BodyWorks: Just Get Fit.

Hiring a trainer is a lot of hassle and expensive. Why should I do it? Can’t I just read and do research on how to get fit?

Well, that’s a very good question.

Yeah, sure you can.

I can do research about living on Mars and can do research about how to run a triathlon. I can do research about improving my really bad golf handicap and I can do research about using Crispr to create life. I can read about brain surgery and nuclear physics. And I can do research about how to sing and dance like Mick Jagger and can listen to Mick and sing along with the Stones all day long (in fact, I do) but hell, no one seems to want to come along to one of my concerts, shucks…and well…you get the point.

Before I joined the army, I read all about Boot Camp and then joined up. I was shipped off to Fort Sill for 6 months of cohort training, confident in the knowledge that I knew exactly what was coming and was fully prepared.

I didn’t & I wasn’t.

Then I met my Drill Sergeant, I wasn’t prepared for him, either. Although, he was…and he prepared me for battle, almost killing one stupid mofo in the process. But prepared I was. Very well prepared, as it turned out.

The message here is simple:

Data and information are widely available, but there is no internet app yet, that I know of, to vet and evaluate the credibility and efficacy of what you may come up with.

The other thing is just this: knowledge that you can’t put into play or don’t know what to do with isn’t knowledge, it’s just for fun. It’s a second head, a redundant appendage.

This, along with other insights, injury prevention and motivational factors, is what you hire a trainer for.

But then, you must also find one good enough to hire.

Looking for a good drill sergeant? They’re hard to find.


How do you determine the rest period between sets?

Rest is an individual and variable quantity. The amount of it depends a great deal on the following factors:

For example, certain powerlifters who are in a heavy lifting cycle will often rest up to 5 minutes between sets. Bodybuilders, some of whom lack large quantities of fast twitch muscle fibres (the ACTN3 geneinfluences this) therefore train with relatively lighter weights, at a much higher volume, and may keep their resting intervals at around 60 seconds.

Someone, on the other hand, who is older or just coming back after a shoulder operation may need to go very light, train in short bouts with very little rest between sets so, that it may seem that their session appears as one continuous set. Or play around with weight/interval/volume ratios to suit the circumstances.

After a certain time in the gym most lifters will develop a pace and tempo that suits their style, temperament and what the job they want done is.

Why do people invest so much time in steady state cardio, not high intensity training? They always complain the gym’s so boring, they don’t have time or they never improve.

It’s easier.

Steady state is the low hanging fruit of the cardio world. With low intensity exercise, you can spend hours in the gym, not accomplish much and tell all your friends that you spent all that time working out. It is the “bread and circuses” and “opium of the masses” of the health and fitness business.

Most of the mental monitoring, intention and awareness software can be put on autopilot. Training like this doesn’t require activating much of a “train like you give a f**k” attitude.

High intensity training, of any sort, whether it be sprinting a set of 50m or 100m fartleks, HIITing cycles, bombing weightlifting sessions, sprint swimming or whatever is demanding. in fact, it requires so many more resources from the participant than a steady state activity that you can almost classify it as a completely different animal.

HIIT is also a somewhat riskier proposition. High intensity activity requires taking a few risks and increased awareness of injury opportunities, more complex periodicity planning and detailed recovery strategies. When you decide to integrate this type of training into your collection of training and survival tools, you must proceed with forethought and caution, taking nothing for granted.

At the end of the day, people have time to do what they really want to do and never have time to do what they don’t.

So, we get that hard training is the more difficult and tortuous path. It certainly requires more responsibility and expenditure of energy, but has a bigger payoff than the alternative, for its practitioner.

Not to say that there isn’t room for other, less intense or demanding forms of keeping fit, of course there is. Injury, age, experience, conditioning, goal orientation and so on need to be taking into consideration when trying to figure out an appropriate training strategy.

Do you lose muscle faster on a 500 calorie daily deficit or from halting all resistance training?

An interesting question.

To keep my answer as simple and manageable as possible, I’ll need to ignore the contribution of genetics, training history and age, along with a whole host of relevant factors, hoping that the result will contain enough meat on the bone for a decent meal (i.e. answer).

Let’s think about it a little.

Other than their usefulness in locomotion (movement), your muscles serve as easily accessible pools of reserve amino acids in times of food scarcity (the other source of easily accessible energy, about 1/2 kg. of stored glycogen, less than 2000 kcals worth, will be used up in the first few days of your starvation diet).

For a normally active person of average weight, we’ll guess that a minimum of 2000 kcals are required for functional weight maintenance. A 500 kcal diet will leave you with a daily deficit of roughly 1500 kcals. [1 gram of protein furnishes about 4 kcals while 1 gram of fat is worth 9 kcals of energy].

So making a wild guesstimate (again, not taking into consideration the influence of your personal respiratory profile, i.e. how your body preferentially draws energy or the rate at which your metabolism slows) and doing a little bit of creative accounting (2/3 of the calorie deficit paid for from amino acid resources and 1/3 from fat stores), after the first few days, you are looking at an admittedly arbitrary derived payout amount of approx. 0.25kg lean tissue loss/day. However, through much personal experimentation and experience, this muscle loss can be greatly ameliorated through proper nutrition and a high protein diet.

Having had many accidents and cumulative injuries over a long and active life, with more than a few surgeries to mend damaged bones, muscles and connective tissue, I can reliably attest that major signs of atrophy do not appear for a good 2–3 weeks after a body part is totally immobilized, after that, you will be surprised how fast muscle disappears before it reaches a steady state!

So, unless you plan spending your time chalking up bedrest while handcuffed to your bed, I would say that the level of calorie deficit given is going to play the leading role in lean tissue loss during a situation where you are allowed normal movement and daily activity.

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Just Squats. Do You Really Need Anything Else To Train Legs?

There’s a powerful aphorism, I think attributed to Musashi, the great Japanese swordsman and mystic, for us gaijins it translates as something like:

Through one thing, know 10,000 things.

I remember leaving high school and starting out my bodybuilding career at the Santa Monica YMCA in the mid-1970s when it was all about “isolation” exercises. That was the catch-phrase and the way everybody at the “Y” trained back then. Also, at the time the famous (and equally infamously wrong) Food Pyramid was the accepted norm. But, most people go with what most people know, and unfortunately, I was no exception.

Not long after Gold’s relocated from its iconic Venice location on Lincoln Blvd. to 2nd Street in Santa Monica, I also made my move. Everyone left back at the old “Y” thought I was a very brave fellow, indeed. This Gold’s place seemed to make average people a little jittery. No one could work up enough nerve to go along with me into the scary Muscle-Never-Never-Land because, presumably, nobody normal ever returned from this strange place. It was only a few blocks away, but it might as well have been Alpha Centauri.

Anyway, for me it was necessary to move on, avoid becoming stagnant and remaining a puny little weakling. If I wanted to be a big dog, I guessed, then I’d just have to go where the big dogs played.

At the time, all the machines at Gold’s had been made by the original owner, Joe Gold. Compared to the enormous megalopolis that it is now, the gym was tiny. I think at the time, only 1400 or 1500 square feet. The equipment weren’t pretty but man, it were sturdy and built to last.

There were benches, there were weights and lots of them, there were cable flies, there was a vertical leg press, there was some shit-I-didn’t-evenknow-what-it-was and there were squat racks. Two of them.I remember running into a couple of bodybuilders, guys sort of famous at the time, Bill Grant and Ken Waller, who took me under their wings and gave me some advice. Their advice was old school, because way back then, in the Golden Age of the Dinosaurs, Old Skool was all there was.

The advice offered was minimal and crystal clear and went something like this:

  1. Bench Press
  2. Deadlift
  3. Squats, squats…and more squats.

The simplicity was Zen-like, it appealed to me.

Because at the time I recognized this advice for what it was, the intrinsic value that it held for me and the invitation that it represented. And what it represented was boundaries and it was discipline. It was the straight & it was the narrow. It allowed me the freedom from choice, presenting me with just one.

It was, you see, some beautiful advice.

The service it performed was to narrow my choice of options. It allowed me to stop dissipating my time and energy on frivolous isolation exercises that were of little use to me then, that I was not yet ready to benefit from. It made me see things a little more clearly, as they were.

Sometimes less is more. Much, much more.

Sometimes the only way to finish a painting and get it done is to put a frame on it and call it done.

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Today, it’s a fine day on the cerulean sea beneath an azure sky and you are embarked on your dream cruise to a faraway desert island. The ship hits a rock. You are going down and you’re going down fast. On the mad dash to the lifeboats, you only have time to grab one exercise.

Quick! which one do you take?

The Squat!

It is your ultimate Desert Island Exercise.

What is a simple truth about exercise that most people ignore?

Ok, where to start? How about a whole Pandora’s Box full of ’em?

Here’s a simple one: that people always have the time to do what they really want to do and never seem to be able to find any extra time to do what they don’t. It’s a similar situation to when you were a kid and mom wanted you to eat all those nasty vegetables, but you were “full up” and couldn’t…that is, until dessert showed up.

Here’s a few more, a short list of ignored simple truths:

  • That exercise is not simply a luxury activity to be indulged in just “when you have the time”;
  • That, far from being a vanity project for the young to look good, exercise is even more of a necessity for survival, the older you get;
  • It is not the royal pain-in-the-ass that some pontificating old exercise nazi forces you to take unwanted responsibility for. No Exercise Dictator is passing a law requiring you drag your ass-nobody-better-say-is-too-damn-big-for-these-yoga-pants all the way over to the gym against your will…or its exact opposite: you are not going to become an obsessed, worse-than-heroin-addict, with nothing in your life except mind-numbing hour upon hour of tedious exercise, doomed to tragically regret the end of a dull, exercised-too-much, miserable life.
  • That all this “frigging exercise thing” is good for is interfering with an especially nice dinner and drinks out with friends or a cozy night in, snuggling up with a delicious bottle of red and and your favourite bae in fuzzy warm anticipation of the latest instalment of GOT…on the contrary, that it can often be an agreeable,  highly empowering, self-actualising endeavour, activating and maintaining many vital life processes crucial to getting the most out of whatever limited amount of time Lady Luck is going to allow you to hang out on this earth.

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I want to give up dairy but worry about where to get my calcium requirement. Have any suggestions?

So, you’ve decided to drop those pesky white items out of your diet plan and would like to avoid the related deficiency risks, like osteoporosis?

Although dairy products have all sorts of great nutritional benefits, many people find good reasons to give them a pass. High lactose intolerance, allergy to casein, egg protein allergy, don’t care for the ways that cows and chickens are treated and so on. Don’t sweat it, there are lots of alternatives., Below I’ll supply a short, useful little list of foodstuffs that you can mix and match to make up your dietary calcium requirements.

*Quick Note* If you’re suffering from less severe lactose intolerance (over 70% of the population has some level of intolerance) perhaps you can try giving up just milk, as cultured products like yoghurt and cheese can often be well tolerated. This will allow you to retain some excellent sources of easily digested calcium in your diet. So, weigh and balance things in a cost-to-risk way as far as your health goes.

The USFDA uses a value of 1000 mg of calcium as the minimum daily requirement, which should prove to be fairly easy to get.

1. Almonds

Just 1 cup of whole almonds contains 385 mg of calcium, which is more than one-third of the recommended daily amount.

2. Dried figs

About eight figs, or 1 cup, provides 241 mg of calcium.

3. Tofu

Tofu tends to be an excellent source of calcium. However, the calcium content varies, depending on the firmness and the brand, and it can range from 275–861 mg per half cup. Be sure to read the label to ensure that the manufacturer has used calcium salts in processing, as this adds a huge amount of calcium to tofu.

4. Chia seeds

A single ounce, or 2 tablespoons, of chia seeds provide 180 mg of calcium.

5. Canned Salmon

Average of 450mg of calcium per tin of salmon from the bones processed with the meat.

6. Canned Sardines

330mg per tin, from the source as above.

7. Blackstrap Molasses

172 mg/Tablespoon

8. Canned Black-eyed peas/beans

About 350 mg/can.

In this day and age (well, at least in 1st world countries) there is really no physical barrier to satisfying what in essence is a fairly manageable daily requirement for calcium.

Many alternative sources of calcium exist that should offer you excellent ways to get the calcium you need, if you have decided to avoid dairy products.

Why do some people let themselves go when they get older?

It is probably a question that everyone asks, at least twice in their lives and has a lot to do with systems of belief and mindset.

The first time you ask this question, it is usually directed outward, at others. You are probably curious about why and how people get old when you are young, strong, resilient, have time, ignorance and inexperience on your side.

Most likely the next time you ask it, it is directed inwardly, it is a question that you ask yourself. This time, when you ask this question, you are probably not so young and a lot of time has been chalked up on the clock now and are beginning to feel the advancing cold at a deeper, darker level.

Below is a shortlist of a few of the factors involved when people just decide to go, to quit:

  • They drop. Like a man suffering from hyperthermia who is treading water with nothing to hang on to that will keep him afloat or a swimming rat that has abandoned a sinking ship, too far from land, they have become exhausted and sink to the bottom.
  • It’s too much trouble. It hurts too much. The desire to remain sexy and vital as the years drag on is no longer worth the trouble, The motivation to be the top of your personal game has gone the way of the dinosaurs and if you let it go, will be devilishly difficult to retrieve.
  • You are on the wrong side of the clock. Time is not on your side. It is difficult to conjure up the necessary time and energy to learn anything new. A youth-worshipping society raises its imperious finger to point out unto the lonely, desolate wastelands with the order to “Go!”
  • There is no margin of profit in it. The growth efficient, profit oriented demon-accountants of the speed driven commercial machinery of life do the math, conclude that after X years you are of little use and so withdraw favourable treatment. These outside forces make the decision that you could not possibly produce much of value, certainly not enough to justify the amount of resources used up or the amount of space that you fill up. A popular and mystifying dynamic finds its place and is put into force.

…and these people who are no longer young, who should know better, who in better years survived on the largess of society’s heavily proscribed favours, foolishly take to heart the ruthless signals that it now consistently, imperiously and impersonally sends out to them. It’s a message devoid of much sentimentality or kindness, these dark instructions are delivered with a brutal coldness that the hapless recipients neither foresaw nor were ready for.

In short, these victims of time, the ones who “just let themselves go when they get older” lack both the flexibility to bend with the vicissitudes of age or the strength and resiliency to fight it.

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What is something that most people don’t know about body fat?

Sometimes less cannot be seen as more.

Bravo! A perfect question for a guy who was a fat kid, has spent most of his life pumping iron, makes his living as a fitness trainer and owns a gym!

Q. What is something that most people don’t know about body fat?

A. That it is not just a useless and unsightly storage area for waste products and too much of grandma’s delicious cinnamon-apple pie with vanilla ice cream!

  • Body fat acts like a shock absorber in events where the body is struck or thrown against a wall. Body fat helps to protect internal organs against trauma by acting as a physical cushion.
  • Fat also helps keep internal organs from inconveniently wandering around the body, while simultaneously assisting them to remain reassuringly stable inside it.
  • Storage of sustenance in cases otherwise resulting in gruesome consequences. Examples would be events like an elevator being stuck between floors for days with nothing much to eat or a ship and its passengers lost at sea. When stores of food run out, large individual caches of body fat should forestall premature temptations to cannibalize hapless traveling companions. Readers are welcome to use their vivid imaginations to envision further examples, if more are needed.
  • Very useful hormones are secreted by fat cells. These hormones include leptin, adiponectin, tumor necrosis factor, angiotensinogen and interleukin.
  • Signals and supports fertility in women. When fat stores sink dangerously low, the natural cycle of the female is interrupted until such a time as adequate levels are restored.
  • Body fat plays an important role in immune system functioning.
  • Blubber is thermoregulatory, often coming in very useful on explorations into low temperature territories like Siberia or the Arctic Circle.

So as you can see, being a skinny model may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Under the right set of circumstances, this man has the potential to out-survive his leaner comrades.

Is it ok to continue lifting with heavy weights after age 50, or would it be better to go lighter?

Lifting weights creates all sorts of benefits, it’s just a little rough on the connective tissues. There’s an accumulation of inflammation, wear & tear damage to ligaments, tendons, attachments, build-up of scar tissue and so on.

If you’ve been lifting for any length of time or/and have done some gene testing to discover what type of lifting stress you are most likely to respond to optimally, you are already familiar with the methods that will work best for you.

The various physical ageing processes will let you know that your response and recovery rates are slowly, quietly or unquietly, diminishing. As you rack up the years, the opportunities for injury increase and the price that you pay when it happens is heavier and time consuming. You train heavy, it hurts more, you spend more energy and recovery time to repair. You go as heavy as you can, while striving to maintain focus and the discipline of form and precision. Not, easy? Was it ever? You just get on with it.

Luckily, as far as muscle hypotrophy goes, high volume training is the method most likely to show results. Strength, on the other hand, is where heavier poundages are the drug of choice. You feel that size of muscle, the strength of it and how these qualities interact should be pegged to each other by some simple formula like F=MA. But it doesn’t work out that straightforwardly and bounces around on a weird, moveable scale dependant on all sorts of variables that you forgot to add to your simple equation.

So, as there are no completely reliable maps, we are just going to have to weigh the options, benefits and risk factors, then decide how to proceed.

What we know is clearly of paramount importance is that we need to continue to exercise, to modify lifestyle factors affecting our health and be conversant with available nutritional strategy. Whether it is resistance, cardio, HIIT, X, or whatever game you decide to play as you get older. These are the things that we do know for certain, no matter how many old fogeys, growing progressive more grumpy & decrepit, shoving zimmer frames around as roadblocks, desperately trying to shout you down and tell you how to behave now that you’re old.

As what is really at stake here is an overall survival strategy. It is a shame that most people on the wrong side of 50 roll over and decide otherwise.

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No one is required to come to the same conclusion as mine. Responsibility of decision lies with each of us, dependent on our personal value systems and whatever related goals or aspirations make this life worth the living.

Lifting heavy is probably much less an important factor than ensuring than just lifting. what is vital is training discipline, the frame of mind that is required of you to ensure that you keep to it consistently and in the long run.

If training heavy doesn’t cause you too much grief and you like to train heavy, great do it! If you are not lifting as heavy as when you were 25 or 30 because your joints are screaming bloody murder when you do, then don’t! Just go for volume, movement control and as much intensity as you can muster.

Improvise, adapt and overcome as the grunts say. Just to train, to keep that Wolf of Age at bay, to train whether heavy or otherwise, is the thing we have to do.

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