The 13 Minute Weight Routine?

person holding barbell
Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

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: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30153194 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.

 

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Book of the Week: Run Until You’re 100 by Jeff Galloway

This is another Jeff Galloway classic. I have written about one other book of his – he is a prolific writer.   It’s been around for a while but I finally decided to buy it a couple of weeks ago after about 6 or 8 months, maybe even longer, of nagging injuries. Also, it was after I had turned sixty. After reading the book I decided to finally give his method a try.

Jeff Galloway is a big proponent of the run walk strategy. It sounds kind of counterintuitive and I resisted it for about 2 years now although I’ve recommended it to other people. I just didn’t think it was for me. But after turning 60, and after those nagging injuries I referred to earlier left me sidelined, unable to run, I decided I needed to give it a serious try. I committed myself to one week of running and walking. The results were surprising and dramatic.


Not only was I able to run without injury or nagging aches and pains, I ran faster. I trained with a Polar heart monitor, and I discovered something pretty amazing things from the data. For one thing I ran dramatically faster. I’ll be posting some of the screenshots this week from my app  but it was pretty amazing. What was also amazing is how my heart rate responded with this run-walk method as compared to when I usually run. It’s my belief, and I’ll discuss it in another post, that the run-walk method not only reduces injuries and lets you run faster, it mimics high intensity interval training (HIIT)!

When I got back into running several years ago I entered several 5k races and some 10k events. I’ll tell you a secret that I haven’t written.   There were these guys that would run past me, and them  I would pass them latter on while they were walking. However, after that, when I was tiring, they seemed to get stronger and they would pass me again.  Often  I wouldn’t be able to get in front of them that one last time before they crossed the finish line ahead of me. My guess is they were using the Galloway method. Well, God willing, I’m going to be using that method this summer for some upcoming races. I’m especially looking forward to the Show Me State games.

I am a believer. I think I will be using the Galloway method for the rest of my running career.  The injuries really are down, my times are better than they would be otherwise, and I think it will keep me running longer.  This method may not be for  younger runners, but for this sixty year old it is the way to go.  Better than sitting on the porch.

 

Book of the Week – The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training Over 40

As we age we lose strength.  When strength goes so does mobility and balance as well as an increase  of other unpleasantness.  Through the typical bad diet and inactivity we also approach what is called the sick aging phenotype. Although we’re unable to reverse the aging process we are able to mitigate it to a great deal. We’re able to do some things which help us to live longer and better with much more quality of life. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, and you’re over 40, this is the book for you.

This is a howto book on how to get stronger using just five or so basic exercises. Barbell exercises such as the squat, deadlift, press, and bench press.  It’s based on research, and experience. It is an outgrowth of the Starting Strength approach by Mark Rippetoe.

Order the book.  Spend a week or so reading it cover to cover, and then think about how you might implement the program. I have found it to be effective.  One serious consideration though.  You must know how to perform the exercises precisely or you will get injured. I suggest a personal trainer. I am calling one today.

Closing thoughts.  At 60 years of age I want to remain as healthy and active as I can.  I also want to do it in an intelligent, empirically driven, fashion. I really think this book offers that.   But, the barbell prescription is powerful medicine.  Use it with care.

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.

WillPower: The Book

The single best nonfiction book I have read this year, and maybe the best one I have read in three or more years, was Willpower:  Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister, and  John Tierney published by The Penguin Press in 2011.  I will save you the trouble and provide you the Amazon link here.  According to Wikipedia Roy Baumeister is the internationally known “Francis Eppes Professor of Psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.”  You can also visit his faculty web site.

This book offers remarkable insight into the obstacles we face when losing weight, exercising, and otherwise trying to lead an organized, healthy, fulfilling, and productive lifestyle.

I always highlight, and write notes when I read, if the book is intriguing. I then go back and take notes.  I have not done that yet, but below is a list of the most memorable, and useful items, that I remember from my first visit. In no particular order:

  • although we can increase our capacity for using willpower, it is also something that can be depleted.  When it is depleted you make bad choices you regret later.
  • making too many decisions too fast can deplete willpower. This phenomenon is known as decision fatigue and is related to the next item:
  • willpower requires energy (our brain is 2% of our body but consumes a whooping 20% of the total calories we burn).  If our energy is depleted our willpower, along with other functions, decreases.
  • we can have too many goals.  It is not a good idea to have a large  laundry list of goals (and goals are not to be confused with tasks).  Finishing a degree, writing that novel, and remodeling the house, while you are trying to lose weight is probably not a good idea.
  • organization is the friend of willpower.  The more organized you are the less stress, and cognitive energy, goes into finding things, doing things at the last minute or missing deadlines, and worrying about what has not been done.  Unfinished business, commitments, and obligations creates an “open loop.” This leads to yet one more item:
  • I personally think that it is essential to have some kind of organizing system like the Getting Things Done (GTD) system of David Allen which postulates the aforementioned “open loop” problem.  Tame your tasks. Unfinished business creates an open loop and we often have lots of little, and big, unfinished tasks, commitments, and promises. We are into something else, or maybe two other things, and suddenly remember another thing we forgot to do because we have no system of keeping track of what needs to be done, and what has already been accomplished.  That is known as a todo list my friend.  Get one, and love it.   The GTD system is specifically mentioned in the book and I have had fantastic results with it so far and I am just in the early stages of learning it.  I will be reviewing that book next since I am still reading it.
  • avoid having to make too many decisions and especially trivial ones.  Make a decision, and unless it is a disaster or obviously the wrong one stick with it.   Either have yogurt or egg whites for breakfast and stop worrying about it. They are both good choice.  Wear the gray or black socks.  Does it Preplanning meals, workouts, and activities is a best practice.  You can be flexible but don’t fret too much about first world problems or matters that well, don’t matter.
  • habits are your friend.  If something is habitual you don’t have a chance to think about it.

I also think that reducing clutter (in all areas of your life), and practicing some degree of minimization is helpful.  Everything is connected.

The book is not the complete instruction manual for building willpower I was hoping for.  It was also written in 2011, and I am sure there has been a lot of good research since then.  But, it is entertaining, and filled with lots of great information that you can apply.  I will be investigating the phenomenon of what we call willpower from the psychological and neuroscience perspective to try to see what best practices are being developed.  It is a fascinating and useful field.

Will Running a Marathon Make You Skinny? A Surprising Answer is Not Necessarily

The marathon is the iconic distance shrouded in mystery, and crowned with glamor. Just finishing it is considered an accomplishment.  At one time it was widely believed that just running a marathon would make you immune from a heart attack, and this belief was widely held until running evangelist Jim Fixx, and best selling author of The Complete Book of Running, died of a heart attack – while running:

Fixx often quoted California pathologist Tom Bassler who stated that any nonsmoker who could run a marathon in under four hours would never die from a heart attack.

www.villages-news.com/remembering-running-guru-jim-fixx/

So, can people run marathons without necessarily losing weight?  The study is small, the exact implications are not clear, but fitness researcher Mary Kennedy of the Harvard Medical School was surprised to find  that for whatever reason some people who run marathons will not necessarily loose. weight. There are many breathless iterations of this story on the web, and I have not been able to find the original research, but New York Magazine’s “The Science of Us” web page carried the most reasonable version of the story stripped of the sensationalism. Here is a quote from that story:

She conducted a small, simple pilot study, limited to her group of 64 charity runners, comparing their weight before starting the training program to their weight after completing it. About 11 percent of them did lose weight, but just as many gained weight (and of those who gained, 86 percent were women). But for the remaining 78 percent, their weight stayed almost exactly the same, even after three months of running four days a week.

This summer Runners World ran a remarkable article about Mirna Valerio who is a 250 lb, and they actually use the term, “obese runner.”  She is a distance runner who also runs the occasional marathon.  You can read the story here:  http://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/ultra  and I urge you to visit her  interesting blog Fat Girl Running.

So now we know that running marathons does not guarantee that you will not have a heart attack, and there continues to be reports of runners who look fit, but who die while running like my friend and mentor Arne Richards, of whom Joe Henderson has written so movingly.

We need to understand that being thin, my friend Arne was very thin with practically no body fat when he died while running at age 42, does not guarantee being physically fit or healthy. Same thing applied to Jim Fixx.  Conversely, we need to understand that running long distances is no guarantee of shedding pounds.  It is more complicated than that.

A life of holistic moderation lived mindfully is the target that I am aiming for.  That includes a good diet, adequate sleep, reducing stress, and an exercise regime that is backed by empirical evidence rather than wishful, and simplistic, thinking.  All of these things work together.  I will close now by referring you to an article in Women’s Running by Rachel Cosgrove which is simply outstanding.  It is entitled Weight Loss Fact and Fiction.  Please read it.

“You can’t out train a bad diet.”

I am working on the post about weight training at home I promised a couple of days ago.  But, I read about this video in the Runner’s World article by Amby Burfoot, and it made a tremendous impression on me.

Intuitively we know this to be true.  But to actually see it in this video really drives it home.  For all the emphasis we put on exercise, and it is important, it is the diet that is making the biggest difference.  Another hard truth is that the standard diet in America is fundamentally unhealthy.  This video, and the movie/book  Forks Over Knives along with the movie/book Fast Food Nation has convinced me, that for me, a vegan diet is the way to go.  I don’t advocate vegan for everyone, but for me it works.