Monday, January 30, 2006

Fitness News Briefs

The Gray Iron Fitness Blog is but one month old, yet steady on its feet and growing.

Blogging's interactive nature makes it easy for newsletter subscribers (and any other viewers) to comment, question or disagree with posts. The only rule is that remarks be relevant to the post being addressed and be in good taste. Personal attacks are verboten. And no politics, please. Other than that, let 'er rip!

P.S. A few early comments to posts did not get online because I hadn't figured out how to do it yet. My apologies to you if that happened.

Recent News Briefs:


    Even if you have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, you are subtracting years from your life if you are too fat. That is what the latest studies show. Full story. . . .


    Here is proof that all news is not bad news. Full story. . . .


    More good news: Full story. . . .


    Brazilian Diet Pills: This is new one on me. Full story.

    Remember that most diet and "anti-aging" pill advertising is cleverly worded deception. Get truthful information from a physician you trust, a pharmacist, or registered dietician.

    Don't get taken!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

FDA to approve "fat-blocker" for over-the-counter sales

Am I a killjoy or what? Even if approved by the FDA for over-the-counter sales, I'm still no fan of diet pills. Okay, so the FDA people apparently tested a "fat-blocker" that does dispose of some fat after it's been consumed, and I guess nobody got sick and died using it. Nevertheless, if you take diet pills, it ought to be only a minor part of an overall fitness and dietary program -- and taken under a doctor or nutritionist's supervision. At present, a doctor's prescription is required for the pills that are likely to soon be available over-the-counter.

Yes, some people will use the product in a responsible context. But you know human nature. Now being told that there really is a "free lunch" after all, those looking for an easy way out will gobble up the "magic pills," while doing nothing to change disastrous eating habits. In fact, many overweight people will likely eat even more bad fat than before, figuring that the pills will block it.

Excuse my skepticism, but you know I'm right. There's still no short cut to health and fitness that doesn't require healthful eating and regular exercise. Bottom line: over-the-counter fat-blockers will not do anything to solve the nation's obesity problem. Probably they will make matters worse.

Read more about the latest diet pill panacea.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

High Intensity Cardio -Austrian-style

I am obsessed with snowshoeing! Coo-coo. Alright, I am from California and this whole snow thing is a novelty that I am still enamored with. I had read somewhere a few years ago that snowshoeing was a great calorie-burning endeavor and I'm thinking SIGN ME UP! It is estimated to burn 400-500 calories per hour. I love hiking and now living in the high altitude I am getting pretty darn excited at the idea of going where no man or woman has gone. Just me and my elegant snowshoes gliding over the powder. So I am in Austria now...a village, no kidding. Plenty of uncharted territory and deep powder...and all right out my door. Let me tell you, this does work up a sweat and burns some serious calories! I have gone everyday for the past week. I highly recommend it.

jen in austria

P.S. You don't actually glide over the snow...more like sink only to your knees where it would have been your waist.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Paralysis of Analysis

I'm on firm ground when I say that most of what is written about fitness and training applies only to a very small percentage of people, and I’m counting even those who exercise regularly.

Endless articles, countless books, magazines and web sites pick, probe and analyze to death information that applies only to the few and is often meaningless to the many. It sells. That's because many believe they are learning cutting edge "secrets" to greater strength and health. Generally, it's not true.

For most people, regular training and healthful dietary practices must be basic and easy to live with or they will not be followed for a lifetime. Anybody can follow an extreme diet or workout regimen for a week or a month. But then what happens? You know the answer to that one. Or the continuous searching for the latest and greatest can bog people down in complex and often contradictory theories and information and they never take a first step at all.

Keep it simple.

If you are a beginner, my book, written in plain, non-technical English, can be a tremendous help.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Austrian Workouts and Cheetahs

Daughter Jennifer sent an e-mail note today along with some recent pictures (shown here). She and husband Georg and my grandkids have been living in a beautiful area of Austria the past year. The countryside looks like scenery from The Sound of Music and, since it is Austria, nearly everyone skis and goes on snowshoe hikes. Jennifer says snowshoeing is a great aerobic workout. She has a home gym, too, and is a member of a health club in town. When she comes to visit us in March, she may teach some classes in Novato where she used to instruct.

Cheetahs: Patty and I went to a movie yesterday and saw Duma. If you are a runner, you must see it. Most runners that I know greatly appreciate speed and grace and, believe me, Duma has both! Have children or grandchildren? Take them to see it (recommended for those 9 and older) and enjoy a wonderful shared experience. No children or grandchildren? See it anyway. Go for the magnificent scenery and engaging tale about a boy in South Africa raising a Cheetah cub to adulthood. Ebert & Roeper give it, "Two Thumbs Up." For an online preview go to Duma . . . . Also cut me some slack to do a little name dropping. Duma's film director, Carroll Ballard (The Black Stallion, Never Cry Wolf and Fly Away Home) and I were high school classmates.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Milo's Workout

Milo, who lived in southern Italy around 500 B.C., is recognized for inventing progressive resistance exercise. People before him may have exercised by lifting heavy objects, but historians credit Milo as "The Man."

What he did one day was shoulder a small calf and carry it the length of the stadium at Olympia. The story goes that he continued carrying the animal regularly until it was full-grown. And Milo grew very strong in the process.

Once you understand the story of Milo, you understand the basics of resistance training. You begin by lifting something that is very manageable and add to it over time, gradually.

This brings me back to my sandbag swings (see “Sandbag Workout” posts on Jan. 2. and Jan. 6). Simply imagine pouring a small amount of sand into a gunnysack and hoisting it daily in a few of the basic lifts: the swing, clean and press, and squats.

Everyday, you add a small amount of sand to the bag. A set of weights may be more convenient and easier to deal with. On the other hand, sand and burlap sacks are cheap and easy to find. For the motivated trainee, it would work.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Arnold on Bodybuilding

"The good bodybuilders have the same mind that a sculptor has. If you analyze it, you look in the mirror and you say, okay, I need a bit more deltoids ... so that the proportion's right, and you exercise and put those deltoids on, whereas an artist would just slap on some clay on each side."


Friday, January 06, 2006

Sandbag Workout (part 2)

Kettlebell swings challenge your whole body, with an emphasis on hamstrings, hips and glutes. Your back and shoulders don’t get off easy, either. And doing high reps will have you panting as if sprinting uphill. Trust me.

I tried the “kettlebell” swing using a 50-lb sandbag and it worked pretty well. If it's your first time doing swings, be sure to start with a weight you can handle with proper form. Going heavy before learning proper technique is a good way to hurt yourself. There will be plenty of time later to increase your sandbag's weight or reps.

Here is how to go about it: Place the sandbag on the ground and between your feet, with legs spread a little wider than shoulder width. Reach down and grip the bag. Keep your arms straight. Your posture should the same as if you were going to do a standing long jump (see the first photo): knees bent, butt extended back, straight spine, head up. Now, with straight arms, swing the bag back and forth a little to get some momentum going. Inhale as the bag swings backward. Exhale as it goes forward.

Once you have momentum, from the start position (first photo), straighten your legs while snapping your hips forward, swinging the bag up to eye level or a little higher (see the second photo). Keep a solid base and your abs tight throughout.

Then let the bag fall, with control, retracing the arc, back between your legs. That is one rep. Now, swing the bag up again, and then back. That's two reps. Do it again. Keep going. Concentrate on your form and establish a rhythm. Remember to exhale as the bag rises. Inhale as it falls.

Proper technique is everything. When your form starts to break down, stop. Getting sloppy is when people hurt themselves. Get it right before challenging yourself.

"It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing . . ."

Monday, January 02, 2006

Sandbag Workout (part 1)

The year 2006 began with more excitement than I needed or bargained for. A massive storm struck Northern California. And at 4:15 a.m., a neighbor rang our doorbell to alert us to mudslides and flooding. Fallen trees from the hills behind our homes were washed into the valley. A culvert was blocked, creating a powerful, muddy river that smashed through the home directly across the street from ours.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men — in this case sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, and various county workers — could not subdue Mother Nature. Our neighbor lost her home and the cleanup all around us is no small task.

That a tragedy brings out the best and worst in people was in evidence. Most neighbors acted as good neighbors should, helping in any way possible, wading through mud, muck and water to salvage what was salvageable. Inevitably, though, gawkers showed up, at times clogging our small court of six homes. A few “adults” allowed their children to play barefoot in the river of muck and water as parents took photographs or made home videos.

It was a missed opportunity to teach their children something about decency and good manners. The loss of someone's home and emotional suffering of the owner is not just another “event” and photo opportunity. Even a few giggling "adult" women waded barefoot. Crazier yet, there was shattered glass buried in the muck.

How does any of this fit into a fitness blog? Reporters are taught to look for the local angle. There was a fitness angle even in this.

My son and I went to the firehouse to fill burlap sacks with sand for warding off rushing water. While there, I discovered that swinging a half-filled sack of sand into the back of my pickup is very close to the exercise called the kettlebell swing. I’m serious. When everything dries out, I will fill several sacks at various weights and keep them for swings, cleans, and presses.

“Out of the mud grows the lotus,” according to a Chinese proverb.