Monday, October 31, 2016

Monday workout: body weight

This week’s workout is all body weight exercises!  Hooray!  Do three rounds.

40 opposite knees
20 squats
20 punches
side plank (w/rotation)
20 deep lunges
10 pushups
10 femur arcs
10 chest lifts
10 obliques

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Book Report: Papillon

The latest selection in Andrew Luck’s book club for adults is Papillon by Henri Charriere.  (Andrew Luck makes this qualify as fitness reading.  Also, extreme endurance events in the plot.)  The book is a memoir written by a man sentenced to life imprisonment in French Guyana.  He attempts multiple escapes, eventually succeeding and going on to live out his life in Venezuela.

This was not my favorite book.  Much of it reads too much like fiction, and some of it like the kind of fantasy a horny con would come up with.  The exploits are exciting, the prisons are horrible, and the characters are colorful.  They just don’t seem all that real and thus are less compelling.  Maybe I would like it better if I were a male.  Or if I saw the movie with Steve McQueen.

Verdict:  Give this one a miss.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Thursday Book Report: Indestructible

Full disclosure:  I went to high school with John Bruning and I think he is smart, funny, talented, and generally awesome.  Now go buy his book, Indestructible.

John tells the story of Pappy Gunn, a Naval pilot turned airline pilot turned Army Airforce Captain, who, by dint of extreme endurance and remarkable ingenuity, works to rescue his family in the Philippines during World War II.  It is all true; it has to be, because otherwise it would be absolutely unbelievable.  With deft prose, John unfolds the tale of remarkable characters in an indomitable family.

I don’t want to spoil the story by revealing the twists, but there are many, as well as a flying lizard, episodes of radical shoe-shopping, and enough airplane details to satisfy the aficionado in your family (my family has one; doesn’t everyone’s?).

Also, Pappy painted his airplanes red and therefore was a man after my own heart.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Unicycles use lots of core muscles, too

More is not necessarily better when it comes to cardio.  This is good news for those of us who are easily bored.

Unless we are training for a century ride, a marathon, or something similarly long and endurance-based, we do not need to spend hours and hours on steady-state cardio.  In fact, the data suggests we get more benefit from shorter workouts with high-intensity intervals.

What does that mean in practical terms?  No more hour-long walks on the treadmill.  Spend twenty minutes or half an hour.  Warm up for five minutes, then alternate bursts of speed of about a minute with recovery periods of one to two minutes.  This works with all the cardio equipment in the gym or out in the real world if you are running, biking, swimming, or pogo-sticking.  Then cool down for five minutes.

Not only does this form of training help our cardiovascular systems learn to recover more quickly, it also motivates our metabolisms to burn more calories.  Win!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The philosophy of form...

Emerson wrote that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.  I will use this in my defense should anyone point out that I contradict myself.  Then I will pull out other rhetoric, winning by boring my critics to death and enjoying the glazing over of their eyes.  Just kidding.  Mostly.

I often write that anything we do is better than nothing.  Today I am going to suggest that we actually have to try to do things well.  This would be that place where I appear to be inconsistent.  Both things are true.  Any work we do toward fitness is good.  I will almost always advocate for getting off the couch, the exceptions being times when we are sick or injured.  Do a little if doing a lot is more than we can handle.

That said, we have to pay attention to form.  It is better to do nothing than to do things that will hurt us in the long run.  If we consistently (hey, there’s that word again!) work out without paying attention to our body mechanics, we are setting ourselves up for future pain and suffering.  In that spirit, I offer these suggestions:

Make friends.  A workout buddy or trainer can help us see things we would otherwise miss.  A little reminder that we have to go through the whole range of motion, or that our elbows are sticking out too far, or that maybe we should use a lighter weight since we are compensating can save us from weeks of rehabilitation.

Make friends with the mirror.  When we work out alone, the mirror can help us correct errors in our proprioception (remember that fancy word?  It means our sense of where our bodies are in space.) that can lead to bad form.

Use abs.  I say some variation of “engage your abs” to clients more often than anything else.  Core strength might be the very best way to ensure proper form.

(The photo is me making friends with a warped mirror...)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday Workout: October Push

This month’s push workout includes one Pilates reformer exercise.  If you don’t have a reformer (like everyone does, right?), you get bonus cardio:  squat jumps.  It’s all about choosing weights that are heavy enough that ten repetitions are as much as we can do at once.  Two to three rounds.  Let’s be super strong!

1 min cardio

bar pullup
barbell squat
reformer jumping
barbell bench press
barbell row
bulgarian split squat
lateral raise
dumbbell walking lunge

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Rolling Rock, not the beer

In high school, I had several great teachers.  One of them made me go look up Sisyphus, which back then meant going to the library, not just whipping out my phone and asking Google, which is probably why I still remember it.  Sisyphus, according to the myth, was a jerk.  The gods punished him by making him roll a giant rock to the top of a hill only to have it roll back down for eternity.  Pretty frustrating.  He must have been a really serious jerk for that to seem at all appropriate.

There is one way that Sisyphus can lift his own punishment.  He can like rolling rocks.

So at first glance, I appear to be advocating some kind of Stockholm syndrome.  Rolling rocks uphill is hard work.  Being compelled to do it over and over again doesn’t make it better.  But shifting perspective, choosing to love the strain of the muscles and the roughness of the boulder and the moment of success at the top and the careening excitement of the rock falling back down, can turn hell into something else.

Workouts, I hope, are not hell, but for those hellish moments, maybe we can try loving rolling rocks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Everything on the list...

I am a stress eater.  Rough day?  Bring on the mac and cheese and probably the ice cream, too.  I can drown my sorrows in spaghetti, no problem.  The actual foods involved might be different, but I know I’m not the only person with this problem.

So:  one thing we can do about it is make a list of things that make us feel better that don’t have any calories in them.  Here are ten of mine:

1.     Exercise.
2.     Sleep.
3.    Music.
4.     Dancing.
5.     Cuddling.
6.    Bath.
7.     Car wash.
8.     Pedicure.
9.     Knitting/sewing/crafts.
1. Bubbles.

What’s on yours?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Routine Non-Procedure

Routine, like everything else, has advantages and disadvantages.  If I routinely eat a pint of ice cream every night, I probably won’t like the results.  If I routinely hop out of bed and get to my workout, I am more likely to enjoy what happens.  So far:  duh, right?

What happens when routine is disrupted?  Besides total chaos and the end of the world.  At the point when we can’t fall into our routine, we get to make choices.  Do we step up and find a way to take care of our fitness or dietary needs without the comfort of routine around us, or do we assume we can’t do anything because we didn’t do it when we were expecting to?

Here’s my plan for when plans don’t go as planned:  find a way.  Yes, I rely on my habits to get me to do things automatically that I would ordinarily find a way to get out of doing.  But when something happens in the morning, an unusual appointment, a missed alarm, I can figure out some way to fit the workout into another part of the day.

Let’s Get Things Done.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday Workout: Hey, no burpees this week!

This week’s workout uses a stability ball for three exercises:  YTA, fly, and roll-out abs.  If you don’t have one, you can do the first two exercises on a bench and substitute your favorite ab exercise for the third.  The other special piece of equipment is the Xiser, which is kind of like a very low-tech elliptical trainer; you can substitute a minute on an elliptical or stepping on a bench.  As usual, do three rounds.

mountain climbers

ball fly

1 arm snatch
roll out abs

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Book Report: Out of Their League

I haven’t watched any football this season.  It’s not just because my team—how do I say this delicately—sucks.  I’ve been having qualms about watching for years as a result of books like Jeff Benedict and Don Yaeger’s Pros and Cons and Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru’s League of Denial.  The whole circus around Colin Kaepernick and his peaceful protest strengthened my conviction that really this was all about hypocrisy.  Then I read (and wrote about) Harry Edwards’s Sociology of Sport, which led me to today’s book, Dave Meggyesy’s Out of Their League.

Essentially, Meggyesy’s account points out that none of the stuff that is hitting the news recently is new (the book was published in 1970).  The issues with player health, drugs, concussions, violence against women, racism, and pseudo-patriotism have been there all along.

In the Foreward, he writes about why he quit football:

“It’s hard for me to count the reasons why. But I can begin by telling you about an image that is etched deep into my memory.  The Cardinals were playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in St. Louis one rainy, cold Sunday afternoon.  We were beating them easily and then, with a minute or so to go, they scored.  I was playing end on the kickoff return team and my assignment was to swing more than halfway across field and block the third man from the kicker on the Pittsburgh team.  I watched the flight of the ball as it went straight down the middle.  Then I dropped back a few steps and began the sprint across field.  My man must have thought someone had blown their blocking assignment or maybe it was because he was a rookie, but whatever the reason, he was making a bad mistake:  running full speed and not looking to either side.  I knew he didn’t see me and I decided to take him low.  I gathered all my force and hit him.  As I did, I heard his knee explode in my ear, a jagged, tearing sound of muscles and ligaments separating.  The next thing I knew, time was called and he was writhing in pain on the field.  They carried him off on a stretcher and I felt sorry—but at the same time, I knew it was a tremendous block and that was what I got paid for.

“During the rest of my years in the pros, this image would occasionally surface in my mind.  This sort of thing happened all the time; it was part of a typical Sunday afternoon in big-time football.  But the conditions that made me feel a confused joy at breaking up another man’s body gradually became just one of many reasons why I decided to quit the game.

“After playing the sport most of my life, I’ve come to see that football is one of the most dehumanizing experiences a person can face…” (p.  3-4)

I quoted at length, I know, but I wanted to give the full force of his writing, of the conflict between the amazing athletic enterprise and the inherent violence, of getting paid to do a job well, except that job is to wreck people.

The book is engaging throughout and often funny, intentionally or through the passage of time and its effect on colloquial speech.  The whole experience is thought-provoking and produced change in my behavior.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

How about now?

I am not good at patience.  Now seems like an excellent time for things to work, take effect, start, finish, whatever.  I relate to Homer Simpson, staring at the microwave, wondering if there is any faster way to get a meal.

Sadly, the world is not on my (micro)wavelength.  Habits require repetition.  Changes occur over time, in increments.  The best we can do is work as efficiently and as conscientiously as possible.

Let’s go get our reps in.  One of these days, it’s all going to pay off.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sick fitness

When we get sick, we have to pause and rearrange our priorities.  In case that is too much trouble, here is the priority list for while we are sick.

Eat healthy food if possible.
Move around and/or stretch enough to avoid stiffness.

When we are back to being well, we can return to our usual priorities.

(Guess how I felt yesterday…)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday Workout: Exercise Pair Circuit

This week’s workout is a longer circuit.  Do two or three rounds.

1 min

around the world
10 each way
overhead press

chest press

bicep curl
hammer curl

tricep kickbacks

lateral raise
reverse fly


Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday Book Report: The New Better Off

(Warning:  there is a swear word in this post.  Skip the first sentence of the second paragraph if swear words offend you.)

Books tend to lead to more books.  (I am tempted to quote Bilbo Baggins’s song about the dangers of stepping outside one’s front door because roads do the same thing…)  One of the books I read recently led me to Courtney E. Martin’s new book The New Better Off:  Reinventing the American Dream.  No, there are no exercises in it, no recipes or tips for lowering our cholesterol and increasing our cardiovascular fitness, and yet it is a book deeply speaking to the larger questions of fitness.  What are we fit for?  How do we fit?  How do we make our world a fit place to live?

Martin examines the traditional ideas we hold about being “better off” and concludes that those ideas, “left uninterrogated, can be fucking dangerous.”  She posits that there is something, or many somethings, better than making more money, having more stuff, working more hours.  She examines many possible threads that can be woven into a more humane, truly better life.

Short version:  invest in community.  We are fit because we fit together.  Alone, we are toast.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

This one is about sex... You are warned.

Better sex.  That’s a good reason to get fit, right?  Are we willing to work out for that?

(And I don’t mean we have to get fit so we can become some random societal ideal of hot to get dates in the first place.  That is the patriarchy speaking, and smashing the patriarchy is an excellent fitness activity as long as we manage to maintain proper posture and core control while we do it.)

Fitness means better sex for real reasons.  Like, for example, that aforementioned core control.  Core control has a direct relationship with the ability to move our pelvises like Elvis.  It keeps our lower backs from giving out on us.  More body positions become available the more core control we have.

Which brings me to flexibility and strength.  Flexibility of body allows for whatever our flexible minds suggest might be fun without that buzz-killing cramping.  The stronger we are, the more possibilities we can realize.

Cardiovascular fitness?  The more you have, the longer you can play.  Also, that playing can raise our heart rates and count toward our daily activity totals.

Always practice safe sex with consent.  That’s just appropriate behavior.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

FAQ about SAQ?

This week’s workout, posted Monday, includes work with the speed ladder.  Speed/agility/quickness (SAQ) work often gets neglected, but has plenty of benefits for both athletes and non-athletes.

Bursts of speed raise our heart rates and make excellent high intensity intervals, proven to improve our cardiovascular fitness and pump up our metabolisms.  Shockingly, training for speed also makes us… faster!  Life is not a race, but really, who doesn’t want to be fast?

Agility, in this context, means that we can start, stop, and change direction quickly without compromising our excellent posture.  We need agility to escape from linebackers and to dodge wayward shopping carts.  It helps our brains, because agility, by nature, breaks us out of our always-forward mindset and reminds us that we sometimes have to go backward, sideways, or around.

Quickness is all about response time.  If we want to stop suddenly because the car in front of us has inexplicably burst into flames, we need quickness.  Mentally, we need to be alert and ready for action.  Quickness allows us to elude cheetahs and muggers, adapt to suddenly encroaching curbs, and avoid stepping on the cat.

Also:  fun.