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?

Carey Kish: It’s time to step up to the 1,000-mile challenge | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

As part of a regimen for the 1,000-mile goal, include hiking time in Acadia National Park. With views like this, you’ll be invigorated in both body and mind. Carey Kish Photo

As part of a regimen for the 1,000-mile goal, include hiking time in Acadia National Park. With views like this, you’ll be invigorated in both body and mind.
Carey Kish Photo

Carey Kish’s idea is superb. I like the idea of setting a long term goal that requires bit of a stretch. Totally in the right direction, which is getting outside. It’s also Maine-based.

Hey, Carey, I’m on this bus! Maybe we can hike together sometime in this 2014 campaign. I vowed to stay close to home this year, and your plan is making me look forward to the next few months.
I’d like a third hike of the Hundred. Carey’s thru-hike of Baxter state park inspired me to do the same this coming August. And yes to Grafton Loop. Definitely will do a thru hike of the George’s Highland Path and all of Camden Hills State Park

Readers click here—>>Carey Kish: It’s time to step up to the 1,000-mile challenge | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Careful! Inter-Web Info may physically wreck you

I am not 70, but closing in.  I enjoy reading about health and aging.  This article from Outside magazine was right up my alley.  I am also a subscriber, so I trusted it would be useful.  It is- mostly, but there appears be a research mistake in one of the recommendations, and it’s possible that you’d be hurt or discouraged from continuing your program, if you were to follow it.

Here’s the article itself, and I suggest you click on the light right below,  read the article, and then come back:

Photo from Outside magazine

Photo from Outside magazine

Who will argue about strength training, eating right, and walking?
No one, however, the advice about strength training is possibly dangerous.
Specifically , “Nix that muscle atrophy with regular cardiovascular and strength training exercise. One study showed that a strength training regimen of 3 sets of 8 reps at 80 percent of your one rep maximum, performed three times a week, can not only improve strength, but also build back Type II muscle fiber, which can give you a more toned, less flabby look.”
I read the abstract for the study, and there’s something wrong.  It’s the one rep maximum as a reference point.  I’ve been lifting for 40 years.  Eighty percent of the maximum weight  is totally appropriate for 8 reps, but ONLY  if you are an experienced lifter.  Muscles resist cycling loads and get stronger, so really strong people need to push 80 % of their max , as much as 8 times,  if they are to grow in strength.

But, if a 70+ year old tries to lift  80% of their max single effort lift 8 times, to exhaustion, and not just once, but three times in a row, I see big trouble: either torn muscles, heart failure, or a desire to stay away from something so hard to do.

My recommendation is to drop those reps to three sets of  4, if you are an older athlete, and your bar weight is 80 % of your maximum single push or pull.

So, why did the 12 men in the study have such great results after 12 weeks?   I’d bet their “trainers”  were not pushing them hard enough when establishing those 1 rp maximum reps.  Their maximum efforts were not true maximums.

Anyone else out there agree?

Snowshoeing Start Up

We’ve had a rare two feet or powder snow drop here on the Maine coast this past pre-Christmas week. I am nursing my sore body after two short but steep snowshoe hikes in the past three days. I have to remember to bring a headlamp with me-  came back in the dark last night. I usually hike from here with nothing extra.

I am fortunate enough to be able to walk just a 1/4 mile up the street and then strap on my MSR Lightening Axis snowshoes and hit the trail, most of it on a neighbor’s land. David doesn’t mind me keeping up the trail.  Before the snow came, I gave back to him a huge wrench that I found in the grass that he had lost this logging season.    Here’s a picture of the elevation profile.

20131220-080940.jpg
On the walk I saw a spruce grouse explode from the snow into the sky and even better, watched a little white weasel streak across the trail ahead of me. It was only the second white weasel I’ve seen in my life.  Fresh paths made by deer, rabbits, and even a moose were all over the ridge.20131220-082242.jpg

Back home, the same deer have not feared to come right up against the foundation and eat the greenery of some yew shrubs. They do that every year now, when the food is scarce for them.   This patch of land we live on is known as having a previous history as a top notch bean field. Two cemeteries flanking the house have signs of “c. 1830″ on them. My wife suggests that the deer feeding here may have been passing on old wisdom for close to 200 years.

Unfortunately, this two feet of snow is not going to stay.   Here’s the weather report for the weekend.

Yikes!

Yikes!

Know Pain, Know Gain… If You Are Walking For Health.

via Why a Brisk Walk Is Better – NYTimes.com.

photo from NY Times

photo from NY Times

Gretchen Reynolds’  Well New York Times blog entry from Dec. 4, 2013 is  mindblowing-

It suggests that those of us that regularly walk or backpack should consider moving a bit quicker, but only if you are interested in living longer !

The design of the research study ( initiated in 1998 ), recruited 7,374 male and 31,607 female walkers, who represented almost every speed of fitness walker, from sluggish to swift. Those findings were published online this month in PLoS One.

The research design even corrected for total energy expended, where the slowest walkers were required to walk longer distances, in order to adjust up to an equivalent energy output with the speediest walkers.

Dr. Paul T. Williams, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, cross-referenced his data against records that confirmed which of the almost 39,000 walkers had died in the decade or so since they had joined the survey.  The 2,000 deaths over-represented the slowest walkers, even if they met or exceeded the standard exercise guidelines and expended as much energy per day as someone walking briskly for 30 minutes.
“This effect was most pronounced among the slowest of the slow walkers, whose pace was 24 minutes per mile or higher. They were 44 percent more likely to have died than walkers who moved faster, even if they met the exercise guidelines.”
The article correctly  notes one huge confounding variable, “The slowest walkers may have harbored underlying health conditions that predisposed them to both a tentative walking pace and early death. But that possibility underscores a subtle takeaway of the new study, Dr. Williams said. “ Measuring your walking speed, he pointed out, could provide a barometer of your health status.”

Not to panic.
Ms. Raynolds leaves us with hope,

”The most encouraging news embedded in the new study is that longevity rises with small improvements in pace. The walkers in Category 3, for instance, moved at a speed only a minute or so faster per mile than some of those in the slowest group, but they enjoyed a significant reduction in their risk of dying prematurely.”

Wow!

Still slipping and sliding in the Camden Hills

8 mile loop hike from Carriage Rd. trail head

8 mile loop hike from Carriage Rd. trail head

The day was dry, but the footing was often wet, but I made it up and around with nothing more than wet feet on today’s training hike.
The mandatory picture from the top of Mt. Megunticook shows the remains of snow along the edge of the plowed Mt. Battie Road.

Enough Said

Enough Said

Two miles of trail from Ocean Lookout back to the top of Megunticook and then down the Ridge Trail to Jack Williams Trail (JWT) is still covered with appreciable snow, and even ice floes on the descent to the connector to JWT. IMG_1473 I didn’t have traction devices with me and had to switchback along the untrodden snow to get down from the ridge.

It’s a mixed blessing to be walking in the Park this week, with more snow predicted tonight, April 12.