I imagine that the Coronavirus lockdowns closing gyms has something to do with this, but there’s a growing movement towards bodyweight strength training (also known traditionally as calisthenics).
I ran into this recent Medium Elemental piece, which as recent others have done says that you don’t need weights to get in shape. It basically recommends you stick to basic exercises like push ups and pull ups.
And yes, in principle, you can get swole on as little as the Fundamental Few: Push ups, pull ups, squats, lunges, core exercises e.g. planks, sit ups, crunches, Russian twists, etc.
All of these exercises are safe, healthy and useful for most to do, except for push ups and pull ups. Most people do not have the needed muscular strength to minimally complete push ups or pull ups.
The catchphrase “listen to your body” is a general reminder to pay attention to the signals your body is giving you regarding your health, energy levels, mood, pain, etc. Paying attention to this information will show you when to rest, when to push hard in workouts, etc.
But we tend to only pay attention to energy, pain signals, and our general mood. Other things we measure and observe are also information our body is giving us.
Presuming you don’t have one: Some of this info can and should be tracked using a fitness watch such as a Fitbit or a Garmin. A suitable watch tracks calories burned and sleep on an ongoing basis. They’re not cheap (typically $100-400) but they are definitely worth their cost if you’re serious about fitness and personal development.
The information this watch can give you when worn everyday provides you with not just a wealth of stats, but those stats can communicate signals that your body hasn’t otherwise been able to get through to you.
I’ve said this before, and since we’re here I’ll say it again: 80% of your body composition is determined by your diet. And I don’t care if you want to argue that’s wrong. See the forest for the trees: If you want your abs to show up, your diet needs to change so that you burn off most of your current body fat while maintaining your existing muscle and biologically healthy function.
And a good portion of that theoretical remaining 20% is going to come from improving your posture. Improving your posture increases the “display” of your abdomen, which maximises any ab visibility. Often, abs don’t show up because a rounded back causes fat/flesh/fascia to bunch up around your abdominal area, further obscuring your abs even if you’ve burned the fat necessary for those abs to show up.
A well rounded fitness routine combined with addressing your postural imbalances will go a long way to making the necessary posture improvements. That I can and will address another time.
Meanwhile, will doing ab or core exercises help your abs show?
Back when I worked in Evanston, I worked at a standing desk for most of my time there. In fact, once I landed at work elsewhere, one of the bigger adjustments I had to make was finally sitting back at a regular desk again.
I imagine standing all day at work had a cumulative positive effect on my Chicago running. I noticed training got more difficult once I moved on and most of my work took place sitting down again.
Not only do your legs get more regular circulation and isometric/low-aerobic work when you’re standing all day, but standing is a more natural human posture than sitting in front of a desk, usually hunched over with your head pointed towards the screen. That’s not to say standing will absolutely correct your posture issues, but the posture when standing all day is a healthier one than if sitting all day.
My feet didn’t hurt and my legs weren’t tired. I imagine being on my feet so much in Seattle and Chicago played a role in standing all day feeling like no big deal.
I mention because after leaving my last job, I made an adjustment in my trailer. The table I work at is part of a slide-extended dinette. Though sitting felt comfortable while working at home, I not only wanted to get up and move around more, but the dinette itself isn’t meant to carry a person’s weight for hours when the slide seating isn’t fully extended.
I decided to try working while standing up, and noticed that the table is at a good level for working while standing. Thus, I basically now have a standing desk once again.
The big challenge is, after a couple years of not standing all day, my heels now begin to hurt if I’ve been standing and working for a while unless I’m wearing shoes. So now, at least in the short run, I need to remember to wear shoes before pain in my heels begins to remind me. I imagine over time this will subside as my legs and feet get used to standing more often.
But I imagine this has helped my running. While increasing my running volume, I notice staying mobile on runs has become less of a chore even as the mileage begins to stretch past my current comfort level.
Much like how standing all day helped my postural and ultimately my running stamina in Chicago, I think all the standing is beginning to show positive effects on my running in Vegas. While there’s heel pain in socks when standing at the desk, there’s no such pain in shoes or when running (mostly because my weight is towards the forefoot and midfoot when running).
So discovering a new “standing desk” at home may have been a blessing in disguise. Man was meant to stand and move about on his feet for most of the day, and now I can get back to living a more natural life.
Whereas at the time the notable RD’s tome was timely and cutting edge, the preceding couple of decades have rendered much of the book’s conventional wisdom somewhat outdated and possibly to some extent currently off-base.
To preface, it’s worth noting that Kleiner has since released a sequel to the book, The New Power Eating, that is certainly more up to date on today’s knowledge. But still, I’m curious to see how well the old edition holds up.
Kleiner obviously didn’t err based on the information available to everyone in her field at the time. No one then knew of the benefits of concepts like intermittent fasting, carb cycling, that the kidneys could in fact handle a large amount of protein without ill effect, that we didn’t necessarily need as much carbohydrate as they thought for intense activity, etc.
I’m reading through some of the book now, primarily initial sections on exercise fueling, before and after training. She echoes a lot of the conventional wisdom regarding endurance running nutrition, which as people know is very high-carbohydrate and carb-centered.
While the following is hardly comprehensive, I have read a few interesting points that are either not necessarily true today, or could well be valid today and has not been carried over into subsequent analyses.
Energy produces heat. If you didn’t sleep through science class, they probably taught you this.
There are all sorts of circumstances behind what we now call climate change, the steadily rising temperature of the planet. But one key element is the fundamental existence of more human beings than have ever been on the planet in recorded history.
All humans produce heat. Every mechanical, electrical, chemical anything we have ever done produces heat. Vehicles and other machines produce heat when they operate. Anything we built that moves produces heat. Even the coldest fridges, freezers and air conditioners produce heat to cool what’s inside: The heat is just emitted out of the back or top of the device into the surrounding atmosphere.
And our bodies produce heat. The bigger we are, the more active we are, the more heat we produce. This is a key reason why your perceived temperature is hotter when you’re running than it is when you’re walking or still. You produce a lot more heat when you exercise.
Even the energy required to digest food produces heat. The act of digestion producing this energy is a little something scientists call thermogenesis.
Some foods require more energy from thermogenesis than others. This is one of the keys behind why it’s generally healthier to eat unprocessed meat and vegetables than processed sugar.
Insoluble fiber and most proteins require a lot of digestive energy for the body to digest its nutrients. These foods are highly thermogenic.
Meanwhile, chemically refined sugar is by design quickly digested, as these foods are chemically engineered to not satisfy you hunger and make you crave more of them. These foods are lightly thermogenic.
You can eat 500 calories of sugar cookies, and still be very hungry immediately after eating them. Meanwhile, you can eat 500 calories of steak, and be so full you won’t want another bite of anything for several hours. And woe is the poor soul who tries to eat 500 calories of broccoli… if he even manages to get it all down (1 cup of cooked broccoli is about 60 calories). He will end up spending a regretful amount of time on a toilet at some future point.
Broccoli and other vegetables are among the most thermogenic of foods. Many require more caloric energy to burn them than the calories the vegetables themselves contain!
Now, why bring up global warming when bringing up the thermic effect of food? Is Steven saying that broccoli causes climate change?