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Sunday, February 28, 2010

7 Weeks to 100 Pushups: Week 5

This is my fifth week following the workout in Steve Speirs's book 7 Weeks to 100 Pushups. This is actually the fourth week of the book's schedule, since I repeated the third week. As with last week's report, I've listed the workout schedule for each day, followed by what I actually did. (The "R" stands for Ruthless Golf.)

I expected this week to be difficult, not only because I've struggled in past weeks, but because I'm struggling with some slight pain in my left shoulder. This wasn't caused by the workouts; it was slightly sore before I began. The workout has helped me identify which muscle is causing the problem though, so I've been able to massage it. I've also been using a little Tylenol to treat it, and it's improving, but it means I have to place a little more weight on my right side, which I noted last week was a little smaller than the left... hence it's weaker. And to top it all off, I had to do another late workout! But obviously I'm dealing with these things properly:

M: 14 - 17 - 14 - 14 - 20+
R: 14 - 17 - 14 - 14 - 15

I was just amazed at these results. This is a total of 74 pushups, 5 more than Friday, the most reps I've done yet in a fifth set... and the shoulder seems fine after the workout.

A strange thing happened Monday night... while I was in bed and my shoulder was bothering me, I stretched it straight out and it popped! After that, the pain dropped considerably and it's been improving since. I thought that when a shoulder was out-of-joint, you couldn't move it; apparently it can be just slightly out-of-joint. Although I felt ok Wednesday night, it may have been a bit weak:

W: 16 - 18 - 16 - 16 - 21+
R: 16 - 18 - 16 - 16 - 12

Still, that's 78 pushups, 4 better than Monday. Perhaps the shoulder will be stronger on Friday.

As it turned out, I was really busy Friday and didn't have time to do the workout. My plan was to do the workout on Saturday instead... but when I woke up Saturday morning, I noticed my left shoulder had improved much more than I expected. Since I'm hoping to get the shoulder completely healed very soon now, I decided to skip today's pushup workout and just do some gentler exercises that wouldn't put so much pressure on it. I don't know how this will affect Monday's workout, but this seemed the best choice.

F: 17 - 19 - 17 - 17 - 24+
R: -- skipped --

And that brings us up-to-date for this week. I hope you all are seeing that if you're trying to follow an existing workout program, it's ok to alter it if the circumstances warrant it. I've already repeated Week 3, simply because I was having trouble keeping up. I'm making adjustments now based on how my shoulder feels. The key here is that I am continuing to make progress; it doesn't matter if that progress is a bit slower than the program calls for. The program designer designed a generic program, which I am personalizing for ME. You should adapt a similar approach; you'll improve quicker with fewer problems that way.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Get a Grip

Strengthening our forearms and grip is a challenge for most of us. You can use squeezy balls or those plier-looking grips that never seem to fit your hand right... or you can save money and just use a towel. That's right, a plain old towel. You can do it with a dry towel, but it's much more satisfying with a wet towel because it's more visual.

You can do this exercise from several different angles:
  1. Both hands on top;
  2. Both hands on bottom;
  3. Left on top, right on bottom; or
  4. Right on top, left on bottom.

Wringing towel with both hands on topImagine the towel held in a horizontal line, and placing your hands will make sense. In the photo at left, I'm holding the towel with both hands on top. That's simple enough, right?

Now, from this position I can twist the towel two different ways: I can twist the left hand up and the right hand down, or vice versa. (Come on... you know how to wring a towel!) The same is also true from any of the other three positions I listed earlier.

You can do this drill with a dry towel, but with a wet towel you can see the water being wrung out and it will give you a visual cue about how hard to twist. (I'm holding a dry towel here, as I didn't want to mess up the kitchen floor. Do the wet towel over a tub or sink, ok?)

This drill will really help strengthen your grip and your forearms, both of which can be hard to train. In addition, wringing towels is a useful skill, and you can use that as an excuse if people give you a hard time when you say, "I'm improving my golf swing."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Neck Stretches You Can Do Anywhere

I don't know about you, but I have a lot of trouble with tight neck muscles. Since, as you'll remember, the one really bad injury Annika had involved her neck, I think we should pay more attention to this area. I like this video because it is so simple and requires no special equipment. (Although you might want to sit down when you do it.) And if you have trouble understanding her instructions, they're also shown in closed caption style across the bottom.

Please take good care of your neck. It can really affect your swing... and your health. Just ask Apryl.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hip Flexor Stretch

This very enthusiastic personal trainer is Tina Anderson, and she's going to teach you a couple of techniques for doing hip flexor stretches. The first one is a slightly different way of doing it (as opposed to the more common second method). Do the one which feels best to you.

Don't you just feel all bubbly and fit now? ;-D

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Doing Hamstring Stretches Correctly

Here's another simple stretch that we often do improperly. This is Dr. Bob Donatelli from, and the stretch is for your hamstrings. Why do I like this video so much? Because he explains not only how to do the stretch, but why we want to do it this way. It's basic Schoolhouse Rock -- "Knowledge is power!"

Seriously, hamstrings cause a lot of back (and swing) problems, so learning to stretch them properly is important. Best of all, you don't have to stand on your head!

I've added a new link list called "Some Useful Golf Links" just above my blog lists, and GolfersMD is the charter member. You might want to check out the site, as it looks pretty good.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Simple Back Stretches

Mike Pedersen has been in the golf fitness business for a long time. He's done a few stretch videos that aren't difficult, and posted them on YouTube. This particular two-stretch combo looked to be particularly easy, while still helping you get "unkinked."

This really is the sort of thing you can do a few times a day. And you don't have to do these outdoors, so you can't use the weather as an excuse. (Well, I suppose you could try...)

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Limerick Summary: 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship

Winner: Ian Poulter

First, I need to mention that the ladies got their year started this week. Ai Miyazato won the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand event over Suzann Pettersen with a great 63 in the final round. I have to give the Constructivist props for calling this one, as he may be Ai's greatest fan right now. You can read his play-by-play of the final round here. (Let me also give a shout-out to TGC for making sure their Friday coverage, delayed though it might be, was aired in full before Tiger's broadcast.)

Likewise, Bernhardt Langer beat John Cook at the Allianz Championship in dramatic fashion, holing out a plugged bunker shot on the first playoff hole. And Cameron Beckman won the Mayakoba Golf Classic, the opposite Tour event down in Mexico. Congrats to them all!

People who don't care for match play cheated themselves out of a great event this week. The WGC-Accenture lived up to its billing, despite Tiger's press junket and Phil's absence.

For perhaps the first time in the history of the event, there were more international players than American players in this tourney. And the internationals made it clear that it wasn't an accident. Only one American, Stewart Cink, made it to the quarterfinals... and Paul Casey sent him packing with his fourth consecutive 5 & 4 win. Garcia, Villegas, Casey, and Poulter -- it's hard to say this wasn't a marquee group, even though there were no Americans! (Despite Patricia Hannigan's protests to the contrary.)

Poulter dispatched Garcia 7 & 6, but it was the farthest Garcia had ever gotten in this tourney -- well done, Sergio! And after a blistering semifinal between Casey and Villegas, which took two days and 24 holes, we found ourselves in an all-English final between Paul Casey and Ian Poulter. (Camilo won the consolation match.)

Unfortunately for Casey, who is almost recovered from a rib injury sustained last year (at which time he was #3 in the world), Poulter was quite literally "in the pink" and it showed. (Well, except for the white shoes. What's up with that, Ian?) Casey played way better than I expected after having to finish the semi early Sunday morning, but he had to be tired going into the 36-hole final. Ian drained a long putt to win on the 34th hole, handing Paul 2nd place for the 2nd year in a row. (Geoff Ogilvy did the deed in 2009.)

In the end, Ian Poulter won 4 & 2, giving him his first PGA Tour win, making him the first Englishman to win a WGC event, probably moving him to #5 in the world rankings... and making the following limerick possible. Quite an accomplishment!
Internationals turned gladiatorial
As they gave the U.S. a tutorial
About playing to win –
And then Poulter chimed in
That the true victor’s prize is sartorial!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

7 Weeks to 100 Pushups: Week 4

Welcome to my fourth week following the workout in Steve Speirs's book 7 Weeks to 100 Pushups. As with last week's report, I've listed the workout schedule for each day, followed by what I actually did. (The "R" stands for Ruthless Golf.)

You may remember that I decided to repeat Week 3 after all the problems I had last week. Well, it was still a struggle, but I came close:

M: 11 - 14 - 11 - 11 - 16+
R: 11 - 14 - 11 - 11 - 13

My right shoulder is definitely a weak spot here, as I actually felt it give out on me this time. After three weeks on the program, the difference in size between my right and left shoulder muscles has become obvious enough that I can feel it with my fingers. I guess I've been letting my left side "shoulder" more of the burden. (That's too good a pun to pass up!) After a little rest, I did a set of 25 one-armed standing pushups, as described in last Sunday's post, as part of my effort to help the right side catch up.

Wednesday turned out to be a busy day, and I ended up doing my workout very late again. It's hard for me to be too disappointed, though:

W: 12 - 15 - 12 - 12 - 18+
R: 12 - 15 - 12 - 12 - 14

That's a total of 65 pushups, a record so far. No, I didn't scream as much as Lindsey Vonn when she won the downhill, but I was pretty psyched up! I might could have squeezed out one more pushup, maybe two... but I remember how much it took out of me last time I had to work out so late, so I didn't push it. Also, no extra one-arm work for my right shoulder tonight. I'm just going to rest on my laurels and see what happens Friday.

I felt ok Thursday and Friday, but it was late again when I got to work out.

F: 13 - 16 - 14 - 14 - 20+
R: 13 - 16 - 14 - 13 - 13

That's a total of 69 pushups, by far my best showing yet. Obviously I'm still struggling at the end of the workout, but I'm improving. Both of my arms gave out in the last set; I got about halfway up on the 14th pushup and simply couldn't go any farther. After a couple of seconds of pushing but going nowhere, I dropped unceremoniously to the ground. Oh well, at least I improved this week.

Saturday I woke up a bit tired, but nothing worth writing home about. And now, Saturday night, I feel pretty much like normal. We'll see what happens next week, but I feel like I'm close to putting it all together.

Stay tuned for further details... ;-)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Katherine Roberts Chimes In...

If you haven't been watching TGC, you may not know who Katherine Roberts is. The short answer is that she's the resident yoga expert for the LA Dodgers and San Diego Padres. She's also known for a book called, amazingly enough, Yoga for Golfers. I thought she might be a good source for some golf-specific fitness help. So here's an exercise suggestion from her.

Doesn't look too hard, does it? You might be surprised. Good luck!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Drawback

The next golf-specific exercise I have is for those of you specifically trying to learn to draw the ball. If you've been paying any attention whatsoever, you know I don't like shots that require twisting your forearms... and that's how a lot of people learn to hit draws. (I once heard Tiger talking about how, as a kid, he learned to flip his hands to get distance. He also indicated that this is a common thing for kids to do when they start trying to hit it farther. Is it any wonder so many pros struggle with duck hooks?)

The drawback won't give you that problem. You can do this inside without a club, or outside with one; I'll explain that later in the post. First, let me show you how you need to place your feet:

Drawback foot positions

The diagram should be pretty much self-explanatory. The toe of your back foot is about half of a literal "foot" behind the toes of your front foot, and your feet are spaced normally. The easiest way to do this is to set up normally, then move your back foot into position.

Your hips will already be pre-turned toward your backswing, so you should be able to get a pretty good shoulder turn without either foot leaving the floor... unless you have a really wide stance. Don't close your shoulders at setup, though -- you want them square, on a line parallel to that dotted line in the diagram. I know this isn't the way most teachers teach it, but there's method in my madness; if you master this move, you should have a controllable draw.

When you turn your shoulders on the way back, don't slide your hips backward -- keep that back knee steady. It may feel a little like you're squatting, but you aren't. Your forward foot will probably roll to the inside and your knee move that way as well. That's fine. Just make sure you keep that back knee steady on your backswing.

Now, here's the critical move. When you "swing" through to your finish, let your back knee tap the side of your front knee as you "hit the ball." This does two things:
  • It gets your back leg and hip moving, so you won't "hang back" and keep your weight on your back foot; and
  • It forces you to "post up" your front leg, so you won't push yourself too far forward and either do a reverse-C (result: a push) or fall head-first toward the hole (result: a pull).
By the way, if you let your hips slide forward (which means you didn't post up properly), it will be difficult to tap your knees. That's the most likely mistake you'll make.

This isn't a difficult move at all. It will help your balance, your leg work, and your shoulder turn.

Now, if you do this outside with a club. you'll find that you're swinging much more from the inside, which starts the ball out like a push. If you swing your arms normally and square up the clubface, you should get a slight draw that lands on the target line, right where you were aiming. This is very similar to the technique Jack Nicklaus used -- with great success, I might add.

But suppose it doesn't draw? Suppose you push the ball to the right and it doesn't come back? To get that draw without flipping your hands, take a slightly stronger grip on the club. Then, when you set up, hold your hands and forearms just like you normally do. This will give you a slightly closed clubface at setup, which is good. Then make your normal swing, and the ball should behave itself. If it doesn't, you're probably letting your front knee slide too far forward; that makes you lean backward, which opens your shoulders, which also opens your clubface.

This exercise should really help you if you have trouble drawing the ball.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Basics of Eating, Complete Post List

This post lists all the posts on eating for fitness, so you can refer to them easier.

And as with the other posts: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!


The Basic Info:


First... the Balance Beam

Golf-specific exercises don't have to be as strenuous as other workouts, so we're going to start with an "easy" one. (Heh heh heh!)

I call this the balance beam.

Take your normal golf setup (no club) with your knees flexed and your spine tilted forward. Now, with your knees still flexed, I want you to stand on one foot. Shift your weight to the leg that will support your weight -- keep your knee flexed! -- and lift the other foot until you can rest that ankle against the side of your support knee. You can keep your arms close to your body or hold them out to the sides, I don't care; do whichever helps you keep your balance. Got that? It shouldn't be too hard...


Now, while you stand in that position, I want you to slowly turn your shoulders as far into your backswing position as you can, hold it a second, then turn as far as you can in the other direction into your followthrough, and return to your start position... all while standing on one foot with the other ankle held against your supporting knee. Simple, huh?

Do that ten times, then switch to the other leg and repeat.

This little gem will not only improve your balance, but it will also improve your hip and back flexibility. Hip flexibility gets overlooked by a lot of people, but it's important if you want to avoid back problems.

Got it? Good. You go work on that, I'm going back to watch the Olympics. The half-pipe guys are on -- GO SHAUN!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Golf-Specific Training... At Last!

Well, now we finally get to the stuff that most of you have been waiting for... golf-specific training guidelines!

Of course, we're going to have to lay down some ground rules first; we'll do that today. Then we'll look at some things that can both help you get in better golfing shape and improve your swing.

So, what is our goal with golf-specific training?
  • We want to get our bodies in shape to perform our existing golf swing better. If we can improve our range of motion, lengthen our swing, or do any of those other things that golf teachers tell us we need to do, that's great. But first and foremost, we want our bodies to be able to make our existing swing without getting hurt or overly tired.
  • We want to improve our technique. Bet you haven't thought of that, have you? We tend to think of exercise only in terms of strength, but I think good golf exercises help you improve your technique as well. We want exercises that help you hit the ball more solidly; that help you stay level throughout your swing; that help you stay balanced throughout your swing; and that help you consistently get into good positions that don't hurt. That will affect some of my exercise choices.
  • We want to become more confident. We want to do exercises that help us set up over the ball and know that we can make a good swing. That's a combination of fitness, knowledge, and simple understanding. A good golf exercise should help you think more clearly over the ball.
  • Finally, we want to increase our golf abilities if possible. I put this last because this should be an extra benefit to your workout. I think sometimes we have unrealistic expectations of our fitness programs; we look for game improvement instead of health improvement. Hopefully, we'll get some of both from these exercises.
Tomorrow we'll start looking at some exercises, but I just wanted to make sure we're all on the same page. If we go about this right, we could actually start our 2010 season hitting the ball better than we did last year.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Some Parting Thoughts on Proper Eating

(I know you're tired of hearing this, but remember: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!)

Ok, let's wrap up the dietary talk today so we can start thinking about the golf swing itself. Here are a few parting thoughts to bear in mind.

  • I haven't talked about vitamin and mineral supplements, largely because I think that's a really personal thing. I do think you should realize that the "daily minimum requirements" you hear about are just that... minimums. They represent the least you can get each day and not come down with diseases like rickets and scurvy and such.
Personally, I take what used to be called a "sports vitamin," which has a lot more of the vitamins and minerals than the typical vitamin tablets you get at the grocery store. (Mine come from a health food store.) I also take some extra C, E, and zinc. I settled on these after a lot of study and personal experimentation. Some people don't need them, but I seem to function better when I take them. I give you no advice here, beyond urging you to listen to your body. Take them if you think you need them, and don't take them if you don't.
  • Try to diversify your diet. The more different kinds of food you eat, the more likely you are to have a healthy and enjoyable diet, which general translates into having a healthy and enjoyable body. 'Nuff said.
  • Pre-planning for snacks is a good idea for everybody. I know if I don't plan ahead, I end up eating too much of the things I only want a little of, if you know what I mean. (All those potato chips... history! Yes, I can eat just one... bag, that is.) Find some healthy things you like, and make sure you keep them around... because you will get the munchies. Trust me, I know about these things.
  • Since most of us grasp things visually better than we do verbally, take the time to measure one serving of your favorite guilty pleasure. If you know what it looks like, it's much easier to avoid those unintentional binges that make you feel awful.
  • And finally, decide you won't turn dinnertime into a guilt trip. The quickest way to destroy your efforts to eat a more healthy diet is to focus on the don'ts. Focus on the do's, and you'll find it much easier to stick to your guns -- and you'll start enjoying your meals again. Satisfaction isn't merely about a full stomach, but about feeling good about yourself.
Well, it's taken a little over six weeks, but you should have most of the information you need to get yourself in shape for life in general, and golf in particular. Now get ready to start working on your swing -- it's almost spring!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Limerick Summary: 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

Winner: Dustin Johnson

The only celebrity this week on the European Tour was Andrew Dodt, who won the Avantha Masters in New Delhi, India. He won with a birdie on the last hole and, according to Michael Green down under at Aussie Golfer, did so in his first professional tournament. I'd call that an award-winning performance.

Likewise, one of the young guns on the Champions Tour, Fred Couples, accepted the award for winning the ACE Group Classic. Looks like a week for the noobs, doesn't it?

Well, Dustin Johnson doesn't count as a noob anymore, but he's definitely a young gun who's been ignored by the Academy for far too long. This is his third award in as many years, so maybe it's time we started giving him some props. Paul Goydos was also nominated in this category, but by far the biggest surprise was the near-upset staged by David Duval. I freely admit I had cast my vote for this sentimental favorite... but his good showings at last year's U.S. Open, as well as at this week's ceremonies, indicate that he won't be merely sentimental for much longer.

So now, without further ado, I present to you the Limerick Summary of the Week (envelope, please):
Celebrity players were lustin’
For the leading man’s role, played by Dustin.
When you crush it a mile,
You just wave and you smile…
And you win the award for ball-bustin’.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year!

I just thought I would mention this. It seems rather ironic, given all that's happened in the last few months:

Chinese New Year begins today, on Valentine's Day... and it's the Year of the Tiger.

We can only hope... for his sake.

7 Weeks to 100 Pushups: Week 3

This is my third week following the workout in Steve Speirs's book 7 Weeks to 100 Pushups. As with last week's report, I've listed the workout schedule for each day, followed by what I actually did. (The "R" stands for Ruthless Golf.)

You might remember that I didn't get to do my workout last Friday until very late, only a couple of hours before bedtime; and because I had trouble finishing the last set, I took a few minutes' rest before doing a couple of extra sets of pushups. Well, while I slept ok Friday night, I didn't sleep well either Saturday or Sunday night.

During the first week of this program, I had a day when I got really tired but I recovered just fine; since I didn't recover this time, I'm chalking this one up to doing it so close to bedtime. I decided to skip the Monday workout entirely and try to pick up again Wednesday. If I struggle the rest of this week, I'll just repeat Week 3 next week.

M: 11 - 14 - 11 - 11 - 16+
R: -- skipped --

By Tuesday night my sleep patterns seemed to be back to normal, and I felt good Wednesday. I expected some trouble after missing Monday, however.

W: 12 - 15 - 12 - 12 - 18+
R: 12 - 15 - 12 - 9 - 13

I was surprised to do as well as I did. I allowed a bit more time to rest between the last two sets -- an extra 60 seconds -- which may have helped. Nevertheless, my total came out to 61 pushups -- only 2 less than was expected for Monday's workout (which technically should have been the one I did today). That's the closest I've come since the very first session, despite having gone five whole days between workouts. It was 8 short of Wednesday's expectations, of course, but I'm still encouraged. Maybe I'll make a quantum leap Friday and end up on track.

F: 13 - 16 - 14 - 14 - 20+
R: 13 - 16 - 11 - 10 - 11

So much for quantum leaps! Friday was a real struggle, as you can see. Ironically, I did a total of 61 pushups, the same as Wednesday. This makes the decision for me -- I'm going to repeat Week 3 next week and see if I can do a better job of things. I'm consoling myself with the knowledge that I had to skip Monday's workout, so I couldn't possibly be expected to make it. (Mind games can be a good thing!)

As I mentioned earlier, the Monday workout requires 63 pushups, just 2 less than I've managed during each of my two workouts this week. That should make it easier for me to catch up to the program's demands.

One thing I noticed today... if you've ever worked out, you've probably experienced what bodybuilders call a "pump." That's where the amount of blood to your muscles is increased to the point that they temporarily increase in size. Well, my right shoulder "pumps" a lot less than my left, which probably means it's a little weaker. Instead of doing extra sets of regular pushups, I've decided to add a few one-armed wall pushups to try and strengthen my right shoulder. I did two sets of these Friday; we'll see if that helps.

So here are two things you can learn from my efforts to follow this program; maybe they'll help you get past some of your own stumbling blocks:
  1. It's not unusual to have muscle imbalances, and sometimes they're the source of aches and pains. (In my case, I'm righthanded and tend to use my left hand and arm to brace myself when doing things. My left shoulder is also the one that tends to get hurt the most -- probably because I put more stress on it.) Don't be surprised if you discover a similar problem when you start working out. One of your goals should be to try and correct these imbalances when you find them.
  2. The expectations of a program created by others (or even by us!) sometimes overestimate what we can do. Don't be ashamed to back up and repeat a week once or even twice, and do it as often as necessary. Always remember that the goal is to improve, not meet someone else's expectations.
Finally, I woke up kinda tired Saturday morning; nothing major, but I could definitely feel it in my upper body. But I've got two days to recover, and then I'll repeat Week 3 and see what happens.

Note: A "one-armed wall pushup" means I stand arm's-length from a wall, place my hand against the wall in front of the center of my chest, and use just that arm to push myself away from the wall. This is difficult enough to make me work, but I'm unlikely to strain myself. I can do about 30 of these; when I'm done, my right shoulder feels almost as tired as my left, so I'm guessing my left shoulder carries most of the load during my regular workout. Hopefully this will help balance the work evenly between my shoulders.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Key to Gaining Weight

(I know you're tired of hearing this, but remember: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!)

It's ironic how much the weight losers and the weight gainers have in common. Both are frustrated by a seeming inability to change their bodies. Both like to blame it on their genes. But do you know what the biggest irony is? They both make the same mistake (sort of) -- wannabe weight losers eat too much of the wrong things, and wannabe weight gainers just eat too little.

Way too little. WAY too little. Period. (And often they eat the wrong things too, just to compound the problem. Milk shakes and fried foods are not the answer.) According to Dr. Susan Kleiner in her book Power Eating (p. 243), for a serious resistance-training and weight gain program, a man needs 24-28 calories per pound each day, while a woman may be able to start gaining at around 20 calories per pound. That's a lot more food than most skinny people even consider eating!

Why so much? In a word, metabolism. A lot of those calories are being burned to fuel the muscle building process, which also uses calories. Think about your car; it takes more gas to accelerate your car to 80mph than it does to cruise at 80... a lot more. In the same way, it takes a lot more calories to gain 20 or 30 lbs of muscle than it does to maintain it after you've got it.

Failure to eat enough is the first mistake. The second is not eating frequently enough. If you're trying to gain weight, it's better to eat five or six small meals than three big ones. When I managed to put on 15 lbs in 10 weeks, I was eating eight times a day! Not only that, but I ate different types of meals at different times. That may require a bit of explanation.
  • Before the workout, you need to get a lot of energy into your muscles so they can handle a good workout, so you go for things that digest easily. That generally means no meats, although eggs are ok (forget the Rocky bit and cook them!), as is cheese. Make sure you have 60-90 minutes for these meals to digest.
  • Right after a workout, your metabolism is going crazy! For about 30 minutes, it's a case of the quicker you get food in, the faster your muscles rebuild. So for those meals, I focused on foods that digested quickly -- which again means you skip meats, which digest slowly. You go for protein shakes, fruits, yogurt, and such.
  • Maybe an hour after your workout, you can start thinking about heavier things. (Yes, now meat's on the menu!) You've got all night for your body to finish utilizing all those calories.
Personally, I worked out meals that I knew were 300-500 calories apiece. That way, I could run in and fix one, knowing about how many calories I was getting. And I started the day with a breakfast of about 700-800 calories -- essentially a giant milkshake with fruit, wheat germ, oatmeal, yogurt, some protein powder, anything that would digest quickly. (I know that may sound gross to some of you, but I was working out too early in the day to be cooking anything... and it doesn't take a lot of experimentation to find how to blend things so you taste some and not others.)

There was one thing I did that I would do differently now, and that's going extremely lowfat. I made a real effort to keep my fat calories between 10% and 15% of the total, and it made it very difficult to eat the necessary number of calories because of the volume of food I needed. Eventually I instituted a "cheat day" every weekend, where I would eat anything I wanted, no matter how "bad" it was... and I mean ANYTHING! I distinctly remember one Saturday where I bought a chocolate milkshake at Baskin Robbins, which I drank at Pizza Hut along with the supreme pan pizza I ordered. Even with that kind of cheating, I still didn't gain a single inch around my waist during the 10 weeks. I got to where I dreaded eating, and that's why I finally stopped gaining. I simply quit trying to gain.

If I was doing it now, I would let my daily fat calories equal 25%, even 30% of my total AS LONG AS the fat came from monounsaturated fats like olive oil. I've heard that the Mediterranean Diet, which is considered an extremely healthy way to eat, can contain as much as 40% because so much of the fat comes from olives and olive oil. (You can find more info on the diet here and here, if you're interested.) At any rate, allowing a bit more fat than I did could make it easier to satisfy your calorie needs.

In addition, if you decide to try the Charles Atlas approach (I was doing a weight program) and do no more exercise than you can recover from in a single day -- which means you work out each day -- you won't need to eat nearly as many calories a day. I would review this post and try using the "active" recommendations to gain weight with an Atlas-style program. You'll be eating around 20% less calories a day that way, so it might be easier to gain eating less fat, like I did.

Those are the major things you weight gainers need to know. If you need more info, just check the book recommendation post for some ideas.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Moderation Goes Both Ways

(I know you're tired of hearing this, but remember: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!)

Before we get started, Yahoo recently posted a list of 7 bad habits that overweight people often have. These are just some simple things that make it harder for you weight-watchers, so I wanted to pass this link along. Maybe it'll help.

Now, down to business. I promised to teach you how to cheat on a diet and get away with it. Well, today is the day. And the key is moderation. I remarked a few days ago that "most of us get into trouble because we go overboard on the things we keep doing." I'm advocating small changes that are easier to keep doing, rather than big changes that you'll do for a while and then quit.

But moderation goes both ways. I also said, "and we go overboard on the things we change." A diet that is no fun is a diet that you won't stick to. We all have a tendency to do too much too soon when we start a self-improvement program of any sort. We are so excited! We may have failed before, but THIS time will be different! And after a while we get tired of it again, and soon it's more work to think about the program than it is to do it! This is especially true when it comes to food, because so many of us have "baggage" when it comes to food.

You know what I mean. Maybe food was a reward when you were growing up, so you associate food with acceptance. Maybe it was an escape from your problems. (I personally subscribe to a belief in the healing power of HUGE quantities of chocolate. I did say HUGE quantities, didn't I? Was I clear that I meant HUGE quantities?) Maybe you associate certain healthy foods with punishment, as in "You can't leave the table until you finish your peas!" All of these are common human experiences.

Let's face it -- we're not going to beat this problem by attacking it head-on. But we can beat it if we compromise. And that's where cheating comes in.

Example: My diet says I have been eating too many hamburgers. (Note: This is just a made-up example; I could NEVER eat too many hamburgers.) My immediate reaction might be to eliminate them from my diet completely. This approach is probably doomed to failure. If I like burgers enough that I'm eating too many, trying to get rid of them completely will be like trying to hold my breath for the rest of my life!

So I acknowledge that burgers are important to me, but I can't allow them to keep dominating my diet. I do this by elevating their position, rather than demeaning them. Possible solutions?

1) I will allow hamburgers once a week, and not feel guilty about it. I will eat better for a whole week, and the burger will be my reward for successfully doing so. Three meals a day is 21 a week; if I eat well 20 meals a week, one questionable meal probably isn't going to be a big deal, is it? And get this: I'm using the previous problem as a reward for staying on track! Not bad, huh?

2) I will cut my burger consumption in half and accept this for now. I actually got this idea from Graham Kerr, who used to be the Galloping Gourmet back in the '60s. Kerr and his wife had become Christians and felt that the overly-flamboyant lifestyle made it too difficult for them to follow their new faith. (He said that, at the height of his popularity, he didn't even choose his own toilet paper!) But the rich lifestyle had already taken its toll; his wife Treena had developed some serious health problems and he started searching for diet changes that would help her. The cooking style he developed, which he calls Minimax Cooking -- "minimize the fat, maximize the flavor" -- is built on accepting some basic truths about our relationship with food. Here's something he said on one of his shows (paraphrased, of course):
"It's no use trying to create a fat-free hamburger. You can't do it! It won't taste like the hamburgers you're used to, so you'll go back to the old ones. The thing to do is create something else -- not a hamburger, but something that, if you had a choice between it and the hamburger, you'd pick it half the time. Now you've made some real progress toward cutting the fat in your diet!"
Do you understand? Kerr is looking at your diet as a whole, not as one individual meal. He's looking to reduce the overall fat you're eating, not just the fat at one meal. Looked at this way, I'm looking at the big picture as much as possible. To put it in golf terms, one bad hole doesn't have to ruin the whole round.

3) Here's the real key (I think) to cheating. Once you understand what you're trying to do, you can make adjustments on the fly. If I know my friends want to go out for steak tonight, I don't panic; I just eat lighter and healthier during the day. If they spring it on me as a surprise, I just eat lighter and healthier the next day.

And those are the basics of cheating. Realize that one unhealthy meal probably won't kill you; the goal is to prevent a string of unhealthy meals. In time you may find that you prefer healthy food most of the time anyway!

And if you're interested in Graham Kerr's dietary approach, you can buy his books of course, but you can also find some of his recipes here if you'd like to try some. (And no, I don't get any kind of kickback if you do. I just think he has some useful ideas. When you've been the Galloping Gourmet, it doesn't make sense to cook bad-tasting food!)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fiber and Complex Carbs

(I know you're tired of hearing this, but remember: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!)

Yesterday I said there are three "kinds" of calories: protein, carbohydrate, and fat. I said the calorie per gram breakdown looks like this:
  • 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
I pointed out that fat grams have more than DOUBLE the calories of protein or carbohydrate grams, that most foods are a mixture of all three, and that part of the key to being able to eat enough food to keep from being hungry is to cut how much of that food is fat. So what's the big deal about fiber? And what the heck are complex carbs?

Simply put, there are two kinds of carbs, simple and complex. Simple carbs break down quickly in your body; lots of candy bars fit this description, as do soft drinks. Complex carbs break down slowly in your body, and include most of those "healthy" things you try to avoid, like beans and whole-grain breads and fruits and vegetables and... you get the picture. Complex carbs generally come from plants, and dietary fiber is a very complex carb that does all kinds of good things for you. I will spare you the lecture; you can get more info here and here.

These fibrous complex carbs do some cool things in your body. For example:
  • When properly teamed up with plant sources of protein, they can provide all the same proteins you get from animal sources. I'm not vegan, but variety is a good thing in your diet. Besides, most plants have less fat than most meats; if you want to cut your fat, you'll end up cutting your meat intake a little. A good vegetarian cookbook can give you a leg up on that.
  • Fiber can help diabetics control their blood sugar, often without medication. Ever heard of the glycemic index? Fiber and complex carbs play a big part in that.
  • But the most important thing related to our discussion is this: Fiber regulates how quickly your body turns food into glucose, the sugary fuel that powers your body.
Simply put, you get wired when your blood sugar levels skyrocket, and you tend to feel hungry when your blood sugar levels suddenly tank. Fiber helps your glucose levels stay more even, so you avoid the extremes. And when you avoid the extremes, you make it easier to eat only what you need.

Now, given that a gram of these complex carbs is the same weight as a gram of fat -- but with half the calories -- it follows that substituting some complex carbs for fats in your diet allows you eat the same amount of food as before, with the fiber helping you avoid spikes in your energy levels, while still cutting calories. Simple math example: My meal has 20 grams of fat in it. I replace 10 of those fat grams with 10 complex carb grams. Do the math: 10 fat grams = 90 calories; 10 carb grams = 40 calories. I chop off 50 calories, but I'm eating the same amount of food!

It comes down to this, folks: If you want to lose weight, you have to cut calories... and for most of us, there are way too many fat calories in our diets. It's not that you can't have hamburgers or fried chicken... but you can't have them everyday. Consider them treats; eat them for special occasions or use them as rewards. I'll come back to this concept, because moderation is a really important part of developing a healthy diet you can live with.

But you should definitely learn more about complex carbs and fiber. You may be surprised to find out just how many healthy foods you already like. You don't have to starve when you try to cut calories... and you don't have to quit eating all the stuff you like.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Key to Losing Weight

(I know you're tired of hearing this, but here we go again: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!)

Assuming you aren't at the weight you want to be, you either want to lose weight or gain weight. I'll attack the first today. And while I've always struggled with gaining rather than losing, the two really do use the same info and techniques; you just put them together a little differently.

Remember how I said the two main guidelines for getting your weight under control were "moderation" and "small changes"? Today I'm going to show you how that works.

The key to losing weight is to make small changes in your daily routine. Why small changes? Because small changes are easier to continue than big changes. We're creatures of habit and we resist any major change in our daily routine. Make a big change, and you may lose a lot of weight but you'll gain it all back when you go back to your normal routine. (Ever heard of "yo-yo dieting"?) Make a small change, an easy change, and it's much easier to keep it up.

Here's the basic "small change" you need to understand to successfully lose weight: One pound equals 3500 calories. To lose one pound a week (that's 13 lbs in 3 months, guys!), you need to eliminate 500 calories a day (3500 calories divided by 7 days). You can eliminate these calories through a combination of diet and exercise. Do you realize that a typical candy bar has 180-250 calories? That's nearly half the calories right there! Add enough exercise to burn the rest of the calories, perhaps using this calculator I mentioned yesterday to figure out how much you need to do, and voilá! There's your 500 calories.

Ok, I can hear the protests. Maybe you don't eat candy bars. I admit that was a neat example, but I wanted you to get a visual picture of how little the change has to be. You don't have to eliminate entire meals or start eating huge salads that don't fill you up to eliminate such a small amount of calories from your diet.

The rest of this post is a basic lesson on how to eat. This info is basic to learning to eat what you want without ruining your body. A healthy diet doesn't have to be a miserable diet. This will give you enough info that you can make some changes "on the fly" and know you're making good choices. I'll go into more detail in future posts.

Most food info you'll get from the "nutrition panel" on food packages is given in grams. One ounce equals just over 28 grams, so you can see we're talking about some small amounts here. You also need to know that the "serving" size they list is rarely what you're actually going to eat. For example, if you drink a 20-oz Pepsi, that's 2 1/2 servings because the serving size is only 8 oz. This info will be at the top of the panel, but most people never read it. If you're trying to get a handle on how many calories you're taking in, you need to match the calories on the panel to what you're actually eating.

There are three "kinds" of calories: protein, carbohydrate, and fat. There's more to calories than just this, but here's the down-and-dirty info you need to learn first: Your nutrition panel tells you about these in grams, and here's how many calories per gram you can expect:
  • 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
Again, I'll talk more about these later, but please note that fat grams have more than DOUBLE the calories of protein or carbohydrate grams. Most foods are a mixture of all three, but if you could eat pure protein or pure carbs, you could eat TWICE AS MUCH of them and STILL get less calories than you would get in the same amount of pure fat!

So here's a simple example of how you use this info to start getting control of your calorie intake. Here is the nutritional info for the menu at McDonald's. I'm going to pull a few items for this example:
  • McDouble: 5.3 oz, 390 total calories, 170 fat calories (19 fat grams)
  • Double Cheeseburger: 5.8 oz, 440 total calories, 210 fat calories (23 fat grams)
  • Quarter Pounder: 6 oz, 410 total calories, 170 fat calories (19 fat grams)
  • Quarter w/Cheese: 7 oz, 510 total calories, 230 fat calories (26 fat grams)
  • Premium Grilled Chicken Classic: 8 oz, 420 total calories, 90 fat calories (10 fat grams)
Quick comparisons: The McDouble is basically a Double Cheeseburger, but has 40 less fat calories. (It's 36 if you figure using the fat grams, but don't expect exact numbers; do you really believe McDonald's makes all these McDoubles exactly 5.3 oz?) Getting the McDouble instead of the Double Cheese cuts 50 total calories for roughly the same size burger!

Look at the Quarter Pounder vs. the Quarter w/Cheese... 100 calories difference, 60 of them fat (7 fat grams)! Two identical sandwiches, but one without cheese. But notice that, if you absolutely have to have a cheeseburger, you could get the McDouble; no more fat but 20 less calories. (Also note that the Double Cheeseburger is smaller than the Quarter Pounder, but has more calories and fat.)

But if you don't have to have a hamburger -- granted, that's not an option for some of us -- but if you were willing to go for chicken instead, the Grilled Classic is near the low end of the calorie scale but is BIGGER than any of the others! Why? Largely because it has half the fat. Only two of the hamburgers have fewer total calories, and even then it's not by much. (Bear in mind that not all the chicken sandwiches have less fat. Take a look at the full chart at the McDonald's site and you'll see that you don't automatically get fewer calories just because you eat chicken instead of beef.)

My point? If you cut back on fat, you can actually eat a GREATER volume of food (real food, not fluffy salad) and still get FEWER calories. If you were going to McDonald's today and got the Grilled Chicken Classic instead of the Quarter w/Cheese, and you changed nothing else, you've already sliced nearly 100 calories off your intake for the day... AND you got more food in the process. It's not that you change your eating habits so you can eat more food; I just want you to understand that, once you know what you're doing, you can cut your intake of calories without feeling hungry all the time.

And you don't have to swear off cheeseburgers forever. Today you skipped the cheeseburger; maybe next time you get the cheeseburger but cut calories at another meal. There aren't really any bad foods, just bad eating habits. Add some exercise, and you can do it.

Small changes, people. That's how you lose weight. Once you get the hang of it, it's not hard. I'll give you some more "food tech" tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Calorie Question

(I know you're tired of hearing this, but remember: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!)

After learning how to figure out our "ideal" weight, we now have some idea of how big our Venus or Adonis body will be. Now we have to figure out how much food it needs to "attain and maintain" that body. Again, I'm using some formulas from Dr. Pam Smith's book Eat Well, Live Well (1992); even after so many years, they still seem to be pretty useful.

And again, there are separate formulas for males and females. These simply tell you roughly how many calories you need a day to maintain your weight.
  • Men: For your basic needs, multiply your weight in lbs by 12. If you are moderately active, multiply by 15. And if you are very active, multiply by 20.
  • Ladies: For your basic needs, multiply your weight in lbs by 11. If you are moderately active, multiply by 13. And if you are very active, multiply by 15.
As an example, my weight is right around 185. My basic number would be 2220 calories; my moderately active number, 2775 calories; and my very active number, 3700 calories. It's simple straightforward math. Remember, these are just ballpark figures; your actual needs will depend on your metabolism (how your body burns calories) and just what kind of activity you're doing.

Yes, yes, I hear you. You want to know what "moderately active" and "very active" mean. Smith does define very active as "burning at least 500 calories a day through exercise or physical work" (p. 46). I assume moderately active would be about half that, or 250 calories a day. Rest assured that if you sit all day and don't do anything else, you are not moderately active!

That's all there is to figuring your caloric needs for the day. There's more to using this knowledge, of course, but this will give you the basic number you need; I'll go into more detail about using it over the next couple of days. Just a couple of quick notes for today, though:

First, it's pretty easy to find charts that tell you how many calories you burn at various activities. For example, I Googled the phrase "calories burned" and pulled up this calculator. You just enter your weight, then scan a list of activities and input how many minutes you spend doing the relevant ones. You can even find out how many calories you burn reading this post (look for "reading") or writing a post on your own blog (big surprise here - look for "writing").

Second, all calories are not the same. More on that tomorrow, but for now just remember that there are no good foods and no bad foods per se... but there are good and bad ways of trying to reach your weight goals using them.

Since many of you are not at the weight you want, I'll spend the next couple of days talking about losing weight and gaining weight. Neither is too difficult once you understand the basics. Really, it's not. You'll see.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Limerick Summary: 2010 Northern Trust Open

Winner: Steve Stricker

Hooray for us old guys! (There's a bunch of fist pumps and chest bumps. The crowd goes wild... then everybody sits down and the inhalers come out.) The week may have started with older grooves hogging all the attention, but it was older players who finally carried the day.

Over in Dubai, Miguel Angel Jiménez (at age 46) won over Lee Westwood in a 3-hole playoff. Tom Watson (at age 60) was low American in the field, tying the best round of the day and finishing T8 at 6-under; had it not been for a double-bogey on the 18th Saturday, he would have finished T6 and only 3 off the winning score. You go, Tommy!

But it was a transcontinental trend. Steve Stricker, preparing to turn 43 in a couple of weeks, won the tournament that he lost to Mickelson last year. In the process, he moved ahead of Phil to #2 in the world rankings. Not bad for a guy who contemplated quitting the game a few years ago. While he didn't win by the 6-stroke lead he had starting the day, no one could get within 2 of him.

Ah yes, my old guys are stepping up to the plate nicely right now. I just hope they keep it up. No napping during the season, guys!
While grooves cause the others to bicker,
They don’t seem to bother Steve Stricker.
His spin on competing?
Leave no room for cheating…
Or even for hope. Not a flicker.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

7 Weeks to 100 Pushups: Week 2

This is my second update on my progress trying to follow the workout in Steve Speirs's book 7 Weeks to 100 Pushups. As with last week's report, I've listed the workout schedule for each day, followed by what I actually did. (The "R" stands for Ruthless Golf.)

We got snowed in last weekend, so my week has included shoveling... especially Sunday afternoon. When I got up Monday morning I felt a little tired, though nowhere near as much as I did last week. Monday's workout went like this:

M: 9 - 11 - 9 - 9 - 12+
R: 9 - 11 - 9 - 9 - 7

At a total of 45 pushups, that was only one more than I managed on Friday. The big news was that I finally made it through the fourth set. Again, my arms gave out during the last set, but there was no burning in my muscles or anything; I just ran out of energy and my muscles were tired. I still had shoveling to do, so this may be a tough week. Still, making it through the fourth set is a major achievement.

After the workout I shoveled snow again on Monday, felt ok both Tuesday and Wednesday morning, but had troubles with the midweek workout:

W: 10 - 12 - 10 - 10 - 13+
R: 10 - 12 - 10 - 8 - 5

As you can see, I hit the wall again in the fourth set. I wasn't straining here; I just got about halfway up and couldn't go any farther. In fact, I rested a few seconds and tried to do a sixth set, but still couldn't do any more. I made it to 45 pushups - the same number as Monday - but I need to find a way to break this barrier. As one experiment, I did some Hindu pushups later that night to try and push my muscles a bit farther while I still had time for them to recover before the next workout. I could only do 2 sets of 12, but figured that should be enough to see if it helps.

On both Thursday and Friday morning I woke up with my chest and shoulders feeling more tired than usual, so I guess that was from the extra Hindu pushups. (Again, I want you to understand that, while I've been tired several mornings during the program so far, I haven't hurt.) And it was late Friday night before I was able to do the workout.

F: 11 - 13 - 11 - 11 - 14+
R: 11 -13 - 11 - 11 - 6

Again, I didn't make it anywhere close to finishing that last set, but I also did 52 pushups - a notable increase over the first two days this week. Then, after several minutes' rest, I did another set of regular pushups; I managed 15 that time, which beat the final set requirement. Then I waited another few minutes, and managed 11 more. It seems pretty clear that my strength is improving; my muscles just aren't recovering fast enough between sets.

At least, not yet. If I do better in Monday's workout, it seems equally clear that I may just need to add an extra set or two to help me improve quicker. (Never thought I'd hear myself say that! The program looked hard enough to begin with.) I suppose I could just wait a few minutes between the last two sets, but that seems like cheating to me. Obviously the strength is there, or I wouldn't be able to do more sets just a few minutes later; I need to push myself a little, so my muscles will learn to recover faster. I'll try testing this theory next week.

So now it's Saturday night. I woke up really tired this morning - the most tired I've been since last Thursday, when I woke up feeling like dead weight. The difference this time, besides not being as dramatic as it was last week, is that my upper body felt tired all over, not just my shoulders and arms. I suspect it was because I had to do the workout much later Friday, only a couple of hours before I went to bed, so I didn't really have any time to recuperate. I feel fine now, but I may feel tired when I get up Sunday morning; I'll just have to see.

Anyway, that's my second week on the program. I'm a little disappointed that I'm still struggling to make the numbers in the last couple of sets each workout. Still, it's been a while since I tried doing anything like this - as I said, I'm a little out of shape right now - and since I'm making progress without hurting any, I won't complain too much.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

This is SOOO Cool, Shane!

I have to make sure everybody sees this. Shane Bacon over at Dogs That Chase Cars found this cool article at The Onion, which is always one of the best places on the web to get your news. ;-)

The Onion clearly has the scoop when it comes to the groove controversy. Priceless!

My Ideal Weight

(Remember: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!)

Today we'll look at a simple question: How much should I weigh? I'm taking these figures from a book called Eat Well, Live Well by Dr. Pam Smith (1992); despite the age of the book, they still represent the typical advice you'll get. However, my personal advice is almost certainly influenced by the fact that I was underweight for most of my life, so be aware of that. (Most doctors wouldn't tell you upfront if they had a bias. But I'm not selling anything, so I will.)

We're going to calculate your so-called "ideal weight." Personally, I find this to be somewhat subjective, as muscles weigh more than fat, so a very fit person could weigh considerably more than a larger but "softer" person. (I'm going to try and avoid the word "fat," simply because it gets abused by almost everybody selling their own fitness plan.)
  • For men, start your calculations with a base of 5 feet and 106 lbs, then add 6 lbs for each inch over 5 feet to find your weight if you have a medium build. Small-framed men should multiply that result by .90, and large-framed men by 1.10.
I'm between 5'9" and 5'10", so I'll use the latter. Start with 106 lbs, then add 60 lbs (10 inches x 6 lbs) to get 166 lbs. The small-frame man would weigh 149 lbs (166 x .90), the large-frame man 183 lbs (166 x 1.10). You don't have to weigh those numbers exactly, but it gives you an idea.

Since this book came out, doctors have found that most people are healthier if they weigh about 10 lbs more than is traditionally recommended. That would put a medium guy at around 176 lbs. But I'm not at all sure these figures assume you're an active guy. Personally, I wouldn't consider myself bigger than medium-size, but I currently weigh around 185 and I'm not carrying much fat. My friends who fit the numbers struggle to do things I handle pretty easily, so I'm inclined to think the "large-frame" numbers should be the norm for medium-size active people.
  • For women, start with a base of 5 feet and 100 lbs, then add 5 lbs for each inch over 5 feet. Then use the multipliers if you have a smaller or larger frame.
Smith gives an example of a medium-frame 5'5" woman: 100 lbs (base) plus 25 lbs (5 inches times 5 lbs) for 125 lbs. Using that 1.10 multiplier, an large-frame woman would weigh around 138 lbs. I would guess that's probably also a reasonable weight for an active medium-frame woman.

My guiding principle for figuring ideal weight is simple: Pay attention to inches of fat, not lbs. If I was 5'10" and weighed 200 lbs, but I didn't have a layer of fat around my middle and my muscles weren't flabby, I'd just say screw the charts and keep doing what I'd been doing. (Obviously I'm just talking from a weight standpoint here. If the things that got me that way had driven my blood pressure through the roof or caused some other major health problem, I'd re-evaluate the situation. But weight alone is not a reliable indicator of health. I think a healthy skeleton is a contradiction of terms.) Still, I think these figures can give you a ballpark idea of where your weight should be.

Are you with me so far? Good. Next time we'll talk about how many calories your ideal weight needs each day.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mike's Guide to Aerobic Training, Complete Post List

This post lists all the posts I did on aerobic training, just so they're more convenient to find.

And remember: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!


The Basics

Guest Post from Apryl DeLancey at Women Like Sports


And Now, for a Bite to Eat...

(Remember: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!)

Ah yes, F-O-O-D. We have got to take a little time to talk about our diet, simply because common sense has largely flown out the window these days.

Have you ever heard the old saying, "Healthy eating doesn't make you live longer; it only makes it seem that way"? Hopefully I can change your mind. I know you're anxious to get to the golf-specific exercises, but golf season is still not here for most of us. A few days spent looking at how we can eat a more healthy diet won't kill you. And it will only be a few days, because this isn't rocket science.

And don't worry. I'm not going to load you down with choruses of "you need to eat this" or "you shouldn't eat that" or "MY GOD, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING PUTTING THAT IN YOUR MOUTH?!?!?" Life is far too short for that kind of stupidity.

So here's the plan:
  • First, I'll teach you how to figure your "ideal weight."
  • Then you'll find out how much food (in calories) your"ideal weight" needs each day.
  • We'll learn how exercise affects your caloric needs. For you folks trying to lose or to gain weight, this will really help you. Most people don't realize that it's less about what you eat than how you eat.
  • And most importantly, I'm gonna teach you how to cheat on a diet while still eating healthy. (Yeah, you really can do it. It's easy.)
In today's post I simply offer two guidelines that will help you not only get your eating under control, but your whole life. Are you ready? Here they are:
  • Moderation.
  • Small changes.
These are major concepts that bring major success. Most of us get into trouble because we go overboard on the things we keep doing, and we go overboard on the things we change. We'll see how they work together over the next few days.

And when we're done, I think you're going to find you can eat what you like without guilt... and feel healthier, too.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Some Final Thoughts on Aerobics

(Remember: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!)

I haven't spent nearly as much time on aerobics as on resistance training. The fact is, aerobics (cardio, if you prefer) is pretty straightforward. Go out and walk for a half-hour, and TAH DAHHHH! You've just gotten an aerobic workout. Pretty much anybody can do that, and do it safely... even if they have to walk a little less in the beginning.

Not only that, walking fits naturally into most people's schedules. The 10K Steps program simply focuses people's attention on how easily this natural workout can help you get into shape. It really doesn't take a lot of effort to get in decent aerobic condition for daily life - or for a round of golf - and it doesn't even take a lot of knowledge.

It's when you want more, like me or Apryl do, that you need to understand what to do and why. When you want to be able to participate in a couple of sports, especially if one's a more demanding sport like Apryl's surfing, or you have young kids that push your limits, or even if you just need to deal with a lot of stress at work - that's when you need to do more planning and learn the most beneficial ways to get that workout.

I've given you the basics you need to get that "more demanding" workout. You know how to figure your heart's target range; all you need is a heart monitor to keep track of it. You may find something you like to do that isn't normally considered aerobics, yet a heart monitor shows that you can get a workout from it. The standard advice is to workout for 20-30 minutes, 3 times a week; but a 10-15 minute daily workout is a good goal also.

You can get in shape without a lot of strain. (In fact, you shouldn't feel any strain at all!) Just remember the two cardinal rules for getting in shape:
  1. When you find a workout you like, stick with it.
  2. It's better to go a bit too slow than to work too hard.
The goal isn't to beat someone else, but to be a little better tomorrow than you were today. Keep this in mind, and you'll be well on your way to getting in good shape.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Warm Ups & Cool Downs

(Remember: I'm not a doctor, so all standard disclaimers apply. Proceed at your own risk!)

It occurred to me that some of you who haven't worked out much might wonder what the big deal is about warming up before and cooling down after a workout. So here's a short, non-technical reason for each.

The idea behind working out is that you increase your body's ability to handle extra stress by gently pushing it beyond its current ability. (That word gently is important. Pushing in a "non-gentle" way is what causes most injuries.) In order to give your body the best chance of handling that extra stress without getting hurt, we want it to be as flexible as possible when we make the effort... and muscles are most flexible when they have been warmed up. That's just another way of saying we have increased the blood flow through the muscles, and we do it by doing some really gentle exercise that doesn't push them beyond their current ability. Simple enough, eh?

Warming up applies to any type of exercise. Cooling down applies primarily to aerobic exercise.

You might wonder how aerobic exercise helps your heart. Doesn't it just make your heart beat faster, like any other exercise?

In a word, no. Aerobic exercise does make your heart beat faster, for a prolonged period of time, but there's more to it than that. In aerobic exercise, the large muscles of your body (like your legs) take over part of the pumping work that your heart normally does on its own. As a result, your heart can beat faster without working too much harder. And we limit our pulse rate because we want to keep that faster rate at a safe level. That's the key to how aerobics work.

However, if your legs are doing some of your heart's work and you just stop, your heart suddenly has to start doing all the pumping work again. If it does it successfully, it puts an extra strain on your heart that we don't want. Many times, your heart won't be able to do the job; if you've ever seen someone just stop after a long run and then faint, that's why. (You see this sometimes at the Olympics, but it happens with weekend athletes as well.)

The way you prevent this is by cooling down, which simply means you slow down but don't stop moving. If you've been working out within your limits, slowing down to a walk for a few minutes is usually all you have to do to cool down. (Some people like to swing their arms a little bit as well.)

Personally, I usually incorporate the warmup into the first minutes of my aerobic workout by walking briskly for two or three minutes; and then I cool down by slowing to a walk for about five minutes or so at the end. Sometimes I run a little less, then spend 20 minutes walking at the end and just consider that part of my workout. (For some of you, alternating walking with brief periods of jogging will be a good way to get some of the benefits of running without having to run continuously.)

And that's the why and how of warming up and cooling down. It's simple to incorporate them into your workout, and now you know why you should and a simple way to do it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Guest Post: How Much "Cardio" or Aerobic Activity Should I Do?

Today I have a guest post from Apryl DeLancey, who blogs over at Women Like Sports. (Not Women LOVE Sports, which I have apparently been writing lately. OOPS!) Because Apryl trains for two sports - golf and surfing - I thought you might be interested to hear how she approaches an aerobics program.

First of all, let me explain that I am not a physician or a healthcare professional. You should also know that I am quite dedicated. People that know me well remark that I am an "exception" because I have been committed to fitness goals for as long as I can remember. I think the latter is a cop-out for them to feel better about themselves, quite honestly.

My aerobic/cardio routine has evolved over time and I have always been active - let's examine my personal timeline.

Up through age 10: The Wonderama segment where the host would ask everyone to get up out of their chairs and move around while he sang "exercise, exercise, come on everybody get your exercise" and whenever Romper Room had an activity segment combined with hours and hours of bicycle riding, skateboarding, roller skating, and overall not sitting still for more than 15 minutes.

Age 10 - 15: More outdoor activity with the bicycle, skateboard, and rollerskates and now mixing in plenty of swimming, bodysurfing, bodyboarding, and surfing where possible. In addition, I would walk many miles since I didn't have a car and I wanted to get to school, shop, and go to friends' houses.

About age 16 I started driving a car and therefore noticed that I wasn't getting as much activity. My clothes started fitting a bit tighter. In spite of not being finished growing overall, I was not interested in gaining flab or getting out of shape. I started making a conscious effort to hit the treadmill, walk, surf, etc. to keep in shape.

In my 20's, like many people, my responsibilities meant that I didn't have as much time to exercise. I was really a morning person so this is where I cultivated the habit of exercising right when I woke up. I would either surf, rollerblade, walk on the beach in sneakers, kayak, circuit train, waterski, or some kind of aerobic activity for at least an hour 4-5 times a week.

The habit that I cultivated in my 20's has now continued and I am well over 30. By well over, I mean WELL over. Most people see my picture and think I am between 27-32 and I attribute this, in part, to my focused exercise habits.

So how does on know how much cardio/aerobic activity to do?

Let me just say that yes, I do weight and/or resistance training in addition to cardio/aerobic activity and always have. However, that is a different subject. For this post, I am only discussing cardio/aerobic activity.

Whenever I feel sluggish, cranky, lethargic, unfocused, or out of energy my first solution is to increase or pay more attention to my cardio/aerobic activity time and/or resistance setting. It almost always works. I hate being winded, out of energy, unfocused or getting that "bloated and lethargic feeling."

When I am out in the water surfing, I can really feel it if I even slip for a few days. My endurance goes to crap and I have to spend about 10 minutes catching my breath from the paddle out. That sucks in my opinion. I see guys out there in their 70s shredding waves. There's no reason I can't also.

On the course, I get winded on one of our many hilly SoCal courses if I let my cardio/aerobic activity slip. I don't like that feeling.

So how much of this activity do I do? I do as much as I have to do to make sure I don't get that heavy, uncomfortable feeling that comes with being out of shape or not in optimal shape. As I get older, I have to make sure I keep it up so I will do 45 minutes to an hour of cardio/aerobic activity 4-5 days a week. In addition, I have other components to my routine such as weight training, resistance training, and surf-specific exercises. This keeps me from getting that lazy, lethargic feeling that I absolutely loathe.

To me, the biggest motivator is that awesome feeling that I get from being alert and in shape.

If you want to check out some of Apryl's fitness posts at her blog, here are a few recent ones. She did this one specifically at my request (thanks again, Apryl!), answered some questions about that post here, and then posted more info here, here, and some workout music suggestions here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Limerick Summary: 2010 Farmers Insurance Open

Winner: Ben Crane

Doctor EvilGroovy, baby!

Yes, it seems that Dr. Evil has once again reared his ugly mug and, in a scene out of what could be called "The Guy Who Ragged Me," has attempted to bilk the Tour out of ONE MILLION DOLLARS! (Ok, it was more like $954,000 first place money. Pretty close, though!) The beauty of his plan is... it only took a few "squares" to put it into action. Everyone has been cast in his role now, from Phil Mickelson to Scott McCarron to Tim Finchem to the USGA to Callaway to Ping to... did I forget someone? I'm sure I did. Nevertheless, the Farmers Insurance Open was completed on time.

And Dr. Evil will not be cashing the check... at least, not this week.

Despite some stumbles down the stretch (and let's be honest, everybody stumbled down the stretch in this one), Ben Crane stumbled less than anybody else, so he gets the starring role in this picture. Since I'm reaching for any Austin Powers-inspired connection I can find, I'm going to describe his play as "laser-like" - which isn't too far off, really. He played pretty well except for a few bad putts Sunday, and almost everybody had trouble with the soft greens of Torrey Pines last week.

It's a shame that the Tour has yet another image problem to deal with, especially so close on the heels of Tailgate and with all the economic problems facing the country. Unfortunately, the groove issue can't be shipped off to some out-of-the-way testing facility until it gets its act together. Where's Felicity Shagwell when we need her? (And before you say it, I'm pretty sure she's nowhere near Tiger.)

Perhaps I should just move on to today's summary, huh?
It sounds like a Mike Myers movie:
Will Phil be a square, or just groovy?
While some traded glowers,
Ben Crane showed his powers
And burned all the others like UV.