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.
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?
With today’s 4.5 mile run I earned this August Rundown badge on Garmin, for running 40 miles within 2 weeks.
This sort of thing should not be a big deal if you’re running regularly. But, as I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t been running like I was before. After I stopped training due to Coronavirus cancelling everything, and since I pivoted towards strength training once I resumed training… I hadn’t been running all that much. Before beginning the badge challenge in mid-August, I had averaged zero or single digit mileage every week since March 15.
When I finished the week of August 16-22 with 14.6 miles, it was the first double digit week of mileage I had logged in 5 months. And with today’s run I finish this week of August 23-29 with 22.6 miles, my first 20+ mile week since mid-February.
Granted, I had one other practical reason for not running, aside from Coronavirus or wanting a break or wanting to focus on swolework:
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.
I had considered, as a personal project, doing a year long stepladder program, meaning:
Perform a full 12 week training cycle for a 5K race.
After a week of recovery, train 12 weeks for a 10K race.
After a week of recovery, train 16 weeks for a half marathon.
After a week of recovery, train 16 weeks for a full marathon.
Take two weeks off, then do whatever I want after that.
I would not have planned to run any official races, because honestly due to Coronavirus it may be late 2021 before society returns to normal and live events like races can fully happen again. Some may even argue I’m being optimistic hoping for that, even as others are being foolishly optimistic in holding out hope for upcoming fall 2020 or spring 2021 races that likely will get cancelled (especially if there’s a serious wave of Coronavirus cases this fall/winter).
All this training would have been to not just gradually, safely stretch back out to the marathon distance, but to also practice the specific endurance skills for each of those distances. I would likely follow the blueprint from Jean Francois Harvey’s Run Better, and would thus continue to strength train twice a week.
However, it wasn’t the likely 61 week timeline for all that which deterred me. We’ve all obviously got a lot of time right now with no events to work towards due to the Coronavirus situation. I have plenty of time.
Basically, the company (under wraps for confidentiality but they do retail distribution; I processed and reported retail orders) is under new leadership as of last month. The new leadership all but made clear their plan is to either assimilate with their current properties or to liquidate, despite official “business as usual” claims (and others at work had corroborated these suspicions). Actions speaks louder than words.
With the writing having been on the wall for the last month, my mounting workload and day to day complications there were no longer worth the stress, trouble, or what I was being paid. It was negatively affecting my personal life outside of work, even when I was working from home.
So I said enough, and turned my equipment in for good Monday morning. Even though this was a job that to some degree I liked, walking away felt like being paroled from prison. It had gotten that bad, and rather quickly.
Even with the specter of needing to secure another job and its income, I have felt a substantial positive difference. I’m a lot less on edge. Yes, being able to take afternoon naps and not having to commute right now certainly helps.
Of course, now I’m applying for other jobs, and while updating my resume and completing applications hasn’t been that big a challenge… I’ve once again entered that job hunter’s internal conversation of adding value and being an employer’s best choice for a suitable role, balanced against finding a position that meets my salary and lifestyle needs.
I don’t worry. I’ve done this before. Like apartment hunting, doing personal business, my own health, and many other personal matters, I’ve learned how to handle the process of job hunting better than most.