Archive for the ‘fitness’ Tag

The most effective muscle building exercise for the arm


The biceps curl is overdone and over-hyped. I do them, as part of a total body workout, but there’s a more effective arm-buster.

Now, I don’t support hitting arms before you’ve done the Exercise Triumvirate: Lunges, Squats, and Deadlifts (LSD). It’s great to see more and more people joining the Triumvirate as we get smarter about what exercises work for total fitness, and which don’t.

But, as for getting gorilla arms, the best exercise is the triceps extension, seated or lying down.

Why? Because the triceps are the biggest muscle group in the arm, they take up the most space. So if you do some high weight sets mixed with low weight sets, after a few weeks, you are sure to look like you can lead all the women folk to safety.

As for developing the mind of a leader… that is a different regiment altogether.

The single best exercise in the gym


I recall all the time I spent in the gym as a youngin. Two hours easily gone, almost every day. And the exercises weren’t even for fitness as much as appearances. We’re so busy today, time devoted to the gym is a super valuable commodity. Ron Burgundy was so pressed for time that he was forced to sculpt his guns at the office! I’m still trying to find that uvulus muscle of his…

Also, my title is a lie. I don’t have a single best exercise for the gym. What exercise you need depends on what you want. Big arms? Try a mix of testosterone-inducing squats and deadlifts mixed with bicep curls and tricep extensions and rows, all on the standard 3-sets per exercise with a minute or two rest between them. General fitness? Circuit-training: moving between exercises without rest, hitting all the major muscle groups, Men’s Health has some greats ones, see the Spartacus workout for a good example. Pure cardio, for a healthy heart? Interval sprints mixed with steady state running or ellipticalling or whatever interesting leg-gyrating machine your gym has these days (Except for the stationary bike, those are useless. A joke..but it would be my last choice of all the upright machines.)

But what if the gym is more than just exercise?

My time in the gym was back in the days before everyone had earbuds and their own personal radio station going in their head. When I was in the gym, we talked. There was a communion of sorts. Today, the gym is still a great source of connecting with like-minded individuals. You just have a slight barrier of rubber and plastic buffering you from hearing most everyone else. The trend though, is having a shared experience. We are shifting to Crossfit, and yoga, and even hot yoga (because yoga was just too easy, right?!)

But we’ve each got a life. Some of us want to get into the gym, do our business, and get back to our life. I’m definitely in that camp, now that I have so much more I want to accomplish than I did in my twenties. So what do I lose if I plug into my mobile and put a blinder to my surroundings?

We miss everything. Not only does sound get blocked, but what little residual attention we have goes to listening to our podcast, or music, or audio book. And for me, the gym is often the place I catch-up on that podcast or a few chapters of a book. The question is how much time am I actually spending in front of the screen or plugged into my earbuds?

To get this, we sacrifice that. And that could be something we didn’t even know we lost, because we just aren’t paying attention. An interesting conversation, a business opportunity, a romantic opportunity, or simply getting too distracted from what’s in your ear so that you can’t put 100% in your workout…whatever it is.  It’s gone.

Can we take care of both body and mind? Surely.

Just stay aware..and leave an earbud out and let a little life in.

When OK can become Awesome

This past weekend I went on a run that changed my life. I had started running a few months ago and slowly picked up advice on technique from here and there, changing my running style after getting each new piece of information. My runs had been good. Ok. But everything changed on my last run when I found my almost perfect form. And all it took was disciplined open mindedness.

Even simple things need practice

Running is a simple movement. You put one foot in front of the other. Yet, even this simple action needs practice or else you might become a fist-pumping, shoulder-rolling mass of swaying body parts that is wasting energy and causing pain and injury. In my case, my form started with arms swinging, and soft heel strikes rolling forward into a long stride. After forming this habit, I stilled my arms and tried landing on the front of my foot, almost on the balls of the feet and pushed off with my toes. As I moved through my practice, I was without a coach, but I drove myself forward to learn.

We are creatures of habit, but we need to listen to ourselves

I had made habits of the techniques, but did not think about adjusting the technique to my body. Instead, I thought about how I could force my body into the form that came from the authorities. This is a mistake. There are experts in different fields, but if we are mindful, we are the best qualified expert on ourselves. Human beings can become acclimated to most anything, good and bad: The constant stress of war, the hardship of poverty, or the work of regular diet and exercise. In my case, my running technique had resulted in a habit that provided me an ok run, and I acclimated to that, but because of my drive to improve, I realized “ok” could become awesome.

When things are ok, it’s time for some experimentation

When I started out on my run, I had done the extremes, both soft and heavy steps on the heel, and bouncing off the balls of the feet. My practice, just like the meditative practice of a monk, made me familiar with my body. I knew how it moved and how my feet felt striking the ground. On this day, I started with heel strikes, short strides, and light steps.

As I warmed up, I moved up to the balls of the feet. Less than half mile in, I settled my feet into a mid-foot strike, my heels barely touching the ground before my foot picked up again. I placed my feet like this, step after step, getting a sense of the ground, in tune to how my feet touched the earth. At mile one, I felt the usual resistance melt away, but this time it was different.

As I placed each foot on the ground, it whipped back effortlessly, gliding over the ground rather than pushing off of it. It felt as if I wasn’t in my body running, but a spectator. My mind had been evacuated and that left only my soul. And my soul was smiling.

At mile three, I was in awe. I thought, “Now this is what awesome means. Right here.” I was unfettered. It felt like I had just started my run. It was incredible. After the fifth mile, I was nearing my car, where I’d started my run,  and I thought about the comfort of stopping. After a couple of seconds, the thought faded away. I felt no anticipation for the end. My mind and its worries had surrendered to action. I was fully present running.

Immerse yourself, and after many trials, the answer will find you

Experiences like this are important in teaching me the value of immersing yourself in a task. Practice your passion. Be willing to form habits and just as willing to break them and try new ones to hone your skill.  This will help us find a new way to do something which we never thought possible: Whether it’s for running, running a business, or creating a product. We can then realize that ok can become awesome.

Is the easy life truly easy?

I was at the gym the other day, and I saw the cardio room filled with people, everyone moving on stationary machines, but going nowhere, and I laughed to myself. Later, on the way out, my laughter turned to amazement when someone told me about a projection keyboard her teacher used in her class. I didn’t understand how a keyboard could be projected and still work. Then I got to thinking about how our entire economy was dependent on bankers buying and selling bets, and how that could work.

Sounds abstract? I think so, too. So…

Is it possible to make life too abstract?

In a previous blog. I talked about how exercise gives us a feeling of accomplishment which is needed in a society that seeks to make things easier. When I looked out on the rows of cardio machines last week, I saw something a little different. There were people running in place. I turned to the other end of the gym, where people were lifting weights, up and down, over and over again.

It’s funny how we’ve replaced the work that gives us this exercise naturally, like washing clothes by hand, walking or biking to work, or raising and making our own food. We have specialized roles now, a machine washes our clothes or a laundromat offers to do it for us. Groceries provide us food, and a cook and a waiter who provide us meals. There are garbage men to pick up our trash and lawn service for our yards. We’ve got cars that we can drive, taxi drivers that can drive us, and car mechanics that will change our oil.

The same thing is happening with our retirement accounts. Instead of investing in stocks and bonds in companies we think are making a good product, we give our money to bankers and they make us money. They still buy stocks and bonds, but today we have added bets in the mix. These are bets that someone else’s purchase is going to go up in value. You can even bet whether something will go down in value.

Sound abstract? I think so, too.

The easy decision is easy…at first

We use machines to make it easier to do things and get places. It’s easy, but then we realize we bought a car that has 6 cylinders, instead of 4, and has cargo space for 6 people, and those things cost more. We realize that our sedentary lifestyle requires us to exercise. Not easy, because we must now pay money and make extra time to drive to a gym.

We’ve lost the knowledge of how to landscape a yard, or even change the oil in our car, and this makes us more helpless than before. And instead of making meals which we know the ingredients, we buy convenient meals which can contain sugars and fats that are out of our hands, hidden in the food.

Maybe most important, our investments are made by bankers. They send us statements that show that our little pile of money is ever increasing. It’s easy. Until we realize we don’t know what a derivative is, or a collateralized debt obligation, but we staked our future on them. We then realize that everything we’re doing is postponing the cost. The cost of us not supervising the banker is measured by the number of lost jobs and failed businesses after the banks defraud us and mismanage our investments.  

Sound abstract? I think so, too.

My cousin is vice-president of Securities at TD Bank.  He might be able to help us sort it out. I asked him how the derivative collapse affected them. He said, “Not too much.”

“Really?” I answered, surprised.

 “We looked at mortgage derivatives as a possible investment. We didn’t understand it, so we passed,” he answered simply.

If something is too complicated, ask why that is.

Maybe then we can make our lives truly easier.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96 other followers