Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My seven forbidden C foods

Whenever I need to drop a few pounds and look leaner, I’ve learned to completely eliminate from my diet my seven forbidden C foods. I recently did this to drop about 5 pounds for an Olympic weightlifting competition. I did not eat these “foods” at all for about 3 weeks. 

My longest stint enforcing the seven forbidden C foods ban was in 2007. I completely avoided these foods starting on New Year’s Day and continuing until April 18th when I arrived in Italy for a 17-day vacation and gelato orgy.

Here are my seven forbidden C foods:

Cakes – there is no reason to eat this stuff if you are a middle-age man unless you can really eat it in moderation and only on special occasions. Problem is, at least for me, that once I start eating it I want more so I do better to avoid it completely.

Cookies – again there’s no reason to eat cookies if you get right down to it other than for the pure joy of gluttony. I’ve met very few people in my life who can eat just one. Most people who eat cookies believe if one is good, then two must be better, and if two are better then three must be great, etc., etc.

Candies – put a jar of candies in an office setting and watch how fast they disappear, particularly if nobody is looking. Isn’t it amazing? Blame the women but many a man has been caught red-handed.

Chocolate – some would say that chocolate is a form a candy but with its revered status, chocolate deserves to be in a category of its own. Show me a person who doesn’t like chocolate and I’ll show you a person who is not telling the truth.

Ice cream – on a hot summer day, who can pass up a double or triple scoop ice cream cone, or a dish of gelato while on an Italian vacation? Regular and secret ice cream consumption has made many a middle-age man look like someone who is pregnant expecting twins.

Crackers – crackers are part of the salty snack family, favored by the salt-tooths of the world. You know who these people are, seeing them at Costco with a shopping cart loaded of king-sized boxes of crackers of all types. These people sometimes are cheese junkies and like to eat crackers with a slice of cheese in the middle as if they are eating a sandwich.

Chips – barbeque potato chips and taco or nacho chips are the preferred chip food selections. I’ve seen people eat a large bag of barbeque chips without any help from anyone else. The taco and nacho chip junkies like salsa, guacamole or melted cheese to make for a calorie-dense snack experience.

Yes, these “foods” are fun to eat but many middle-age men like me can’t eat them in moderation. So whenever the stakes are high or its time for a photo shoot, or if I get tired of looking at myself in the mirror looking like a chipmunk who is harvesting chestnuts, I’ll go cold turkey and enforce a strict prohibition of eating my seven forbidden C foods.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, September 29, 2008

Except the 99 year old man

For every middle-age man I’ve talked to who has told me they wouldn’t want to live forever is one who would. Those who say they wouldn’t are generally ones who witnessed an aging parent or relative suffering from a chronic or terminal illness. They may have served as a caretaker and seen the agony and pain of their loved one clinging to life at the very end. My wife and I experienced this several years ago when we brought an older person into our home who had cancer and no immediate family to care for him. We served as comfort caregivers in the days leading up to his surgery, witnessing his horrific agony and pain as cancer attacked his body. Despite his pain, this man had great hopes that the surgery would be successful so his life could go on; in other words, he preferred life rather than death. God had a different plan for him, however, when died about two months later.

Some elderly clients have told me they wouldn’t want to live forever if it got to the point where they couldn’t live independently because they wouldn’t want to be a burden of their adult children. Interestingly is that, in most cases, they refer to the same adult children who will inherit whatever financial fortune amassed during their lifetime. The key phrase here is “if they got to the point where they couldn’t live independently”; otherwise they would prefer life rather than death. It is normal human behavior to have this preference, even among the most devoutly religious who believe a wonderful eternal life awaits them in heaven.

With this preference of life rather than death are thoughts that old is what other people are, and that you are only old if there isn’t someone out there who is older than you. An elderly client of mine who is 89 years young said it best when he once told me “ain’t no man wants to live to be 100 except the 99 year old man.”

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It can wait until Monday

If Pierini Fitness was a bricks and mortar business establishment and you walked to the front door entrance, you’d see a sign that would say CLOSED ON SUNDAY.

Sunday is a day I give my brain, body and spirit a rest from the daily rigors of life. So once again, I’m taking the day off. That great blogflection I wanted to share – it can wait until Monday.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My 6-grip pullup/chinup medley

During my 3 years of bodyweight-only training, the pullup was a staple of my exercise program. 

It wasn't uncommon for me to do more than 100 repetitions done as part of a circuit training workout.

These circuits were often pull/push in design. I'd do a set of pullups then follow immediately with either pushups or bar dips. 

Sometimes the sets would be maximum rep efforts with longer rest times between sets. Other times the sets would sub-maximum rep efforts with shorter rest times. 

The only thing constant during my pullup mania training era was change and variety. It served me well.

I had a favorite pullup workout and did it once a week. It consisted of 6 sets of pullups or chinups. 

Each set was done with a different grip for a maximum rep effort. I rested exactly 2 minutes between sets. 

All reps were done with good form so they were not of kipping variety. I called this workout my 6-grip pullup/chinup medley. It consisted of the following:

Standard grip pullup - the good old-fashioned standard pullup where your palms face away and a grip width of about 24 to 26 inches.

Standard grip chinup - again this is the standard garden-variety chinup where your palms face you and you have the same grip width as the standard grip pullup.

Close grip pullup - your palms face away and your grip width is very narrow so that your hands are almost touching.

Close grip chinup - your palms face you and your grip width is very narrow just like the close grip pullups.

Wide grip pullup - your palms face away and you have a very wide grip width, as wide as is comfortably possible.

Wide grip chinup - your palms face you and you have a very wide grip width just like the wide grip pullups.

Assuming that each set takes 30 seconds to perform and you take the suggested 2-minute rest between sets, this workout takes 15 minutes to complete. 

Don't be surprised if the next day your ab/core muscles are a little sore from being worked because they were.

Count your reps for each set and add them to arrive at a total, and then record it in your training journal so you can compare it to subsequent efforts.

My total would average about 50 reps when I regularly performed this medley. It would be less now because I don't do pullups very often.

If you want a longer and a complete whole-body workout, do a set of weighted or bodyweight squats between the sets, but I still suggest you give yourself the 2-minute rest period for best effort performance. 

And if you want something even more than that, add a set of pushups or bar dips to each round, perhaps alternating and doing pushups one round and bar dips the other round. The possibilities are only limited by your creativity.

But if time is short and you want a quick and effective workout, give this workout a try, one of my favorites, my 6-grip pullup/chinup medley.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Friday, September 26, 2008

A dime a dozen

Well according to my definition, a middle-age man is someone who is more than 45 years but less than 70 years of age (see my blogflection of Friday, September 19th). I'm living my 8th year as a middle-age man, and proud to report that I've been fit and healthy all of those years. Thanks be to God!

My travels down the superfitness highway in the fast lane began when I was a young man as a soldier in the US Army, but I spent many young man years unfit and unhealthy chasing a college education and professional career. But that was then and this is now because today I am fit and healthy.

Fitness and good health sure feels good. So does getting compliments from others who tell me I am fit and healthy looking. This feel good feeling motivates me to train harder and eat healthier so I can become fitter and healthier. People notice that I am fitter and healthier and give me new compliments. This "vicious" cycle never ends and, without being on guard, it's very easy for me to become full of myself with this "look how fit and healthy I am" paradigm.

So where does it all end or does it? When I throw in the towel and relax, cutting back on my training and cheating on my healthy eating - enjoying a gluttony of forbidden foods and drinks? Maybe it will take having a major accident resulting in serious physical injury, or contracting a life-threatening illness that puts a different perspective in my narcissistic mind about what matters the most in life. I wouldn't wish that - the major accident or life-threatening illness part - on my worst enemy just like I wouldn't want it for myself. Or maybe it will take getting old and older as if it isn't possible for an old man to be fit and healthy.

Hopefully it doesn't end but stays at a sensible level with my own self-discovery and personal maturity, a sage wisdom that comes in time with aging and living a good and honest life. A self-realization that despite how fit and healthy I think I am, there's really nothing special about it, that I'm not alone but rather in the company of many who are the same as me. An everlasting awakening that I'm nothing more than a dime a dozen.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Always take the stairs

The comforts and conveniences of life in America are so numerous they’re hard to count. No wonder we have to exercise and eat healthy to stay fit and lean.

How about the automobile for starters, capable of taking us both long and short distances - distances so short that we could walk there faster. I’ve been guilty of that even though I make a conscious effort to walk in the pedestrian-friendly community in which I live, like when I drive to the local Starbuck’s only 5 blocks away for a quick-fix early morning cup of coffee.

Or how about the television remote control unit, the one that made all of us surfing experts – channel surfing that is. Imagine all the "exercise" we would get if we got up to change the channel every time we wanted to change the channel? We’d either burn a lot of calories getting up to change the channel, or we wouldn’t burn a lot of calories because we wouldn’t be changing the channel.

Venturing into the kitchen, electric can openers give us the comfort and convenience of quickly opening a can of chili beans to pop into the microwave and get back to the television before the commercial is over. Our unfortunate ancestors from yesteryear never knew such ease.

Automatic garage door openers give us convenience and comfort in rain, sunshine, day or night. We don’t have to get out of our car to open that heavy garage door. They also eliminate differences between men, women, young and old as all can open that heavy garage door as easy as the other.

Well the list goes on and on, but it would not be complete without the elevator. I’ve been in some nice elevators, some nicer than homes in which most people live. There’s a person I know who sells elevators. Not the kind you find in office buildings but elevators for homes. I asked him who buys them, expecting he would tell me that old people do. Was I surprised when he told me most of his customers are people like me. “Wait a minute”, I tell myself. If I’m not old that means young people are buying them. That doesn’t sound right either. If I am a middle-age man that means middle-age people are buying them.

Well I live in a two-story home with a basement. It is 11 stairs from the sidewalk to my front porch, and inside my home it is 16 stairs from the first floor to the second floor. I take the stairs constantly as all the bathrooms and bedrooms are on the second floor. I could use one of those convenient elevators as I go upstairs and downstairs at least twenty times a day.

Then in a moment of clarity I catch myself being mesmerized by another comfort and convenience of modern life. I should be grateful that I have my health and fitness, capable of taking multiple flights of stairs dozens of times a day without being breathless at the top. It is then when I remind myself to not be lazy and always take the stairs.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Get back on the dojo floor

Karate training has been part of what I do for over 15 years. Something changed in 2008, however, and my training has come to a sudden slowdown. Whereas I always trained 3 times a week – Tuesday and Thursday in the evenings and Saturday in the morning – I’m lucky nowadays to get a Saturday morning workout twice a month. I am in a drought and I don’t know what to do about it.

At the peak of my training, I’d make a point of packing my karate gi when going out of town on business and visiting a local dojo to train. The highlight of my travel/training episodes took place while on vacation in Pescara, Italy in 2004 when I found a local dojo and trained one evening. I felt a strong sense of camaraderie with my newly-befriended Italian karate brothers and sisters whom I would only see once in my life that evening. They made me feel very welcome.

There are highs and lows in life and all things that matter, karate included, so I know this slowdown will eventually pass. But that doesn’t keep it from bothering me. A recent and pleasant memory of my training was one Saturday after a workout when I video-recorded me performing a kata named Gosoku. It seemed to be one of my better moving meditations of physical expression - one that I hope to one day do again.

Here is a video of it:

So in my era of martial art flatness, I’ll continue spending time watching old videos, hoping that one of them will inspire and motivate me to get back on the dojo floor.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Abs are made in the kitchen

Go to any magazine stand in the supermarket, find the area where men fitness magazines are located, and then look at the cover titles. More often than not you’ll find that one of the feature articles is about how to build a 6-pack, that term understood by all men to define a chiseled abdomen and core (ab/core) musculature. Most men would rather have, than not, a 6-pack but not all men want it bad enough to do the hard work.

So how bad have I wanted it, a 6-pack that is?

Well at various times I’ve wanted it sort of bad and, like many men, have done various ab/core exercises in chasing that dream. We all began with the basic sit-up as it was the first ab exercise most of us learned, probably in high school physical education classes and then with military fitness training for those of us who served. It is one of three exercises used by the US Army in its basic fitness test.

Later, we became more sophisticated with our ab/core training and started doing other exercises – crunches of all kinds, vertical knee lifts, hanging leg raises, back extensions, planks, side planks, and so forth. Then we may have gravitated toward various ab/core exercise equipment in the modern gyms where we trained; the nice shiny kind that allowed us to work our ab/core muscles while we sat on our butts in a modern air-conditioned gym. I’ve done it all.

The barbell guys laughed at all this because they knew how well their ab/core muscles got worked by doing squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, overhead squats, bent-over rowing and other standing compound movement barbell exercises.

The bottom line is that all of it is good provided we show up and do the hard work. For me, I’ve discovered the effectiveness and safety of the simple ab plank exercise. If there was only one ab/core exercise I could do for the rest of my life, the ab plank would be it.

Bodybuilders know that, in addition to the exercise part of the build a 6-pack equation, diet is very important because behind every big belly are ab/core muscles that aren’t visible to the eye. Look at all the great Olympic super-heavyweight weightlifters with their large protruding bellies. An uninformed eye might conclude that these “fat guys” lack ab/core muscles, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Well I’m not obsessed about building and having a 6-pack. At various times I’ve had very defined ab/core muscles and a bona-fide 4-pack, and caught myself chasing that coveted 6-pack too. But with sage middle-age man wisdom, I eventually made a “business decision” that my time and effort would be better spent elsewhere. In this journey the most important thing I learned is that all good abs are made in the kitchen.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thinking kilos

Growing up in the USA in my generation taught me that weight was measured in pounds. The metric system was something weird that people in other parts of the world used. As a kid, I would read the comic book ads about how Mac the 97 pound weakling became strong following the Dynamic Tension exercise methods of Charles Atlas. Mac the 44 kilo weakling wouldn’t have sounded right even though it’s the same weight.

But my entry into the Olympic weightlifting world has made me think kilos because that is how weight is expressed in that world. I’ve resisted and still think pounds but I’m doing a better job of thinking kilos. I now know that one kilo is 2.2046 pounds. I also know that if I want to compete in the 85 kilo weight class that I better not weigh more than 187.391 pounds.

So with that mindset I entered the Atlas Open, a small local meet on Saturday, September 20th; it was my second Olympic weightlifting competition, the first one being about 6 weeks earlier. I entered the 85 kilo weight class and weighed in that morning at 83.2 kilos (183.4 lbs.)

In the snatch, I opened with 61 kilos (134.5 lbs.) and made that lift. This was 1 kilo more than my first meet attempt. I made that first lift too. For my second attempt I asked for 64 kilos (141.1 lbs.) and missed. I tried again for my third attempt and missed again. So I was 1 for 3 in the snatch just like my first meet.

In the clean and jerk, I opened with 81 kilos (178.6 lbs.) and made that lift. This was also 1 kilo more than my first meet attempt. I made that first lift too. For my second attempt I asked for 84 kilos (185.1 lbs.) and made it. Then I asked for 86 kilos (189.6 lbs.) for my third attempt. I thought I had it but missed with the jerk. The weight fell behind me, something that has never happened before in training or competition. So I was 2 for 3 in the clean and jerk just like my my first meet.

Overall I was 3 for 6 with a total of 145 kilos (319.7 lbs). I was hoping to total 150 kilos but it wasn’t meant to be. I have something to shoot for next time. There is another meet in November that I want to enter. I’ll take one week off for rest and recovery, and then begin training for it.

Slowly but surely I’m improving in the Olympic lifts but it has been a slow journey and I have a long way to go. Not only in mastering the finer points of these very technical lifts, but also keeping my brain thinking kilos.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tired muscles need a rest

Yesterday I competed in my second Olympic weightlifting competition. It was a great experience and I'll have more to say about it tomorrow. Today is Sunday and I am resting because my tired muscles need a rest.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Step onto the platform

Today is my second Olympic weight-
lifting compe-
tition. It is a small local event called the Atlas Open, being held for the first time. There's no masters division so I am competing with everyone else in the 85kg weight class. Mindful that I am really competing against the bar, there is nonetheless a good possibility that I'll rank last place in total weight lifted; I'm OK with that prospect.

Hopefully I'll improve compared to my first competition last month. With 3 attempts each for both the snatch and clean & jerk lifts, it would be nice to go 4 for 6 and maybe get a PR in the process. As a minimum I want to improve my total.

Stay tuned, as I'll have details to share of my experience and maybe a photo or two if I can find someone to be my cameraperson.

Cheer me on because when you read this, I may be ready to step onto the platform.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Friday, September 19, 2008

A middle-age man

As the self-proclaimed ambassador of middle-age men around the world, my first mission is to define who is a middle-age man, or woman for that matter. I'll use "middle-age man" as a unisex term to describe both.

By way of elimination, I'll start with who is an old man. Instructed by my Dad, who once told me that when he turned age 70 he had to get honest that he was old, an old man is anyone age 70 or older. I'm not an old man yet but hopefully one day I will. "Old" is synonymous with "senior citizen". Once a person I knew about 70 years of age asked if I gave senior citizen discounts. I replied yes and she would qualify when 80 years old. Thinking about it now, she probably qualified for a discount then.

A young man becomes one at age 18, old enough to vote, register with the Selective Service in the pool eligible for military service, and drink alcoholic beverages in many states but not California. I was once a young man. A young man remains one until age 45. Why? Because I said so. I once watched a 23-year young man who was struggling with a set of heavy squats at the gym. He racked the barbell when finished and uttered it was hard because he was getting old. "Old" I responded, "there is lent in my belly-button older than you."

So what remains is a middle-age man, someone more than 45 but less than 70 years of age. I am a middle-age man and have worn that medal of honor for years with, hopefully, many more to go. In the health and fitness world, we middle-age men are only as good as our last workout and we are what we eat. So we must train vigilantly, like a soldier preparing for combat duty. Because in the darkness of the night when caught off guard in a moment of weakness and with nobody looking, our middle-age men bodies will scream that they no longer want to do it anymore - train and eat healthy that is.

Look at any middle-age man who has let himself go, gaining excessive weight and becoming physically unfit. Did they consciously make that decision one day when they were fit and healthy? I don't think so. It creeps up disguised as temptation. The temptation of how much more pleasant it would be to come home after work, put on a pair of baggy worn green sweat pants with a loose drawstring, grab a bag of chips and flop on the Lazy Boy recliner with television remote control in hand, ready to do some serious training and watch Judge Judy episodes or the evening news.

So training and eating healthy is something I do. I know I'm only as good as my last workout and I am what I eat. Why? Because I am a middle-age man.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm doing squats

I've been on a hit and miss journey to build squat strength needed for Olympic lifting. The good old-fashioned squat with a barbell like my Dad taught me about 40 years ago. Problem is that years of not doing them has made it a challenging task.

I remember as a skinny teenager accompanying my Dad to the YMCA and being instructed by him how to squat. He was a big believer in the squat. In his younger days he squatted 330 lbs. at a bodyweight of 148 lbs., getting as high as 460 lbs. for a single rep at a bodyweight of about 200 lbs. And it was an old-school squat, deep in the hole or ass-to-grass as it is sometimes called nowadays.

I started off doing half-squats, descending until my butt touched a bench. Then I gravitated lower to a full squat. I don't remember details that well but for sure I was full squatting 135 lbs. for multiple reps when my bodyweight was about the same. It was cool working with the big wheels on the Olympic bar.

I remember doing squats at the gym while in the Army stationed at Osan Air Force base in South Korea. My knees were young and I went low because that is how I was taught. I also remember one time at this gym when an older person, concerned for my safety and well being, told me it wasn't good to squat that way as it was bad for my knees. I appreciated his concern but gave more weight to my Dad's instruction.

But later, along the way of chasing an education and career, fitness training took a big time out and so did lifting weights and doing squats - a big time out as in over 25 years.

Resuming fitness training, squatting is something I didn't do. I know why - it was hard. Machines seemed easier when I returned to the gym. Later when I adopted bodyweight-only training, I did squats except with no weights - bodyweight-only squats - lots of them as in sets of 100 reps or more. I got as high as 300 reps for a single set in my goal of 500 reps, one I never achieved.

So now I do barbell squats and it has been a struggle due to years of neglect and an ACL surgery along the way. I'm doing both back squats and front squats Olympic style, deep in the hole with my upper body as upright as possible. Multiple sets of low reps with challenging weights. It's hard work and the progress has been slow.

I've asked my 82-year-old Dad what he attributes to his good posture and strength. He still lifts weights twice a week in his garage. He's told me more than once that doing squats as a young man gets a lot of the credit.

If it is good for him then it is good for me. So when I go to the gym, I'm doing squats.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eat your age not your appetite

Middle-age men like me are like the cartoon character Yogi Bear in Jellystone Park, hungrier than the average bear always on the hunt for a picnic basket to steal and eat. Not all middle-age men but most.

This voracious appetite started early in our lives as growing kids, playing outdoors from sunrise to sunset in a generation of no indoor computers or video games. These outdoor activities made us extremely hungry and, because we were growing, we ate lots of food. Sure some kids didn't have big appetites. They generally didn't have a good sense of smell, or always had a bellyache from drinking milk because they were lactose-intolerant.

This appetite continued in high school and even grew for us who played sports. High school football players ate the most as they were bigger and all their training required food around the clock. Wrestlers were hungry too but since always trying to make weight, they had the appetite but couldn't do anything about it.

So with years of adolescent appetite training, our big appetite followed us into college and adulthood. Problem is that we were done growing, and the non-stop physical activities requiring big food consumption were substantially reduced; we were college students hitting the books. Those who didn't go to college instead went to work, earning a paycheck and making a living with less time to play.

But the appetite remained.

Fast forward 30 to 40 years later, the appetite is still there but the activities to support it aren't. So it comes as no surprise so many of us middle-age men are overweight with a belly badge of honor and girth, visible proofs for the world to see. Some of us figure it out sooner than later and resume regular physical and fitness activities into our complex middle-age men lives. Hiking, biking, running, pumping iron and good old-fashioned manual labor chores are things we do to fight our belly battle and girth. With awareness and appetite management skills, we try watching what we stuff in our mouths and down our throats. Yet despite these efforts, it's still very hard because of this big appetite developed in our youthful days.

No middle-age man likes to talk about it and many won't even acknowledge it privately, but it is the absolute truth - we are just plain fricking hungry all the time, like the cartoon character Yogi Bear in Jellystone Park on the hunt for a picnic basket to steal and eat.

If you're one of those always-hungry middle-age men like me, next time it's time to eat, before your first bite, take a deep breath and remind yourself to "eat your age not your appetite".

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Run, run, run

Last evening’s walk took me past St. Francis Elementary School where I attended grades 4 through 7 over 45 years ago. It is a stone’s throw from where I now live, across the street from Sutter’s Fort where Sacramento began almost 170 years ago.

Walking past the playground brought back pleasant memories of playing kick ball, dodge ball and tag, all of which required running skills. It also brought back memories of the Batman and Robin and Green Hornet television series.

We were all fascinated with the Green Hornet’s sidekick Kato and his mysterious kung fu martial arts skills. We all wanted to be like Kato, capable of performing lethal flying jump kicks and circular chops and punches. He represented what every kid wanted, the ability to defend himself from the perils of youthful life – self defense at its finest against the most formidable opponents.

Some kids had trained in judo or karate, others knew how to box or wrestle, and yet others were just athletic and big, capable of taking care of themselves. And then there was Glen.

Glen was a scrawny kid everyone liked to pick on. And for some strange reason Glen would do things to get other kids mad and they would push him around. But kids didn’t get very far with Glen as he was the ultimate master of self-defense.

What was this ultimate self-defense system of Glen? Well he didn’t know judo or karate, and he never learned how to box or wrestle. He certainly wasn’t athletic and big. Yet Glen was able to defend himself against a half dozen kids at one time. How do I know? Well I was one of those kids. As hard as we tried, Glen was able to defend himself against all of us. We tried our best for over one hour, yet Glen’s body and face did not bear one bruise, cut or scratch.

And by the way, Glen was the last person anything close to Kato; but like Kato, he was a master in the art of self-defense.

You see, Glen knew how to run. He could run fast and he could run far. He always won games of tag. Nobody could touch him. One time he got about six of us kids mad and we all went after him on foot. It started at the school playground and ventured across the street to Sutter’s Fort. It seemed like the chase lasted an eternity covering the whole 6-block perimeter of the Sutter’s Fort Park. We tried our best, yelling expletives along with “you are going to get it when we get you!”. But we never did.

I sometimes think of Glen; I did so last evening during my walk past my elementary school alma mater. Whether he lives in Sacramento, what he looks like and whether he can still run. I'm sure in some small way, he gave me a thrill of running. One thing I’ll always remember about Glen, he was a master of self-defense because he could run, run, run.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, September 15, 2008

Like a greyhound dog at the race track

This goal of mine to walk 100 miles in September has proven to be a daily grind requiring consistent work. Today is the middle of the month and I have not yet walked, but I hope to get 4 miles in before the day is over. That will give me 46 miles for the month and, if I keep it up, I’ll have 92 miles for the month and fall short of my goal.

I am enjoying this walking challenge. Some days I’ll walk in my neighborhood and venture downtown. Where I live is pedestrian-friendly, a grid where north-south streets are numbered and east-west streets are alphabetized, so easy to understand and navigate for a visiting tourist. A predictable layout where 13 city blocks is approximately 1 mile, so a walk from 24th and L Streets (where I live) to the downtown Cathedral at 11th & K Streets is 14 blocks or about 1 mile. When doing block walking, I’ll walk briskly like a 15-minute mile pace. Sometimes I’ll go a little faster but all it takes is the bad luck of the draw with excessive red lights or a train in progress and I’ll fail to achieve this pace.

Other days I’ll go to nearby McKinley Park, where there are always a lot of runners and walkers out and about chasing their mileage goals. The perimeter of the park is 1.05 miles. Walking there in the early morning or evening always is a great walk as the weather is very pleasant now. I like to walk very fast at this park, probably because all the runners and walkers motivate me. On a good day I'll average around a 13:30 mile pace.

Sunday I accompanied by wife, who had a meeting to attend about 45 miles from where we live, serving as her driver and bodyguard. While she was in the meeting, I visited a local high school and walked around the cinder high school track. The weather was nice, a little warm, and there was a recreational soccer game taking place on the field. I walked at a comfortable pace but it wasn’t brisk and 65 minutes later I had completed my 4-mile goal for the day.

Years ago I tore my ACL ligament in a martial arts training accident requiring surgery. On the advice of my surgeon, I walked a lot so my legs would be as strong as possible for surgery. About one month before surgery, I entered a July 4th 5-mile fun run but walked instead of run. I ended up having a friendly competition with another walker, spending the last 3 miles going back and forth for the lead position. It was my best walking performance ever as I completed the 5-mile course in 55 minutes. I’ve never walked an 11-minute mile pace since.

So today I’ll lace up my walking shoes in the evening and probably head over to McKinley Park where I generally walk as fast as I can, like a greyhound dog at the racetrack.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Resting again

All chief executive bloggers need a day of rest to relax the mind, recovery the body and energize the spirit. Check back on Monday for another Pierini Fitness blogflection. Today is Sunday and I am resting again.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My shoulders feel great!

Last year I needed to improve my shoulder flexibility to accommodate changes in how I train. I believed my shoulder flexibility was good for a middle-age man, but not great like when I was younger. With no aches and pains troubling me, I did recall recent episodes of shoulder discomfort.

Now my shoulder flexibility is much better and my shoulders feel great, thanks to a flexibility exercise I regularly perform. I call this exercise the shoulder dislocate/overhead squat combo. It is a compound movement of two exercises – (1) the shoulder dislocate and (2) the overhead squat – performed with a wooden pole.

Shoulder dislocate - Grasp a wooden pole or PVC pipe tightly with a wide grip, but only as wide as necessary to perform the exercise. As your flexibility improves, your width grip will become narrower and that should be your goal. Start with your arms locked and in front of your body with the pole resting on your thighs while standing tall.

Take a deep breath, maintaining a tight grip on the pole with locked arms. Slowly raise it in front until it is over your head and then lower it slowly behind you until the pole rests across your glutes. The path follows a complete circle. To complete a stand-alone shoulder dislocate, reverse the path and return the pole to the starting position. But since this exercise incorporates an overhead squat, stop the return path at the overhead press position to begin the overhead squat.

Overhead squat – From the overhead press position with locked arms, descend and perform a deep knee bend. You’ll need to stick your glutes backwards and counter-balance by inclining your arched back forward while maintaining the locked arm overhead press position. This is a difficult position for most beginners. You’ll have to spread your feet farther apart than usual and point your toes outward so you can descend into this squat position without feeling cramped at the bottom. Once in your rock bottom position, stand up and return the pole to the shoulder dislocate starting position. You have just completed one repetition of this flexibility exercise.

How many reps should you perform? – That is for you to determine. I like to perform multiple sets of between 5 and 10 repetitions as part of a warm-up circuit of various flexibility exercises. Sometimes, however, I perform a single set of 50 repetitions, finding that this many is a great whole-body warm-up and elevates my heart rate.

Demonstration - Here is a video of me demonstrating this exercise. Keep in mind that I shot this video late at night after a hard training day, so I was tired and my muscles were sore. I performed this exercise with bare feet making it tougher for me to get into a deep rock bottom squat position. Normally I wear training shoes with slightly elevated heels, making it easier to maintain a proper tilt of my pelvic area while descending into a deep squat position.

Here’s the video:

Final thoughts – I recommend you use a wooden pole as it is less accommodating than a PVC pipe, exercise band or towel. Some people with great flexibility might be able to perform this exercise with a visualized prop. I am not one of those people. Since the exercise is to improve your flexibility, a wooden pole will challenge your flexibility the most. You can accommodate your current lack of flexibility by grip width. The wooden pole I am using was made and given to me by Olympic weightlifting legend Tommy Kono and bears his autograph. It is one of my personal treasures.

Thanks to Mr. Kono for the explanations of these exercises which come from his book Weightlifting, Olympic Style. And a second thanks to Mr. Kono because my shoulders feel great!

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Friday, September 12, 2008

Day 5 at the bachelor pad

Monday was my wife's birthday. She woke up early to attend 7:00 a.m. Mass as she normally does. When she returned we went on a birthday breakfast date, just the two of us. Afterwards, she departed for an out-of-town silent retreat on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. She has done this before and wanted to do again, her birthday gift to herself. "If its good for you then it is fine with me", I told her. Fine provided I didn't have to do unless I wanted to which I didn't. I bought her a purse for her birthday, the one she found and wanted, hoping it would bring her many years of happiness and that she wouldn't lose it. I got off easy this year.

So today is day 5 at the bachelor pad. I've been alone ever since she left and will be alone until she returns on Saturday, with the exception of last night when a friend of the family asked to spend the night out of concern that I might be lonely. Rather than assure him that I was fine and actually enjoying my "loneliness", I accepted his offer, knowing that there is charity in receiving gifts from others whether needed, wanted or not.

Alone by myself it has been business as usual because I am a middle-age man, a creature of habit. Up at the crack of dawn, a cup of Starbuck's joe, shower and shave, then a drive to work, arriving around 9:00 a.m. just as I do this time of year. Work until 3:00 p.m. then on to the gym to train how and for as long as I normally do, so predictable it could be done blindfolded. I could set a clock to the routines of my life, so accurate, plain and vanilla as it comes.

Thoughts creep into my head of what I could do differently during my weeklong loneliness retreat and wife fast. The mischief I could find, the no good I could do, the late nights I could frequent, the wee hours of the morning I could determine still exist, returning home just in time at the crack of dawn to repeat it all again the next day. Nobody would know, it would be my little secret, if I played my cards right; nobody if you don't count me, myself and I.

But tempting as it seems I'll skip it all because I am a middle-age man, a devoted and faithful husband of 30 years with the battle scars to prove it, content to be living day 5 at the bachelor pad.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 9-11

Ask my parents or anyone else from their generation what they were doing on December 7, 1941 when learning of the attack on Pearl Harbor and they'll have a quick answer of their vivid memory. Ask us what we were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center buildings in New York City were struck by terrorists and we too will have a quick answer.

Seven years later, on the anniversary of this horrific act, it just doesn't feel right for me to chronicle my middle-age man journey down the superfitness highway in the fast lane. It's not that important today in the bigger scheme of things to give blogflection.

Take a moment today to remember 9-11 in your own private way, praying for the families of those whose lives were lost that day, and all the brave men and women who have since died, both civilian and military, in the campaign against terrorism. May they rest in peace and never be forgotten.

The following is an excerpt of President George W. Bush's five-minute address to the nation on September 11, 2001, beginning at 8:30 p.m. EDT:

Good evening,

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes, or in their offices; secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers; moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.

The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed; our country is strong.

A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.

America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.

Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature. And we responded with the best of America -- with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.

Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it's prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington, D.C. to help with local rescue efforts.

Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks. The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington which had to be evacuated today are reopening for essential personnel tonight, and will be open for business tomorrow. Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business, as well.

The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance.

America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism. Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me."

This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.

Thank you. Good night, and God bless America.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Was I chasing wind?

These days I train in the Olympic lifts but prior to that for 3 years I was a bodyweight-only fitness dude. I did high-volume rep training of traditional calisthenics such as pull-ups and pushups, generally a circuit of multiple sets with minimal rest between sets.

I also experimented with other bodyweight-only training methods such as dynamic visualized resistance, dynamic self-resistance and isometrics, but always gravitated back to calisthenics. I enjoyed anaerobic endurance training because it elevated my heart rate, giving me a good dose of exercise-induced endorphins. As if that wasn’t enough, most of the time I ended my training with a good hard run.

During this fitness era, each year I prepared for the Marine Physical Fitness Test, self-administering it to myself on my birthday. Three times a week karate training was also something I did. And not to be lazy, I found time to train and enter about a half-dozen fun runs during the year, mostly 5k and 10k distances. I took all of my training seriously like a world-class athlete, priding myself on my anaerobic endurance. I had boundless energy, was very lean, ate like a horse and slept like a baby. People constantly told me how fit I was. “Life is great” I told myself. “Yes it is” I replied.

But then one day I didn’t want to train this way any longer. I was ready for a change. Maybe my body was telling me to cool it. I’m not sure. I had no lingering aches and pains beyond the occasional and expected delayed-onset muscle soreness. Looking back, maybe I no longer wanted it really bad whatever it was this training gave me. The answer is still not clear so I’ll blame it on being a middle-age man, a little more tired than before.

So now I train in the Olympic lifts twice a week. The high-volume rep sets are a thing of my past. Karate training is still part of what I do, but that training has tapered to once a week at best. I haven’t run in about a month. Prior to that my running had slowed to once a week. It’s official – I am a retired fun run athlete.

“But when I turned to all the works that my hands had wrought, and to the toil at which I had taken such pains, behold! all was vanity and a chase after wind, with nothing gained under the sun.” This is a verse from Ecclesiastes, one of the biblical books of the Old Testament, a treatise on the vanity of all things.

Reflecting back on my past crazy way of training, I sometimes ask myself “was I chasing wind?”

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A hamburger for breakfast

From my training during the last four years, I’ve learned to have an element of surprise to keep my muscles guessing. 

Training this way has served me well. I discovered this on my own but, since there is nothing new under the sun, I know this training principle has been around way before I figured it out. I just didn’t know about it because I’m not well read.

Tony Horton’s popular P90X Workout program uses this same training principle referred to as “muscle confusion”. New moves and routines are introduced often during the 90-day training period so that every stage of training is as effective as the first. The results of muscle confusion speak for themselves as every P90X graduate can attest.

But while I have used muscle confusion to create an element of surprise and keep my muscles guessing, I haven’t done the same with my nutrition and I wonder if I’m missing an opportunity. Should I be using “dietary confusion” to create an element of surprise for my digestive system and metabolism?

A quick internet search of dietary confusion tells me that it is a term associated with lack of consumer knowledge about good nutrition according to the International Food Information Council (IFIC). 

Research conducted by the IFIC in 2006 found that nine out of ten American consumers are unable to accurately estimate the number of calories they should eat in an average day. This is not what I have in mind when I use the term dietary confusion.

So rather than going about eating in the so predictable way that I do – ham and eggs or oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, meat and potatoes for dinner, pizza on the weekends, and so forth - maybe I should mix things up a little. If guessing and confusion are good for my training then they must be good for my nutrition.

How about a hamburger and french fries for breakfast, or maybe a sandwich? What about meat and potatoes for lunch? How does ham and eggs or oatmeal and fruit for dinner sound? It all sounds good to me, and if I only eat when I am hungry, I’m sure my taste buds could care less.

I will need to think about this for a while and check with the Boss, I mean my wife. She might not think it is a good idea even if there is merit to my thinking. She is out of town until Saturday but when she comes back I’ll ask her if she would like a hamburger for breakfast.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, September 8, 2008

My little gray whiskers

Last week I wrote about how every man who looks in the mirror sees a 16 year old kid and that I am one, among many, of these men. What and who gives me the license to think this way? There is no shortage of answers.

Give my family genes a little credit for starters. My darker skin doesn’t show my age like my lighter-skinned brothers and sisters. And a full head of hair definitely helps. It’s not as thick as it use to be, but it is all there.

Then let’s give some credit to my own exercise and nutrition efforts. Rigorous exercise puts color in my cheeks, an uprightness in my posture, makes visible what muscles I have, keeping my middle-age man belly size in check. I don’t have man boobs nor do I look like I’m pregnant. I’d never get hired as a Christmas-season Santa Claus.

And let’s not forget the value of a well-rounded education, a life well traveled and a positive outlook of life in general. The latter is my temperament, a gift from God for which I am most grateful. The gift of positive thinking and believing that people are good make it more likely that I’ll be in the company of good healthy people. That keeps me feeling young, and feeling young makes me look young.

Finally, credit must be given to family and friends who constantly remind me that that I don’t look my age, as if they are experts to make such statements. They say this almost tit-for-tat as in “I’ll tell you how good you look and that you don’t look your age if you’ll do the same for me”. The good old buddy system working at its best.

So it comes as no surprise and it doesn’t take long before I start believing I don’t look my age, walking around town full of myself. I am not alone. We all go prancing around as we go about our business, big head and all, constantly thinking about how good and young we look.

Despite this nonsense, there is a constant reminder keeping me in check that I am a middle-age man. I couldn’t do it on my own, and for this I am most grateful to my little gray whiskers.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Thank you for visiting Pierini Fitness

I began Pierini Fitness on August 28th as my new cyberspace personal training diary. Since I have been active on several fitness forums, I knew if I got the word out that some of my cyberspace fitness brothers and sisters would visit me, but I had no idea how many and how often. As is typical with new projects, I have had a lot of zeal and have written 10 daily blogflections through yesterday. Today is Sunday and I’m taking a much needed day of rest.

To help me know how many visitors have stopped by Pierini Fitness, on September 2nd I installed Google Analytics. It is a website management tool providing great information about website traffic. I’d like to share a little of what I have learned from Google Analytics.

In the last five days, Pierini Fitness has had 372 visitors viewing 729 pages and spending an average of 3:16 per visit. 53 visitors or 14 percent were returning visitors.

I also learned that 324 visitors or 87 were from the USA, and that 15 visitors or 4 percent were from the United Kingdom. The remaining 33 visitors were from Canada, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Indonesia, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Romania, Switzerland, Finland, Iceland, Greece, Spain and Serbia. Many of these were lurkers and may never return, but I’m grateful that they took a look.

Of the 324 visitors from the USA, 104 were from California and that makes sense as that is where I live. The remaining 220 were visitors from 40 other states. Again, many of these were lurkers and may never return, but I’m grateful that they took a look.

I’m taking a day off and resting this Sunday, but I’ll be back on Monday with another Pierini Fitness blogflection. I’ll see you then. Have a great Sunday!

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I am doing my Plan B Workout

When I want a short and different workout, I resort to my favorite medley of static isometric postures that I call my Plan B Workout. 

These are bodyweight-only exercises utilizing my muscles as stabilizers against the effects of gravity. A medley of five various fixed postures, I hold each posture position as long as I can. 

I like this workout because it is quick, it makes my whole body feel good, and it works all my major muscle groups.

The five postures of my Plan B Workout are:

– handstand with my feet touching a wall for balance,
– standard grip pullup hang ,
– parallel squat wall sit,
– ab plank, and
– superman extension on the glute-ham unit

Handstand - This posture will work your forearms, shoulders, triceps and entire ab/core region. My leg muscles also get worked as I tense them to help with maintaining my upside down balance. 

My best effort hold is 1:59. I’m shooting for 2:00 before the year is over.

Standard grip pullup hang - This posture will also work your forearms, and your biceps, lats, back and ab/core region. Your legs and calves also get worked if you concentrate on tensing them and driving your heels downward. 

My best effort hold is 2:08. It has been a while since I’ve held it this long. Getting to 2:15 before the year is over is a realistic goal for me.

Parallel squat wall sit - This posture works your legs, hips and calves and, once again, your ab/core region. I oftentimes skip this posture since I work my legs a lot with the Olympic lifting I am doing. Consequently, my hold duration with this posture is not very good. 

I couldn’t find the exact time of my longest hold but I’m guessing it is around 2:30.

Ab plank - This posture works your entire ab/core region and, eventually works your back muscles as time goes on. It is important to maintain a horizontal position with neither your rear rear neither sticking up or sinking low.

I've gotten really good with this posture and it seems to really challenge my mind as time goes on. My best effort hold is 5:01.

Superman extension - This posture works your hamstrings and lower back muscles, along with your entire ab/core region. Your neck muscles also get worked. 

My best effort hold is 1:19. You'll notice in the photo that my extension has an upward incline flight to it. I actually prefer to maintain a horizontal position like the ab plank.

I suggest you hold each posture for as long as you can. Rest about the same length of time that you held the posture before performing the next one. Hold each posture in the order I have presented. This is a quick workout that takes 10 to 25 minutes for most people to complete. 

I’ve demonstrated these postures indoor at a gym but they can also be performed outdoors. Use a tree instead of a wall, and use a little creativity to find something to hang from for the pullup hang. You can perform the Superman extension on a park picnic table or on the ground.

Give this workout a try the next time you want to try something different. I think you’ll like it. And when people see you upside down, hanging from a bar, or looking like Superman with arms extended, they may ask you what the heck are you doing. You'll have an easy and quick answer for them. Tell them “I am doing my Plan B Workout”.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Friday, September 5, 2008

I like fat

My current lifestyle of fitness and healthy eating began over 15 years ago when I decided it was time to clean up my act. Years of inactivity and unhealthy eating finally got me disgusted as I was overweight and out of shape. I wasn’t obese, just fat and fleshy, even though that is not what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I was in denial big time. Looking at a photo my wife had taken of me eating a hot dog definitely contributed to my wake up call. I remember to this day looking at myself in the mirror, butt naked before entering the shower, and telling myself “enough is enough, we are going to make some changes”.

And I made those changes with zeal, both exercise and nutrition. I’ll talk about the exercise changes I made on a different day. Today I’ll share the nutrition changes I made and compare them with what I do now.

First I started reading. A popular nutrition expert named Covert Bailey had written several nutrition books, and he often appeared on public television stations during their fundraising campaign periods. I bought one of his books titled Fit or Fat and began to immerse myself in its contents. It was easy to read and I liked that. Another book I read was Eat Smart Think Smart, written by Robert Haas. I had seen Mr. Haas on afternoon talk show programs. He was a nutrition advisor to Martina Navratilova, a great professional female tennis player.

Both Covert Bailey and Robert Haas advocated a low-fat diet and that is how I began to eat. I limited myself to 30 grams of fat per day. Along with daily exercise, I started losing alot of weight and getting physically fit. I felt boundless energy and my clothes started fitting looser, getting to the point where I had to go out and buy new ones.

But that was then and this is now.

Now I favor a high-fat diet. All kinds of fat. I like olive oil, avocados when prepared as guacamole, cheese, nuts such as almonds and peanuts, and meats of all kind - steak, baby back pork ribs, you name it I like it. I have re-discovered how satisfying a high-fat diet is. I probably average about 35 to 40 percent of my calories from fat, far more than when I eating only 30 grams per day.

When starting this high-fat diet about three years ago, I had concerns about higher and unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride readings. So I eventually had new blood work done. Surprisingly, my cholesterol and triglyceride readings actually improved. And I experienced no weight gain. I had not made any changes in how I exercised, training hard and often with a significant running component to it. I believe the improved reading was because I had significantly reduced eating what I call the 7 forbidden C foods – cakes, cookies, candies, chocolate, ice cream, crackers and chips. I had decided to eliminate these foods from my diet concurrently with starting this high-fat diet. I’ll have more to say about the 7 forbidden C foods on a different day.

Today I still eat a high-fat diet but the way I train has changed. I am running less these days due to my middle-age man knees. So once again I think it is time to get some blood work done to see where I stand. I’m hoping that the readings will be good because I have discovered that I like fat.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The power of journaling

I've kept a continuous online public training journal for almost four years now, loaded with day-by-day details of my fitness training efforts.

I've also kept an online food journal, but not as continuous or as long, usually whenever I need an element of discipline to get my eating in order. I made this food journal public for a while but then chose to make it private for no other reason than that is what I decided to do.

I like capturing data, summarizing it, turning it into information and then using this information to make decisions. It is my personality and my skill as an accountant and financial adviser in the non-cyberspace, non-fitness real world in which I live.

The power of journaling has served me well in chasing my fitness goals. It has helped me be rigorously honest about my training efforts and nutrition.

The archival benefit has been amazing when I look back in time to see what I have and have not accomplished. And surprisingly, journaling has had a subtle yet positive effect on my behavior, helping me to set realistic goals based on past efforts and results, and channeling future efforts down a path of fitness training efficiency.

With God's grace, thirty years from now I will be sitting in a rocking chair reflecting back on the life I have lived, what I have done and what I have failed to do.

The people - family, friends and strangers - I have touched and those who have touched me.

The places I have visited in this big world both abroad and down the street.

The money I have earned, how I spent it and how I used it to help others.

These are the things that really matter at the end of each day and at the end of a long life. But I'm sure in an idle moment from all this higher-level reflecting I'll find pleasant memories and joy in the fitness life I have lived thanks to the power of journaling.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Every man who looks in the mirror sees a 16 year old kid

I have been looking at myself in the mirror for as long as I can remember. How many times who knows. Perhaps a number higher than I can count. It is the honest truth if I am rigorously honest.

In fact, I enjoy it. Not a little but a lot, and I know I am not alone among men. I am sure the same is true for women but I will let a woman confirm that, maybe a guest female blogger, on a different day at Pierini Fitness.

And based on my experiences, I have come to the conclusion that every man who looks in the mirror sees a 16 year old kid. I do, or at least that is what I tell everyone.

And chances are so did the great Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon about 500 years ago in his search of the fabled Fountain of Youth and the vision of eternal youth its discovery promised.

This daily visual exercise spares me of recognizing the obvious aging that is taking place daily because those changes are so subtle. So much more pleasant to my eyes than the visible changes I see in another person whom I have not seen in a long time.

Like an old high school buddy I bump into whom I have not seen in 20 years. “Man did he get fat and old” I might say, or “look at all his gray hair”.

So how long can I get away with this? A lot longer today than a generation ago because men today are more likely to color their hair and moustaches than their fathers and grandfathers did yesteryear.

And they are more likely to have laser eye surgery instead of wearing eyeglasses. Some might even have liposuction to rid themselves of a portly belly or other excessive bodyfat that at the turn of last century were considered symbols of manly prosperity.

And thanks to modern day pharmacology, human growth hormone injections and little blue pills known as Viagra can give middle-age men the virility of a “loaded cannon” 16 year old kid out on his first date with the popular high school cheerleader.

Not that I have resorted to any of these youth helpers thus far or plan to, but those options are there.

But despite these enhancements that allow us to have the illusion of being a 16 year old kid, sooner or later Father Nature will catch up with us when the mirror can no longer lie. Call it a fright of passage for lack of a better term, the realization that we are middle-age men at best or old men in truth.

My father told me that on his 70th birthday he had to get honest with himself and acknowledge that he was an old man. He took it well and has been doing fine every since.

But until that day comes, I will continue having a great time when standing in front of a mirror washing my hands, shaving my beard, combing my hair, or brushing my teeth because every man who looks in the mirror sees a 16 year old kid.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

If he can do it then I can try

In August 2007 I attended the Tommy Kono II, a local Olympic weightlifting competition held in Sacramento named in honor of native Sacramentan Tommy Kono, the most decorated Olympic weightlifting champion in USA history. I understood the Olympic lifts but had no direct training experience with them as my primary training methods for the past three years had been bodyweight-only exercises such as pull-ups, pushups, etc. It was fun watching a local competition of high school boys and girls, senior and master lifters. A master lifter is someone over 35 years of age.

As the competition went on, I saw an older man approach the platform and prepare for his lift. I was told he was 79 year young Dan Takeuchi. My jaw dropped as I watched Mr. Takeuchi complete his lifts that day. At a bodyweight of 74kg (163 lbs.), he hoisted overhead 65kg in the snatch (143 lbs.) and 85kg (187 lbs.) in the clean and jerk.

Later on that evening as I was reflecting on what I had seen Mr. Takeuchi accomplish, I told myself “if he can do it then I can try”. I had just made a decision to give Olympic lifting a try.

With Weightlifting, Olympic Style, a book authored by Tommy Kono himself, and the coaching guidance of a new friend Don Weideman, I began my apprenticeship with the Olympic lifts in September 2007. I trained alone most of the time but would meet with Don at his home on Fridays for one-on-one coaching. My training was hit-and-miss so my progress was slow and continues to be slow to this day.

Fast forward one year later to August 2008 and I enter my first Olympic weightlifting competition, the Tommy Kono III. I competed in the 85kg weight division as a master lifter. Also competing was 80 year young Dan Takeuchi. I went up to Mr. Takeuchi and introduced myself, telling him how his performance one year earlier had inspired me, and how I told myself “if he can do it then I can try”. Mr. Takeuchi was grateful and humble that he had been such an inspiration to me.

Well I made my first lift of 60 kg (132 lbs.) in the snatch but missed my second and third attempts of 65kg (143 lbs.) I had succeeded with 68kg (150 lbs.) in training with this lift. In the clean and jerk, I made my first attempt of 80kg (176 lbs.) and my second attempt of 83kg (183 lbs.) but missed my third attempt of 85kg (187 lbs.) Actually I got the 85kg overhead but received a red light due to pressout (not allowed). My best lift efforts were lower than what Mr. Takeuchi had done one year earlier, but I was satisfied with my first effort. And I’m looking forward to my next competition.

Thank you Don Weideman for being my friend and my coach.

And thank you Mr. Dan Takeuchi for inspiring me, and keep at it because if you can do it then I can try!

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum