‘If God had intended us to be nudists, we would
have been born with no clothes on.’ – Leonard Lyons
by Phillip Day
Most people don’t — exercise, I mean. Perhaps the combined abuse of the last three icons has caused the greatest anguish and illness in modern society: Rubbish food coupled with indolent, acidic lifestyles punctuated by unhealthy stress all seem a far cry from the farm-fresh produce and yomps on the Downs enjoyed by our forebears. The fact is, though times have moved on, the body’s needs for nourishment and exercise have not. If we don’t meet them, let us expect trouble. Here are the exercise basics:
Consult a doctor before any exercise regimen(!)
Warming up: If you are new to exercise, work up to walking 10,000 brisk steps a day. For a couple of quid you can get a plastic pedometer from a sports store to clip onto your belt. Doing nothing all day but shuffling around in your pyjamas will clock up 3,800 steps (In the name of research, I measured it three days in a row). 10,000 steps places a progressive load onto your muscle and cardio systems and ensures you stay well-oiled and piped. (see also: Climb Stairs Whenever You Can and Own a Pet). Next…
Move! Once you’re walking easiliy, exercise 40–60 minutes a day, some of which with your heart rate up around 65% — 70% of your maximum (max rate = 220 minus your age for females, 226 minus your age for males). Practise short bursts of all-out effort for a minute at a time, then relax. Swimming, cycling, rowing, stair-climbing and hill-climbing are all good for this – start slowly and work into it. The right level of exertion is when you’re slightly out of breath while talking! Also:
Load-bearing exercise: The dreaded weight-training, push-ups, knee bends, squats and stair-climbing are all resistance moves that prevent the muscles and skeleton from atrophy. These movements pump the lymph system and help clean you out. Weight-training can be done by all ages, though kids under ten are better off with the usual chores, slavery and play until the body matures in its middle teens. Serious muscle builders, it’s all about intensity and rest. Log onto www.precisiontraining.com. Don’t forget:
60–90 minutes a day spent outside. The body requires sunlight and fresh air to manufacture Vitamin D and catalyse other reactions. Solar radiation penetrates even that lead blanket over Kent, so don’t think of using weather as an excuse for indolence, unless you live in Sunderland.
Exercise is hard for many because exercise equals pain and the brain moves away from pain toward pleasure as part of the survival response. ‘No pain, no gain’ results in thousands of gym memberships being paid for and never used. Nike’s famous slogan ‘Just Do It!’, frankly, for most people didn’t. Why? ‘No pain, no gain.’ We like the idea of what exercise can do for us, it’s just the grunting and heavy-breathing part most of us have a problem with.
Shift Your Focus
Don’t call it exercise – play! Re-label and shift your focus. Get involved in a hobby that combines exercise with fun: walking, gardening, cycling, swimming. I like exploring battlefields and historical sites, so climbing mottes and nodding at baileys gets me all hot and bothered. Orienteering, rollerblading and fell-walking are great but if you’re getting on a bit, gardening, sponsored walks, swimming, cycling and invading France were all enjoyed by your forebears.
Exercising is easy if you’re having fun (play)
Remember: You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever done to yourself
Don’t overlook exercise
The Essential Guide to Exercise by Phillip Day
by Pete Sisco
The first time I lifted weights with any serious intention whatsoever was in 1992 at the age of 33. Before that I did what most people do and just wandered blindly from one machine to the next and banged out enough reps to get the target muscles tired. I never truly exerted myself. I’m sure we’ve all seen this in the gym, just look at 99% of the people exercising and none of them is treating it like a life or death struggle to reach a new peak of exertion. They work out like they wash their car or drink a cup of coffee – casually and with zero passion or purpose.
The ‘ah-ha moment’ for me came when I learned about the role of intensity in causing muscle growth. It’s one of those things that makes perfect sense. A skinny guy can lift 100 pounds one time, a guy with bulging muscles can lift 400 pounds one time. Fine. We understand that big muscles can lift more. But the skinny guy can rest a bit and lift 100 pounds four times. So he also lifted a total of 400 pounds. Why isn’t he as strong? Why aren’t his muscles as big? It’s obvious. He took more time to lift 400 pounds than the big guy took. So muscle building isn’t just about what you can lift, it’s equally about how much time it takes you to lift it. And that, my friends, is the definition of intensity. Yet everybody – and I mean everybody – in the gym was completely ignoring the time side of the equation. So what if you did three sets of twelve reps with 265 – how long did it take you, Pal? Without knowing the time there is no way to know how intense it was compared to the last workout or the next workout.
Once I saw that with total clarity the next twenty years were about measuring intensity. The Power Factor measurement came first. It measured pounds per minute. Simple. Bench press a total of 6,200 pounds in two minutes and your bench press Power Factor was 3,100 pounds per minute. That was the intensity of your output. The skinny guy always has a lower Power Factor number than the guy with huge muscles. Makes perfect sense. But the more important thing is always the next workout. If you want to force your body to make bigger, stronger muscles you have to increase your intensity. So next time you bench press you need to have a Power Factor intensity of 3,150 or 3,300 or 4,000 lbs/min or whatever you can muster. In this universe there is no room to debate this issue, it’s well established; it always takes more muscle power to lift 8,000 pounds in two minutes than it does to lift 7,500 pounds in two minutes. Always. (Yes, assuming the distance is the same. Which it always is with the Power Factor workout.)
Next came the knowledge that very, very brief exercise could still trigger muscle growth. That was the birth of Static Contraction training that measured intensity in seconds rather than minutes. We started with 30-second holds. They worked. So we did 20-second holds. They worked. So we did 10-second holds. They worked too. Finally, we tested 5-second holds and, not surprisingly, they generated the highest intensity per second because you can always hold a heavier weight for five seconds than you can for ten seconds. The absolute highest intensity we could reliably measure with barbells and stopwatches was 5-second static holds. And boy, did that build muscle! It also absolutely minimized the wear and tear on the body that older people like me have to take into consideration. There has never been a more efficient way to build muscle and reduce the repetitive wear and tear of weightlifting. The only thing that will improve Static Contraction training will be the machine that measures output to the millisecond to determine every individuals optimum rep duration. That’s in the works.
And by the way, when you are shooting for a clear goal that – by definition – you have never hit before, you can’t do it without passion. You have to psyche yourself up before the lift. You have to exert yourself with every scrap of concentration and determination. That isn’t boring. That isn’t like sipping coffee and daydreaming. It is classic ‘man against himself’ and it makes you feel the power of personal victory and triumph. And you get the certainty of mathematics to prove you are a better man today than you were last week. That is an astonishingly powerful feeling and I believe it’s also it’s own vaccine against common depression. But that’s another blog post.
Speaking personally, my ‘overnight success’ is yet to come in this realm. Power Factor and Static Contraction training are not household words. When that day does come, and it eventually must, it will be like every other ‘overnight success’ in that many years of quiet experimentation, trial and err and not a little ridicule laid the foundation for the inevitable widespread recognition of the bloody obvious. It was ever thus. People always resist new knowledge. But math and physics are never disobeyed for long and any honest attempt to maximize the intensity of weightlifting always leads down the inevitable path of measuring weight lifted per unit of time. You can measure in troy ounces per fortnight or grains per millisecond but whatever answer you get you always have the challenge of besting it the next time you’re in the gym. And that will take everything you have. If you succeed, you trigger new muscle growth. If you fail, you won’t grow. Period.
You can still choose to train in a blind, haphazard way, never knowing your muscular intensity. But, knowing the facts of how intensity is objectively measured, why the hell would you? Seriously. What is to be gained by never knowing your all-important intensity of output?
“It never ceases to surprise me at the infinite capacity of the human mind to resist the introduction of useful knowledge.” Thomas Raynesford Lounsbury