Monday, February 27, 2006

The 350 lb Nutrition Consultant

I had a neighbor who weighed 350 or more. The irony is that he was a chiropractor who also promoted himself as a "nutrition consultant." I often wondered how patients could possibly have confidence in his advice. The paramedics arrived one day and found him dead. It was probably heart failure, but I never knew for sure. A multitude of things can go wrong when you are that obese. He was a relatively young man, perhaps in his late 40s or early 50s.

I thought about him when a man wrote me yesterday and asked for some advice. He is in his late 50s and weighs 345 lbs. As you would expect, he is suffering from some physical problems, and his doctor has placed him on a weight loss and exercise program. The man sounds like he is taking the advice seriously and I hope that he is. I suggested that he work with a trainer and follow closely his doctor’s instructions. Weighing that much, it is probably best for him to begin by walking short distances and then gradually add time and distance to his walks. That's what I would have him doing. Some weight training would be added later.

No matter how overweight or out of condition you might be today, with the right attitude, instruction and persistence, you can become fit. Beginners would do well by following my program explained in Gray Iron: A Fitness Guide for Senior Men and Women.

Friday, February 24, 2006

More Good News About Green Tea

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who regularly drink green tea may have a lesser risk of mental decline as they grow older. The evidence about the benefits of green tea keeps growing. Check it out.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Hindu Push Up/Dive Bomber Combo

If I had to choose only two or three exercises to achieve a good full body workout, one of the upper body exercises would be what I call the Hindu/Dive Bomber Combo.

This one comes close to working every muscle group from the hips to the top of your head, and at the same time giving your legs a little work and a nice stretch, too.

What I’ve done is combine two push-up varieties to create a nearly perfect core and upper-body strengthener. Let’s start with the first part, the Hindu push-up. In spite of the ubiquitous Matt Furey promoting them, most people I meet, even gym people, don’t know how they are done, and many people have never even heard of them.

Then there are some people who know the movements but want to argue over which one is better, Hindu Push-Ups or Dive Bombers. Ignore them. Both are good and each places a little more emphasis on different muscles than the other. Doing the Combo gives you the best of both worlds.

Here is how they are done:

The starting and ending position of the Hindu push-up is in photo 1. Legs spread apart wider than shoulder width. Hips elevated. Hands on the ground, a little wider than shoulder width. Eyes looking backward.

Smoothly, bring your body forward by dropping your hips to the down position (photo 2) while sliding your head and shoulders forward . . . then extend your arms, raise your head and look forward (photo 3).

Now, push your hips back up to the starting position, eyes once again looking backward (photo 4). That’s one complete rep.

The entire movement should be a smooth, steady and rhythmic motion.

That is half of the Hindu/Dive Bomber Combo. Here is the second half.

Dive Bombers:

They start just like the Hindu (photo 1).

Then, just as in the Hindu, bring your body forward by dropping you hips (photo 2) while sliding your head and shoulders forward to a pushup position.

But this time, push straight back and up, while raising your hips back to the starting position (photo 3).

As with the Hindu Push-Up, the Dive Bombers are done in a smooth, steady and rhythmic motion.

To do the Combo, alternate your reps: do one Hindu followed by one Dive Bomber. Back and forth. Break up the workout into sets; or try one long set, not to failure, but close.

I like to work them into almost all of my upper body routines. Try it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Your Most Loyal Training Partner

A columnist in our local newspaper wrote about the health and fitness advantages of owning a dog. He had some impressive statistics to back up his thesis. More important, though, he described the pure joy he sees in his Labrador retriever as they run along a beach, and the wonderful companionship they share.

This is our dog, Tyra, an Australian Cattle Dog mix, a working breed, a herder, intelligent and requiring lots of exercise. A veterinarian once said to us that you can tell ACD owners because they are in good shape. Their dogs keep them that way.

Patty and I don’t need much nudging to hike, but Tyra let’s us know we couldn’t get away with not going if we wanted to. We usually hike at the same time of day, and Tyra begins to pace as that time approaches. As soon as she sees us reach for our trail shoes, she’s headed for the door, tail wagging, excited and ready to go.

We prefer our cardio workouts outdoors on trails in the hills, rather than on machines in the gym. Rain doesn’t stop us either, unless it is really coming down. Then we head for the gym and the cardio machines. Well, that’s fine for us, but Tyra doesn’t care if there are muddy trails and a downpour. So I put on my rain gear, stand outside in the park and we play fetch.

Having trouble keeping a regular schedule for cardio? Think about getting a dog. If you’ve never had a dog, try volunteering to walk the dogs for exercise at your local humane society. It’s a great way to do good deeds and at the same time find out if you’d like a regular training partner, the most loyal one you'll ever find.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Some Notes on Physical Imperfections

As we age, most of us collect a few chronic physical annoyances. For some, they are more than just annoyances. Some are serious, even debilitating. Few of us get through life Scot-free. If you are one of the lucky ones who seems to be escaping unscathed, the rest of us are envious.

I have been fortunate. I live a fitness lifestyle and I’m enjoying the health benefits of my commitment. Yet I have had pneumonia several times since I was a kid. I also have a mild degree of Essential Tremor, or ET, which causes hand trembling. (No, it is not Parkinson’s.) ET tends to run in families and my dad had it. Apparently, John Adams, the second President of the United States, had it, too, incidentally. Since the other half of my productive life is making art, an unsteady hand isn’t exactly an asset. But many people have far more serious things to deal with than that.

What should be remembered is that a great number of chronic health issues improve or even disappear altogether with regular exercise and good eating habits. Bad backs, high blood pressure, and dangerous cholesterol levels are three examples that commonly get better with regular exercise and weight loss through proper diet. And practically any medical condition improves with a combination of a fitness lifestyle and the wonders of modern medicine.

Nevertheless, some diseases strike suddenly without warning; and, of course, genetic factors, the luck of the draw, are beyond our control. However, we cultivate many (perhaps most?) problems ourselves from years of overeating, too much alcohol, smoking, or other drugs that assault our minds and bodies. I use an expression, “living off your youth,” to describe someone ignoring nature’s laws. It means that when we are young we can get away with excess and abuse. Yet gradually bad habits take their toll.

Today, there are growing numbers of school kids at risk of becoming diabetic. People who study disease trends say the rising percentages are the result of more overweight and out-of-shape kids than in previous generations. It seems that junk food, overeating, and lack of physical activity have lowered the “living off your youth” period clear down to elementary and middle schools. Anyone with doubts about this should click here.

The Gray Iron Fitness Blog is about adults, and mostly seasoned ones at that. So what is all this information about children? Well most of us have kids and/or grandkids. It’s up to us to set a good example. . . .

The Google ads at the top of the page can be fascinating. The way they work is that Google uses some kind of word search of the blog’s text. Instantaneously, ads appear with some matching characteristic to the text. Sometimes the results are not what you would expect.

For example, I often mention my disdain for diet pills. So what ads pop up? Ads for hoodia diet pills. It isn’t a perfect system. Here is a little item from Quackwatch:

“ has concluded that hoodia supplements have not been proven safe or effective for reducing appetite or body weight and the quality of the products is uncertain. Hoodia gordonii is a rare cactus-like plant protected by conservation laws in South Africa and Namibia. Its stems and roots are used in supplements. It has been speculated that more product is sold today than could possibly be made from all the Hoodia plants in existence, which would mean consumers might not be getting what they expect. Access to the report requires a subscription or a $10 fee. See and search for “hoodia.”