Monday, January 23, 2017

2017 January Tabata Challenge Week Four

       If you have kids in public school or know anyone who does, then you are familiar with the dreaded Crud. You have seen how it comes in, tears guts apart, disrupts routines, and leaves people & routines in shambles. My friends, my household is no exception to that. With four kids, one a senior in high school, two in middle school, and one yet in grade school we get samples from all of the local public Petri dishes.
       Sad to say, this last few days has been far too ... interesting to get the final session of Week Three for the Tabata in.
       But, Week Four is here! This continues to be a month of great learning, training, and growth!
       Hey ... before I forget, here is my requisite selfie ... in the bathroom mirror ... at week three. I am down 7 pounds from when we started this crazy thing.My abs are visible again. Last time they were reported seen was between Halloween and Thanksgiving.
       From the No-Cost, No-Excuses, No-Budget Basement Gym, Train Safe, Train Hard, Train for Life

Exercise Naked???

Helen Smith,photo is from The Sun. 
       Here at Family, Fitness, Fun we are always looking for something new and interesting to try. In this writer's lifetime a lot has been seen on domestic (that is to say American) and foreign shores. From the oddly satisfying yet deeply twisted Sugar Cookie of Coronado (not that I am or ever was SEAL, because I have NEVER been to BUD/S, I've just been put through these, what's the right word? Things) to nude beaches and private clubs. Rest assured that most people at the latter are those you DON'T want to see there in any case.
       Which brings us to this article that happened to fall on my inbox this morning. The British paper, tabloid, rag, rodent-bedding-stuff ... ? ... posted a piece on 35 year old fitness trainer and former recruitment consultant Helen Smith is now leading groups in nude fitness. She says that someone on a forum asked if this was a service she offered. Being a naturalist, read as "nudist", she decided to give it a go.
       She certainly seems to be drawing in the 33 to 70 year old male demographic,  asked on the photos. Yes, the article, linked below, has some pictures. I warn you, even though most of the people are seen from behind, these are not, I repeat, these are NOT the bums you are looking for.
       Ms. Smith comments on her feelings regarding being at the forefront of a new fitness trend. I wouldn't quite say that this is a trend, not by any definition I know. Last time I tried to tell my wife I was going to dance around, get sweaty, while naked, in a room of men aged 33 to 70 while watching a naked "fitness" instructor ... well, I wasn't allowed to go to bars any longer.
       Without any further delay or ado, here's that link.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Exercise for Older Adults

I was asked recently about exercise and strength training for older adults. Since I know several people in their 60s on into the 90s and I plan on going past that mark, looking into this seems to make sense. Joe Weider lived to 93 when he died. Jack La Lane was 96 when he died. Charles Atlas made it to 82. A couple of my grandparents lived past their contemporaries and cohorts. Well past them. Both of my mother’s parents made it into their 90s. They played tennis, swam, walked, bicycled, and kept very active.
So, I wanted to be able to answer this question in a more precise manner. In order to do so I broke Strength Training into weight training, flexibility, endurance, and balance as these seem to be the primary areas that impact older adults. But, first, talk to your healthcare provider.

Regular strength training done at 2 to 3 times a week is shown to increase muscle and bone density/strength … increase levels of independence … reduce osteoporosis risks … reduce signs and risks of chronic diseases to include arthritis and type 2 diabetes … improve seep … also stave off depression. I wrote about how exercise is better than medication in fighting depression (insert link here). As shown in study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. There are several other studies that confirm this. Even the CDC holds that strength training will reduce your risk of falling.
Overall, strength training is a positive endeavor to start with your doctor’s permission and with supervision so as not to get into trouble. Be careful, though, if considering endurance training in addition to strength training. This may be too much for the system of the older trainee. Until your body has completely adjusted to what you are doing, take it one step at a time. Enjoy your new lifestyle of hitting the gym. Just, don’t overdo it.
The type of exercises that would be best are likely to be those your doctor would recommend. For many reasons, safety being the primary one, it is highly recommended that you use machines that will provide you physical safety. The other option is to adapt body weight training to your level. CDC recommendations back this up. With the purchase of a doorframe pull up bar you can do wall push-ups and Australian pull-ups/chin-ups in the comfort of your own home and in safety.
Let me stress two very, very important points here and now. First, do not do this without first talking to your doctor. Second, do NOT hold your breath while performing repetitions. This can make you pass out and get injured. Inhale when the muscle group is extending and exhale when it is contracting.
Wall push-ups or using a door-jam pull-up bar are a great exercise to rebuild strength in your upper body. Place your hands against the wall, or set your bar at an appropriate and safe starting height, that allows you to do 15 repetitions. You should complete 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions, but not to a point of straining yourself. [Find a picture]
For Australian (see the picture to the left) pull-ups/chin-ups the bar will need to be set in the doorway at a height that will allow you to hold hand at an angle, as shown in the picture. This is more like an inverted rowing exercise than an actual pull-up or chin-up; however, it will help build the strength necessary to complete a full on pull-up again.
For the lower body, your legs, nothing beats the squat. Grab onto the back of a sturdy chair, place your feet about shoulders width, keep your back straight and shoulders back a little. Now, look up at a spot on the ceiling and focus on that one spot. Keeping your head up is paramount. I was a competitive lifter and can assure you this one detail can make the difference in keeping your body in the right position. Breathe easy. Inhale and squat down as far as your body will allow you to. You know what pains and aches are injuries. You know where you need to stop. So long as you keep your head up, shoulders back, and your knees above or just behind your toes your form is fine.
The repetition range for squats is 10 to 12. The goal is to comfortably settle into your squat. Maybe going a little bit deeper each week or two. That will depend upon how your body reacts. That, and how your doctor reacts.
The above home directions work well. If you have access to a gym, then go for it! May facilities are seeing older clients come in. The equipment at gyms these days can help you along your way. If, for whatever reason, you can’t access a gym, then you have some basic instructions to start with … so long as your doctor gives you the thumbs up.
            Stretching leads to flexibility. Flexibility is as important to older adults is very important. As we age our muscles and tendons become shorter and less elastic. Stretching will help in staving off these age related changes. Most older adults can safely stretch. Here are some guidelines:
   Warm up first
Stretching needs to be static, that is no bouncing. Ease into the stretch and hold it for the duration of the count
Breathe through the stretch
Do not turn and bend
Do not push your head backwards while doing head or neck rolls as this may damage the vertebra
For a list and demonstration of stretches for older adults follow this link here.

              As with the strength exercises, endurance training is beneficial for adults in this demographic, also. Having the capacity to get through the day, completing all the activities of daily living, going out with friends, seeing family, preparing meals, maintaining your own living areas, and many other and more enjoyable activities will certainly improve the quality of your life. Accomplishing this safely is the paramount intention.
                This goal, increasing endurance safely, is done by increasing heart and breathing rates for increasing periods of time daily. Of course it does not mean full bore sprinting or maximum intensity, goodness no. It means slightly elevating your heart and breathing rates.
                The National Institute for Health suggests starting off with five to ten minutes of an activity that results in getting your heart and breathing rates up. Slowly and steadily work your way from five or ten minutes up to two and half hours for the recommended levels of endurance.
   The general rule of thumb is that if you are breathing too hard to talk with your partner then you are going too hard or fast and need to slow down a little bit. You should be just under that level where you have enough breath to talk with your training partner, but that is about it.
                What kind of activities are good for aerobics? There are plenty to choose from. Some choices are stationary biking, rowing machine, swimming, water aerobics, dance classes, museum walks, YMCA groups, yoga, and/or tai chi. Of course, getting outside in the fresh air has its own benefits. Additionally, there is a plethora of other outdoor activities you can get involved with outside.

 Believe it or not, learning, rather, re-learning how to balance is actually quite simple. Understand that our balance system is in three parts. That is we balance by input from three regions of our body. These three are visual, feet, and vestibular. 
The way they work is rather simple. Our feet and the nerves in them tell us how our body is aligned in general terms with our body. You will notice this when going through some fun house set ups at carnivals when the floor tilts a little. As the floor tilts one way our upper body shifts to the other side automatically in order to compensate.
Visually is a bit harder to recognize, although sailors will know it immediately. As the horizon tilts and moves so does our body to allow for the tilting of the ship. This also happens inside the vessel so that we don't lose balance in heavy seas. Yes, this is a more extreme example, but it should get the point across. 
The vestibular system is a collection of small tubes of fluid between the eardrum and the brain. It is inside our skull. These fluid filled tubes tell our brains which direction out heads are tilting, how far, and how much or fast we are spinning. 
With that said, training to balance is as easy as can be. Grab onto the back of a solid chair for stability. Slightly bend one knee. Do not lock your knees. Now, lift one foot off the floor a few inches. Just lift it two or three inches so that it is off the floor. Shift your hips and weight over your supporting foot. Hold this for about ten seconds. Put your foot down and do it again on the other foot. Repeat this three or four times on each foot. Let me say that this is easy enough to do while your are going about your day. You can practice while standing in line at the grocery store, in the aisle while considering what to buy, just about anywhere. It's too easy.
So there you have it, some basics on strength training, endurance, flexibility, balance training for the older adult. The best advice is to start young and keep up that lifestyle. The next best tip is to start now. You are never too old to not benefit.
From the No-Cost, No-Frills, No-Excuses, Basement Gym Train Safe. Train Hard. Train for Life.
Stay strong. Stay safe. Train hard.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Chin-ups, Pull-ups, What's the Difference?

 What is the difference? Does doing one or the other really matter? There are differences and doing one or the other does matter. It’s in how the exercises engage, strengthen, and develop different groups of muscles. These are two movements that challenge you to lift your entire body weight to complete. Not push-ups. Not lunges. There are others, yes, but chin-ups and pull-ups are probably two of the most widely recognized and hardest to perform.
I am sure that most of us are familiar with lats and biceps; however, each exercise brings different muscles into play in different ways. Additionally, there are a number of smaller supporting muscle groups that come into play for each exercise, too.
Both are compound exercises, that is they involve multiple muscles at one time. In each you are going to pull your chin up over the bar. In many standards, clearing the bar with your chin is adequate, for a deeper and more functional range of strength bring your shoulders up to bar height.
The differences between the two begin with the grips. Pull-ups are overhand, palms facing away from you while chin ups are underhand with your palms facing you. The most complete range of motion is from arms being completely straight to elbows directly under your shoulders. This would be with the bar at about your shoulder. This fits with the definition as set by the American Council on Exercise.
Grip width can be changed to change the angles at which you are working the muscles. A wider grip is generally more difficult than the standard shoulder width grip. A narrower grip engages other muscles making this grip a bit easier.
Pull-ups hit a number of muscles. The largest of which is the latissimus dorsi or lats.
In the forearm the muscles worked are the brachialis and bracioradialis. These two are near the elbow. They help to stabilize and move the forearm.
Of course, the biceps are engaged in this.
Chin-ups engage more muscles than pull-ups. There is overlap. Chin-ups involve the lats, brachialis, and brachioradialis muscles. They also involve biceps, as do pull-ups; however, chin-ups activate biceps to a greater degree. Additionally, if you lean back a little at the top of the movement you can activate more of the muscles in the scapular (shoulder blade region).
By leaning back, pinching your shoulder blades tightly together, and bringing your sternum up to the bar you can best complete the scapular muscles.
The more muscles you engage the better the exercise event is going to be. Consequently, the better your results will be. Make it a point to change your grip in order engage more muscles and from a variety of directions.
Here are some of the government and military standards as a baseline:
US Army Rangers minimum of 6 in 2 minutes
US Secret Service is based on age with no time limit;
                20-29 – 7
                30-39 – 6
                40-49 – 4
                50 and up – 2
                Women of all ages have to complete 2
Marines range from a minimum of 3 to maximum of 20

Neutral Grip
Grip width aside, there are a number of variations on forms. By changing the style or form you use you can avoid boredom, continually surprise your body and keep it growing, and challenge yourself. Since you are already familiar with chin-up, pull-up, and varying the width of the grip on these, let’s take a look at some of the others.
Neutral – Using parallel bars, like on monkey bars, so that your palms are facing each other.
            Commando – Similar to the Neutral, but with a single bar. One repetition counted by pulling your to touch each shoulder once to the bar.
Behind the Neck – This should only be attempted if your shoulders are strong enough to support you through the entire movement, otherwise you are liable to tear or strain the tissues in and around the socket joint of your shoulder. Take a wide grip on the bar. When you pull up lean forward so that the bar goes behind your neck. It should touch you neck on the trapezius as far down to your shoulders as you can manage without straining your shoulder joints.
Other than those, there are cheat techniques like kipping to assist in getting more reps out than you could normally do. While those kinds of cheats are fine, I don’t use them. Here at the Basement Gym there isn’t the physical room for that. I have to curl my legs up at my knees as the ceiling is barely seven feet. I do, however, use negatives to burn out when positive muscle failure has been reached.
Pull-ups and chin-ups, like push-ups, lunges, jump squats, and squats, can be done most anywhere. All you need is a place to put up a proper bar. In addition to my basement area, I have one of those doorframe contraptions that holds itself up. It also has two handles for the neutral grip that are good for dips. This thing is worth more than its weight in gold. You can find one for around $20 at most large department stores and outlets.

Monday, January 16, 2017

When Will the Results be Visible?

As the third week of the 2017 Tabata Challenge has started, some might be asking how long before results are visible. At this point you are certainly seeing an increase in repetitions. You feel stronger because you are stronger. Pull-ups may still be a bit rough, but you are doing more than at the first of the month. Push-ups and squats are being cranked out at a faster pace and with better form. Of course, you have dropped a few pounds. But, when will they start to see how hard you are working?
                Meanwhile you’ve been watching commercials and ads about quick weight loss and dropping sizes and shrinking this and that … stay strong! You are making progress. Things take time. Your discipline and grit will pay off.
                You have to keep several variables in mind. While you’re losing body fat you are also gaining muscle. Muscle is heavier than fat, so your fat loss is going to clearly be offset by muscle gains. Both of which are happening at the same time.
                That being said, most people who are exercising regularly and eating a healthy, not hefty, but healthy diet can expect to lose an average of 2 pounds each week. This puts me right in line with what we are talking about. Coming into the third week I am down six pounds. Just on the far side of the bell curve, but not unexpected.
                The question still remains is when our friends, coworkers, classmates, and others will do a double take. At four weeks you will certainly see changes when you look in the mirror. You already see changes in your physical performance when doing your workout. In week four you will certainly see the difference in your reflection.
                At around week eight your friends should be taking note of your new physique. It is far more noticeable now. Not just in your posture, your walk, or your confidence, although those features will absolutely benefit. Friends are going to see that your shirts fit differently and your pants are filling out with firmer flesh. The reality is that you may have to start buying new clothes to fit your new body.
                Keep training and eating smart and, from 12 weeks on, the rest of the world will notice. The barista who sells you your coffee will see you’ve changed. The rest of your office will see.The infographic below I found will summarize this nicely.
                All of this attention is really great. The truly important thing to recognize is that, from day one, you are worth every bit of what you are investing in yourself. You are making the greatest investment in the most important person, yourself.

                From the No-Cost-No-Frills-No-Excuses Basement Gym, Train hard. Train safe. Train smart.