Mike Kueber's Blog

January 31, 2012

Another biking epiphany

Filed under: Culture,Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 2:08 am
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When I go on a morning bike ride in the summer, I often think about future entries to my blog. When I go on an afternoon bike ride in the winter, I often reflect on the entry to my blog that I wrote that morning.  Today on my afternoon ride, I think I had an epiphany on my previous blog entry regarding discipline.

My first thought during the ride was that I was not displaying any discipline or willpower on my bike ride because, although the weather was cold and drizzly, the ride was thoroughly enjoyable.  You would have had to pay me to keep me from riding. 

But then my mind went back to my previous blog entry, and I remembered that the definition of “discipline” generally began with “training.”  And I remembered the suggestions from the child psychologist for instilling discipline in a child – i.e., rules, consequences, routines, responsibilities, and expectations.   

My epiphany is that discipline and willpower are two fundamentally different things.  Discipline is something that you learn or develop over a period of time until it becomes automatic or second-nature; whereas, willpower is something that you actively struggle with day-to-day. 

Therefore, I conclude that Governor Christie does not have enough discipline to control his eating and that he does not have the willpower to change.  But the absence of discipline to control his eating does not mean that Governor Christie is an undisciplined person.  He may be supremely disciplined with respect to all sorts of qualities important to being a governor or president.

October 10, 2011

The American work ethic

Filed under: Culture,Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 6:13 am
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I grew up on a farm in North Dakota at a time when strenuous physical labor was a part of the job description.  In addition to driving various vehicles, my brothers and I performed a bunch of manual, backbreaking chores, the worst of which were the following:

  • Pick rocks by hand
  • Shovel shit
  • Fix fences
  • Haul hay bales

I’ve always felt that the work ethic I learned as a kid in ND gave me a head-start in staying in good physical condition as I have aged, and I was concerned that as urban kids in America were exposed to a softer time growing up, our country might lose the ability to physically compete with kids from other countries.

You might counter-argue that in the future we are more likely to compete with our brains than with our brawn, but that is not always true.  Wars are not going away.

In my mind, America kicked ass in WWII because of all our tough farm kids, and I suspect that America continues to kick ass in wars because of enhanced training.  But I feared that eventually the softer urban life would catch up with America, and the result may be that we don’t have the toughest soldiers.

My fear about the softening of America has started dissipating in recent years because, based on my experience at Lifetime Fitness, I have seen that American kids are adapting to an urban life without being softened.  None of these kids have to haul bales or shovel shit or pick rocks, but they remain sufficiently motivated to build big muscles.  I don’t think we have worry about some kids from Russia or Iran or China kicking sand in our face.

While I was doing all of this amateur, informal thinking about the softening of America, the NY Times was formally considering it.  A “Room for Debate” article in the NY Times today
explored whether America’s work ethic was weakening.  The article was prompted by the common complaint by proponents of illegal immigration that Americans were unwilling to take the
tougher manual-labor jobs, such as picking fruit or hoeing weeds.  One of the debaters in the Times opined anecdotally that Americans weren’t lazier, but perhaps were softer – i.e., we would do something that was grueling mentally, but not if it was grueling physically.  Another argued that we would do grueling physical labor if it were well paid.

The key to handling issues like this one is to understand that America has a tradition of freedom and that freedom will enable Americans to resolve more issues by adapting on their own without the need for help from the so-called smart people in Washington, D.C.

August 22, 2011

The nutritional value of rum

Filed under: Entertainment,Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 8:43 pm
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Last week, when sitting around with a friend and having a couple of drinks (rum & carbonated water), we started discussing the nutritional value of the drink that we were drinking.  My friend said that he knew there were about 100 calories and no carbs or fat in rum, and I added that all calories had to have carbs, fat, or protein, so then rum must have protein.  He doubted that, too, and I was just about to bet the family farm when I remembered that I had already sold that to a brother.  Instead of betting the family farm, I made a gentlemen’s bet before we goggled an answer.

Lucky for me I didn’t bet the farm.  According to the internet:

  • Calories provide energy for our bodies to function.  We get calories from carbs, protein, fat, and alcohol.  For each gram, you get a set number of calories.
1 gram Calories
Carbohydrates 4
Protein 4
Fat 9
Alcohol 7
  • Unlike macronutrients such as carbs, proteins, and fats, alcohol supplies what nutritionists often refer to as empty calories.  To make matters worse, it is the first fuel used when combined with carbs, fats, and proteins, postponing the fat-burning process and contributing to greater fat storage.
So, don’t expect anything nutritious to come from rum & water.  And be conservative about what you know you know.

June 1, 2011

Yoga wisdom

Filed under: Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 6:11 pm
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I’ve been an avid devotee of yoga (a yogi) for more than two years.  As one of my favorite instructors often reminds her class, yoga will improve your strength, flexibility, and balance.  Sometimes she adds that it helps relieve stress, too.  This fits the popular conception that yoga has a dominant mystical component, like meditation and chanting.

In my experience, however, yoga is not a mental thing, but rather a physical challenge.  Sure, there is the obligatory beginning end of most classes with a few minutes of quiet time (shavasana or corpse pose), but in between your body is pushed and tested.  Some instructors push harder
than others, but even if the instructor is relatively easy-going, Americans have been brought up to believe in, “No pain, no gain.”  So we push.

Most instructors talk in a soothing voice throughout the practice, often giving a muscle-by-muscle or bone-by-bone description of a particular pose.  Often, though, the voice is intended to distract the practitioners from the discomfort and help them reach a zone of good feeling.  To
achieve that zone, what an instructor says is less important than how they say it.

As an overly-analytical person, I am sometimes listening to what my instructor says and then question whether it makes sense.  For example:

  • I am always frustrated by the instructor who says, “Breath in all you can.  Now breath in some more.”  That was one of the main reasons I quit going to spin class.  Don’t these people know that there is no such thing as 110%?
  • One instructor has us pose on our hands and knees and then tells us to extend our left arm to the front and our right leg to the rear.  That may sound easy, but sometimes the wires in your brain get crossed.  Our instructor says that if that happens and we begin to lose our balance, it is OK to put return our arm or leg to the ground and start over.  Oh, really?  If we didn’t have permission, I guess we would stupidly allow our body to collapse in a heap.
  • Another instructor has the class move from plank to chaturanga and then says we can either hoover over the floor or drop all the way to the floor, whichever is easier.  Huh?  I can’t imagine that anyone finds it easier hovering over floor than to lay on it.
  • One of my first instructors (the “drillmaster”) likes to hold us interminably in downward-facing dog or side plank, and then tell us to take some of the pressure off our wrists by using our abs or some other muscles.  I want to tell her that the laws of physics (or geometry or whatever) insist that 180 pounds of pressure have to go somewhere and can’t be wished away.

Sometimes I think that a sarcastic person like me shouldn’t impose on the sweet people who practice yoga.

p.s., today I heard some new wisdom when Melissa reminded us to keep breathing during a particularly difficult pose.  As if we might stop breathing w/o the reminder.

April 20, 2011

Obesity in America

Last week I watched my son’s district track meet, and on my way home I stopped in Wal-Mart to buy some groceries.  As I was walking up and down the aisles, I encountered an inordinate number of motorized scooters, invariably loaded with an immense person.  The contrast between the track meet and Wal-Mart was striking – what’s going on? 

Kudos to Michelle Obama for her initiative on childhood obesity and San Antonio Mayor Castro for his fitness initiatives.  America needs to take action, and I’m not talking about becoming more of a nanny nation.  As a true-blue conservative, I prefer letting market incentives do the work.  That means that big people need to pay their own way. 

Airlines have started the process by requiring a person who is too big for one seat to pay for two seats.  That should be a no-brainer.  The most powerful market force, however, would be for big people to pay for health insurance based on their size.  Although individual plans consider an applicant’s size-to-weight ratio, group plans do not.  Why should healthy employees subsidize the health insurance of employees who put themselves at risk by weighing too much? 

Some political wag once declared that if people knew how America’s existence was threatened by it decaying education system, America would surely declare war on the current system.  I wonder if a similar argument could be made about the obesity plague in America.  Americans are aware that our burgeoning debt threatens America’s future, and the experts agree that the most problematic, implacable, systemic issues are the exploding costs of Medicare and Medicaid.  Imagine how much more manageable those programs would be if we ended the obesity plague.

March 2, 2011

The miracle drug – caffeine

When I was working at USAA, I got into the habit of drinking soda continually throughout the day – usually Diet Mountain Dew and sometimes Diet Dr. Pepper.  Eventually, by noticing how I got sleepy during long meetings and conferences when I didn’t have soda, I deduced that the sodas were keeping me alert.  Although some of my lethargy might be due to the passive nature of most long meetings and conferences, I concluded that the absence of soda was more important.  I also concluded that the huge amount of caffeine in Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper was not a coincidence. 

Friends vaguely warned me about getting too much caffeine (“it is a drug,” they would say), but I cared more about being energized and alert.  Not only could I do my job better, but I felt more enjoyment with life.  And my personal doctor did not try to wean me from the drug.

When I quit USAA, however, I decided to switch to non-caffeine soda and have never looked back.  I experienced no withdrawal symptoms and there have been no side-effects other than the occasional afternoon nap, which I don’t fight and actually enjoy.

But last night I had an inadvertent relapse.  I took my son Jimmy to Whataburger, and when I filled my fountain drink, I noticed the Diet Dr. Pepper option, and out of nostalgia I filled my large cup.  No problemo until later when I was watching David Letterman and noticed I wasn’t tired.  I stayed up until 12:30am instead of my normal 11pm and then I woke up wide awake this morning at 4:30am instead of my normal groggy 6am.

This experience causes me to ask which lifestyle is better.  Even though I am retired, why should I want to go to bed earlier, sleep later, and take occasional afternoon naps?  I have confirmed with Wikipedia that caffeine is generally good for you and has only minor associated health risks:

  • Generally good.  In humans, caffeine acts as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness.  Caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive substance, but, unlike many other psychoactive substances, is legal and unregulated in nearly all jurisdictions.  Beverages containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks, enjoy great popularity; in North America, 90% of adults consume caffeine daily.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists caffeine as a “multiple purpose generally recognized as safe food substance.”  Caffeine is a central nervous system and metabolic stimulant, and is used both recreationally and medically to reduce physical fatigue and restore mental alertness when unusual weakness or drowsiness occurs….  resulting in increased alertness and wakefulness, faster and clearer flow of thought, increased focus, and better general body coordination, and later at the spinal cord level at higher doses.  The precise amount of caffeine necessary to produce effects varies from person to person depending on body size and degree of tolerance to caffeine. It takes less than an hour for caffeine to begin affecting the body and a mild dose wears off in three to four hours.  Consumption of caffeine does not eliminate the need for sleep; it only temporarily reduces the sensation of being tired. Caffeine leads to fewer mistakes caused by tiredness in shift workers. With these effects, caffeine is an ergogenic, increasing a person’s capability for mental or physical labor. A study conducted in 1979 showed a 7% increase in distance cycled over a period of two hours in subjects that consumed caffeine compared to control subjects. Other studies attained much more dramatic results; one particular study of trained runners showed a 44% increase in “race-pace” endurance, as well as a 51% increase in cycling endurance, after a dosage of 9 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. Additional studies have reported similar effects. Another study found 5.5 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body mass resulted in subjects cycling 29% longer during high-intensity circuits.
  • Risks.  In large amounts, and especially over extended periods of time, caffeine can lead to a condition known as caffeinism.  Caffeinism usually combines caffeine dependency with a wide range of unpleasant physical and mental conditions including nervousness, irritability, anxiety, tremulousness, muscle twitching, insomnia, headaches, respiratory alkalosis, and heart palpitations.  Furthermore, because caffeine increases the production of stomach acid, high usage over time can lead to peptic ulcers, erosive esophagitis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.   

Other internet sources of information seem to take a more intuitive approach to caffeine.  Dr. Julian Whitaker says the following in his book The Memory Solution:

  • “I particularly recommend that you avoid caffeine. What caffeine actually does is set off a stress response. It stimulates your adrenal glands to make epinephrine and norepinephrine—the same stress hormones that are produced in response to any stressor. This sets the stress response in motion, causing tense muscles, elevated blood sugar, and increased pulse and respiration. You may feel mentally sharper because your brain is high on adrenaline. It’s ready to rumble. One cup of coffee for most people isn’t damaging. But as you may recall from our discussion of the three stages of the stress response, if stress hormones remain elevated, the body is thrown into a state of chronic stress. By sipping on coffee, tea, or caffeinated soda all day long, you are forcing your adrenal glands to continue to pump out stress hormones….  If you continue to drink coffee or other beverages containing caffeine throughout the day, your adrenal glands will be constantly stimulated and you will find yourself in a chronic state of stress. Extra stress, I guarantee, you don’t need—it takes a toll on your body and brain.”   

Stephen Cherniske says the following in his book Caffeine Blues:

  • “When you consume caffeine, the drug begins its effects by initiating uncontrolled neuron firing in your brain.  This excess neuron activity triggers your pituitary gland to secrete a hormone that tells your adrenal glands to produce adrenalin.  Adrenalin is what gives athletes that winning burst of energy and Good Samaritans the ability to rescue people by lifting cars. Adrenalin is also the source of our ‘fight-or-flight’ response, which enabled our prehistoric ancestors to escape from saber-toothed tigers and other predators. By stimulating your adrenal glands to produce adrenalin, caffeine puts your body in this ‘fight-or-flight’ state, which is useless while you’re just sitting at your desk. When this adrenal high wears off later, you feel the drop in terms of fatigue, irritability, headache or confusion.  At this point, you may reach for another hit of caffeine, followed by another, and another and maybe even one more. If you constantly keep your body on a caffeine high, you’re constantly keeping your body in ‘flight-or-flight’ mode.  Imagine you lived in a country that was always under threat of attack. No matter where you went, there was a perpetual state of alert. Not only that, but your defenses were constantly being depleted and weakened. Does that sound stressful? Caffeine produces the same effect on your body, like fighting a war on multiple fronts at the same time.  Your body’s constant state of alert is caffeinism, which is characterized by fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbance, irritability and depression.  It doesn’t take a genius to see that there might be a downside to all of this neuron activity. In fact, uncontrolled neuron firing creates an emergency situation, which triggers the pituitary gland in the brain to secrete ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone). ACTH tells the adrenal glands to pump out stress hormones—the next major side effect of caffeine.”

I found the following summary by Dr. David Katz of MSN Healthy Living to be the most balanced: 

Q: What are the health dangers in caffeinated drinks like Red Bull? Are they safe to consume?

A: An 8 oz. can of Red Bull contains approximately 80mg of caffeine, which is roughly the same amount as a cup of strong coffee.  While caffeine is potentially dangerous to some people, notably those prone to heart rhythm abnormalities, those with high blood pressure, and those who just happen to be unusually sensitive to caffeine- most people can consume up to about 350mg daily without harmful effect. 

That level of caffeine intake could come from coffee, Red Bull, or any other source.  When total daily caffeine intake gets above 350mg, it can be associated with nervousness, irritation, tremulousness, and of course, insomnia.  Red Bull, and other energy drinks, can result in such effects if they contribute to caffeine excess, as might occur if routine intake includes energy drinks, soda, and coffee. 

One other concern about caffeinated energy drinks is that young people may combine them with alcohol, relying on the caffeine to keep them conscious, and drinking, longer.  This combination can result in dangerously high, and even lethal, blood alcohol levels (this is more of a concern with drinks that directly combine alcohol and caffeine).  Other than these concerns, whether or not a can of Red Bull is the best place to find “energy,” it is safe for most people.

What’s a person to do?  I am not persuaded that caffeine is harmful to me.  I haven’t experienced any of the common side effects – nervousness, irritability, tremulousness, or insomnia.  Furthermore, I didn’t experience any withdrawal symptoms when I stopped consuming caffeine.

But my lifestyle in retirement is such that I don’t need my adrenalin to be continuously alert and read to fight.  And my intuition tells me to go with the flow.  Except the next time I want to turn in a really fast biking time. 

 Speaking of intuition, that will be the next posting to my blog.

August 10, 2010

Swim thoughts for a neophyte

In the golfing world, a “swing thought” is a short catch-phrase that golfers think about during their swing to focus on a particular area that needs improvement.  I believe this concept is even more useful when applied to neophyte swimmers. 

The problem with swing thoughts in golfing is that, for most of us, there are too many things that can go wrong, so we end up having too many swing thoughts – e.g., keep your elbow straight, lighten your grip, slow your tempo, your head steady, hit down on the ball.  Because of this, many golf pros who swear by swing thoughts also advise (a) limiting swing thoughts to one or two, and (b) using swing thoughts at practice, not in competition.

A few days ago I realized that I was practicing the same concept in swimming.  As I was swimming laps at Lifetime Fitness, I found myself thinking about three swim thoughts from a book that I had read many years earlier.  The book is titled, “Total Immersion” by Terry Laughlin.  Obviously, there is a lot of information in the book, but after all these years I still remember three fundamental swim thoughts:

  1. Swim on your side.  When I was first struggling to learn how to swim distances, I remember a helpful lifeguard noting that I looked too stiff in the water.  Although I appreciated her helpfulness, I didn’t know what she meant.  Subsequently, I learned from Total Immersion that swimmers move through the water more efficiently on their side, like a sleek boat, instead of on their belly, like a slow flat-bottom boat.  Therefore, with each stroke, a swimmer should rock from one side to the other.
  2. Swim long.  By swimming long, Terry Laughlin means stretching each arm forward as much as you can before beginning the stroke.  While fully extended, your arm slices the water so that the remainder of the body can efficiently flow behind.  (The motions of swimming long and on your side also enable muscles other than your arm and shoulder muscles to be involved in the stroke.  Sharing the load with other muscles improves your endurance.)
  3. Swim downhill.  This is the most important swim thought.  By swimming downhill, Laughlin means keeping your head and chest down in the water and your hips and legs near the top of the water.  By far, the most common problem for neophyte swimmers is the tendency to keep their head and shoulders high, which in turn causes the hips and legs to sink and become quasi-anchors.  It is impossible to swim efficiently when your hips and legs have become an anchor.  The correct swim posture doesn’t come naturally; you have to think about it.   

Just as swing thoughts can make you more effective on the golf course, these three swim thoughts can make you more efficient in the pool.

July 10, 2010

Bicycling potpourri

Filed under: Fitness,Investing,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 4:05 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

My mind has been on cycling lately.  The Tour de France probably has something to do with that.  Plus, spending an hour a day in the saddle is probably conducive to that, too.  My dad probably felt the same way when he was in the saddle on a horse when he was young and later when he spent his days on a tractor.  Among my biking thoughts are the following three: 

Flat stages in the Tour de France.  As a biking aficionado, I have enjoyed watching the Tour de France every morning for the past week.  But the event could be significantly improved if the organizers did something to make the flat stages less predictable.  Flat stages comprise about half of the 21 stages in the Tour, and they play almost no role in determining the winner of the Tour.  Instead flat stages are the days when the serious contenders usually coast anonymously in the peloton while a few undistinguished riders are allowed to breakaway from the peloton only to be caught shortly before the finish so that a few sprinters can sprint to the finish.  The only uncertainty in a flat stage is wondering whether the breakaway riders will be caught (I believe they are is caught more than 80% of the time) and which of the sprinters will win. 

In my opinion, there is no reason that all of the sprinters should be around at the finish.  In other racing events, the non-sprinters would try to push the peloton so hard that the sprinters would be left behind.  Inexplicably, this doesn’t happen in the Tour.  The peloton doesn’t allow the breakaway group to breakaway if it contains any serious contenders.  So why doesn’t a contender join the breakaway and force the peloton to follow him.  That would drain the energy from the sprinters and cause a real race by the contenders in each stage instead of giving them a bunch of days off while they rest up for the mountainous stages.

Harnessing the power of gyms.  This past winter, I would ride a stationary bike at Lifetime Fitness for an hour each day.  Although this was not as boring as you might think (I had a choice of an MP3 player or a TV with a dozen channels to distract me), my mind would sometimes wander.  One day my mind wandered into wondering whether anyone had tried to harness the energy that I was spending each day spinning that stationary wheel.  After a bit of cogitating I concluded that harnessing that energy would be much less cost-efficient than harvesting wind energy, which itself was only marginally feasible. 

Turns out that my cogitating was pretty accurate.  There was an article in the Texas Tribune today that reported on a pilot program at two Texas colleges (and about a dozen out-of-state colleges) to harness the energy expended by students in a gym on some elliptical machines.  See http://www.texastribune.org/texas-energy/energy/texas-universities-harness-human-power/.  According to the article, preliminary results indicate that the power-cost savings may not justify the cost to retrofit the gym equipment, but the sponsors are rationalizing that the program does teach students to be greener – “They think it’s neat, cool and progressive.”

The business sponsor of the project is a Florida company called ReRev, and its website (http://rerev.com/default.html) indicates that a 30-minute workout produces 50 watt-hours of electricity.  That amount of energy could power a CFL bulb for about two and a half hours, a laptop for about one hour, or a desktop computer for 30 minutes.  That’s not a lot of power, but perhaps future improvements will make this process (just like wind energy) a feasible energy source. 

Although I admire the entrepreneurial spirit of ReRev, I question whether its partners should have been for-profit gyms instead of not-for-profit public universities.         

Dying to cycle.  I am fortunate to have a 20-mile bike route beginning and ending at my apartment doorsteps.  Although the route provides an excellent training ride in a relatively rural, hilly area, I am continually passed by vehicles traveling only a few feet from me.  A few months ago, a couple were killed on my route by a distracted motorist who drove over them on the road’s shoulder.  That is a risk that I have to accept if I want to ride.  I have an exercising-fanatic friend at my apartment complex who would love to ride a bike, but he doesn’t because he thinks it is too dangerous.  That’s too bad. 

Unfortunately, I can’t imagine a time when San Antonio will be able to afford separate roads for bikes and cars, but I can dream.

June 30, 2010

World’s greatest workout regimen for an average 56-year-old retiree

Filed under: Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 8:39 pm

A recent magazine article described student athletes who are in great condition until they complete their schooling.  Then, without the discipline and structure provided by coaches, they quickly go to seed.  I was fortunate to be surrounded by active friends, so when my time for high school athletics expired, I was able to continue with semi-organized activities, like intra-mural college sports and independent softball, and pick-up games of basketball, tennis, and golf.  Later, when group activities became more difficult to coordinate, I shifted to solitary sports, like biking, running, swimming, and lifting weights. 

But it is never too late to develop a workout regiment that fits your lifestyle and your body.  Based on my many years of experience, I have developed the world’s greatest workout regimen for an average 56-year-old retiree:

  • Biking.  Biking is the cornerstone to a workout regimen because (a) it is low-impact, and (b) you can do it for long periods of time without getting exhausted or bored.  I’ve tried stationary bikes, but find it difficult to stay on a stationary bike for an hour without getting bored.  So find an outdoor route of about 15-20 miles, which will take a bit more than an hour to complete (and burn 600 calories).  Ideally, the route should be hilly and avoid most car traffic.  Fortunately, I live on the edge of San Antonio and on the edge of the Texas Hill Country, so I have a plethora of excellent routes. 
  • Swimming.  Swimming is an excellent complement to biking.  Both activities are low-impact, but most people (non-expert swimmers) find swimming to be an intense, intermittent activity as compared to a long, steady bike ride.  Most people swim about 25 to 100 yards before needing a rest.  After a rest of a minute or two, they are ready to go again.  I suggest 10 repetitions, which will take about 20-30 minutes.  This is perfect interval training, which most experts recommend.
  • Lifting weights.  Lifting weights is necessary to put some muscle on your bones.  In the past, experts have recommended that you lift every other day or shift daily between different muscle groups.  They also recommended at least two, and even three or four sets for each exercise.  I have found that it is better for long-term maintenance of muscle (as opposed to building muscle) to do a single set with a full complement of exercises each day.  I do the following 12 exercises most days; they should take about 30 minutes to complete.   The rule of thumb for determining the amount of weight is – if you can’t do six repetitions, the weight is too heavy; if you can do more than 15 repetitions, the weight is too light:
    1. Bench press (chest);
    2. Military press (shoulders);
    3. Pectoral fly (pecs);
    4. Rear deltoid (back shoulders);
    5. Row (back);
    6. Pull down (back shoulders);
    7. Torso twist (waist);
    8. Bicep curl (biceps);
    9. Triceps (triceps);
    10. Abs (abs);
    11. Back straightener (lower back); and
    12. Hang from bar (stretch ligaments). 
  • Yoga.  My fitness club offers almost 20 one-hour yoga practices a week.  The practice styles include athletic yoga, sculpting yoga, hatha yoga, athletic yoga, hot yoga, vinyasa levels 1, 2, or 3, and yoga & meditation.  All of these yoga practices strive to improve your flexibility, strength, balance, and mood. 

I try to do the biking, swimming, and lifting almost every day.  And, depending on my schedule and energy, I usually participate in 2-6 yoga practices a week.  Combined, this regimen gives endurance from the biking, intense interval training from the swimming, and muscles from the lifting.  Yoga ties it all together. 

I admit that this world’s best regimen is missing one important item – reflexes and quickness.  For many years, I used to play basketball at noon at USAA.  Going against another person, man-to-man, in a game of basketball helps keep your reflexes and quickness.  I always felt that, if I ever got into a fight downtown, my basketball playing would help me a lot more than my biking or weightlifting.  Fortunately, I never got into that fight, so I never needed to call on cat-like reflexes.  Now I’ve given up basketball because my body can’t stand up to the pounding, and let’s hope I don’t have to call on my slowing reflexes some night downtown. 

As Clint Eastwood said in one of his Dirty Harry movies (Magnum Force), “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

June 4, 2010

Two exercising theories

Filed under: Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 8:42 pm

My bike ride this morning was unusual because I wanted to finish it in time to attend an 11 a.m. yoga class.  Usually, I have no time constrains for my ride, and I go as fast as I comfortably can.  I intentionally don’t push hard because I don’t want one day of hard riding to burn me out for the next day.  In fact, I hadn’t timed myself all year and didn’t know how long it would take to ride my standard Scenic Loop loop.  

That is not how I used to ride in the past.  When I would ride two to four times a week, I would always time the ride and I would try to finish as fast as I could.  Each ride was a solitary sprint, not a part of a marathon.  Typically, I would finish the Scenic Loop loop in between 70 and 75 minutes.  If I could do it in 80 minutes today, I would be able to get to yoga class in time.

How did I do?  Eighty-two minutes.  Not only was I two minutes late for yoga class, I was almost 10 minutes slower than last year, despite biking that loop for 27 of the last 28 days (one rain day).  Why?

I believe my ride today gave me further evidence in support of a two of my favorite exercising theories:

  1. No pain, no gain
  2. Better equipment

Although I have been putting in more biking miles than I ever have, the miles have not been difficult.  My high school basketball Coach Kloster used to say, “No pain, no gain.”  He was right.  If you don’t push yourself, you won’t improve and you will regress.  Unfortunately, I am not one of those people who likes to push himself physically.  I used to joke that I will never have a heart attack while running or while shoveling snow because I will always quit before putting a strain on my heart.  That is why I never need a spotter when bench-pressing.  I always quit before needing help.  Sad, but true. 

My second theory is about better equipment.  Bicyclists, like golfers, are notorious for wanting the latest model and most expensive bike they can find.  Unfortunately, the most improved bike will take only a few ounces or a couple of pounds off your load.  Although I have lost a few pounds in the last month, I am still five pounds heavier than last year.  No cyclist can afford to be carrying an extra five pounds on his bike.

So, I think the combination of relaxed workouts and five extra pounds of weight doomed me miss the start of yoga.  I am hopeful that I can eventually lose the five pounds, and maybe even some more, but I have no plans to increase the intensity of my workouts because I don’t want improvement that badly.  Next time I will avoid the rush by simply starting earlier.

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