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, June 16. 2021
I include recreational sports (other than running, biking, or swimming) as calisthenics.
Calisthenics are about agility, endurance, general fitness, athleticism, balance, and things like that. Our list and variety is long. Some of them: Pushups, pullups, planks, heavy ball throws, burpees, body-weight squats, inclined pulls, Farmer walks, sled pushes and pulls, jumping jacks, band walks, step-ups, box jumps, lunges. As we've said often, just 3 hrs of calis/wk, with nothing else, is a lot better than nothing.
What do you do for this aspect of fitness?
Wednesday, June 9. 2021
There are several reasons, but for me time efficiency comes first. Second, it's more natural in life for different muscle groups to work together.
No single exercise counts as a full body strength workout, but the deadlift comes closest to that.
Thursday, June 3. 2021
Thank you, reader.
The Case Against Stretching: Scientists are increasingly skeptical of the benefits of flexibility, but the fitness world doesn’t want to hear it
Stretching science has shown that this extremely popular form of exercise has almost no measurable benefits
Of course, these articles do not apply to physical rehab and physical therapy.
Wednesday, June 2. 2021
I see many people doing fairly-aggressive stretching before sports or a weights work-out. Wrong. Except for calf stretches, which are a good idea.
A warm-up for a sport or weights is a 5-minute jog, elliptical, or calisthenics things like jumping jacks. Stretching cold muscle is a bad idea. You can actually hurt yourself that way.
Stretching after a sport, a calisthenics hour, or weights might be a good idea or maybe a waste of time. If you take a calisthenics group program in a gym, you will see that they spend the last 5 minutes or so doing stretches on the floor. That feels good, if nothing else.
Wednesday, May 26. 2021
Best summary I have seen on the topic. Deadlift vs Squat – Comparing Strength and Muscles Worked
It is clear that it is worth doing both, but not on the same day. For what it's worth, I do back squats once weekly, deads once weekly, and leg press once weekly for lower body resistance exercises.
It is difficult and slow to build lower body power with my particular physical architecture (runner's build), but I work at it. Just increasing the wts by 5 lbs/month is great.
Wednesday, May 19. 2021
My gyms have no dedicated body-builders but I notice that strength-oriented people will do an occasional treatmill run or 10 minutes on the Jacob's Ladder. They also tend to be the only people, besides me, who jump rope regularly. (Jumping is great HIIT cardio, and almost fun if you mix up your jumps. Takes a little skill and practice, but that's a cool challenge.)
I also notice that some gym regulars do almost entirely weights, some only take daily calisthenics classes at 6 am (30 people in my classes), and some only do "cardio" on the treadmills, ellipticals, or Stairmaster. To each his or her own.
Because the Maggie's Fitness for Life program is designed for endurance, energy, athleticism, and to stall or reverse the effects of sloth and age (and to look good, too) more than to build intimidating muscle mass, I think general fitness is worth any possible compromise in growth of muscle.
Also, strength and muscle mass are not necessarily equivalents. I know a gal who does deadlift reps at 300 lbs, and does not look "muscular".
That said, no reason not to keep trying to improve one's deads, squats, and benches. Sturdiness.
Addendum: I have little doubt that training for distance running is a problem for weight training. I was just thinking about gym work. Distance work training (for marathons, +) takes a serious toll.
What do our readers think?
Tuesday, May 18. 2021
Tuesday, May 11. 2021
The classic plyometric exercise is Box Jumps, but I would include Sled exercises in the same category. The general category is Calisthenics.
Thursday, May 6. 2021
Jump rope is to cardio what deadlifts are to sturdiness. The coolest thing about jump rope are all of the variations you can learn. Never boring. It's not easy so it's a good physical challenge.
RX Smart Gear sent me this article about Jump Ropes - very informative. I put the article below the fold -
Continue reading "All about jump rope"
Wednesday, May 5. 2021
By heavy weights, we refer mainly to the basic powerlifts (barbell squat, deads, bench press, dumbell row, overhead press), plus pullups/pulldowns.
Wednesday, April 21. 2021
They are both valuable for lower body fitness. Squats are more about strength-building, lunges are more "functional."
This article is good.
I think lower body conditioning for strength, endurance, and athleticism ought to include (not all on the same day) barbell squats, leg press, kettlebell lunges, stair machine (which is good cardio also), deadlifts, box jumps. I do sets of each just once weekly. No time for more.
I omit mentioning cardio exercises which use legs (all of them do) because the emphasis of cardio is, obviously, cardiac fitness.
Lunges with weights are easy to hate. Gotta get in shape, though.
Thursday, April 15. 2021
Been thinking about this more. We like terms like sturdiness and conditioning. Our fitness posts (many of them for years) have never been about body-building or training for a specific athletic pursuit. It has all been about maintaining good fitness for life for those over 35 years old so that the interests and pleasures that life offers can be engaged as much as possible for as long as possible.
One hour or so daily, plus a nutrition plan to stay trim, are not very difficult even for the most sedentary.
I have to say that I envy Bulldog, who plays basketball and tennis every week. How good is that? Great fun.
Wednesday, April 14. 2021
Correlation does not prove causation, but it's something to consider anyway. There are many reasons to pursue physical fitness.
Tuesday, April 6. 2021
As ladder drills become more complex, and as you become speedier with them, the brain sometimes conks out and you have to start over. Icky Shuffles often mess me up.
You can get some driveway chalk and just make a ladder on the driveway. I can't do them as quickly as athletes, but as usual I do my best.
Calisthenics+Cardio, with agility and balance challenges. Excellent warm-ups and cool-downs.
Wednesday, March 31. 2021
The NYT warns about doing too much. I don't think that is much of an issue for 99.99% of people.
People who do Soul Cycle and similar programs, if done daily, might exceed those sprint warnings - if you believe them. Still, sprinting is like flying. It feels good.
As we have discussed before, HIIT is true Cardio exercise, meaning that it is designed to stress, not just use, the heart muscle. The goals are to improve or maintain heart function and to increase your odds of surviving your first unfortunate "cardic event" by developing collateral blood supply.
As we have also discussed here, it is sprints which have this effect. Exertions commonly grouped as "cardio" - like biking, swimming laps, jogging, rowing - are worth doing to maintain general endurance but do not get the heart rate to the 70-90% max that efficiently stresses the heart to the point of heart muscle development. Same idea as curls for the biceps.
Assuming you have a well-balanced fitness program (weights, calisthenics, and both types of cardio), two 20-minute sessions/wk of HIIT is good. Most calisthenics circuits include bits of HIIT too, such as speed rope, heavy ropes, or row sprints.
Obviously, all of this depends on age and level of fitness.
What is a typical 20-30-minute HIIT session? It's 30-60-sec. all-out sprints followed by 60-80 seconds of slow recovery. Rinse and repeat. The sprints are anaerobic.
The way I do it is to include sprints in one weights recovery day, which is like an hour of treadmill jogging, fast-walking, or elliptical, interspersing sprints in it. It keeps it interesting. On another day, I do 20-min of HIIT and then 30 minutes of weights or accesssory weights. You do not need to monitor your heart rate, because you know dqrn well when you are going all-out.
What is cardio? And what is the difference between cardio and high intensity interval training? And why is there a place for both? That piece is reasonable, but seems to assume that the only fitness exercise anybody does is "cardio." That is surely better than nothing but it is not a balanced fitness routine.
Tuesday, March 30. 2021
My new weights trainer is more of a high-rep guy (8-12) than my previous guy was (more 5X5). I think it's because it's what he feels I need for right now. All I can say is that he makes it damn difficult. And no, I do not really need to use a mask in my gym. People fake it.
A video is not really a substitute for a trainer who can critique your form right at the moment, but this guy is good. Best mental trick: Push the floor away from the bar.
Wednesday, March 24. 2021
I have been asked what use my levels of fitness are, and my reasons for pursuing fitness in the ways that I do.
Probably maintaining vigor is my first item, and a vigorous attitude towards life. I like to say "yes" to doing things. About five years ago I felt tired on a hunting trip, and I hated myself for it. That was my wake-up call. Does bedroom vitality matter too, and being appealing to a spouse? Um, yeah. Duh.
Second, the health issue. It is not about living longer because that is not up to us but to fate. Still, nobody wants to become overweight, frail, or rickety sooner than necessary.
Third, to be honest, is looking vital and fit instead of looking older. Posture and movement matter to others. Call it vanity, but it is much more than that. People react differently, as they do to clothing and manners.
Fourth (but not really fourth), I like to be able to do useful and fun things. I need to be able to hike over hill and dale for 12 miles, or scramble boulders, with Mrs. BD and friends. I need to be able to stack 2 cords of wood dumped in my courtyard (as I did this weekend) and to do all of the yard work I have time for. I need to be able to handle my chainsaw. If my right shoulder were not so damaged, I'd love to live on the tennis court. I guess I am restless and love physical activity. I need to be agile and useful on a boat too. I wish I had more sports but I have always had more enthusiasm than athletic talent.
Nutrition is one of my problems. I am not underweight, but I just do not enjoy eating anymore. Some love it, but for me it just is like required fuel no matter how tasty. I have had minimal appetite since I began my intensive exercise program some years ago so I force myself.
RJP keeps nagging me about strength. Fair enough, but two days of weights is all I can fit in right now. Pre-covid I was doing 2 1/2 hrs of weights/wk. Deads are the best thing for me. Regarding recovery, I may not do enough but I feel that I do. Whenever I feel unable to get out of bed at 4:30 AM after a powerlift day, I don't. I love feeling stronger but have competing goals.
Saturday, March 20. 2021
I'll do my best to field readers' questions about the Maggie's Fitness for Life suggestions (which readers know includes sessions of heavy weights, sessions of calisthenics, and sessions of HIIT cardio plus maybe some plain "cardio."
Ask me, and I will attempt to explain the rationale. Bear in mind that exercise is not for fat loss
I keep getting caught up by our own anti-spam filter, so I will post further responses to questions here:
Unless somebody is a well-experienced gym rat, we recommend using an experienced trainer to make personal recommendations.
Injuries are avoided by correct techniques.
Road-running is terrible. Treadmill or trails, not so much.
Most gyms are open now. For the weight-training part of your program bands are no substitute for dumbells and barbells, but are better than nothing.
That is surely better than nothing, but I tend to view my workouts as a sort of torture. Then I derive the life benefits. We recommend balanced exercise programs, so one has to hate a lot of it. It hurts.
RJP asked us this question:
Since you bring up calisthenics again, I'll ask the same (unanswered) question from a previous post:
In your day-to-day life, where exactly are you applying all this hard-earned endurance? What makes you think you won't have enough endurance for those activities if you build up more strength?
Why do you think getting your squat and deadlift up will hamper your ability to do things like burpees?
Our program recommendations (4-6 hrs/wk) are designed for general life functionality. That includes sports and things like hiking 15 miles. It is "general," not designed for body-building or marathon-running.
Squats and deadlifts will not harm your burpees. Every category of exercise makes demands on, and builds on, different energy systems. Power, agility, and endurance are completely different. That's the reason for a mix.
I will welcome more questions...
Wednesday, March 17. 2021
Thursday, March 11. 2021
We do not believe that fitness can extend life very much. Fitness is mainly for vitality.
Calisthenics are the best thing for maintaining fitness. If you hate weights too much (weights are for building muscle) or find all "cardio" boring, a daily hour or less of calisthenic workouts might be for you.
They entail enough cardio if you take few breaks between exercises to keep your heart rate up, and at least maintain muscle strength.
If you take the classes at a gym (recommended) you will do circuits of around 10-12 exercises for 50 minutes depending on rests. Good stuff. If on your own in a gym, it is more feasible to do circuits of 3. That's what I do on my calis days and will continue to do until they get rid of their mask rules. I can not do these things with masks.
A sample of my routines below the fold - if you can do all of these circuits in 50 minutes, that's amazing. I can not:
Continue reading "Revisiting Calisthenics (for the 10th time)"
Saturday, March 6. 2021
The Maggie's Fitness for Life Program is of course somewhat controversial. All fitness programs are.
Our program is 2 days/wk of heavy weights, 2 days of calisthenics, and 2 days of cardio (meaning heart stress - HIIT, jump rope, stair machine, etc).
Besides plain obsessionalism, I do heavy weights twice/week with a trainer, and no need for a trainer for the other things. Right now, I need to be pushed hard with heavy and he is needed for that. Rightly or wrongly, he pushes me past my limits.
We do not prefer tough calis on the day before weights because tough calis need a bit of recovery too, and for the over-40 crowd maybe a bit more than 24 hrs.
Anybody with a touch of gray, I believe, needs 2 days of recovery after lifting heavy. Calis and cardio more or less count for that.
What are your views?
Friday, March 5. 2021
Our readers know that the Maggie's Farm Fitness for Life Program includes two days of calisthenics, and that we view calis as valuable for toughness and athleticism, but not so much for strength-building.
(It is best not to do calis on the day before a weights day.)
Lunges are a basic calisthenic exercise, whether just body weight, hand weights, or the many variations.
Monday, February 22. 2021
To ease into, or back into, barbell squats, try sets of box squats. To make them tougher, hold a heavy ball or dumbell instead of a barbell.
Friday, February 19. 2021
I remember doing that, back before I concluded that road-running was a bad idea. It truly is more fun to run in weather.
So he is 82 and out running, and I am much younger and doing HIIT on a stupid treadmill.
(Page 1 of 18, totaling 449 entries) » next page