Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Crunch

Been considering some of the basic exercises I've been doing that has been helping me with my morning workout session. Crunches are another one of those controversial exercises. In fact I think there's controversy following practically every exercise you can imagine or consider. While on this subject, controversy follows exercise. I wonder if this is why people don't exercise, for every advantage there's seems to be a whole lot of opinion of how bad it is or how it doesn't work.

Ab exercises probably fall under the category of controversy. Part of it has to stem from television, especially those 'As seen on TV' infomercials. Every January, without fail, we are inundated with the latest ab devise. I did a quick search and discovered the "As Seen on TV" website. If you go to fitness, you will learn there are still a lot of devises that will sculpt the abs. The belief, we want the six pack definition. Although if you talk to people a lot will say they have a six pack, it's just they keep them well insulated. It has to be remembered, if you think all your problems will disappear when you use these devises then you are probably the right person to buy some of this stuff. I can tell you if you are that interested in buy any of them instead of calling the 1-800 phone number, just wait about six months to a year and check your local thrift store, they will end of there. Why because for the most part they don't do what they claim. There are two promises, 1) you will develop fantastic abs and 2) you will lose weight by simply working out 5 minutes, or 30 minutes a day or three times a week.

Yes that will happen. Happens all the time. Usually they get these models that are true athletes and they do look fantastic. Yes they use the devise, but then again, give them money they will pose them them. You want fantastic abs and show them off, it takes a great deal of effort, there are no short-cuts. In fact that holds true for all exercise. You want performance, you had better put the time and effort.

So, that's my soapbox moment. The purpose for today is not to give you the three steps for six pack abs. I want to consider the crunch. Let me say right off the bat, it's a very nice form of exercise. If anything it is useful for building and strengthening the core. For almost all parts of life, a strong core is important. It keeps everything in place. As well, it does bring some definition to the abs, which for the reason of the six pack, can't hurt.

To me, crunches are far better to me then the sit-up. The sit-up is a great exercise, but I find it is hard on the lower back, this is where the crunch is better. It is puts less strain on the lower back. If done well, the crunch is a relatively short exercise that brings the upper back and shoulder blades up and down, for the period of time you've decided. A quick guide for the Crunch can be found here. It is a simple exercise to do and with the right form and time, they can be done for a solid minute or more.

There is a 30 day challenge. Will help develop your core strength:

I should point out there is some negative news about Crunches. This article in the Globe and Mail gives you the points. Personally, I will keep doing crunches. They are a good form of exercise.

Understandably, the crunch may not be for everybody, fortunately there are some variations which should make it fine for people. Here's a list of them.

When all is said and done, I'll keep doing crunches.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bye Buddy

If you have a cat, you have a workout partner

If no one has ever coined that phrase, then let me make it a comment on exercise and cats. When ever I did a exercise routine or program, I could count on the fact that both my cats would participate in the proceeding. As I have mentioned, this past year I got serious with a morning workout and so after breakfast I would go downstairs, put a mat down, after feeding the cats and get ready. If I left the area the result would be what I've posted, a cat or cats would decided they needed their own time to workout. This meant that I would either take the cats off the mat, if they were in the way, or simply move myself around and get enough space do do what I needed to do. That worked and kept both cats very happy.

The white cat is Theo. He was the most active when it came to participating with me, which is interesting since he was the older of the two cats. I could always count on him to stroll around and sit beside me and help me with my form. For a cat, help meant walking underneath me when I was doing a plank, or sitting real close when I did crunches, my arm would rub up against him and he would enjoy the interaction. I do recall doing a wall plank and he simply sat 'looking' at me as I was there upside down. This was interesting since he was blind. But that never stopped him.

As said he was an older cat, as it is bound to happen, he started to get very old, very fast and he went from the dynamic cat to a very old cat. Even though he might not have moved very fast or even spend much time around, he would go and sleep in his little hut, I could always count on him to stroll out when I came down to do my work. It didn't matter, he would be there and help me. He was a cat with a very loud purr as well and when I started to pet, or interact as I worked out, the purrs would start and get progressively louder. After a few minutes, and usually when I finished my push up and crunch combo, he would go off to eat. He might walk around for a bit, or go back into his little hut. Or he would hand around for the duration. He enjoyed being with me as I did the exercise routine. It didn't matter what program I used, or stretching I made, he would be there.

As is the case with all life, Theo began to get worse. You could see him and the decline that was taking place. While I didn't want to admit it, at first, it was becoming time to make some decisions. The reality was, he was not going to get better, a vet check up revealed a lot of internal problems. Through it all, he stayed happy and was still coming out to exercise. He would not leave me alone even once. If he wasn't around at the start, he would make his way eventually. He would also show some of his stretches and even in his advanced age, he could do good and get a good muscle workout.

Finally the realization and conversation turned to 'when'. He was getting weaker and weaker, even though his eating was still good. A call was made,the appointment made and then it was time to wait. On the morning of the fateful day, I went downstairs for my workout, and again Theo came out to help. He did his usual thing during the arms and abs and made sure he was nearby for his various petting he received. Then after he was done, he would go back into the hut and just lie there. Then it was just a matter to come back from work and take him to the animal hospital. I did and I walked in with him. I will be honest, I wasn't not at all happy or feeling good about doing this to my buddy. He had been there with us for such a long time. Now it was time to say my final 'good-bye' to my happy cat.

After a very peaceful time, Theo passed away. He was so calm. There was no stress.

Saturday, I didn't feel like exercising, after all I didn't have my Coach with me. It didn't feel right. I moved his little hut away, because I didn't think I could look at it while working out. He may be gone, but he still exists in my mind and memories. While his attention to detail, and his workouts might have been annoying at times. Seriously cat, you have to attempt to go between my legs while I'm swinging a kettlebell. He still made it fun.

With this blog I say good-bye to my workout partner, my Coach and my Buddy.

You'll be missed Theo, thanks for all your help.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Push Up

Is there a more maligned form of exercise then the push up?

If there is one exercise that has followed us through most of life, it is the push up. We learned about them and then attempted it in elementary gym class. No doubt the exercise was totally wrong, lifting of the arms and then the lower torso did some sort of spastic action. We were encouraged to build our upper body strength and have fun doing it.

Then high school came about, and when you think of it, high school might have ruined exercise for a lot of people who weren't jocks. Then for some reason, more then running, push-ups became a means of punishment. How often have we heard the phrase "drop and give me..." With that sort of reputation, you got to believe there's a lot of negative thoughts and opinion towards what must be thought of as a straightforward and good form of exercise.

So let's get rid of those preconceived notions and nightmares of gym class and consider the push up in a new and positive light.

The push-up is a great way to develop your upper body. The shoulders, chests and arms all get used during the workout. It is also an workout that requires nothing, no tools, no extra weights. For location, all you need is a place longer and wider then your body. Inside, or outside, all you need is a flat, or fairly flat surface and you are good to go. It is the most basic of exercise that uses your body weight and gravity as the means of resistance. All your weight is placed on four locations, the hands and the toes. It does take some balance and requires a good form but it can be done by anyone.

If it's been years since you've done a push-up, then like all exercises, you start simple and don't overdo it. Although you might want to try to discover how healthy you are by simply doing as many as you can before collapsing. One plan that is popular on the Internet is the 100 push up plan. Once of the first things at the start is to determine your strength, and that one is do as many as you can. There are charts to show your present strength and from that basis, you work forward. It is a means of building strength and endurance. Like everything else, it will take time, you can just simply drop and give 100. If you can, then you have a great upper body strength. You should then move to the next level.

If you are interested,the site 100 Push Ups gives a six week plan to gain this goal. People who have done it have great review of what they have.

I haven't hit the magic goal, the most I've done is 75. You do feel it too.

One of the problem with the basic push up is it is the basic push up. There's a certain level of tedium that can become part of the program. Exercise should never be tedious, because that will rob you of the desire to do the work. Boredom can be a problem. Men's Fitness has an article which gives 15 variations, which will make a great way to change the style of exercise and also develop different muscle groups and help with your overall strength.

The Push-up much maligned but also a great way of developing strength and stamina. You know, if all those people who use push-ups as punishment had only considered what it is doing to you, they might not have wanted you to do something that's only going to make you stronger.

Do some push-ups, because it's a great way to get stronger.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Why Race

I know I briefly touched upon the subject of road races in an earlier blog. It was more of a look back at my 'racing career'. I may not have run in many races, but I've had fun. There are some runners who will never run in a road race. I suspect there are as many reasons as there are runners. Perhaps they were turned off from competition early in their running career. As well, they run for the recreation and the health benefits and not to enter some sort of competition. Or they consider the entry fee as a bit much no matter what, it's money that could be put to other things and not to a road race.

I want to make you think about what you're thinking and consider getting involved in a road race. There are a number of good reasons to find that race and sign up. In the end you'll be thankful you did and you will quickly sign up for another one, and another one.

Reasons to Enter a Race:

1) You will be with other runners. I saw in a recent issue of Runner's World the fact that 88% of all runners are solo runners. Look around, how many times do you see runners in groups of two or more. As a solo runner I can assure you, they are the very few and far between. Most of us run by ourselves. It's not that we're anti-social. Sometimes we'll meet up with another runner and we will have a good time, so good we will runner why we don't do this group thing more often. If you're one of those group runners, or a member of a running club, please drop me a line, I'm interested in hearing about your experience. So you're a solo runner, a race helps you to connect with other runners and puts you in a place where you are the Majority. You can talk casually to other runners and they will understand your comments and lingo. Plus when you get to the finish line and have those people cheer you on, it is a great feeling.

2) It will help with goals and training. Having something on the calendar can be your motivator to get out and keep going. As with all of life, there are those ebbs and flows, the times when you are so very gung-ho and times when you would rather become the couch potato you've been running away from all these years. If your motivation and desire needs a kick, sign up for a race. Once you pay your money, you have the motivation.

3) A good way to judge your training. When someone tells me they've just run their first race, I always congratulate them and tell them they now have a benchmark for future races. The first race will be fun and good and you will have a time. That time now will be the standard of your training and the mark to beat each year. The next time you run that same race, you can discover how well you've trained or what you need to improve. If you time is better, then give yourself a slap on the back, you've gotten better. It's where you test your mettle. The late George Sheehan had a lot of good running quotes, and here's one of them:

Why race? The need to be tested, perhaps; the need to take risks; and the chance to be number one."

4) It answers the question, can I do it? When first starting out, 5K sounds like a long way, and yes it is. To a first time runner, that's a daunting distance and you're not sure if you can do it. On race day, when you line up, and hopefully as a first time racer, you will take the advice and line up near the back and not near the front, you will wonder if you can do it, or will you have problems. During training, you have your place you run, or you go to the track and run the laps. These are safe, now go to a place a few kilometers away, where you don't know anything about the conditions, or the lay of the land except what you saw on a map, and run. You might find a few hills, or water or go off road to a trail. You may even struggle a bit, but then you turn the corner and there is the finish line. You have done it.

4) You will be a Runner. Again let me quote George Sheehan:

"The difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank."
Okay, I know this tends to get people upset, because there is a danger of a bit of elitism in the running community, especially when it comes to the definition of what is or isn't a runner. Personally I believe if you go out the door and run, you are a runner. It doesn't matter how far or how fast, you are a runner. However, there is a point when you can proudly say you did a race. Probably something you haven't done since High School track and field, and you can wear that tee shirt with pride and look at the finishing medal every so often to remind yourself that you are a runner. Of course if you get a position medal, well then you can wear that for about a few days until everybody you know has seen it and is tired of hearing about your experience. Running a race makes all those hours worth it.

5) Get the Competitive Juices going. I know there are some people who don't care much for competition, they run because of the enjoyment of it, or the health benefits. However, deep down inside all of us, there is this thing called 'competition'. As you stand at the starting line, near the back, probably near where I am, well I'm more of a middle pack kind of guy, you look around and in your mind you size up the competition. You look for somebody about the same age and build as yourself and you will make a mental note of them. If you don't believe me, just look around. Okay take your eyes off the very attractive woman in the tights for just a few moments and look around.

6) You will find your greatest Competitor. That person is you. You are challenging yourself to do your best. You are challenging all those voices that say you can't do it, or you shouldn't do it. You will take those voices on and you will beat them. All that stuff that in the back of the mind can be beaten and will be beaten the moment you cross that finish line. You will answer the question, 'can I do it', with a resounding "YES".

7) You will help a cause. Most races have fundraisers for different causes and charities. You will be helping those causes by participating.

8) The memories you will have. In the short-run, you have the tee shirts and other gear, plus medals. It's great to look back at a particularly memorable run. That will give you motivation to keep running as well.

9) The experience. The great thing about racing is the variety that is out there. From the small group road race, to huge races and everything in between. The Color Runs, Spartan, Neon, mud, water whatever. You can pick something that gets your attention and do it.

10) Bananas and Bagels. 'Nuff said.

I've signed up to do the Cambridge Mill Race. In the past two years, it's taken place on a Sunday, and I have commitments at the local church. However this year, it's a Tuesday night at 7:00PM. Good day and time for me. Also it's taking place in May, not April so the weather might be a little bit better for running. Plus I'm familiar with the course. It will be challenging since there is a climb at the end, but should be a lot of fun.