure, and we know it.
My genius trainer and I were discussing the topic a while ago. I told him that part of his added value to me was lending his mental strength to me. When my arms say "No," and he says "Two more - you can do it" - I do it. Alone, I "couldn't." That's my mental weakness. So we can gain strength from relationship. That's part of why marriage is so valuable. Friends, too.
He said that group exercise training works well not so much because of the competition but because of the combined spirit of effort, the esprit de corps. Of course, that group effect is an essential part of military training too. He says the reason most people fail in fitness programs is for lack of spirit and determination, not muscle.
I suppose good habits of toughness and perseverance can be nurtured from within from practice and from without with support and cheerleading. My mental toughness is not good enough to make me happy with myself, and probably never will be.
Here's a Grit Quiz. Not sure if such personality traits are measurable really, or whether they are even traits. Sometimes I have plenty of grit, sometimes very little.
What's your view on the subject?