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, September 17. 2021
Thursday, September 2. 2021
This article applies to heavy weight training, not for the hand-weights typically used in conditioning classes.
Age is a factor. Also, there is an amount which is optimal. More is not always better. I do heavy weights (powerlifts, etc) twice weekly, but have been slacking off on the nutrition.
Wednesday, August 4. 2021
For starters, it is still the Maggie's Fitness for Life Program which is a mix of weights, HIIT and endurance "cardio", and a broad category of Calisthenics with includes plyometric stuff and other misc things. I'm fairly sure I have a semi-retired pal who is willing to do the Cali days with me - but he won't do 5 AM.
- "Heavy" weights twice/week, with trainer. My current guy pushes me to my limits, unlike my previous guy who was a slow incrementalist. This guy feels as if I am not getting my money's worth without pushing the limits routinely. It's ok. It's powerlifts and accessory lifts, plus abs, and I can't call it fun. Failure doesn't bother me much.
- "Cardio" days: I use these for endurance and to try to keep my heart in good shape. Might work because I just had my cardiology check-up with all the bells and whistles and it's all good. "No rust in the pipes, or not much, yet," he told me. What I tend to do is a mix of HIIT on the treadmill and the stair machine, 20-30 minutes total. For the rest of the hour I'll do vigorous - no sprints - on elliptical and rower. Great way to begin a day.
- "Calisthenics" days: I use this term as a grab bag of athletic-style exertions which are not all technically calis but which mostly do not include moving any weights much heavier than my own body. I kinda like doing them in rotations of 3. It's more inspiring to do them in a group or with pals. I put samples of these rotations below the fold:
Continue reading "Workout update"
Wednesday, July 28. 2021
There is "cardio", and then there is real Cardio exercise. What many people, especially women, do for cardio is actually endurance work: Swimming a mile, fast walking, stairmaster, treadmill, elliptical. An hour or four of endurance work per week will keep you moving, but it's not really Cardio for a relatively healthy person.
Real Cardio means training the heart muscle (the invisible muscle) and stressing the cardio-pulmonary system. For the Cardio component of our Fitness For Life program, we recommend some endurance cardio but, more importantly, HIIT cardio training.
What does it do? Primarily, it builds cardiac muscle and cardiac vessels. We need those for life exertions (eg mountain hikes), for endurance, for energy, for our sports, and, sadly, to help us survive our first or second heart attacks. Since most of us will die from cancer or heart disease, why not postpone the latter if we can, and have more energy and life vigor in the process? There's some evidence that it might help postpone dementia too.
HIIT entails maximum sprints, 30-45 seconds, integrated in a regular cardio program. You want your heart rate near you max output, 90% or more. This can be done with swimming, treadmill, stairmaster, Jacob's Ladder, rower - whatever. Best not to undertake this without a stress echocardiogram and your doc to clear you first to make sure you do not drop dead in the gym. That would be embarassing for you and for them.
If you do 5-10 fully-intense, max effort cardio sprints on your cardio days, you will feel it. A bit of dizziness means you've done your best. Good calis classes offer this too, and you can, of course, exert yourself to your own best level.
Reminder: Whether you do "long-slow" exercises, or do HIIT, or jus take walks or swims, none of these will offer you any meaningful loss of abdominal fat. Fat is nutritional unless you workout 6 hours/day.
Wednesday, July 21. 2021
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 3-4 mph on level ground. I can barely 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 after that.
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 whatever incline you can handle 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.
Also, walking and jogging are not for weight loss. They are for maintaining functioning and for having fun.
Wednesday, July 14. 2021
Wednesday, June 23. 2021
Image shows two things: the difference between half squat and full squat, and terrible form in the second image
Squats (and deadlifts) are the two most functional muscular exercises. The former is getting up, and the latter is picking up stuff.
Squats are known as "The King of Exercises" because so many muscle groups are stressed. They are also said to be beneficial for knee joints.
Squats come in many forms: the basic barbell back squat (a power lift), and calisthenics like body-weight squats, squat-and press, side squats, squat jumps, heavy ball wall throws, etc.
I have been thinking about how to deepen my barbell squats. With body-weight or hand weights, I can do full squats easily, but with heavier weight I do not go below 45 degrees. It's partly confidence and partly weakness.
To do full squats with barbell weights (instead of half-squats, 90 degrees) I think I need to reset my barbell squat program with the plain bar (45 lbs) or light weights and to try to work up quickly from there. I'm convinced that the full squat is the real deal.
What about you?
Below the fold, image depicting all of the muscles engaged in a full squat. She's using dumbells, but it is not as if gals cannot do barbell squats. They sure can, and using the bar makes it more reliable to keep a chest-up posture. On the other hand, dumbell squats get you low if you touch the dumbells to the ground...but on the third hand, barbell back squats let you squat with more weight than your grip is strong.
Continue reading "Squats, reposted"
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.
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