The 13 Minute Weight Routine?

person holding barbell
Photo by Victor Freitas on

Do you dread your weight routine? Do you wish you had a quicker way to get in and get out of your weight workout in under 15 minutes?

I do. I really hate lifting weights now. I don’t know if it is just a phase, because I used to really like it. Now I just want to get in and get out as fast as possible. I don’t want to spend an hour or more lifting even though I have actually created a pretty decent home gym with a rack, a bench, and a fairly decent cable setup that somebody gave me. So I have been looking at alternatives. I may have found one.

According to some new research maybe there is a better, or at least a more efficient way. See all the original study information at: In this study:

Thirty-four healthy resistance-trained men were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental groups: a low-volume group (1SET) performing 1 set per exercise per training session (n = 11); a moderate-volume group (3SET) performing 3 sets per exercise per training session (n = 12); or a high-volume group (5SET) performing 5 sets per exercise per training session (n = 11). Training for all routines consisted of three weekly sessions performed on non-consecutive days for 8 weeks.

Here were the surprising results:

Results showed significant pre-to-post intervention increases in strength and endurance in all groups, with no significant between-group differences.

Here is the conclusion:

Marked increases in strength and endurance can be attained by resistance-trained individuals with just three, 13-minute weekly sessions over an 8-week period, and these gains are similar to that achieved with a substantially greater time commitment. Alternatively, muscle hypertrophy follows a dose-response relationship, with increasingly greater gains achieved with higher training volumes.

I saw this and decided I was all in.  I wanted to try the one set workout to failure routine and see what happened. The problem was lifting to failure.

I almost always work out alone. Lifting to failure is dangerous without a spotter, and if you don’t have the best equipment for it. I am not so sure it is even a good idea anyway. After giving it a little thought I wondered if lifting to failure was absolutely necessary. So, I decided to give it a try but with one change. I would lift “close” to failure with some exercises, and stop before I get myself in trouble with some of the lifts where an injury was possible. I would do my maximum number of repetitions but just to the edge of failure. I would also switch some exercises to my cable setup. I do have the squat rack, and have a safety bar in place on it, but there is no need to be stupid about it. I also switched some of the exercises. Instead of the bench press from the classic flat bench I use my cable setup to do an upright bench. So I am doing some free weights, using the rack for some exercises, and the cable machine for others. Maybe that is not optimal but it is certainly safer.

One thing about it though. If you do it right you’re going to work out hard. You have to give it your all. Keep pushing yourself as long as it is healthy, and safe,  to do so. For example, I am very conservative with deadlifts – I don’t want to injure my back and I am not a bodybuilder anyway. Just trying to stay fit and healthy. I leave these workouts tired, but actually more energized, than in the routines I used to do. The right music helps too.

One disclaimer though.  I don’t have access to the whole article, just an abstract, and some short news articles sprinkled around in the web that are ambiguous or confusing as to the exact workout routines. However, I think I am close to what they did, and that the underlying principle is this: one hard workout to near failure with one set of repetitions sees nearly identical gains as those with multiple sets.  We’ll see. I will report back after eight weeks with the results.



Injury & Weight Gain: An Update

The Bad News

About a year ago I started to gain weight, and went from 165 lb average, to a 175 average, and that creeped up to a 185 lb average. Waist size went from a rather loose 34 to a rather snug 36. The problem started when I tried to maintain my weight at 165, then 170, and failed.  In the meantime I injured my left knee, and have just confirmed that it has arthritis.  I will know more after May 22ed when I visit an orthopaedic sports doctor.

The Good News

There is still lots of good news. My peak weight, before I started to loose, was up around 245 plus pounds, and a size 46 inch waist size was tight. I would have been satisfied with 185 if I had been convinced it would stop there.  I did not.  I have given up running for the meantime, but suspect that the doctor’s advice will be to continue to avoid the sport I love.  During the process I learned a lot, and am taking up competitive race walking under the theory that it will not be so hard on my knee. The weight is starting to go down, partially because it is warmer now, and I am out of school with more free time.  Less stress.

What I Learned

What did I learn?  A lot, and I plan to learn more.  First of all I think I lost the weight too fast, and that steep weight lose has had an effect on my metabolism.  Most BMI calculators say that I should be able to eat 2000 calories net per day.  I have found that number to be too high.  For me it is 1400 calories.  I suspected my metabolism might have had something to do with it, but was pretty much convinced after I went back down to 1400 net calories per day, renewed  a stricter diet  (avoiding high glycemic  foods such as pasta, potatoes, etc.), and then started to see the weight come off again.  At around the same time the Biggest Looser story broke which told how research had shown that most of the contestants gained back a lot of weight, and an altered metabolism was suspected as the culprit.   Thinking it was starving, the body wisely went into a survival mode as it slowed down metabolism. We use a scale, the body seems to have other metrics. You can read the article online at the New York Times. Was that what had happened to me?  Maybe, and then again maybe not.  I suspect there are a lot of factors that come into play with weight loss, and the science is just not there yet.  In the meantime, I have resigned myself to the 1400 calorie ceiling and found a way to keep it that seems to work for me now.

The Way Forward

One strategy that I found that worked for me was a schedule that included shifting my meals to later in the day, and essentially eating four of them.  Around 300 – 350 calories at noon, the same amount at 4 p.m., and then 600 – 800 for supper at around 7:30, and finally a late snack.  Noon and lunch do not vary much at all.  Supper and the late snack calories vary depending on how active I have been. I know it breaks a LOT of the rules but it works for me.

I also discovered how much it meant to me to have fitness goals, and  incorporate competition into my goals.  Not that I was that competitive for my age class as a runner, but because I found those competitions to be tremendously motivating.  What to do?  Race walking. It has always appealed to me since I was a kid when the renowned race walker Larry Young could be seen around town training.   Walking VERY fast. By the way, Larry Young competed in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, and is the only American ever to medal in race walking in that venue.  Larry attended Columbia College on the ONLY race walking scholarship ever awarded by a college in the United States.  Hometown boy made good.

Race Walking

I know I could just go out and walk.  There is also Nordic Walking, and fitness walking, and then just kind of making up your own thing. Strolling.  While walking is natural to us, race walking requires a very specialized technique that you have to learn. Starting with Larry Young  I have a rather long history of being interested in race walking which I will write more about later. For now, suffice it to say that the first and only time I have race walked was over thirty years ago, with my oldest daughter and we were both disqualified.  I plan to do something about that.  I will compete again this summer, fully expecting to be disqualified, but have decided that next year my goal is to be competitive in my age group while  avoiding being disqualified for the wrong technique.  Stay tuned.

How Many Calories Did I Just Burn?

I have found that keeping accurate records has been helpful to me as far as getting in shape, and staying there.  That means using quantifiable metrics to measure how much, how far, and how often.  Keeping records has helped me immensely although I am throttling back on how, and what, I keep track of, and especially how I do it.

We are obsessed by calories, but for good reason.  They do matter, and you ignore them to  your peril.  I know I did.  Unfortunately I think measuring calories burned, and to a lesser extent calories consumed, can be problematic. So what are we talking about?

What is a calorie?

Most of us know that food has a quality about it that we call calories, but what is it?  It is:

The amount of energy, or heat, it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit). One calorie is equal to 4.184 joules, a common unit of energy used in the physical sciences.

Most of us think of calories in relation to food, as in “This can of soda has 200 calories.” It turns out that the calories on a food package are actually kilocalories (1,000 calories = 1 kilocalorie). The word is sometimes capitalized to show the difference, but usually not. A food calorie contains 4,184 joules. A can of soda containing 200 food calories contains 200,000 regular calories, or 200 kilocalories.


Our body:

… needs calories (energy) to survive, without energy our cells would die, our hearts and lungs would stop, and we would perish. We acquire this energy from food and drink.

If we consume just the number of calories our body needs each day, every day, we will probably enjoy happy and healthy lives. If our calorie consumption is too low or too high, we will eventually experience health complications.

The number of calories foods contain tells us how much potential energy they posses. Below are the calorific values of the three main components of the food we eat:

–   1 gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories

–   1 gram of protein contains 4 calories

–   1 gram of fat contains 9 calories.


How Many Calories Do We Consume By Exercise?

It is technically possible to measure how many calories we are burning  with  some precession.  Unfortunately it is not yet practical (issues with reliability and validity) since it currently requires laboratory conditions although advances in wearable technology coupled with smart phone technology will probably change that in two to five years.  In the meantime what we  have are essentially estimates, based on laboratory findings.  These estimates use  calculations that take into account some combination of age, weight, type of activity (running, walking, bicycling, etc.), intensity, and duration .  There are several formulas, and it depends on which formula is being  used.

How Are Calories Burned Measured?

Most modern exercise equipment has some kind of calories burned function.  GPS watches, smart phone apps, and web sites will also give you an estimate, and remember it is an estimate.  Accuracy will vary as we are about to see.

Lately I have been using the MapMyRun app on my iPhone 5 to keep track of time, distance, and calories burned while running.  It syncs with MyFitnessPal which I switched to from Livestrong’s MyPlate app (which I think was actually better).  Before that I used my Timex Marathon GPS watch  for time and distance while ignoring the ridiculously low caloric estimates it provided.  Instead I ignored the calories burned number on the GPS watch, and used the calories burned calculator from Runners World (which is specifically for running, and is available online)  using the time and distance from the Timex.  I stopped  that practice after I got the iPhone.   But, last week I decided to compare the two methods because I suspected the results from MapMyRun were too high.

For 3.19 miles, at a 10:50 pace here are the results from MapMyRun;

MyFitnessPal calculation

Here are the results from for the same workout. I used time and distance from MapMyRun.*

Runners World CalculationMy schoolboy arithmetic indicates a difference of over 18%, or nearly 100 calories.  I would say that is a significant difference.  Subsequent comparisons showed the same pattern.  The MapMyRun app  is consistently more optimistic when it comes to how many  calories I burned.

Which One Is Right?

I have no idea.  I know that the Runners World site does not take into account age or gender.  MapMyRun has access to all that information, but I do not know if it uses it. I decided to use the more conservative measure from the Runners World website for two reasons:

1.  Tired of lugging around the iPhone.  I never found a way to secure it comfortably or usefully other than holding it in my hand. Am I turning into one of those people?  I hope note. Also, battery life is problematic, and sometimes it just does strange and wacky things.

2.  I wanted to be more conservative and go with the lower estimate.

That means I am back to using my Timex GPX watch in conjunction with the Runners World website.

Are There Other Measurements?

Yes.  Some consider measurement of the heart rate over time as the best estimate.The Journal of Sports Sciences  provides the following two calculations based based on gender:

Males Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.2017) — (Weight x 0.09036) + (Heart Rate x 0.6309) — 55.0969] x Time / 4.184.

Females Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.074) — (Weight x 0.05741) + (Heart Rate x 0.4472) — 20.4022] x Time / 4.184.

Those calculations would be difficult to do in  your head while  you are out running or on the elliptical machine. Also, have you ever tried to take your pulse rate manually while running?  Of course this method requires a heart rate monitor, and the sophisticated software that comes with them.  I am still doing my research.  My current understanding is that good ones are expensive, and there can be problems with their accuracy as well.

What to do?

I think we are inclined to underestimate the calories we eat, and overestimate the calories we burn.  Because of that, I am comfortable in going with the lower number calculated by the Runners World website. I also know there are ongoing issues with reliability and validity when we measure some things (such as calories burned), but we have more mature technology measuring others (such as distance and time).  Probably the best we can do is utilize the tools we have with care, caution, and consistency.  More later.


*M y tests show reasonable consistency between MapMyRun, the Timex GPS watch, and my bicycle computer regarding distance and time, but between them the calories burned estimates are inconsistent.

Biking Ugly

I love to bike, but I don’t like doing it for exercise. Seems like I would rather run, or walk, most of the time.   Even I find that odd.  However, I do like bicycling as a means of transportation, and as a lifestyle choice.  Bicycles are a marvel of evolutionary engineering, and just get better all the time.  I am lucky to live in a town which, although not perfect, does provide an environment where bicycling is promoted, and encouraged.

Schwinn Hybrid
Schwinn Hybrid

I have a Schwinn hybrid that is at least ten  years old.  I bought it when click shifting was maybe one or two years into production. It has a steel frame, it has gotten a lot of use, and it was a perfect choice.  I am still completely satisfied with it.  I went from a racing bike, that I actually did race (that is another story), to a bike I could use on the trail system here, and that would be reliable transportation. It was a great purchase. I purchased it from Walt’s Bike Shop here in Columbia, and they offer lifetime free labor.  I just had it in for a tune up and they replaced the chain, and some cables.  It cost me around thirty dollars.

I think walking, or riding  your bike, as an alternative to taking a car is an absolute sane, and healthy way to live.  It is better for you, the environment, and certainly  your pocket book.  I can drive my car to work and burn no calories, or I can ride it to work and burn 400 for free, and enjoy the outdoors all at the same time.  Weather is seldom an issue except for severe thunder storms, or extreme winter weather.  I will not ride in the ice and snow.  I would LOVE to do without a car entirely, and use my bike for everything, and am getting closer to being able to do that, although replacing a car 100% here in the United States is  challenging.

All of these pictures are ones I took yesterday when I rode my bike to campus to meet with some students, and stop by our local public radio station, KOPN at 89.5, to pick up a free mug I got for joining as a member.  They were having a pledge drive that day.

KOPN Coffee Mug
The coffee mug that cost me 90 bucks but I get to make monthly payments on it.

If you use your bike to commute you have to have the right bike, rightly equipped. For example,  I am very paranoid about breaking down,  getting stranded,  and then missing a class.  It takes me about 30 minutes door-to-door leisurely riding averaging right at 10 or 11 miles per hour.  In case something happens I allow for an hour which provides time to either fix things up, or walk in pushing the bike.  I carry C02 cartridges, spare tubes (more than one – I have had two punctures on one ride only once, but it was enough), and a few tools.  Also, a tube repair kit which I have absolutely no faith in.  I have learned that fifty dollar tires are worth the price.  To domesticate an already placid, forgiving, and reliable ride I have added the following accessories:

bicycle saddle bags
Cheap eBay saddle bags. LOVE them. Large capacity, and somewhat water proof. Less than ten bucks.
Cheap, WalMart bell.  Works great.  It does kind of chime as you ride and hit bumps but that is kind of charming.
Cheap, WalMart bell. Works great. It does kind of chime as you ride and hit bumps, but I find that rather charming.
Fenders.  These drive me crazy with their rattling, and they are finicky as far as adjusting them so they make less noise (never no noise), or rub.
Fenders. These drive me crazy with their rattling, and they are finicky as far as adjusting them so they make less noise (never no noise), or rub. But they are worth the expense, and trouble.  My most expensive add-on accessory.

Running Ugly Inside

Indoor running track.
Here is a straightaway heading into the weight room area. At this point I am running over the volley ball and basketball court area.

You can run ugly just about anywhere.  even inside.

I an not particularly fond of working out in the gym. I would rather walk, run, or bike outside.  Unfortunately every winter my resolve weakens as the days get short and the temperature goes down.  Running here in MIssouri can be miserable in the winter.  Much more difficult than it was in Colorado. Maybe it is the persistent variability of the weather, the humidity, or lack of sunlight?  I don’t know. I do know Missouri is famous for people having a vitamin D deficiency. Inevitably I resort to running inside.  It happened this week. It wasn’t so bad. Besides, I am lucky because we have an excellent facility here with a track, a huge indoor pool, great equipment, and reasonable cost with no contract.

In the past I was never able to keep accurate track of how many laps I had ran.  Last night I figured out how to solve this problem by using the standard issue clock app that came with my iPhone:

Skiing Ugly: Cross-Country Skiing for Winter Fitness

The Running Ugly  philosophy is to start where you are and doing what you can while you are there.  It is about taking advantage of the moment without worrying what others have to say, nor how you look.  That philosophy certainly translates well to cross-country, or Nordic, Skiing.

I have wanted to cross-country ski for years but never had the opportunity.  This summer the local Goodwill store had a pair of skis and I purchased them for eight bucks.  Here in Missouri we maybe have good conditions for Nordic skiing once or twice a winter.  The weather is so erratic.  But, I figured I would be prepared when the weather presented an opportunity .   I walked home, a bit over a mile, with skis on my shoulder, wearing shorts, and a t-shirt.  I noticed one guy in a pickup  was busy laughing and taking pictures.  I wish I had some of his pictures for this post.

My cross-country skiing equipment.
My cross-country skiing equipment.

Over the summer I ordered a pair of boots from eBay, then a pair of bindings when the ones on the skis turned out to be the wrong kind for the new boots, and a pair of adjustable pools from my son-in-law.  I was ready  to go for just under sixty dollars.  All I needed was snow.  In the meantime we had  decided to take a trip to Denver, for downhill skiing at the Loveland Ski Area, and enjoy the sights. I was ready.  I packed my  Nordic gear.

We were supposed to go downhill skiing on Monday, December 29th, but the weather turned bitter cold, and it snowed in Colorado for two days.  We postponed our ski trip until New Years Day when it was scheduled to warm up (which it did). In the meantime it was brutally cold, and I was not looking forward to spending two days inside with nothing to do but read or watch television.  I decided to bundle up and go out into the snow for my first ever cross-country skiing excursion. With the temperature in the single-digits, and the wind-chill in the double-digits I went outside.

DSC_0273I had read a couple of books at the library, and barely knew how to put the gear on.  Jenifer acted as the event photographer, and made sure I had my  cell phone in case I got into trouble.  I put on a lot of layers, managed to get the skis on, and headed out for my great adventure. Without further ado I was off and cross-country skiing.  It was not pretty, nor fast, but I was living the dream. I had no idea what to expect.  I had not even been downhill skiing in over 15 years, and the weather was much colder than I was accustomed to.  As a matter of fact, I had  never been outside for an extended period of time in such weather conditions.  It was great.  I learned a lot.

DSC_0276First of all I learned how to cross-country ski.  I skied for over eighty minutes the first day, and skied the same distance in just over an hour the second day when it was even colder.  The first day my left ski came off at least five times, and I fell about five or six times.  The second day both skis stayed on, and I only feel twice.  I was also much more relaxed on the second day. I even found myself smiling like I do sometimes when I am running or riding my bike.  Having fun, like a kid.  What about comfort?  I was never cold either day.  I was wearing good gear, was well layered, and a time or two even became a bit overheated.

There is something magical about cross-country skiing, and it was everything I had hoped it would be.  There is a beautiful, harsh, starkness that is unique to winter with the snow and the cold.  Then there is the sound.  That muted sound of winter.   It felt good to be out in the snow, and in the cold, and moving.  I can’t wait to do it again. It makes you feel alive.

Nordic ski binding.
Nordic three pin ski binding for 75mm LEFT boot. I had this on my right foot the day before.

I learned a lot.  For example, I learned that Nordic bindings, at least the kind I have now, have a left and a right.  I had my  bindings on the wrong foot which is what caused the one binding to keep falling off because it was not closing properly.  I also learned that I have no reason not to train (walking, running, or Nordic skiing) in the harsh conditions here Missouri.  Why? I have already done all three in Colorado under much harsher conditions than I am likely to encounter here.  I also learned to deal with the apprehension, and fear, of trying something new and perhaps failing.  I learned one other thing.  Cross-country skiing is not only great fun, it is great exercise.  It is the only other exercise I would rather do than run.  That is saying a lot.

If you want to try this sport keep an eye out for used equipment – especially in the summer when people are cleaning stuff out of their basements and garages.  I think my strategy of finding a good set of used skis, and building from that was a good one. My skis are the waxless variety, and they worked great. From what I understand you are supposed to be fitted for your skis, but I figured if I was close enough I would be fine.  I was fine.  I think buying the boots new was a good idea, and I love the ones I purchased online.  They are warm, and kept my feet dry.  The adjustable poles allowed me to experiment.  The tricky part was figuring out what kind of bindings I had, and trying to match up with the right boots.  THAT is essential. They did not match and I had to order a new set of bindings, I mentioned this earlier,  for about ten bucks.  I removed the old bindings and mounted the new ones following the directions I found online.  By the way, never trust just one source online for something critical like mounting ski bindings, but I strongly suspect that Nordic bindings are much easier to work with than the downhill variety.  Here in the midwest Nordic skiing is not as popular as in other regions so the do-it-yourself approach was a necessity.  There is not a ski shop in town.

If you want to do something do it.  If I had waited for someone to teach me, for someone to go with me out into the cold,  or for the perfect equipment I would still be thinking about it.  I’ve done that kind of thing for too long anyway.  Confucius was right “Perfect is the enemy  of the good.”  I am not a perfect skier, but I have a good time doing it – flaws and all.

There is snow in the forecast.  I might just get lucky.