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
Friday, January 18. 2019
Is walking a part of your fitness routine? If so, be aware that ordinary walking is not valuable "cardio" except for the elderly and the infirm. However, walking and hiking can be perfect for a day of active recovery from a week of exercise.
Assuming a person in decent health, an ordinary street walking speed for men and women is around 3 mph (3.2-3.4 for New Yorkers, which is why you get jostled). Below that is a stroll. This applies to more or less level ground. 3 mph walking is not "cardio" because the heart rate is not sufficiently elevated to challenge or strengthen the heart - or to build lower body endurance.
Deliberate hikers like to move at around 4-5 mph on level ground. I can hike at 4 mph (15-min/mile), especially when it's beginning to get dark and I want to get back somewhere. It's a difficult pace for me, though, because my legs want to break into a slow jog at over 4 mph instead of maintaining a vigorous walk. Some fit and experienced hikers hike at 5 mph with a backpack but at 5 I am definitely jogging, not walking, and I break into a run between 6-7.
Fitness level and body architecture play into this. If curious about this, your phone can give you your average speed of progress during walks and hikes unless you like to pause to look at birds and wildflowers and snakes and toads. After all, exercise is so you can enjoy life so not every hike needs to be a death march. Maybe most of them, but not all.
Best ways to improve your walking and hill-hiking efficiency? Stair machine, elliptical at the higher resistances, and fast-walking or even jogging on a good incline on a treadmill (say incline of 5-8, 10 if fast-walking). An hour of that is a good "active recovery" from other exercises, or good for beginners.
* In the US, normal military march is 3.4 mph (17 mins/mile), but for Army Rangers it's 4 mph.
Wednesday, January 16. 2019
Your internist might give you a Cardiac Stress Test every few years to check your cardiopulmonary function, but other than that never a physical fitness evaluation beyond, maybe, a body fat composition. A very thorough physical exam might include an SF-36. This is not used often enough. (It is used in $5-10,000 "Executive Physicals," but that is often because companies take insurance on the functioning of their essential execs.)
The reason doctors don't do it is because your physical fitness at any age is your problem, not his or hers. OK, they will advise "exercise," but they know you won't do much of it, or "watch your diet" but they know you will do no more watching than looking at what is on your plate.
Serious fitness evaluations are done by the military, police, fire departments, etc. For us civilians, the only people who will give us a serious fitness evaluation are skilled fitness trainers. Trainers tell me that 3/4 of their new clients are in terrible shape. That's why they are there. About 1/4 are in decent condition, but want to get to a higher level of fitness.
Fitness evaluations include basic measures of cardio function, endurance, strength, agility, and balance. The Mayo Clinic offers this do-it-at-home fitness evaluation.
Regardless of age or level of condition when you decide to get serious about conditioning, The Maggie's program of HIIT cardio, endurance cardio, calisthenics, and weights (plus proper nutrition for a svelte physique) addresses all of the areas of fitness.
Monday, January 14. 2019
Keto-style nutrition (ketogenic) is only for people whose habits and life-styles tend towards excess fat deposits. There is no reason to fuss with your nutritional habits if you are in good shape and good conditioning. Food is not medicine - but if you lift heavy 2-3 times weekly, keep the protein up for muscle repair.
All "keto" means is that you are burning fat. Burning fat is difficult, because your body wants to hang on to it and exercise does very little for that at ordinary intensities and durations.
Kruiser explains it here: Jillian Michaels Is Mad That Keto People Lose Weight Without Buying Her Products
An interesting side effect of ketosis is that appetite tends to be reduced and energy increased. For people who are serious about it, you can buy Keto-strips to check your urine. That will instantly tell you whether you are burning fat or not.
If overweight, you probably have some degree of insulin insensitivity, sometimes termed "pre-diabetic" at some point. A keto nutritional habit can correct that, but remember that if you have ever been fat, your body will want to restore it back to where you set your highest weight. Fat cells are as greedy as governments and they never forget.
Wednesday, January 9. 2019
Your basic physical architecture is a product of a genetic potential, a genotype. Your genetic potential (design) is effected to some extent by environmental influences: intrauterine nutrition, nutrition during growth, disease, physical activity during growth, and so forth. All the same, your genetic potential can not be exceeded because it is pre-programmed.
What do I mean by basic physical architecture? I mean things like basic body structure: height, bone lengths and widths, and number of muscle cells and their distribution (yes, you are born with all of the muscle cells you will ever have, and these vary a good deal between people).
As an adult over age 17- 21, your life-long basic physical foundation is complete. As with your IQ, personality strengths and weaknesses, athletic talents, what we do with our given physical architecture after that point is up to us. A good trainer, a physical therapist, or a sports physician can see through our appearance and phenotype and get an idea of our basic physical architecture and our potential for development of what we are.
Our naked physical appearance today may or may not tell us much about our basic architecture, because it might be hidden under layers of fat or simply unmanifested by lack of stressors and demands. In underweight people, it can be concealed by underdevelopment of potential.
It's common to talk about endomorphs, mesomorphs, and ectomorphs, but that is simplistic because everybody is built differently. The length of your femur, for just one important example.
Do these things matter in general fitness efforts? Not too much. Do they matter in physical training? Yes, because the architecture sets limits on, and offers opportunities for, what can be achieved. Do they matter in athletic potential? Certainly, but it depends on the level which is aspired to.
Tuesday, January 8. 2019
Despite my advice not to undertake a conditioning program in January (because few keep their resolutions), I know people who did and that some readers did. Oh well.
A reminder for those people:
1. If you've been away from exertion for a while, it's a good idea to begin with a month of daily or near-daily mixed cardio just to wake up your body, to alert your brain and neuromuscular system that you are going to make demands.
2. For Fitness for Life, after the above you will benefit most from a balanced program:
- Resistance (weights) for building muscle and bone strength. Start light with higher reps and work up gradually to higher weight and fewer reps. If not knowledgeable about weight work, get some instruction.
- Calisthenics for building general athleticism (balance, quickness, endurance, muscle conditioning, with some HIIT cardio)
- Mixed cardio for endurance and heart stress. Since you can hardly build endurance in a one hour session of speed walking, say, your cardio needs to be uncomfortable, a much higher intensity than recreational. We think the Stairmaster machine is the best cardio trainer, but mixing it all up is the right idea. (Stairmaster tips: step on your heel more than balls of feet, stand up straight, and don't lean on the bars. Also, mix it up with double steps or high speeds if you can)
Saturday, January 5. 2019
I did not plan my workout well this morning. Disappointed myself by lack of planning and just winging it.
It was my second time for my new "mostly-weights" Saturday morning (which will now be my third mostly weights day in a week for a while in an effort to reach a new strength plateau to settle into). I had the list in my pocket, but it wasn't planned or timed properly so I didn't complete it in an hour and did not plan the weights correctly - too light. Sheesh, there were a lot of hulks/hunks there this morning, along with the regulars, the elderly, and the fit gals...
Continue reading "Plan your darn daily workouts: My bad, with an end note for guys only"
Thursday, January 3. 2019
The Maggie's Fitness for Life program includes both. Still, we tend to agree that calisthenics classes offer more bang for the buck (or for the time.)
The logic is that 50 minutes of intense calis (with maybe only 6-10-second breaks between routines) is a good heart stressor while also working on athleticism, balance, flexibility, light-weight endurance muscle work, and body-weight exercises. In addition, most calisthenics classes include specific HIIT routines like rowing sprints. Obviously, each person works at his or her own level.
Some thoughts about it here.
If you take three tough calisthenics classes weekly, do you need to do your own HIIT cardio? Maybe not, because calisthenics classes that keep your heart rate up are stressful cardio. It depends on how intensely you want to condition, and on how ambitious you are. What sorts of circuits do typical calisthenics classes include? Rowing sprints, kettlebell swings, pushups, jumping jacks, jump rope, heavy ropes, body weight squats, heavy ball throws, sandbag slams, floor and core work like planks and crunches, hand weights, stretches, etc etc. Fun stuff, never boring because the routines are only 30-60 seconds each.
We do like the idea of one "long, slow" cardio hour, like swimming, jogging, high-incline walking, stair machine, etc as a recovery day from a week's exertions with heavy weights and calisthenics. There is evidence that "active recovery" like that makes for more effective physical recovery than doing nothing. A 4-5-hour hill hike is a perfect recovery activity from demanding workouts.
With calisthenics, the less spare fat you carry, the better you will do and the more quickly you will move. To shed spare fat, cut the food volume and get rid of those carbs. (Our readers know what carbs are: fruit, juices, grains and grain products, beer, root vegetables, anything with sugar, etc.)
Tuesday, January 1. 2019
How Muscles Age, and How Exercise Can Slow It. Researchers untangle the multifarious nature of muscle aging. So far, the only reliable treatment is exercise.
As we have often pointed out, resistance exercise addresses bone aging too.
Re comment, unfortunately it is orthopedic surgeons who deal with joint problems.
Monday, December 31. 2018
It's a typical time of year for people to change up their fitness program. The daily exercisers I know shift their programs around about every 3-4 months just to keep their bodies off balance. If it isn't stress, it ain't exercise.
For example, I've spent the past 3 months emphasizing my cardio endurance (while doing heavy wts only twice a week). I've seen some improvement in my running and stair machine work, but far from enough to reach my goals. Darn it, I get tired! I'd like my 25 year-old body back...
Anyway, time for a change so I will add a third weights day to replace one of my calisthenics/athleticism classes. I hate to do that because the classes are great fun and damn stressful, but I can switch back in 3 or 4 months.
What do I mean by "weights days"? Barbell or goblet squats, deads, dumbell rows or seated rows, bench. I can't do overhead presses due to a bum shoulder (which needs replacement but I don't want to go through the down time). Also, I do accessory efforts like curls, press-downs, pullups, dips, kettlebell lunges.
Because of time constraints (1 hr/day usually) I tend to do 3 sets of the accessories, and 5 sets of the basics. I usually do 50 jump ropes between sets as part of 90-second recovery. Don't ask me why.
For those who want to spend a few months emphasizing strength and power-building, a 5X5 program is known to be effective.
Anyway, for a few months my program will be 3 days of weights, 1 calis/cardio class, 1 day higher intensity and HIIT cardio, one day with 1/2 hr calis and 1/2 hr HIIT cardio, and one day "endurance" long slower cardio (just jogging as long as I can) as a "recovery" day.
Doing the same things all the time is not the most effective plan. How do our readers keep their fitness programs changing?
Wednesday, December 26. 2018
Is weight training to muscle failure a good idea? It depends.
With smaller muscle groups, we all commonly train to failure, or close to it, but more often just to the point of excess pain. I'm thinking of examples like curls, forearm exercises, pushups, pullups, cable pull downs and push downs, rows. In fact, many gym machines (which I rarely use) isolate smaller muscle groups in ways that lend themselves to high-rep muscle endurance work (ie 15-20 reps).
With the powerlifts, we do not recommend lifting to failure very often. Just occasionally, to beat the heck out of yourself, and with a spotter. Rule of thumb with powerlifts is mostly to do the number of reps you can manage to accomplish 4-8 times in a row. If you can, for example, deadlift a weight 12 times, raise the weight right away to get down to 6-8 reps for each set.
Wednesday, December 19. 2018
These are one-rep maxes. My one-rep max is around 300 lbs, no prob with 3 reps at 275. Not impressive because I know a gal who does that. OK, she's 35 but whatever. With the age-adjustment on that site, though, it's "Advanced." What? Me? No way am I advanced. I have much further to go...
My one-rep max is hard and slowwwww. As it should be. People rarely go for their one-rep maxes except for amusement and ego. Well, also as one index of progress. Every 3 months maybe. 5X5 is a good powerlift program for twice/week but I only do each powerlift once/week. Not enough time to be a serious gym rat lifter.
Body architecture is not factored in, but of course heavier people are presumed to have more strength and power.
Thursday, December 13. 2018
A Stress Echo not only can identify heart issues before they appear in daily life, but can give you a metabolic physical stress tolerance baseline. Most Stress Echo protocols push you to your max unless you have prior identified cardio-pulmonary disease, so the attending cardiologist will be able to give you a thorough cardio fitness assessment and a numerical metabolic fitness level. (This test is required regularly for firemen, pilots, athletes, etc.) Serious fitness trainers also want an OK before pushing their clients hard.
Wednesday, December 12. 2018
As they say, "Someday" is not one of the seven days of the week.
I want to say a few words about exercise goals because it only makes sense to define, or re-define, exercise goals. I don't mean specific goals, like being able to bench press 300 lbs, or to run 10 miles at a 7.5 mph pace. I mean general goals. Your goals will determine your program.
- Specific goals, like the two I mentioned above, require very specific training approaches designed by experts.
- Weight loss: Forget exercise. Eat right and body fat will melt away. Some cardio might help prime the pump, but not necessary.
- Psychological goals. Any form of daily exertion (not walking) is excellent for mental attitude.
- Body-building. This requires a specific sort of program to look buff. Focus a lot on isolated muscles. It's not functional so much as an aesthetic. I think it's silly, but to each his or her own.
- Strength training. This entails 4 days/week of heavy weights, powerlifts, with some accessory weight exercises.
- General conditioning for out of shape people. This is the bread and butter of professional trainers, and in some ways the most rewarding for them because these people, if dedicated, can make the most dramatic progress because they have so far to go. I have seen schlubby people make remarkable changes in one or two years. Including grandmas.
- "Functional fitness". This is the goal for most people aged 30-80, and why Crossfit is so popular. This is about building or even just maintaining strength, agility, balance, power, appearance, endurance, speed, athleticism, etc. for a vigorous life. All that is a lot to ask for, which is why we feel it takes 6-7 hours/week. It won't make you a marathoner or an impressive lifter, but should make you ready for anything life offers - especially sports and recreation.
The Maggie's Fitness For Life (where is that TM thing?) is for Functional Fitness. We sometimes have good ideas for conditioning, but once basic conditioning is achieved (ie fat control, ability to participate in exercise classes, ability to jog a mile, basic hand weights and cables) is where our ideas come into play. Calisthenics, Heavy weights, HIIT and Endurance Cardio.
Monday, December 10. 2018
Whatever "anti-aging" is, it sounds good to me. So fit those things into your program. What we feel is important, at least to us, is "Fitness for Life" which means Strength, Endurance, and Athleticism. So, without neglecting your telomeres, it's good to get balanced fitness so as to be as fully in life as possible.
No exercise can extend your life to any important degree (for life extension, try not being heavy, and getting full medical check-ups every few years) but a balanced fitness program can keep you active as long as you do not do too much road running. That destroys joints and cripples many people.
Thursday, December 6. 2018
For plain endurance, you can truck along at level 4-5. For HIIT, you can do bursts at much higher speeds. The variations are good. Bonus: Very good for leg strength.
This is for beginners:
Wednesday, December 5. 2018
Remember, I am not a spring chicken but I'll be damned if I ever want to feel, or act, old. I will not retire either because that sounds like a kind of preliminary death to me. When something strikes me down, as it will all of us, then OK because I will have gone the distance.
The main change now is to work on cardio endurance, running in particular.
My changes are below the fold. Remember, we're interested in hearing about your workout programs too, and your progress -
Continue reading "My revised fitness program for the next four months"
Wednesday, November 28. 2018
I am talking about squats (barbell squats especially) and deadlifts. Here's 8 Reasons to Do Squat Exercises. Did I forget to mention that squats are hard? With weights, they are f-ing miserable. Body-weight squats are good fitness calis, but the weights are a bitch.
Lunges and step-ups are more purely leg focused, and in the calisthenic category even when done with dumbells. And the stair machines are great stressors, but mostly cardio and endurance.
I have found that doing five tough sets of barbell squats and 5 of deads (different days), plus, on different days, a set of goblet squats, of dumbell lunges, and a set of dumbell high step-ups, have improved my energy and ease of movement remarkably. Serious lifters would do those things twice weekly, but that's not me.
I can't credit at all to those, though, because I do other sorts of workouts each week too. Still, when you see progress with the weights you know it's all working.
Tuesday, November 27. 2018
Body fat is like the opposite of money: It's all to easy to acquire, very difficult to get rid of.
Sunday, November 18. 2018
HIIT exercises, on the other hand, do stress the heart because of the intensity of all kinds of sprints. 30-60 second maximum sprints of any form are good stressors. So is moving heavy weights. Heavy, not light weights. Sets of deadlifts reaching up to 70% of your max is a serious stressor on the heart. When you finish each set, you feel it in your heart. And you feel a bit dizzy from that stress.
What true cardiac training does is to stress the heart to the point that it is forced to build its muscle and to grow new arteries. Those new arteries can save your life when others get blocked up with gunk. If your breath can keep up with your exertion, it's not real cardiac training: it is endurance training.
What most people term "cardio" is endurance maintenance and endurance training. These are important in life, but have little or no heart consequences for the otherwise healthy.
Here's the article (via Instapundit): Weight lifting better for heart health than running, new study finds
Our Maggie's Fitness for Life program (heavy powerlifts, endurance cardio, HIIT cardio, calisthenics) incorporates all fitness aspects: Muscle and Bone strength, Endurance, True cardio, and Athleticism. We are convinced that's a balanced program for vigor for all ages.
Wednesday, November 14. 2018
It's high-school physics applied to the body: Levers are classified according to the relative placement of the fulcrum, the resistance and the force.
Any form of exercise can be made more interesting by thinking about the sort of lever action applied in single-joint exercises (like bicep curls or calf raises) or the multiple lever actions applied in complex, multi-joint movements like squats or running.
If you are fortunate enough to use the services of a professional trainer, that trainer will not be focusing on your muscles. He or she will focus on the mechanics of your movement(s) - proper lever use - to make your motion or activity as safe and effective as possible. That's why a trainer will make frequent corrections to your technique: Palms out (or in), wider stance (or narrower), head up (or down), chest up (or down) etc.
Even if you are not a fitness person, everybody knows that there is a right and wrong way to pick up something heavy, or to get out of a chair. It's all leverage.
Wednesday, November 7. 2018
As researchers unravel the molecular machinery that links exercise and cognition, working out is emerging as a promising neurotherapy.
Friday, November 2. 2018
We had a sub for my Friday morning 60-minute calis/physical conditioning class this morning. The sub was a beautiful blonde Amazon with a martinet's style, an ex-Crossfitter whose classes I had flunked a year or two ago after several tries. I noticed that about a third of the Friday morning regulars were absent. I think they noticed online that this particular gal was subbing, and declined because intimidated. I was tempted to wimp out but I hate to act like a wimp.
When I wimp out on things, act lazy, or make excuses for myself, I despise myself. Self-hatred sucks, so I try to avoid it as much as possible. Never entirely. As my sis always says about most things in life, ignore your feelings, "Girl Up" (or Man Up as the case may be) and "Do it." She is in the mental health field, so she knows that a lazy or fearful life is no life at all. Most of all, she has contempt for excuses so she is a good role model. She has given me shit many times. Almost drowned in a mile lake swim race on Cape Cod that she bullied me into. Sheesh. I had not swum a mile race in 30 years, maybe. A mile in a pool, sure, but not a mile race with waves. Yankee gals expect a lot of the men in their lives because they demand so much from themselves.
Squats, lunges, mountain-climbers, crunches, dumbell deads, jumping jacks, dumbell snatches, supermans, curtsy lunges - all of those sorts of things. I survived. It was a cool class with an interesting structure: two exercises with 25-50 reps each, then 10 pushups, then on to a different two exercises, then ten pushups, etc. Fast-paced and varied. No rest time. Fun, if you like to move. I doubt that I completed all 1000, but I did my best within the time allowed. Yes, I am no longer age 30 either.
As I have said before, one or two conditioning classes/wk have a place in a 6 or 7 day/wk fitness program. After an hour of rest and coffee, you feel amazingly well mentally and physically even if you began just after crawling out of bed with a foggy head at 5:00 am.
"Go-Go-Hi-Ho" was the life motto of an elderly hunting pal of mine. Taught me that life can be rich, adventurous, and exciting at 80. Appreciated Viagra when it came out as he confided to me on a Maine hunting trip. Determined to leave no meat left on the barbecued rib of life. I will want to be like him. He was still working, too, and fully-engaged with his church, his clubs, and his charities.
Thursday, November 1. 2018
In the fitness post yesterday, we mentioned getting up from a chair. Indeed, for a variety of reasons (arthritis, poor posture, overweight, lack of strength or mobility) this can become difficult for some.
Another common, basic maneuver which can become difficult without fitness is getting up from the floor without assistance. If you need to sit on the floor to do a task, or to read a book to a grandkid, you do not want to get up like a cripple.
Trouble getting up off the floor or a chair? Here’s how to improve
Wednesday, October 31. 2018
The basic powerlifts are Deadlift, Overhead Press, Barbell Squat, Bench Press, Rows of all sorts - and maybe accessory things like curls and tricep push-downs. Maybe Pull-ups should be on the list but I consider pull-ups and push-ups to be technically calisthenics because they are body-weight.
Of course, your body weight is plenty of weight...
You rise from a chair maybe 100 times daily, but how often do you do it with 150 lbs on your back? Never. But if you do it with 100 lbs on your back now, odds are that getting out of a chair at age 85 won't be a chore. Powerlifting is not Body-Building.
There are plenty of heavy accessory lifts with which to fill an hour, but the powerlifts are the core for strength conditioning.
So the powerlifts are not functional so much in themselves as they are designed for total body power, and muscle and bone strength. Total body strength feeds indirectly into everything you do in life except, perhaps, endurance activities. Your fitness for mostly everything, energy level, general appearance, and posture. Men and women of all ages include powerlifts in their workout programs.
Thursday, October 25. 2018
Can you lose weight by hiking? Not walking - hiking.
Sure can, and I am proof. 10 days of hiking - urban and rural, mostly hills and many of them steep because it was Tuscany - for 6 hours/day left me with a 7 lb. weight loss. That's with my usual modest but tasty meals in Italy, never hungry at all. Some daily beers or wine: good food requires it. This loss was entirely unintentional. I was shocked when I got on my scale at home (cuz my pants were falling down). Not good or healthy, really.
Also perturbed because that too-fast (1 lb/wk is normal for weight-losers, and I do not want that) loss clearly reduced my deadlifting power this morning.
We have asserted here that you can't lose weight with exercise alone, but that refers to, say, a reasonable and realistic one hour/day biking, swimming, lifting, walking, and the like.
I did a little lazy research. Jogging at 5 mph burns around 550 calories/hour, about the same as energetic hill hiking. Comfortable walking is around 250, speed walking around 300. That ain't enough burn to make measurable difference. One donut or bagel has 300 calories, a slice of pizza around 350-400. But if you multiply that hourly hill-hiking number by 6, you are getting to real daily numbers and getting into real fat-burning.
It's said that 6 hr/day hill-hikers on The Long Trail (Appalachian trail) need about 5000 calories/day to prevent weight loss over days or weeks of hiking.
It is true that all calories are not physiologically equal, but you can come up with rough numbers: the average sedentary adult female needs around 2500 calories daily, male 3000, to maintain weight. Those numbers are average and perhaps high for trim fit people.
(Sedentary - a modern sin - is often defined as daily exercise equal to or less than a 3 mile walk daily at a 3-4 mph pace. Just above that is "Lightly Active", etc. My one hour daily sched of weights, cardio, and calisthenics gets me just into the "Moderately Active" category by most measures because of the high levels of intensity with HIIT, calisthenics classes, and heavy weights. Intensity can try to compensate for duration. I'd put our hiking guide last year in the Hebrides in the "Highly-Active" category. Craig MacDonald was not only Highly-Active and highly-fit, but highly humorous and sarcastic in the Scots way. Always happy to tease you for a half hour if you bought him a dram or two of Highland Park at the end of the day. That is his beverage.)
Readers know that one of the rewards of my fairly-demanding work-out regimen is to be able to do things like hill-hike all day without fatigue, until I grow old. What's my point? I dunno. Maybe that fat loss is dietary, except when it isn't. Just facts to consider.
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