The Workout – Video

I really like the looks of this workout .  I plan to take some of the exercises and work it up.  Great time to do it right now, with the full bloom of summer in Maine beckoning me to be outside. I Don’t miss the YMCA gym at all! 

The Workout | Becoming Rocky Balboa – Video – NYTimes.com.–<  Open up the brief video!  I’m not sure we’d get such a crowd up here.

What’s Your “Fitness Age”? – 2014 version

The first “fitness calculator” I learned about was Dr. Oz’s Real Age.  It became popular several years ago.  Real Age is an online calculator that is based on the results of answering questions about 125 factors related to a person’s overall health, including health, feelings, diet, and fitness ( i.e., How often you eat fish versus red meat to exercise and sleep habits, asthma, smoking, aspirin use, cancer history, parental longevity, and conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.). I took it once but didn’t get too worked up over using it more than once, even though my ” real age” was about 10 years younger than my actual age.

Now there appears to be a much briefer method of determining your relative fitness that is based on just 5 factors.

This 2013 study, from the  Norwegian University of Science and Technology,  reveals a more efficient, low-tech means of precisely assessing how well your body functions physically. It culminated in each of the 5,000 participants in taking a treadmill test assessing peak oxygen intake (VO2 max), or how well the body delivers oxygen to its cells. From the study, “VO2 max has been shown in large-scale studies to closely correlate with significantly augmented life spans, even among the elderly or overweight. In other words, VO2 max can indicate fitness age.”

The real value of this study is it’s apparent ability to establish one’s own VO2 max without the cost and inconvenience of paying for the medical procedure.  The researchers found that  just five measurements — waist circumference; resting heart rate; frequency and intensity of exercise; age; and sex — into an algorithm allowed them to predict a person’s VO2 max with noteworthy accuracy, according to their study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

The researchers have used all of this data to create a free online calculator that allows you to determine your VO2 max without going to a lab. All you need to establish is your waist measurement and your resting heart rate.  You plug these numbers, along with your age, sex and frequency and intensity of exercise, into the calculator, and you’ll learn your fitness age.

From the NYTime article, “The results can be sobering. A 50-year-old man, for instance, who exercises moderately a few times a week, sports a 36-inch waist and a resting heart rate of 75 — not atypical values for healthy middle-aged men — will have a fitness age of 59. Thankfully, unwanted fitness years, unlike the chronological kind, can be erased, Dr. Wisloff says. Exercise more frequently or more intensely. Then replug your numbers and exult as your “age” declines. A youthful fitness age, Dr. Wisloff says, ‘is the single best predictor of current and future health’.”

I have been recording my heart rate on a daily basis for the past two months with an iPhone app called Cardiio .

Cardiio app on iPhone 5s

Cardiio app on iPhone 5s

While there are manual methods that don’t rely on a watch, the program’s charting features give you the ability to aggregate and share data. I  sent the summary results to my doctor, as I am concerned about my occasional heart rate drops into the high 30′s.  While heart rate is one of the five measurements in the Norwegian study that drove my “fitness age” to 38, I want to stick around to enjoy my fitness.

She referred me to a local sport-aware cardiologist for a screening after my own office EKG results were normal.  I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, I’m going to try and drop another inch off my waist line, continue hammering the backpacking and bicycling, and doing my TM twice daily, which I feel has resulted in a decreased resting heart rate after practicing it twice daily for 42 years.

What’s Your ‘Fitness Age’?. <<- click here for full New York Times article.

 

 

 

40 sticks of butter and the vitamin D blues

Here's hoping!

Here’s hoping!

Summer is not official yet, but already it’s easier to get out and do things-walk around in shorts, forget concerns about taking a jacket, and what about those extended hours of sunlight where walks and rides are possible after dinner ?

The good news is that I feel I’m in better shape this year.  I have more stamina for biking and hiking up hills even though I didn’t renew my YMCA  membership in the fall. Instead, I have reclaimed those same hours driving there and back and am engaging in more authentic, functional movement-walking, backpacking, bike riding, lifting logs and rocks, hauling wood around in a wheelbarrow, doing pull ups on a tree branch, digging in a garden plot, and now pushing a lawn mower.  I have also cut out french fries, and reduced my intake of bread.

I just had a mini-checkup at my doctor’s, where I heard good and bad news.

The good news is that I am a full 10 pounds lighter than usual as I am going into the summer-I like to visualize a pound of fat as 4 sticks of butter, which is not far from the truth. So It’s immensely rewarding to think of 40 sticks of butter shaved from my mass.

The bad news is that I continue to be deficient in Vitamin D.  I have been checking my level of D since 2012 when my mom alerted me that she was deficient, and she is outside all the time.  What’s particularly troubling is that I have been prescribed 50,000 units of D2 a week since December.
My readings, with treatment, have been decreasing the last 3 years:  4/12 = 34 ng/mL , 10/12 = 28, 10/13 23, 5/14 22.

My doctor has just ramped me up to 100,000 units weekly-two pills of 50,000 a week, via prescription.  She’s not as concerned as I am.  She feels that my other bio-markers are fine, and that all the backpacking and walking that I do are protective factors, particularly for osteoporosis.

Nevertheless, I have been doing my own research . I have learned that Vitamin D is fat soluble, and that its best to be taken with fat. I eat the same thing most every day for breakfast except Sunday. Low fat yogurt, blueberries, home-made granola-a bowl full that’s not heavy on fats and that’s the meal I’ve used for taking the D pill.  I have also cut out pouring half and half into my morning coffees.  I just switched to taking my vitamin D intake to correspond with my dinners, which include salads with olive oil-more fat.

I am also going expose my skin to sunlight, and plan to be outside in shorts and no shirt for a half-hour in the middle of the day, when I can. Research indicates that  going outside for 10 minutes in the midday sun—“in shorts and a tank top with no sunscreen”—exposes the body to radiation that produces approximately 10,000 international units of vitamin D.

Here’s hoping.

Anyone else out there who has been successful at raising their D levels, or not?

The Walking Man

Who is the walking man?

It’s me, it’s you, it’s everyone, as it has been for millions of years. But we don’t do much anymore, unless you live in a city, where parking spaces are sold to the highest bidder. People who live in rural areas walk the least, because we have to drive so far to get milk, drinks, or even a cup of coffee. I can walk a few miles to a rural convenience store from where I live in coastal Maine, but have to ford a couple of streams, and walk through a tangle of under and overgrowth on an abandoned town road to get there. If I want to head back home, there’s 400 vertical feet of ascending to do so. 99% of the time, I crank up a vehicle to get there.

But, you can’t deny the effectiveness of “the walk” to keep one’s weight down, prevent our range of motion from deteriorating, and from triggering our bodies into a mode that can ward off or even reverse prediabetic biomarkers, improve heart function, and reduce the negative effects of bad cholesterol and subsequent heart disease.

Here’s a story of a regular guy who turned things around by just walking—>>  The Walking Man ( from NYTimes)

It’s so much easier and safer to walk here now that the winter’s ice is gone. Maybe this story will inspire you, too.

Sky Blue Trail/ Camden Hills State Park

Sky Blue Trail/ Camden Hills State Park

 

Exercises to Strengthen Bones – NYTimes.com

 

Exercises to Strengthen Bones – NYTimes.com.

I’ve added three sessions of jumping into my weekly training for hiking and biking. Running works too, but I’ve had the cartilage removed from both knees, and at at around 200 pounds now, it’s a dumb option for me.   It’s easy for me to do this.  Just outside the house we have a short railroad tie retaining wall that’s a couple of feet high, with a crushed  rock landing zone below it.  It’s perfect to jump up on and then leap down from.  Ten times a session should do it.

Bicycling, walking, and apparently even weight lifting don’t help with reducing the inevitable effects of osteoporosis. Walking might work, but only if you push it.   You can’t make up for any bone loss as you age, but can prevent the rate of bone loss.   This is a topic that bears educating one’s self.

Today the men helped me

Today was a gift, however some serious pulling, pounding, and lifting were required to get at the treasure trove.  Since I have given up my decades-long YMCA gym membership this fall, the plan was to increase my outside “farm chores” in order to keep myself fit.  Today, I surpassed all my hopes that I could reach some degree of fitness, but needed three of my friends to make it happen.  They average out to about 75 years old, but these are no ordinary men.

Dave and Hank had helped me reconstruct the wood shed that had crashed to the ground during the winter of 2012-13.  Today Hank came back and we put the front trim boards on and then lifted and screwed down the metal roof.  Hank brought his tools, including the rechargeable drill.

Hank makes it happen

Hank makes it happen

We cleaned up that job in about an hour and a half.  I worked off the the tall ladder and walked on the roof. Hank worked off the shorter ladder. He’s 82!

While Hank and I worked on the roof, Dave and Gary began today’s firewood detail.
Gary is a master at felling trees.

Gary aims the fall

Gary aims the fall

His family farm in Warren goes back many generations. Since his retirement from his marine scientist position with the State of Maine, Gary has  amassed all the right tools for processing and transporting firewood. Gary was our main cutter today. Both Dave and I had to move quickly to keep up with him.  Here’s Gary, sharpening one of his saws with a Dremel attachment, powered by a quiet little Honda generator.

Gary is well prepared

Gary is well prepared

Dave put some serious miles on walking back and forth fueling the brush fire.

Dave stoking the brush pile

Dave stoking the brush pile

We took down an old stand of apple trees. Most were of the wood was diseased. I gave Dave several clear butt ends of apple wood that he’ll craft into bowls and spoons.  He’s a fine cabinetmaker, who has produced some remarkably detailed cabinetry and fine stringed musical instruments.

It was immensely satisfying working hard, and mostly wordlessly with these men today.
My Fitbit app on my 5s iPhone stayed in my pocket today, tracking my movement.  We worked for 4 hours and while I never strayed more than a couple hundred feet from my door today, the miles piled on.  Check this out!

Mileage, baby!

Mileage, baby!

I love these men, who graced me with their presence, and left me with a drying shelter for the cord of firewood that we worked up today.

My New Gym – Outdoors!

I was complaining to My friend  Frankie the Tax Dude  about my feet, back, and neck after I got back home from 5 months of backpacking the Continental Divide Trail.  Frankie recommended that I have a few sessions with William Armstrong, up to Belfast, ME .

Just three sessions with Bill did it for me. I  found his approach fresh and useful.  My neck problem is gone.  Bill also assisted me in making the switch from the gym to the outdoors as well.  I have been a gym rat for the past 40 years, but no more.  I can’t stand spending sweat time indoors when I can be outside, with trees, streams, and rocks around me.

With just a foam roller, a couple of solid rollers, two dumb bells, and an eight pound medicine ball , I’m good, even if it’s too miserable to get out.  I can use this stuff at home too, if I  am watching backpacking or music videos on the TV.  20140412-095635.jpg Bill also suggested specific exercises for me to try, garnered from a variety of sources.  I am now engaging in backpacking and biking specific routines.

Some of Bill’s simplest recommendations surprised me. For example, after 6 decades of wear and tear on my body, I assumed that one needs some assistance with balance.  Bill was observing me put on my socks after one of his sessions.  I had one hand out against a wall to keep myself steady on one leg as I aimed my other foot into my sock.  “Bad idea”, he said.

“Don’t hold onto anything, keep wobbling.”  Interesting.

Bill also suggested that I could make several adaptations while I was hiking outside.  For example, with the deep winter snows now almost gone, I am able to  go into the edges of the woods lining the road and do some things that helped me, like using a natural chinning bar.

Here is a map of my outdoor gym.  It is a three mile out and back ciruit, and gains some elevation going up Moody Mountain at the end point.  If I have enough time, I keep going to the saddle at the top, where I do a turn-around :

The path, out and back

The path, out and back

I found my chinning bar today!  It was not 10′ from the side of the road at the 1.1 mile mark. It’s   a maple limb, about 8 and a half  feet off the ground, just at the right height for me to stretch my arms over head and leap up  and hang off the ground.  I could only do two chin-ups , and hope to work up to 10.  Yeah!

Next, I’ll make a final selection of a big rock that I can jump up and down from.  Then a distance from that would be a slightly elevated rock that I can step up and down from.   I started jumping a couple of years ago, after I learned that non-impact sports like biking do nothing to keep our bones strong.  It’s a good thing to do to keep osteoporosis at bay.

Hikers! Lose weight, save $$$$ !!

from Outside magazine

from Outside magazine

Weight Loss for Athletic Performance | Nutrition | OutsideOnline.com  <–Click to read original Outside post

I’m actively trimming ounces of gear that lead to one less pound for my 2014 backpacking gear list.   While it’s a standard target for many backpackers to lessen the load they need to haul around, up, and down- I’m even more interested in keeping 15 pounds off my now reduced to 200-pound frame.

At the end of March last year,  I weighed in at 215.  It was less than a month before I was to step away from the Palomas, Mexico border crossing in New Mexico and walk some 2,500 miles over the Rockies to Canada.  I didn’t worry much about my weight, because I knew I’d lose lots of weight, even eating all the high calorie food I could carry.  By the 60th day, somewhere in Colorado, I stepped on the scales and I was down to 184. Pretty remarkable.  Thirty one pounds.

I like to visually imagine this weight thing, and default to a mental image of a pound of fat—-pound of butter, 4 sticks. Fat-butter, yes- they are pretty close in density.  Four times 31 equals 124 sticks of butter being trimmed off my body. Yikes!

I’m yo-yoed through this up and down weight thing before , as have most other folks.  This time I have been able to keep off those last 15 pound that I have said bye-bye to.  I was able to fit into a pair or size 34 pants when I came back to Maine from this last long hike.  I am really pleased to say I can still fit them, and would like to keep it that way.

Why?  Because I am now fitter than I have been in previous winters, even at any age.  I feel it climbing hills on my Pugsley bicycle, which I have been able to ride at least twice a week just about every week this winter.  I have good endurance on longer snowshoe expeditions, and winter hikes.

How have I kept the weight off?  Portion control.  I have always exercised enough, but my lower metabolic rate has always worked against me.  I have a new perspective- EXERCISING IS NOT ENOUGH  FOR ME TO DROP WEIGHT.

One of the factors that has correlated with staying 15 pounds lighter this winter is  not renewing my YMCA gym membership.  I’ve been a gym rat all my life,ever since high school.  No more.  It’s not logical, I just felt it wasn’t right anymore to drive 15 minutes down and then 15 minutes back to work out for an hour.  I stay outside and do things- walking biking, hiking.  I have even vowed to cut my own firewood, and haul and split it myself.

I do have a medicine ball, a stability ball, a set of dumb bells and a program of exercises that I can do in the house if the weather is really bad and I don’t feel like going out.  But it’s the last resort.

screenshot-2013-12-30-15-09-39

from Jordan Crook (@jordanrcrook)

I give some credit to the Fitbit app that I have on my iPhone 5s as a contributing factor to my weight loss.

It’s free from the App store.  If you own the 5s you no longer have to purchase the $100 wristband to use most of the features of the Fitbit app. Apple’s M7 chip — exclusive to the iPhone 5S (and new models of the iPads) — keeps track of a user’s movements and allows easy retrieval of that data without sacrificing battery life.   Just keeping the iPhone in my pocket allows me track all the motion of my body during the day, which automatically converts to steps, and miles. The app also allows for manual data entry about how many miles biked, etc.  The Fitbit app also allows me to enter everything I eat, and registers calories. It has a vast array of foods already calculated for entry.  Over time, I realized that there aren’t that many varieties of meals and snacks that I eat on a monthly basis- they can be entered and saved for really quick meal/ snack entry.  I like that I am prompted for consumption of a specified amount of daily water- in my case 64 oz.

Intake/ output food calorie is not new.  Ever hear of Weightwatchers?

It’s new for me, and it’s working so far.  Plus I’m saving money that I’d spend on getting those last few ounces off my back, by losing pounds off my stomach.

The 4-Minute Workout

First came The First Twenty Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds. $T2eC16NHJH!FFl4W1Rm(BRbs2B4DVQ~~_35  In her 2012 book, Reynolds made the case that 90% of the health effects from a session of exercise are gained in the first 20 minutes that we get moving.  It’s a worthwhile attempt to answer the question about just what extent and degree of exercise is optimal?  More exercise is better?  Not really, she says.

Reynolds’ research suggests that for recreationally-oriented individuals who do not have some over reaching goal such as completing a half-marathon or so, the best bang for your buck comes in that first twenty minutes, with only incremental improvement coming after that first 20 minutes.  Good news, huh?

Now,  20 minutes may be overkill, but only if you are willing to go all out.

Check out—->  The 4-Minute Workout – from NYTimes.com.

This new study whittles that 20 minute figure way down – to just four minutes .  The research examined the effects of a relatively large dose of high-intensity intervals on various measures of health and fitness.

There may be something to it.  However, one’s actual engagement in brief exercise is not a logical undertaking.  Otherwise, why are the majority of adult Americans now clinically overweight?  How many of us vow to get moving , and use those pants that someday we believe we can fit into again?

I think that the body unconsciously recoils against pain-  intense intervals hurt.  And evolutionary biology  has programmed pain avoidance into our consciousness.  In order to engage in repeated bouts of night intensity exercise, one needs to trick ourselves into changing up for a sweat fest, no matter how brief.  I’d like to see the long term research on one’s ability to maintain such a difficult, albeit brief road to fitness.

Thoughts?

Might As Well Jump

Aging athlete?

Hoping to avoid osteoporosis, possibly a hip fracture?

From the NY Times’ Gretchen Reynolds–>>Why High-Impact Exercise Is Good for Your Bones – NYTimes.com.

I have been a faithful member of a gym for decades. But, no more.  I didn’t renew my YMCA membership for 2014. After returning from backpacking 2,500 miles in 2013,  I experienced a turnaround of sorts.

I exercise outside now- either walking, snowshoeing, riding my bikes ( which I have been able to do all winter), or tending to “farm chores”, like harvesting and transporting wood. I also save $450 a year in gym fees. Driving twenty miles round trip to the gym to work out for 45 minutes makes no sense, when I can just walk out the door and get moving. Granted, there are days where it is just too cold or snowy to safely do something out there, so I keep a couple dumb bells and a stability ball around to take up the slack.

How’s it working for me? So far, really good.  I lost 27 pounds on the hike, and usually gained back weight within a few months of home food and reduced activity.  However, this time I’m still down 15 pounds.

I’ll post details about my home exercise program sometime. Bottom line is that I feel good and have adequate energy on my hikes and biking loops.

One of the regular exercises that I have added to my program is jumping up and down from stairs, or an elevated railroad tie that’s outside.

I decided to start jumping after reading a superb book, Daniel E. Lieberman’s The Story of the Human Body 41mMojkNh5L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Liberman is a evolutionary anthropologist at Harvard. He writes about “mismatch diseases” that are a product of the incompatibility of our evolutionary drives with modern society: heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, back problems, and osteoporosis.  Rates of osteoporosis are on the rise, a fact Lieberman attributes to declines in the physical activity necessary to build and maintain bone mass.

The guy is a genius, this is his territory, he’s mined it fully. Lieberman points out that while the roots of our tango with osteoporosis are already established, there are still things one can do to keep deterioration at bay.  For example, I had no idea that teenage inactivity results in smaller skeletal mass, which increases one’s risk of osteporosis later on.  Calcium supplementation may be one of the established procedures to fend off osteoporosis, however, it’s not often effective.

Any old exercise program won’t do.  Check out this alarming article: Are Cyclists Pedaling Towards Osteoporosis?  “People do not achieve peak bone mass until their late twenties, so if cyclists or swimmers are in their early or mid twenties, and they’re not doing any exercise that’s going to load their spine and help them achieve peak bone mass, they may be putting themselves at risk for a fracture.”

Might as well jump…..