Monthly Archives: August 2009

Wherein I Yammer About My Writing “Technique”.

I started writing a series of posts about HGH this past week.  I know it’s something I have to get out of my head when I START writing by labelling something Part One. It means I already know that there is so much stuff that it will be one long-assed post if I keep it all together.

I sit down and start explaining.  My writing gets pseudo-scientific and boring and starts to put me to sleep.

When I think that  I’m boring myself, and I’m interested in the topic, what will it do to you who might not know the fascinating stuff I am about to impart?  So I go back and start editing and writing in my own voice.  It’s not as scientific, but it’s real. Except that now I fear I sound a bit crazy and still won’t understand why I want to share what I do.

Deep breath.

Write a rambling post (this one)  kind of explaining the process of writing the other posts to come so I can get some of the energy out of my system and buckle down to just writing like I’m talking to you.  Like you will be interested because I’m interested.  Because you haven’t thought about these things on your own before.  Because you’d like to know.

So that’s what I’m doing and what you will be reading later this week.  I’ll start with a confession:

Since I first heard about people using HGH to fight the “breaking down” that comes with aging, I’ve been tempted to try it.  That’s about 20 years now. Funny how constant bouts of tendonitis, anxiety and sleep problems can motivate you to look for medical answers.

The things that discourage me?  The cost (upwards of $1000/month) and the fact you have to inject the stuff.  Plus, before the internet became so prominent, finding a way to get it.  So recently I’ve been learning about how exercise and diet  can help me make more of my own HGH and use it to burn fat, build lean muscle and feel better.

I got to the good HGH place last winter-when in 6 weeks I gained 8# but lost a net 11″ on my torso.  That’s lean muscle and fat burning for you.  That’s all my hormones working the right way.  I screwed up the diet part and I’m trying to get back there.

Interested?

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Can We Talk Functional??

Talking with a friend about my workout philosophy I tried to explain that I’m about every day functional fitness.  It confused her, as I’d just bragged about Monday’s workout.

“What is there in your life that resembles deadlifting 120#?”

A LOT!  My bad-hipped dog Katy need picking up and lifting into the car.  Katy is about 65#- far short of that 120#- but she also wiggles and waggles as I lift her.  Also? grocery bags and laundry baskets and dog food bags, heavy cast-iron casseroles, bags of dirt.  While few of these things are the exact shape and weight as a barbell loaded with weight plates, they are all lifting.  And, because I can lift heavier weight, I CAN lift Katy up.  I can pick up friends’ kids who have fallen, and carry grocery bags from the car to the house without needing a nap afterward.  The heavy lifting makes the rest of my life easier.

That is the essence of functional fitness- exercises to make your day-to-day life easier.

Besides lifting heavy objects, I also make myself workout in controlled but unstable ways – working with stability balls and air cushions and 1/2 foam rolls.  I used to use the BOSU at the gym before it broke.

Do I like these workouts?  Not particularly.

Do I do these things well?  Nope

However, we’ve all read and heard the stories of people who’ve fallen and broken bones.  People whose injuries have made them alter their life forever; older folks who’ve died from a broken hip.  In many of these circumstances, the person didn’t know how to recover.  By training my body and mind in these “predictably unpredictable” situations I am training my brain and body to recover.  To fall without doing too much damage.  To catch myself and stay upright.

That too is functional fitness.

Some of the most “functional” exercises you can do?

1. deadlifts (you guessed this one already, right?)

2. lunges (work those glutes and the abductors/adductors/ obliques)

3. squats (strong glutes/hammies/quad and a different plane from lunges)

4. pushups. Your whole body working as one unit?  And getting yourself up off the ground?  Hello!

5. pullups.

6. step ups.  Yeah.  step on a bench and hold it.  Don’t fall or dip a hip or shoulder while stepping up.  Your whole body works this to get coordinated.

7. side shuffles. Balance, adductors, obliques.

8. Farmer’s carries.  Basically pick up something heavy and carry it.  Because we do this ALL THE TIME.

What physical (functional) challenges do you face every day?  And what exercises make it easier for you do these things?

Working Out HARD

I awoke yesterday morning after a poor night’s sleep – feeling quite on edge.  I felt sure that punching a wall or two would make me feel better, until the thought of breaking my hand entered my reality.

Instead, I took myself to the gym for a hard workout of compound exercises determined to work out the edginess.  Really WORK IT OUT.

I didn’t have a totally complete idea in my head.  Just Compound. Heavy. And to insure HARD- a 5×5 lift program.

What I ended up doing:

20 minutes of steady state cardio on the xtrack to warm up.  I so wanted to quit after 10 minutes, but I didn’t.  Then the fun began:

Dead Lifts:5x 95#, 5×105#, 5×105#, 5×115#, 5×115#.  Here I admit that I could lift more weight except that my hands cannot hold more weight.

One Legged, One Arm Bent-over Rows: I was waiting for flat bench. Dumb bells. 5×20#, 5×20#, 5×25#, 5×27.5# 5×27.5

Chest Press: Legs up straight, arms in a neutral position in line with nipples. Dumb-bells. 5×27.5#, 5×27.5#, 5×27.5#, 5×30#, 5×32.5#

Leg Press: 5×135#, 5×170#, 5×190#, 5x 225#, 5×275#

Then a stretch and foam rolling, followed by a hot-to cool shower.

I felt much better.

Today I got the first visit from my old friend DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in a long while.  While not my favorite visitor, I’ve missed him.  Today is all active recovery.

So what is your hard workout?

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Finally back on track

Between all the sunlight in the middle of summer and an increased dosage of an SSRI, my poor brain had just a bit too much seratonin the last couple weeks.

The upside (early on): I focused well, got lots of writing and work done. Planned ahead and followed through.

The downside: I craved simple carbs because they keep the seratonin engine going. (yes, that’s why we crave carb-rich foods in the dark of winter). These foods are not fat-burning and that’s what I really need focus on at the moment diet wise.

Later in the seratonin trip, I became hypo-manic. The first symptom of a bit too much seratonin (odd that I know this when most of my life I have too little seratonin) is a return of my insomnia.

As the sleep drops below 6 hours/night my thinking becomes fuzzier and eventually I kind of drive myself into a slightly manic state. It’s not bad for the around me (I think), but the trip going on in my brain is no fun. I start focusing rather obsessively on things that might or might not be important. I acknowledge needs without necessarily satisfying them.

So I spent 2 days thinking “I’m thirsty. I should get a glass of water.” immediately followed by: “as soon as I’m done with ________.”

Hence the dehydration that rather knocked me on my butt this week.

Since I was not feeling well, I did atleast do the smart thing and stay home from the gym this week. Today will be my first workout in a week.

I’ve learned that when my body/mind is not eager to go to the gym, it is wise that I listen. I’m telling myself that I need the rest more than the movement. I’ve learned that when I’m healthy, the drive to hit the weights will return.

And with that, I’m back on track.

MIA

Sorry for being MIA this week. I woke up Monday feeling poorly and it took me most of the day to realize that I was rather seriously dehydrated.

Been spending the entire week trying to catch up on water. Ya know it’s bad when you wake up in the middle of the night NOT to pee like most folks do but to DRINK A 12 OZ. BOTTLE OF WATER.

Twice.

The dehydration made me fuzzy brained which does not contribute to great writing. It also means I have not been in the gym or working out since Saturday. It’s the right thing to do when I don’t WANT to go to the gym!

Turning the corner today.

Hurrah!

Why Exercise CAN Make you Thinner

By now you’ve probably read the NYT article: Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin where the author, John Cloud, conjectures that exercise:
a) makes us eat more and
b) weakens our resolve so that
c) we end up not losing weight BECAUSE we exercise.

Cloud writes:

The basic problem is that while it’s true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise has another effect: it can stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn’t necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder.

And he goes on to to suppose:

After we exercise, we often crave sugary calories like those in muffins or in “sports” drinks like Gatorade. A standard 20-oz. bottle of Gatorade contains 130 calories. If you’re hot and thirsty after a 20-minute run in summer heat, it’s easy to guzzle that bottle in 20 seconds, in which case the caloric expenditure and the caloric intake are probably a wash. From a weight-loss perspective, you would have been better off sitting on the sofa knitting.

…In 2000 the journal Psychological Bulletin published a paper by psychologists Mark Muraven and Roy Baumeister in which they observed that self-control is like a muscle: it weakens each day after you use it. If you force yourself to jog for an hour, your self-regulatory capacity is proportionately enfeebled. Rather than lunching on a salad, you’ll be more likely to opt for pizza.

OK. In the last (ugh) 6 months, I will say I have become somewhat aware that after I work out, I drink my protein drink, shower, head home. And 1 mile from my house -as I turn the corner to head up the hill- I find I MUST stop at the store to pick up sorbet, a candy bar, cookies, SOMETHING sweet and sugary and totally inappropriate.

While Crown would say my “self-control muscle was weakened” I have a more logical explaination. One I was planning on writing about today anyway. So hip-hooray for my mental timing.

See, I eat my oatmeal -my one carb heavy meal- about 7 am. And starting in February, I began to push my workout back later in the day by a couple hours. The gym is slightly less crowded from noon to 2 pm. than it is from 10-12. This means I moved my heavy workout 2 hours further away from that feeding meal.

In my case, this act alone seems to be the culprit in my unexpected and hard-to-explain weight gain. Somehow that extra 2 hour window was having a dramatic change.

See, when you exercise hard- whether it’s resistance training or hard cardio- you deplete your muscles of glycogen, which is the food that muscles thrive on. After you stop working out, your body immediately tries to restore the glycogen levels in your muscles. That’s one reason that they recommend you eat within 1/2 hour of a workout. The protein I take protects my muscles -so they are catabolized to turn into glycogen- and I was not supplying my body with an alternative source.

Hence the strong craving for something sweet NOW to feed those muscles.

This might not be too severe a problem (uh, right?) except that exercising also convinces your body to increase it’s levels of hgh -using this hormone to repair the muscular damage. And hgh succeeds in repairing your muscles by burning fat for the required building blocks to do this repair. Unfortunately, hgh is turned off in the presence of a higher level of insulin. And guess what those supermarket snacks I grabbed all had in common? Quick sugar- increased insulin. And I was turning off my hgh fat-burning machine as quickly as I turned it on.

sigh.

Now the good news: As I said, I realized a few weeks ago that there was this timing changing in my food intake. So I decided to change it back and watch the difference.

Keep my pre-workout meals the same, eat the oatmeal afterward. I still had a hard time simply getting home to eat my food. Keeping an apple in my gym bag did nothing to quell my cravings. And the oatmeal did little when I ate it after my workouts. Still wanted to overeat; still felt extremely tired later in the day-moving less. Still didn’t seem to be working.

Last week, I started simply eating my oatmeal 2 hours before I planned to head out for my workouts. Returning the timing of the food to what it had been. That was the only change I made. But guess what? No cravings post-work. No completely wiped out feelings hours later. All the signs that hgh is created and working to heal and burn fat. And an apparent 1# lower on the scale.

If this continues, then I will argue Cloud and others simply do not understand the mechanism they need to feed their workouts. And it’s this failure to eat right that has caused their problems not the exercise.

What do you think? Have you noticed that changes in your diet or in food timing have resulted in unexpected changes in your energy level or your fitness goals? Good? Bad?

Workout Template: Stability and Balance

This workout is a great “at home” workout for anyone.   If you’re just getting into fitness, it will develop the support muscles that will make it easier to go further.  If you’ve been working for a while, this will still challenge you.  It’s a bit of an expansion on the first exercises I did (3 years ago -with my beloved trainer Guido), and though today I do slightly different variations, it kicks my butt every time.

After doing the first four moves for 30-60 seconds each, choose 4-6 of the remaining exercises to round out your circuit.  Do these one after another with minimum rest between.  Rest for 2-3 minutes and repeat.

STABILITY:

  • Plank
  • Bridge
  • Incline Plank
  • Cobra

ENDURANCE, BALANCE, POWER

  • Mountain Climbers
  • Squats: wall squats, body weight squats
  • One foot balance-and foot push
  • Step-Up to balance
  • One leg squat
  • Ball chest pass
  • Ball throw down
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Side Shuffle
  • Walking lunges