Category Archives: Personal Discipline

General Fitness Classes

Many gyms have a variety of fitness classes available at various times of day. My own predisposition has been to attend classes in general fitness. These are mostly classes that include a general warm up of most muscle groups and aerobic exercise at the beginning. This include as general self assessment of heart rate at the beginning when one is getting warmed up through movement exercises, moving arms, legs, hips, torso and so on. Doing so as a group led by an exercise instructor is useful, and little thinking or planning is involved. There’s no standing around talking or resting. It’s an all out effort usually to the tune of some music and a smiling instructor asking occasionally: “how’s your heart rate now?” It’s all mindless, and one is usually guided through numerous exercises in which eventually every muscle in the body moves. That’s a big plus for a beginner who has not yet had a lot of experience planning his or her own exercise routines.

In addition to comprehensive, low intensity work-out using many more of the body’s muscles than you might use on your own, instructors will generally guide you through balance exercises as well as stretching exercises. The latter will tend to come near the end of the work out.

After the first 15 minutes of warm ups are completed a 2-3 min Tai-Chi exercise is often initiated. This calms the heart a bit, reducing rate of blood flow. It also get you ready for phase two which includes small weights, usually only something in the 3-8 pound range. If you have never done such an exercise class before, use the smaller weights or even the smallest available. Instructor will guide you through exercises with many repetitions and the weights will generally start to feel rather toward the end of a particular exercise segment. In general, instructors are able to make use of dumb-bells to guide participants through exercise for the arms, shoulders, chest, back, core (abdominal), and leg muscles. Sub-routines for each of those muscle groups can sometimes be part of particular exercise class on Monday, but you may not see it again until Friday. In this way, instructors guide participants through many different exercise over time and those who attend regularly have the benefits of a total body workout.

After working with weights many instructors will go back to general exercise routines in the first part, though not in the same order. The purpose is to give the heart an opportunity to elevate again, not excessively but enough to get the blow flow rate up and perhaps develop a mild to moderate sweat. Toward the end of this routine many instructors will initiate a moderate Tai-Chi routine with some stretching of abdominal, torso and back muscles emphasized. Many instructors will add balance-practicing routines at this stage. Afterwards, extended stretching of both upper and lower body will tend to complete the work out.

Many instructors will have at least two water breaks built into the one hour long class. It is, of course, necessary to stay hydrated during exercise routines of any duration whether you are doing them in a well-thought through class or on your own in the gym.

Fitness classes with heavier weights to build greater strength are also available at most gyms, yet these are not advisable for those just beginning. Classes that emphasize cycling are also generally available as are yoga classes. The latter, indeed fit well with general conditioning classes of the kind described above. However, yoga for beginners should be considered by those who are just getting started in a serious strength conditioning program. In particular yoga helps with flexibility, by helping to break the adhesions that stiffen the joints, thus measurably improving flexibility. Strength, flexibility and balance are extremely important particularly as we age.


Developing the Right Exercise Program For You

Muscle Training: At the beginning any heavy lifting with weights should be avoided. Small size weights (2-10 pounds) with small number of repetitions for each exercise offers a good place to start. You can join an exercise group, join a gym which will have professionals skilled at weight training and other forms of exercise, or you can develop your own program working from descriptions and photos or videos of workouts shown on various Internet sites that are not difficult to find. Gradually you will pick up the pace and develop a specific program emphasizing different muscle groups on different days of the week.

Try to do a 20 min workout with weights three times a week at the beginning. You can emphasize two muscle groups for each of the three sessions. For example, on day one you can emphasize arms and shoulders; day two, chest and back and on day three, core and leg muscles. Arms, shoulders, back and chest muscles can be done with dumb bells or bar bells. So can core and leg exercises, but with both core and leg muscles you have many more options. There are a substantial number of core exercises such as crunches, sit-ups, plank, side-bends and so-forth that can be done with and without weights. Many of these can be combined with a small of large heavy ball held in the hands. Read in othere Internet sites about the use of the “medicine ball” and the “Swiss ball.”

For legs, in addition to various resistance machines in gyms, you can use both dumb bells and bar bells as well. However, during our waking hours we use our leg muscles nearly all the time when we are walking about or running or cycling. When getting started as I noted in yesterday’s blog post a half mile to a one mile walk each morning or evening will harden up the leg muscles substantially over the first month of your new exercise routine. Gradually, you can add some running to the daily routine or you can ride a bike. Either of these strategies will increase your use of specific leg muscles that are used not quite as much in simple walking. It is not uncommon to develop cramps in specific leg muscles if your approach this phase of activity with greater zeal than you should at the outset. Once again, start slow and pick this up the pace as you become used to the workout.

Eventually, you can walk or run or run-walk or simple fast walk 4-5 miles a day. This may take about an hour or less. Humans walking at a fast pace will walk about 4 miles and hour. At a relatively leisurely pace 2.8-3.0 miles per hour is easily achieved.

If you want to monitor your walking independently various devices are available which will help you keep track of your steps, mileage and/or calories burned during the walk. The best of these in my view is a FitBit, that is worn on your wrist. It may linked to your computer, tablet or phone to keep tabs on the numbers of steps or miles walked as well as the numbers of calories burned each time you go our for a walk. You computer will keep track of everything, even the number of steps taken each time you go to the bathroom during the night.

Another alternative to keep track of the leg exercises is to use a treadmill. You can vary the speed and most treadmills will monitor heart rate and allow you to go at a “fat burn” pace which is 60 percent of your maximum age-adjusted heart rate or a little faster up to about 80 percent of maximal heart rate for briefer periods. In the latter case, slowly working up to an 80 percent rate after about 12-15 minutes and staying there for 3-5 minutes is an excellent invigorating exercise that will keep the heart muscles fit. Once you are in pretty good shape from a combination of weight loss and exercise you may want to try this (provided your heart is generally healthy and your physician agrees). I personally do this 2-3 times a week. In addition, these strategies on the treadmill represent an alternative to the other walking, running or other leg exercise routines noted above, and should not be done in addition. You may also wish to substitute some of the above leg weight training with cycling.

During all resistance training with weights as well as roadwork, drink plenty of water. A rule of thumb is 6-8 oz glasses of water for one who is at or near optimal weight. Initially though, if you are over weight then add an additional 8 oz glass of water for each 5 pounds you are overweight. Thus, if you are 20 pounds overweight and on an exercise program approximated by the above, you should drink about 10-8 oz glasses of water (or about 80 oz of water a day) Coffee and tea and all other liquids consumed during the day should not be counted as part of this total.

In general, you should eat sensibly consuming relatively more protein and fiber at the expense of carbohydrate and fat. Drink small amounts of coffee or tea and no caffeinated soft drinks if possible. Keep your consumption of alcohol down as well. We’ll come back to dietary issues in a subsequent blog post.

Getting Into Shape — Getting Started

We don’t really take our health as seriously as we should, and in the modern era we find ourselves in a dilemma. We tend to eat too much of the wrong kinds of food. We fall ill from nutritional deficiencies, we gain weight, often to excess, and we fall ill from one of a number of chronic diseases. Each of these evolves from imbalances created by our improper dietary habits. Modern humans are thus falling ill in increasing numbers from diabetes, heart disease and cancer and other maladies at a time when medicine has evolved effective treatments for them. Life expectancy even for serious cases of these disorders have increased, but many times people still die prematurely. All this notwithstanding, life expectancy for modern humans in most advanced countries, not still plagued by serious infectious disease, has increased substantially.

In America and in some of the countries of western Europe, serious efforts to adjust diets and to improve the activity profile of the populous may show us a way to reduce the incidence of such chronic diseases. Eating more fruits and vegetables, and increasing protein and fiber in the diet in relative terms, are approaches to decreasing the relative excess intake of carbohydrate. These dietary adjustments can have a major impact especially when combined with a sensible exercise program that evolves from modest to more intense efforts over time.

To get started just eat less and exercise more. If you are 30-50 or more pounds overweight and have sedentary habits, it won’t be easy. Start slow with both diet and exercise programs. Cut out the sweets and junk foods, especially those with high calorie density (more calories per bite). Increase chicken & fish at the expense of fatty red meats, and increase fiber (oatmeal, beans and other grains). Eat low blood-sugar-producing fruits and vegetables at the expense of starchy vegetables. Also, drink plenty of water. Reduce portion sizes from the outset and eat smaller amounts 5-6 times a day instead of larger amounts 1-3 times a day. If you want to count calories you can, but the most effective strategy is to weight in once a week or once a month and keep track of your weight reduction progress. You want to lose something like 5-6 pounds a month. Over time you’ll be losing less weight on a monthly basis until you reach your goal.

Exercise is exceptionally important. During weight loss without exercise you will naturally lose both fat and muscle. The exercise routine is intended to put your skeletal muscle back into shape and add more to it than is taken away by the weight loss process. You also need protein in the diet to help compensate for the protein lost during weight loss. Start slow by using small weights at first. Later, weight size will increase. The intent is to develop routines to exercise the arms, shoulders, back, chest and the abdominal region, both front and back (often called the core region) and finally the legs. Combine your weight exercise routine with walking or cycling to work the legs/lower body. You can also work on improving your flexibility with stretches or a yoga class. We’ll come back and look at the exercise program in much more detail in a later blog post.

Blog Entries for 2015

In 2012, I started in earnest making daily entries into this blog. I decided on twelve separate topics to write about daily and I did that for the entire year of 2012. It was a good discipline, a way to think things through. I wrote on one topic each month.

Even though many of us think we have ideas straight in our minds, often we do not. I am not suggesting we delude ourselves into thinking we have a clear idea of some thought we have previously worked through, but it is true that if we try to write out the main elements of the idea we think we firmly understand, we invariably clarify some parts of it and we are often surprised by what comes pouring out onto the page.

Thus, the process of writing out an essay on a idea or topic we thought had been pretty well worked over and sorted out is, almost invariably, a humbling experience. What we know after the fact is often so much more than we knew in the beginning. Indeed, it gives us cause to wonder whether we had really ever previously thought through the idea when we began writing.

This is a confession I have not previously made in these pages. Thus, The reader is now warned that the writer may have not known very much about what he was talking about when he began to write the essays which will now appear daily throughout the coming year. However, the reader will hopefully learn something from the finished products, but perhaps not as the writer learned in their construction.

This month I will write about various approaches I have developed to maintain and improve on personal fitness. I think this is an incredibly important topic generally, especially in a population that is aging. Some say we are not aging well, but that is an individual matter. Here I will look at the issue from a personal perspective, and from every angle that has become important to me over the course of the last several years. You can take what lessons you may find valuable from these pages over the next month and apply them in your own lives or not. That’s something which is up to you. If you try some things and find them valuable you can add a comment at the end of the relevant essay. Your comments can be general or specific. Your comment be easily made, and while I can edit submitted comments, I rarely do. I encourage you to leave comments. It informs what we do. Issues that come up in the comments sections of daily posts I may take up more generally in subsequent essays — should I do that I will refer readers back to the part of the original comments that inspired the extended commentary. In can also just make a comment to the comment where it is posted.

Finally, I should say than most blog posts appearing daily this month and in subsequent months will be greater than 300 words but usually less than 1000 words in length. In general, each will be a fairly quick read. Have fun reading the posts, make a few notes and comment if you are motivated to do so.

Too Much Money At The Top

Salaries and benefits for those members of the workforce who are presumably at the top of their game have become increasingly excessive. Some of these individuals are to be sure very good at what they do and and thus paid accordingly. CEOs and others in the business world or in other professional pursuits such as professional athletics, high levels of government, or banking and finance have been able to market their skills effectively and, in fact, have become overpaid.

Those who are paid in the millions or in stock options or using other financial strategies sometimes think they are doing what they love to do, but watch them move around from company to company or team to team if the financial package is not right. It seems that some work early in life to develop that 100 million dollar IRA and don’t stop there. Indeed, well before the money is lodged away, those who come up to even a far more modest level have, as the saying goes, more money than they know what to do with — especially if their real day to day needs are modest.

Even at the relatively low end of those whose compensation is in the multimillion dollar range the money one is paid is almost self propagating. Even if you have the paltry sum of a million in “extra money” that you don’t need for day to day expenses, wise investment is likely to get you something on the order of 10 percent, even half that is a decent sum when accumulated with compound interest over 30 years. And so, many invest the money partly in very safe, low return investments and partly in higher return investments that may have some additional risk.

Thus, at a rather modest level of accumulation salaries that are increasingly well in excess of minimal can effectively be self-propagating. Indeed, after accumulating a few million, there is no reason to work. One can get by just managing investments. Yet, that seems not to be the game. The game may be either to accumulate money and manage it for some interesting purposes, alternatively one may enormously enjoy the work that just happens to be doing something that is highly valued. Perhaps some of these people don’t pay any attention to their salaries unless they are too low relative to what they perceive to be their self worth. So, things can get complicated, but what is certain is that compensation levels for perhaps 10 percent of the population of this country is at such a level that they do not worry much about survival in the sense that someone might if they were making at or near minimum wage.

In the present strategy for bringing the economy back to life after the near death experience of 2008, the regeneration of the financial capacity of large banks and the Federal Reserve Bank’s quantitative easing program favor those with most of the country’s money. That to be sure also has a trickle down effect, but what it means is that fairly modest IRAs are partially rebuilt while the big investors cash in, and so the rich get richer, salaries and wages for those at the bottom to middle ranges stay more or less the same as prices for essential commodities climb, causing the numbers of poor and disenfranchised to expand.

What To Do Until The Collapse Comes

I’m imagining that we can move slowly toward a collapse the details of which may be impossible to define, but we can certainly foresee it in broad terms as I have tried to show in recent blog posts. We can see it coming to individuals and even to groups. They gradually lose jobs or are always moved down the scale to lower and lower paying jobs, but none of those jobs provide a way to stay out of poverty. Of course, we can think ourselves too smart and wake up one morning in the midst of the collapse we knew was coming, but failed to see it until it was upon us.

In view of the possibility that the forthcoming collapse may not be wide spread enough to include me for years yet, I decided to get ready for it — especially because I might be wrong and the collapse might be closer than I think. Also, I thinking it may start and then things will become more difficult gradually. I won’t wake up some morning having gone from comfortable to destitute overnight. It may be upon me over a period of months or more.

I’m assuming it will be hard to move around unless one has a bicycle or something that moves on battery power that I can charge using my own solar system. I don’t know much about solar, but it appears to can build your own systems for about 10 percent the cost of a commercial system. I’ve built my own solar oven, but I need to improve on the design, or learn to eat food that doesn’t need to be cooked. I’ll also need some good water filtration systems for water to drink or cook with. Of course, I’ll use natural gas until it becomes too expensive. I expect the price to go up 10-100 fold so I’ll have to use far less of it that I do currently.

In general, it doesn’t cost too much to either cool or warm the house. I’ve been insulating and buying a little extra warm clothing. I need enough solar to run things minimally. The house is well designed with the bedrooms on the far ends. They can be closed off on cold days, but it’s not as cold even in winter as it used to be.

Initially, the living quarters should be adequate. I’ll have to adjust if natural gas costs increase as much as I think they will. Also, hang drying washed clothes may become important.

In general, the living space will be adequate with diminished heating and cooling and electricity needs diminished appropriately.

To get around, I have a bike which I keep in good working order. It will be useful for going off to get provisions as needed — Ana as long as they are available.

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening in past years and I’ll need to increase that and get used to both freezing crops, storing in some in root cellar of canning. I suspect it will be mostly freezing and root cellar storage of crops from the expanded garden.

I’m increasing my tool supply, especially old time and some nice modern tools for building and repairing items with non-power tools. As some stage electricity needs won’t be able to handle critical needs if I have too many power tools.

Strategies For Surviving Should We Move Further Toward Collapse

In due course, as many people in American society are underutilized, they will develop mutually supportive strategies quite naturally. Many may be homeless or on the edge of homelessness. They may be desperate or close to it, but they will not be in a vacuum. They will know or meet and collaborate others who are perhaps only doing somewhat better, and with whom they may be able to band together to find new ways way to survive.

In the extreme case, they may takeover unused or abandoned houses, garages, old barns or sheds or even hand-crafted shelters at the edges of sparsely wooded areas where they may fashion an acceptable shelter while gathering foods, discarded tools, implements or other items that may help them support their existence. From close-by areas they may gather wood, fashion gardens to grow edible crops, from seed or from wild edible plants they may be able to transplant or obtain seeds from. Useful tools of all sorts may be obtained from garbage dumps if the latter are nearby. Wood, metal, glass of any size or shape may be useful as may be tools, especially those which operate mechanically and do not require electricity to run. The individual members of these groups may have a little money and may thus be able to buy useful items at garage sales assuming they are near enough to the suburban outskirts of cities. Of course, their situation may not be entirely desperate, but they may still require a means to create or acquire a suitable shelter, find food and water and gradually improve conditions to the benefit of all.

There were many such experimental communes created in the 1960s but by comparison with what some may need to do now, it won’t be a game many are playing for philosophical reasons. At the end of the 1960s most or those who had established experimental communes gave them up, put on old suits and rejoined the establishment. That won’t be so easy to do if it happens now.

In a society that is on the edge of collapse for whatever the reasons, the very young and the very old are at greatest risk. Also, add those young who are a little older, but not yet well-educated or trained to do something of value to the society, as well as the not quite so old with marginal skills or with soft job skills in industries that are declining or changing. Many in this latter group, if they have jobs, they are either marginal ones or part-time and not well-paying. Others may be mostly out of work, or depending on occasional or temporary work. Thus, many may have funds but still they may not be able to afford food, shelter and transportation on their own. They will be living on the edge. Many may want to consider collectives or communes — indeed, many may be doing so now.

Such communes may be a natural collaboration between between young and old with some means, but who, in neither case can make it comfortably on their own. The young may be better at foraging for wood, metal and other supplies on expeditions to junk yards, garbage dumps, garage sales or other places where needed materials can be collected. The elderly can take care of children, tend gardens, repair housing, add insulation, fashion improvements in living space and take care of really young children who cannot care for themselves. When people come together and they have mutually supportive skills one plus one almost always becomes more than two.