Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent Sunday

Today is Advent Sunday, the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, and the beginning of the Christian year for Roman Catholics. It’s a time of reflection, self-examination, and repentance in preparation for the coming of Christ; a time to reflect and prepare for Christmas similarly to how Lent is in preparation for Easter.

A common Advent tradition is that of the Advent wreath. The wreath is made of evergreen branches with four candleholders and candles. Since in Advent we're waiting for the Christ child, there needs to be a ceremonial way to mark the time and make us aware of the wait. Lighting a candle reminds us of Christ as light of the world.

Enjoy your Sunday and check back tomorrow for another original Pierini Fitness blogflection. I’m resting today and celebrating Advent Sunday.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's time to see my doctor

Like many middle-age men, I don’t have a close relationship with my medical doctor. Quite frankly, I don’t even know his or her name. I did several years ago but that doctor retired to enter a more noble profession of being a full-time mom. I was assigned a new doctor whom I’ve yet to meet or visit for an exam.

Since turning age 50, I continue to be blessed with good health with only an occasional cold and fitness-related minor aches and pains. But after constant reminders that I’m past due for a colonoscopy exam, and because of planned changes to my health insurance coverage, I’ve scheduled a doctor’s appointment for next Monday.

As a self-employed person, I pay for my own health insurance that now costs a whopping $858 per month for my wife and me. This plan will probably cost over $1,000 per month next year. That’s unacceptable to me so I’m changing plan coverage by converting to a Health Savings Account (HSA) high-deductible plan. This type of plan will save me over $400 a month. In exchange for the lower premium, I’ll be responsible for up to $10,500 per year of medical costs for my wife and me. That’s a lot of financial risk but one I’m prepared to assume.

First, however, I’ll have a medical exam and get my past-due middle-age man colonoscopy exam, just to confirm that my “all-is-fine” health self-assessment is correct. So after years of procrastination, next Monday it’s time to see my doctor.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Friday, November 28, 2008

Keep squatting Mom

For the past three years, my 77-year young Mom has had fitness fever and it has paid her big health dividends.

Mom began her fitness journey with me as her backseat driver coach by joining a gym. She lifted weights, swam and briskly walked on the treadmill. She also changed old eating behaviors, and managed her food serving sizes and carbohydrates consumption. With hard work and patience, she lost 20 pounds and no longer needed prescription medicine for high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.

Fast forward to the present - she still no longer takes prescription medicine for diabetes but her medical doctor has instructed her to resume a low-dosage of blood pressure and cholesterol medicine. I've seen her lab reports and believe she doesn't need the medicine but I'm not her medical doctor.

A couple weeks ago I challenged her to raise her fitness bar by doing bodyweight squats and demonstrated how to do them. It's a tough exercise for anyone, and it was very tough for Mom as she tried to do a single repetition with her hands holding on a chair for balance and support. I gave her a prescription to do them for the next 30 days, suggesting that she perform 10 sets of a single repetition, concentrating on good form and holding the bottom position briefly before returning to a standing starting position.

Yesterday I asked her how she was doing with the squat assignment. She replied that she's doing them but that they are still difficult. She also shared that some Dr. Oz character who was on the Opray Winfrey Show talked about how good squatting is, and that she now believes me. I needed Dr. Oz to "seal the deal".

I told Mom to continue with the squat work and guaranteed her that by New Years Day she would be thanking me for her newfound flexibility, functionality and strength. I'll continue to check in on her effort, and give her words of encouragement by shouting out "keep squatting Mom".

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Enoy this Thanksgiving Day Greeting

Thanksgiving was originally a religious observance for all the members of the community to give thanks to God for a common purpose.

In his 1789 Proclamation, President George Washington gave many noble reasons for a national Thanksgiving, including “for the civil and religious liberty,” for “useful knowledge,” and for God’s “kind care” and "his providence."

Please accept my prayers, thoughts and wishes that you and your family have a great Thanksgiving Day and are enjoying good faith, fitness, fortune and health.

Enjoy this Thanksgiving Day Greeting

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I have an umbrella

Every year for the past five years I've entered a 10k fun run on Thanksgiving Day called "Run To Feed The Hungry", an annual holiday tradition for countless Sacramento-area families.

Beginning in 1994 with only 800 runners, it is now a very large Thanksgiving Day fun run and fundraising event. Last year, about 23,000 participants attended and raised over $600,000 for the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, a community nonprofit organization.

Here are my 10k fun run performances the past five years:

2007 - 49:08 or a 7:55/mile pace at age 52

2006 - 45:13 or a 7:17/mile pace at age 51

2005 - 45:33 or a 7:21/mile pace at age 50

2004 - 45:39 or a 7:21/mile pace at age 49

2003 - 44:54 or a 7:13/mile page at age 48

My lackluster performance last year was due to insufficient training as I had been concentrating on my new interest with the Olympic lifts. It was the hardest of the five fun runs I completed. I remember asking myself as I struggled to finish if it would be my last.

Well it was because I am officially retired from the fun run lifestyle, a wonderful era in my fitness journey lasting many years and contributing greatly to my fitness and health.

I live nearby the mid-point of the 10k fun run course so I'll be there this year as the runners pass to cheer them. I'll rekindle pleasant memories from my past and know firsthand how hard they are working as they try their best. Being a cheerleader rather than a runner will be a fun experience. Just like I tried to be the best runner I could on that day, I'll be the best cheerleader I can, shouting words of encouragement like "great job, you're doing great, keep it up".

And afterwards, I'll go on a 10k walk in my neighborhood to keep the Thanksgiving Day 10k tradition alive for me. Unlike the brisk walks I normally take, I'll go slower and enjoy the tree-lined streets and quietness of an early Thanksgiving Day morning.

I've checked the weather reports and it should be a great day for a long walk. There shouldn't be problem as no rain is forecasted. If it is raining I'll still take the walk because I have an umbrella.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Scrabble and un-scrabble

This came from one of the funniest e-mails I've received in a while. Maybe you have already seen it. Someone out there is deadly at Scrabble. Wait till you see the last one!

DORMITORY: when you rearrange the letters becomes DIRTY ROOM.

PRESBYTERIAN: when you rearrange the letters becomes BEST IN PRAYER.

ASTRONOMER: when you rearrange the letters becomes MOON STARER.

DESPERATION: when you rearrange the letters becomes A ROPE ENDS IT.

THE EYES: when you rearrange the letters becomes THEY SEE.

GEORGE BUSH: when you rearrange the letters becomes HE BUGS GORE.

THE MORSE CODE : when you rearrange the letters becomes HERE COME DOTS.

SLOT MACHINES: when you rearrange the letters becomes CASH LOST IN ME.

ANIMOSITY: when you rearrange the letters becomes IS NO AMITY.

ELECTION RESULTS: when you rearrange the letters becomes LIES - LET'S RECOUNT.

SNOOZE ALARMS: when you rearrange the letters becomes ALAS! NO MORE Z 'S.

A DECIMAL POINT: when you rearrange the letters becomes I'M A DOT IN PLACE.

THE EARTHQUAKES: when you rearrange the letters becomes THAT QUEER SHAKE.

ELEVEN PLUS TWO: when you rearrange the letters becomes TWELVE PLUS ONE.


MOTHER-IN-LAW: when you rearrange the letters becomes WOMAN HITLER.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, November 24, 2008

Holiday gluttony

The dictionary defines gluttony as the act or habit of eating to excess. Gluttony is an unregulated love for food or drink, an appetite out of order by which we abuse the legitimate pleasure God has attached to eating and drinking. It is sometimes said that gluttony makes one “like an animal” though animals seldom overeat or drink too much.

The holiday gluttony season begins later this week with an American Thanksgiving Day celebration on Thursday, soon to be followed by Christmas Day with all the festive parties in the home and workplace that precede it, then concludes with New Years Eve and New Years Day celebrations. My count of the days on a calendar is that this holiday gluttony season spans a 36-day period.

Gluttony has existed as long as man and his food. The great philosopher St. Augustine devoted an entire chapter to excess in eating and drinking in his classic The Confessions of St. Augustine. I spent some time this past weekend reading this classic, and was reminded that my own challenges with gluttony aren’t much different than what St. Augustine experienced over one thousand six hundred years ago.

St. Augustine wrote that by eating and drinking we repair the daily decays of the body. This necessity of eating and drinking was sweet to him, but he fought not to be taken captive by it.

Hunger and thirst were his pains and, like a fever, they burned until aided by the medicine of nourishment necessary for good health. He wrote, “thus, whereas health is the cause of eating and drinking, yet a dangerous delight accompanies those activities and for the most part endeavors to take precedence so that I may do for its sake what I pretend and desire to do for health’s sake.”

St. Augustine described that he became uncertain whether it was the necessary care of his body asking for sustenance or the voluptuous deceit of greediness that proffered its services.

Will we face the same challenges with gluttony this holiday season that St. Augustine battled in the fourth century? Will we be eating eight or nine days of food in seven days this Thanksgiving Day week? How much more nourishment does a dozen Christmas cookies give than one? How often will we eat during this holiday season because food and drink is abundantly available rather than real physical hunger? Finally, is it really physical hunger we experience or something deeper residing in our spirit, never to be satisfied by any amount of food and drink?

These are questions I’ll be asking while standing guard to protect myself from my own predisposition to holiday gluttony.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Enjoy your Sunday

Today is Sunday and I am resting, but I'll be back tomorrow so visit me then.

The photo to the left is me standing in front of the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Italian: Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano) in Rome, Italy.

As the cathedral of Rome, it is the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome who is the Pope; and it is the oldest and ranks first (being the cathedral of Rome) among the four major basilicas of Rome.

This April 2007 photo was taken during a 17 day vacation to Rome in which my wife and I visited all the major sites and "off the beaten path" spots of this wonderful eternal city.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Pax Domini sit semper vobsicum

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Watching my teacher cry

Ask older people what they were doing when they learned that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 and they'll have a quick answer. I was in the third grade at Fruitridge Elementary School on the playground during recess on a Friday afternoon when hearing the news.

As a third grader more concerned with recess playing time, I might have blinked an eye upon hearing the news at best. After recess, I remember sitting in my classroom desk watching my teacher crying in front of the classroom telling us again that President Kennedy had been assassinated.

I also remember watching the non-stop television coverage of this terrible moment in American history on the black and white television we owned. Every channel covered this tragic event nonstop and all regular television programs were cancelled for days.

This was a period in my life when every Saturday morning I would wake up early and watch the Original Superman show on television. I remember that Friday night being concerned that it might not be on the following morning because of the nonstop television coverage. Superman was pretty high on my priority list in those days.

I remember waking up early the next morning and anxiously waiting for the time that the Superman show aired; much to my expected disappointment it didn't. I still have vivid memories watching President Kennedy's casket, covered with an American flag, being transported by a horse-drawn carriage in a procession down a street. It may have been Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. but I'm not sure.

It's amazing how taking a moment to reflect on days like this gives me an appreciation for the life I have lived and memories of my childhood. I still like Superman and on days like this I like to pause and say a prayer for the departed soul of President John F. Kennedy, wondering if he is in Heaven looking down on our great nation that entrusted him with the highest honor of serving his country as President.

I'll always remember November 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated, sitting in my classroom desk and watching my teacher cry.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Friday, November 21, 2008

A mullet for my birthday

Well after much procrastination, I finally visited my barber on Tuesday for a long-overdue haircut. The way I see it, the longer I go between haircuts is money saved and a way to be frugal in a tough economy.

While I feel better with shorter hair, I actually miss my longer locks left on the barbershop floor but I know they will grow back soon.

I prefer wearing my hair longer rather than shorter. I have no desire to have a butch haircut; in fact, I don't believe I have the correct head shape for a butch. I had one a couple times as a kid and when I entered the U.S. Army for basic training, but not since then.

At various times I've sported mullet-style hair lengths; the last time was at age 50 when I had a photo taken for my driver license renewal. After that I remember getting a haircut, as I had grown weary of my longer hair. I have some great photos evidencing my mullet prowess (that's not me in the photo above). Maybe one day I'll have then scanned to share here.

Since I prefer longer hair, maybe I'll let mine grow longer again so next February I'll have a mullet for my birthday.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Tommy Kono Bodyweight Squat

Squats are one of the best whole-body exercises you can perform, with or without weights. It's one of the most widely discussed exercises in articles written by the "experts" from all fitness disciplines. Everyone has his or her opinion about squats.

There are those who swear that squats are better than homemade apple pie for fitness and strength. Then there are those who warn that they are dangerous and will wreck havoc on your knees and spine and, therefore, should be avoided. I've been in both camps at one time or another in my fitness journey. Currently I swear that squats are better than homemade apple pie for fitness and strength, but only if your body is flexible to safely perform them with correct form.

I'll not discuss the various ways in which you can perform squats or suggest a squat workout. Instead, I'll describe and demonstrate an exercise I learned from Olympic weightlifting legend Tommy Kono to improve my flexibility to safely perform Olympic style squats. I call it the Tommy Kono bodyweight squat.

Here's how you do it

Stand with the center of your back slightly touching the corner of a wall, feet spaced as you normally would to perform a squat. The back of your head, most of your back and your glutes should be touching the wall corner. Keep a strong lower back arch and expand your chest to set yourself in a very upright starting position. In this position, the area of your arched lower back is not touching the wall corner.

Now perform a squat descending as low as you can while maintaining contact with the wall corner. You can pause at the bottom to check your form and contact. Rise back to the starting position to complete one repetition. Perform additional repetitions only as long as you are able to maintain good form. It's a very challenging exercise for me and exposes my flexibility weaknesses.

Here's a short video demonstration of the exercise

You'll notice I fail to keep my head touching the wall corner as I rise from the bottom position. Some days are better than others and this obviously was not one of my better days.

Give this exercise a try and let me know what you think. I guarantee it will improve your whole body flexibility and squat performance. Have fun doing the Tommy Kono Bodyweight Squat.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A young sailor meets Charles Atlas

The young 19-year old man arrived in New York City hitchhiking from the U.S. Naval Frontier Base in Charleston, South Carolina one early morning in 1946. World War II had recently ended, and the horrific memories of this terrible war were fresh in the minds of all Americans. People were very grateful to the soldiers and sailors who had served their country, so the young man wearing his U.S. Navy sailor uniform found it easy to get several rides during his hitchhike journey.

The young sailor had 30-day delayed orders before reporting to his next assignment at Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco, California. Rather than spend his travel allowance to purchase a bus or train ticket, he decided to save the money and hitchhike across the United States, and visit a few places he might never see again. One such place was New York City where he went to seek out one person he always wanted to meet, the legendary Charles Atlas.

This is a true story of my Dad's personal account of meeting Charles Atlas in his New York City office over 60 years ago.

"I arrived in New York City for what ended up being a three day visit. I stayed all three days at the Penn Central Station. Lodging was available there for soldiers and sailors at the bargain price of 25 cents a night.

I visited all the popular tourist attractions while there and wore my sailor uniform the entire time. Most soldiers and sailors wore their uniforms because a grateful public was quick to offer assistance and praise. I was offered a few free meals at some restaurants, and hitchhiking was easy.

I asked for directions to Charles Atlas' office at 115 East 23rd Street. I had memorized this address that appeared in comic book ads of his Dynamic Tension course. Most of my friends knew the address too as it became embedded in our memories from reading the ads over and over, the ones about Mac the 97-pound weakling. We all had a special affection for Mac because of occasional experiences of being bullied a time or two by bigger and older kids.

I took the elevator to Mr. Atlas' office and entered. I remember seeing two framed photographs on the reception area wall. One was of Mr. Atlas holding Bing Crosby and Bob Hope who were sitting in his arms. The other was of Mr. Atlas pulling a streetcar with a long cable.

The receptionist greeted me as I entered the reception area, and asked if she could help me. I told her that I was here to see Mr. Atlas. She asked if I had an appointment to which I replied that no I didn't.

She responded that she was sorry but Mr. Atlas only sees visitors who have an appointment. I told her that I was a sailor returning home to Sacramento but came to New York City to see Mr. Atlas whom I had read about in comic books and always wanted to meet. She was adamant that Mr. Atlas only saw visitors by appointment.

Then I heard a voice say 'send the sailor in'. It was Mr. Atlas who had overheard the conversation from his office. The receptionist directed me to Mr. Atlas' office down the hallway.

Mr. Atlas reached out and shook my hand and greeted me, instructing me to have a seat. I noticed a small tattoo on the inside of his wrist as I shook his hand. He was dressed in a traditional business suit so it was not possible to see his muscles as they appeared in the comic book ads. Recognizing my Italian surname, Mr. Atlas told me that his name was Angelo Siciliano and that he was born in Sicily.

He asked me how old I was and I told him 19, to which he replied that he was old enough to be my father. Looking on his desk, I saw a framed photograph of a young man who was wearing bodybuilding trunks and flexing his muscles. Mr. Atlas saw me looking at the photo and proudly shared that the person in the photo was his son.

As a teenager growing up, my exposure to physical fitness was limited to school gym classes but I was curious about weightlifting and the Charles Atlas Dynamic Tension training method. My interest in weightlifting came from reading the two weightlifting magazines of the time: Bob Hoffman's Strength & Health and Joe Weider's Your Physique. My interest in Dynamic Tension came from reading the comic book ads.

This was an era when weightlifting was not popular, in fact it was strongly discouraged and we were told that it would make you muscle-bound. The only people who lifted weights were strong men in the circus and vaudeville acts, and professional wrestlers. I remember my high school coach telling me that I would get muscle bound if I lifted weights and would not be able to wipe my behind after going to the bathroom. I believed him, as did most other kids, so I was very apprehensive about weightlifting even though very curious.

So I wanted to know what Mr. Atlas thought about weightlifting and asked him. He replied that his Dynamic Tension course was better because it would not make me muscle bound and slow like weightlifting would. I did not ask Mr. Atlas if he lifted weights although I had read that he did in Strength & Health magazine articles. Mr. Atlas told me that he trained at the New York Athletic Club.

Mr. Atlas then told me a story about how one time he was riding a streetcar and there were three teenager boys sitting in the back smoking cigarettes. He approached the three boys and told them that smoking wasn't good for them. Two of the boys responded with disrespectful wisecracks but the other boy recognized Charles Atlas from the comic book ads. After telling his two disrespectful friends whom the man was telling them not to smoke, they ceased their disrespectful wisecracks and all three boys promised Mr. Atlas they would no longer smoke cigarettes.

Mr. Atlas asked me if I had any interest in purchasing his Dynamic Tension Course. I told him that I was teetering between weightlifting and Dynamic Tension, hoping to make up my mind soon. He wrote my name on a piece of paper and told me he would give me a discount if I ever ordered his course.

We spoke a while longer during my visit that lasted about 20 minutes. Mr. Atlas shook my hand as I left and wished me well.

Not that long after I was discharged from the U.S. Navy, I decided to order the Dynamic Tension Course. I wrote Mr. Atlas a letter asking if he remembered me, and the discount he promised, as I wanted to purchase his course. He replied that he remembered meeting me and that his discount offer was still good. I don't remember how much I paid for the course but I do remember that he gave me a generous discount, and was very flexible in allowing me to make payments.

So I started receiving the course in weekly lessons, starting with lesson one and continuing to lesson twelve over a three-month period. I followed the instructions and did all the exercises as prescribed. One of the first exercises I remember was the Atlas chair dip, a pushup done between two chairs. The final lesson was called the perpetual lesson; it included exercises I was to continue performing having completed the course.

I improved my fitness and added some muscle doing the exercises in the Dynamic Tension course, while continuing to read each issue of Strength & Health and Your Physique magazines from front to cover. While I made muscle gains with the Dynamic Tension Course, I wanted bigger muscles like the kind I saw in the magazine photos. I was young and what you could call a 'gain hog'.

There was a photo of a bodybuilder named John Grimek in one issue that showed him standing straight-legged and bent forward touching the palms of his hands on the floor. I remember looking at that photo and marveling his muscular development and extreme flexibility. He had the muscular development that I wanted. It was that photo that ended my teetering between Dynamic Tension and weightlifting. It was my call to the iron.

I abandoned Dynamic Tension training and joined the local YMCA and began weightlifting. I lent the course to a friend who never returned it to me, learning an important lesson of never loan a valuable book to anyone.

I made great strength gains and built big muscles lifting heavy weights, training hard for several years until I got married and had to temper the intensity of my training. It was a wonderful lifestyle and I had opportunities to meet or train with many of the early pioneers of American bodybuilding and weightlifting. People like Tommy Kono and Bill Pearl, both of whom lived in Sacramento at the time.

And I was fortunate to meet Steve Reeves, Clancy Ross, Jack Delinger and Roy Hilligenn - all former Mr. America winners - at Ed Yarick's Gym in Oakland. I met Jack LaLanne who also had a gym in Oakland. And through my friendship with Tommy Kono, I also met Bob Hoffman, John Grimek, Paul Anderson, John Davis, and Doug Hepburn.

My weightlifting experiences were wonderful. I still lift weights two or three days a week, although the weights I lift are very light compared to the old days."

So that's the story of a young sailor meets Charles Atlas.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The experiment is done

Five months ago my middle-age man knees started hurting on a regular basis. I attributed it to the cumulative effect of my fitness training; years of karate and running, three years of high-volume bodyweight-only exercise training, and more recently, Olympic weightlifting training. I wasn't in major pain by any stretch of the imagination, but there were many days that my knees hurt.

So I decided to undergo a 60-day experiment taking a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement to determine if it would help my knee pain. I surfed the internet and visited various websites selling this supplement. All claimed that their product was superior because of this and that research, and testimonials from satisfied customers. I also asked friends who had taken this supplement about their experiences and opinions. What I discovered was that for every person who said it helped was another person who didn't notice any benefit.

The brand I purchased had the following ingredients in the recommended daily dosage:

Vitamin C - 60 mg
Manganese- 2 mg
Sodium - 30 mg
Glucosamine HCI - 1,500 mg
Joint Shield proprietary blend - 1,350 mg
Chondroitin/MSM Complex - 1,250 mg
5 Loxin AKBA Boswellia serrata extract - 100 mg
Boron - 3 mg

My 60-day experiment ended up taking five months to complete because I wasn't diligent in taking the supplement every day. Now that I've finished the 60-day supply, it's time to make an evaluation and draw a conclusion.

There are some variables that were not constant during my experiment, thus making it difficult to determine if this supplement helped my knee pain. First, I reduced the frequency of my karate training because I grew tired of the long-distance drive from my home to the dojo. Second, my running came to a screeching halt because it conflicted with Olympic weightlifting training. Finally, I started wearing knee bands while lifting which provided more knee support for the demands of the Olympic lifts.

So while my knees no longer hurt like they did five months ago, I hesitate to attributing it to the glucosamine/chondroitin supplement. I'm not sure if I will continue taking it, but I'm glad my knees no longer hurt and that the experiment is done.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Charles Atlas story you'll enjoy

About three or four years ago, I posted on the Charles Atlas fitness website my Dad's account of meeting Mr. Atlas in his New York City office over 60 years ago.

My Dad was a young sailor about to be discharged from the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II and had a 30-day furlough to get from Charleston, South Carolina back to his home of Sacramento, California.

Rather than spend his travel allowance to purchase a bus or train ticket, he decided to save the money and hitchhike across the United States to visit a few places he might never see again. One such place was New York City where he traveled to seek out one person he always wanted to meet, the legendary Charles Atlas.

About a year or two ago, the Charles Atlas website eliminated all posts on its forum, so this great story was lost in cyberspace. Unfortunately, I cannot find my interview notes or word processing document file of this fascinating account. But fortunately for me, my 82-year young Dad has a great memory and I've just finished interviewing him again about the young sailor who met Charles Atlas.

Give me a few days and I'll publish a Charles Atlas story you'll enjoy.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Today is Sunday, a day of rest for me, so I have no blogflection to share with you, but I'll have one tomorrow so check back then.

I hope you have a blessed and wonderful Sunday, but remember there are many who won't be so fortunate. If you know someone who is having a difficult day, find time to reach out to them and share your blessings and joy.

Before you leave, take a moment and listen to the late legendary county singer-songwriter Johnny Cash sing Sunday Morning Coming Down.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Grieving the loss of Common Sense

A friend sent this to me recently. I'm sure it's been widely distributed on the internet. I enjoyed reading it so much it's today's blogflection.

An Obituary printed in the London Times........

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was,since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; Why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn't always fair; and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boycharged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers, for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an Aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses;and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from aburglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed torealize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little inher lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility and by his son Reason.He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights; I Want It NowSomeone Else Is To Blame; I'm A Victim Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

Join me in grieving the loss of our beloved friend Common Sense.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fascination with procrastination

Last Wednesday at the gym while sitting on a bench recovering from a set of squats, a gym acquaintance looked at me and asked if I was turning into a hippie. That's a word I haven't heard in a long time.

"What do you mean", I asked. He replied that my hair was getting long and wondered if I was turning into a hippie.

No was my reply but that I was long overdue for a haircut; just like I was on October 10th when I wrote about it here: I need a haircut

Yikes, that was more than a month ago! At the end of each day since then, I told myself, "I'll get that haircut tomorrow" - maƱana in Spanish and domani in Italian.

What's that all about? Is it my dormant lazy personality raising its ugly head? Is it my fascination with procrastination?

Procrastination is defined as a type of behavior characterized by deferment of actions or tasks to a later time. Psychologists often cite procrastination as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision.

What's my anxiety of getting a haircut?

Well maybe I'll get that haircut soon, but first I have some self-discovery to do. I need to figure out what's my fascination with procrastination.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I can still run

Last year at this time I was training for a Thanksgiving Day 10k fun run that I ran the previous five years. This year I won't be running because I'm retired from the fun run circuit. All good things eventually come to an end.

In fact, my running has come to a screeching halt. I have mixed feelings about this because I have so many pleasant running memories, and I know how much it has contributed to my overall fitness. I hung in there as long as I could but realized that both Olympic weightlifting and running was too much a demand on my knees and legs. There was room for one but not the other, so I made a "business decision" that, for now, it would be the Olympic lifts rather than running.

Prior to this week, most of my running in 2008 had been shorter distances on the treadmill at one percent incline, such as running one mile as fast as I can. The treadmill is much friendlier on my middle-age man knees than the road or track. I ran a one-mile timed trial in 6:40 on July 29th and 6:35 on July 9th. The fastest I've ever run this distance was 5:49, which I did, sometime in early 2007.

So taking this week off from Olympic lift training gave me the opportunity to do some cross training. I got the itch to see where I was with my running. Could I still run and how fast? How would my legs and knees feel the next day? There was only one way to find out.

So at the end of my Monday workout, I jumped on the treadmill and ran one mile in 7:15 or 35 seconds slower than my July 29th effort 3.5 months earlier. I wouldn't call it a maximum effort but it was pretty close. My knees felt good the next day but I did have some mild running-related muscle soreness.

I tried again on Wednesday and ran one mile in 6:53 or 22 seconds faster than Monday but 13 seconds slower than July 29th. Again, I wouldn't call it a maximum effort but it was more of an effort than Monday.

This Friday I'll try again. I believe it's possible to match the July 29th 6:40 pace and I'll give it my best effort. Stay tuned for the details sports fans.

What this has revealed to me is that I can still run.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My upper-body pull/push partials workout

Here’s blast from my bodyweight-only training past, a workout I’d do every now and then for a quick upper-body hypertrophy fix.

It’s called my upper-body pull/push partials workout. You perform three supersets of standard grip pullups and Atlas II pushups; however, instead of doing full-range reps, you do 1/3 partial-range reps for each superset and change the 1/3 partial rep range for each set so that at the end of the workout you’ve worked the entire area of a standard full-range rep.

You'll get a better hypertrophy result doing partial reps because you are able to perform more partial-range reps than full-range reps.

Most likely, you're familiar with the standard grip pullup. Here's a brief video demonstration of the Atlas II pushup:

Here’s the sequence of my upper-body pull/push partials workout:

Superset #1
standard grip pullups top 1/3 partial reps for max rep effort, then Atlas II pushups bottom 1/3 partial reps for max rep effort

Superset #2
standard grip pullups middle 1/3 partial reps for max effort, then Atlas II pushups middle 1/3 partial reps for max effort

Superset #3
standard grip pull-ups bottom 1/3 partial reps for max rep effort, then Atlas II pushups top 1/3 partial reps for max rep effort

Give this quick workout a try and let me know what you think of my-upper body pull/push partials workout.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

It's something my grandfather, father, son and I all have in common besides the same first name and surname; we are all veterans and served our country as members of its armed forces.

My grandfather was in the Army during World War I stationed in England. My father was in the Navy during World War II assigned to a ship patrolling the Okinawa Islands. I was in the Army in San Francisco and the Republic of Korea during the peacetime era following the Vietnam War, and my son was in the Army stationed in the Republic of Korea when terrorists attacked U.S. soil on September 11, 2001. None of us were injured in combat, did anything valiant, or made the military a career, but we did serve our country with honor and pride.

Today is Veterans Day in the U.S., an annual holiday honoring military veterans.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. It was approved as a legal holiday in 1938 as a a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day. Through an act of the U.S. Congress in 1954, it has since been known as Veterans Day.

Today I salute with honor and praise all veterans who served my country in the military. I pray for the departed souls of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives serving our country. I pray for those who are currently serving our country; that they will come home soon, safe and sound, to their families and a country who welcomes them with open arms, gratefulness, and abundant opportunities.

Well my grandfather is no longer with us as he has been called home to his heavenly God but in prayer I salute him today for his service during World War I. To my father and son, I salute you with honor and praise today as a fellow veteran, and hope you both have a great Veterans Day.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, November 10, 2008

Six on and one off

There’s a fellow on an internet fitness forum who goes by the name PowerHank. I follow his online training journal and notice he trains for six straight weeks then rests for one week. He does this consistently and always seems to resume his training with enthusiasm.

Generally, I balk at taking scheduled time off because I’m a middle-age man and honestly believe that I’m only as good as my last workout. I rest a couple times a year when my body is screaming for a break. The problem is, however, last week my training effort and performance was off.

Looking over my training journals, I’ve been hitting it pretty hard for the last six weeks. Last week I noticed my wrists and shoulders were unusually sore and the weights were feeling heavier than normal. Those are signs that it’s time for a rest from my Olympic lift training.

So this week I’m taking a week of rest from the Oly lifts. I’ll do some cross-training instead and train lighter than normal. Bodyweight-only exercises such as pull-ups and pushups sounds good, as does static isometric postures, stretching and some martial arts. I’ll do barbell squats, however, but go lighter with my loads. Hopefully the rest will do me good so I can resume Olympic lift training with renewed enthusiasm and strength.

Thank you PowerHank for teaching me your training cycle of six on and one off.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Sunday, November 9, 2008


See you tomorrow. We are chiuso (closed).

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Outsmarting the economy

It's everywhere you go to read what's happening in the U.S. - the economy and its downward spiral. It's happened before and will happen again, but what matters is it's happening now.

Friday, the federal government reported that the nation's unemployment rate increased to a 14-year high of 6.5 percent in October as another 240,000 jobs were cut, stark proof the economy is almost certainly in a recession.

A bank with more than $395 billion in consumer loans also announced on Friday it expects consumer loan defaults to increase in the remaining months of 2008.

The automotive industry continues to write red ink in its financial reports.

General Motors Corporation (GM) and Ford Motor Company both reported substantial third quarter losses. GM warned that it could run out of cash in 2009 if the U.S. economic slump continues and it doesn't get government aid, while Ford told its investors it would take aggressive actions to further cut costs as it faces a severe slump in demand.

Chrysler reportedly is running out of cash and talks of a possible break-up if it can't clinch a merger with GM or get government funding needed to ride out the economic crisis.

The stock market continues to take a bath with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down from a 52-week high of 13,850.92 on December 11, 2007 to a 52-week low of 7,773.71 about one month ago on October 10, 2008, a decline of 44 percent. Everyone talks about how much less their 401(k) plan is worth and whether they will be able to retire.

Closer to my home, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday proposed a temporary 1.5-cent sales tax increase and new levies on everything from sporting events to alcohol, as well as deep cuts in education and social services, to help close an estimated $24.2 billion state budget deficit through June 2010.

While the sliding economy has yet to directly hit my pocketbook, I'd be a fool to think it couldn't happen or fail to have an action plan to survive its blow.One good thing about being a middle-age man is that I have the perspective of history, and personal experiences of times past when the economy was in the tank. I have lessons learned about how I responded to an economic slump and the rising cost of living.

What those lessons taught me is to live a spartan life in good times and bad, and live below my means by spending less money than I make. It's a proven way to have a head start in the race to survive an economic downturn.

But if I am living a spartan life, is it possible to make more cuts if necessary if the trickle down effect of a depressed economy is greater than my spartan spread can absorb?The answer is an absolute yes - I can certainly tighten my economic belt another notch or two if needed, and I believe so can most everyone else if we think outside our comfort zone.

Because when the going gets tough, our instinct of survival will kick in and we'll all do fine outsmarting the economy.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Friday, November 7, 2008

Jump, jump and jump

The grace of a jump is beauty to my eyes. I've always enjoyed watching the jump events at track and field competitions - the high jump, the long jump and the triple jump. An athlete's perfectly-executed jump with its accelerating speed, explosiveness, coordinated whole-body extension, and graceful landing is athleticism at its finest.

I like watching animals jump too. For 16 years I lived in a rural area on 5 acres and had thousands of visual experiences watching animals jump as they went about their country life. Squirrels jumping from the many oak trees on my property, and deers jumping over a fence to avoid an oncoming car were my favorites.

As a kid I did my fair share of jumping such as jumping off a rooftop; it would be fun to do that again but it's something I dare not attempt.

I've done workouts at the gym that included jumping, from higher repetition sets of medium height jumps as part of a circuit workout to single rep sets of progressively increasing heights. I don't do these workouts often because they're hard on my middle-age man knees, but I do enjoy them because they bring out the dormant youth in me.

My highest vertical jump is 36 inches for 5 repetitions, done about one year ago. That's not great but it's good for a middle-age man. A couple weeks ago I tried some jumps after a squat workout and only cleared 34 inches for a single repetition. I hadn't done them in a long time and was very rusty.

Here's a video of me doing 36-inch vertical jumps for 5 repetitions:

I've got the jumping itch. Maybe when I go to the gym today I'll set aside some time in my workout so I can jump, jump, and jump.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Politically bipolar

I'm just about done expressing my political thoughts and hopefully today's blogflection is my last for a while.

What the heck is wrong with California voters?

They voted yes for a ballot initiative statute that prohibits the confinement of certain farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.

They voted no for a ballot initiative constitutional amendment that would prohibit abortion for unemancipated minors until 48 hours after a physician notifies the minor’s parent, legal guardian or, if parental abuse has been reported, an alternative adult family member.

Are California voters more concerned about the rights of chicken littles in the animal kingdom than parental rights in the human kingdom? Are they more interested in protecting cows and chickens than unborn infants in mothers' wombs? That's my take on it - the chicken comes before the (human) egg.

It's as preposterous as the infamous 2004 murder trial when Scott Peterson was convicted of second degree murder of the unborn infant in his murdered wife's womb, yet a woman who has an abortion and the abortionist who performs it commits no crime.

Is there any difference between the unborn infant in either mother's womb? None that I can imagine. Something here doesn't pass the smell test.

A trade association executive who has worked the state government legislative arena for over 30 years told me yesterday he wasn't surprised at this dichotomous election outcome. He told me, "it's been this way for a long time because California voters are politically bipolar."

Call the spiritual doctor and pass the moral meds. We need to get healthy before it kills us. We can't afford to be politically bipolar.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's time to get to work

With a sigh of relief the 2008 Presidential election is over, and we the people of a great nation have spoke in our votes.

Two words that resonate loud in my mind from all the political rhetoric during this election are CHANGE and MAVERICK. Both words were used in the context of what voters expressed they wanted and what the candidates proclaimed they offered.

"I'm voting for Obama because I want change" was a statement I heard over and over, while others said "I'm voting for John McCain because he's a maverick".

While both candidates mesmerized us with their poetry of change and maverick symbolism, many of us became distracted by it and failed to ask ourselves some difficult questions. Since we want change, what changes are we prepared to initiate and make in our lives? And since we like mavericks, are we mavericks ready to conquer the status quo in our lives and chase the new opportunities awaiting us?

Or do we prefer to sit passively and let our leaders serve us the change and maverick that they decide we need?

As an audience of this rhetorical hypnotism, delivered to us by the cyberspace and bricks & mortar media, many of us bought into the comfort of it all, like going to a restaurant for dinner because it's easier than cooking a meal at home. Well the party is over and it's time to ask us these questions and demand honest answers.

And once we answer these questions, it's time for us to initiate these changes in a maverick way to make a better life for our families and ourselves, and a better country for all Americans; rather than wait for the government to do it for us.

Former President John F. Kennedy expressed it best during his inauguration speech on a cold winter morning on January 20, 1961 when he said "and so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country."

It's time to get to work.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Last Friday at the gym

I must admit, I just didn’t have time to write a blogflection today. Life sometimes gets in the way. But do check back tomorrow as I promise you my best. Until then, take a moment and enjoy this 160 squat snatch PR lift that I did last Friday at the gym.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, November 3, 2008

John McCain for President

Tomorrow I’ll be voting in my 9th Presidential election. I’ve studied the candidates and where they stand on the following issues most important to me:

Sanctity of life
I want a President who values the sanctity of life, and believes that life begins at conception.

I want a President who promotes a culture of life rather than a culture of death, with leadership and policies that cultivate beliefs and values of courage and compassion - the courage of a pregnant mother to bring her child into the world and the compassion of our civil society to meet her needs and those of her newborn baby.

I want a President who implements programs favoring adoption rather than abortion for women struggling with a crisis pregnancy.

I want a President who opposes Frankenstein-like experiments with life by a misguided scientific community who intentionally create and conduct research on live human embryos for financial gain.

I want a President with zero tolerance for any scientific research that violates the sanctity of life.

The economy and taxes
I want a President who believes the role of government is to help all individuals and businesses create economic prosperity.

I want a President whose tax policies permit me to keep more of my hard-earned dollars yet insists that I pay my fair share towards the cost of essential government goods and services.

I want a President who proposes income tax simplification that eliminates the onerous alternative minimum tax (AMT) law that adds to the tax bill of middle and upper-income taxpayers.

I want a President who advocates a corporation income tax policy that makes America the best place in the world for large national and international corporations to do business, with incentives to create new jobs in America rather than abroad.

I want a President who opposes to tax policies and laws that increase my taxes solely to fund government giveaway programs to those who are capable but choose not to work.

I want a President who proposes new tax compliance policies and procedures to catch tax cheaters, those who make their money working “under the table” in an underground economy and do not pay any income taxes.

National Security
I want a President whose leadership strengthens our military and our alliances with other countries who share our democratic values.

I want a President who ensures that our nation is capable of protecting our American homeland and the interests of American citizens and businesses around the world.

I want a President who, as commander-in-chief, manages a military force second to none, capable of responding to any crisis that endangers American security, and prevailing in any conflict we are forced to fight.

I want a President who, as commander-in-chief, knows how to salute his soldiers and sailors, look them in the eye and assure them that he knows and values their sacrifice to our country because he has been there too.

Health care and health insurance
I want a President whose policies and programs restores affordability, access, choice and competitiveness to health care and health insurance for all Americans. I’m tired of paying $858 a month for health insurance that in all likelihood will cost more than $1,000 a month next year.

I want a President whose policies promote competition within the private health care sector and consumerism among Americans, rather than a government-operated national health care system.

I want a President who proposes equitable tax incentives available to all Americans to shop for and purchase health insurance that suits them best.

I want a President who understands that America’s greatness has its origin in the contributions of immigrants who came to our country seeking a better life. These immigrants were a tremendous reservoir of skilled and unskilled labor that helped build many sectors of our modern economy.

I want a President who represents our country with open arms to the talents of a new generation of legal immigrants from other countries who can contribute to our future greatness while realizing their dreams of being “made in America.”

I want a President who sees eye to eye with me on the issues most important to me, and who can do all those things I want a President to do.

I’m voting John McCain for President.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Visit us tomorrow

Pierini Fitness is closed on Sunday. Have a great day! Please come back and visit us tomorrow.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Saints Day

November 1st is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Gregory IV officially declared November 1st as the Feast of All Saints in 837. Catholics are obliged to attend Mass and abstain from those works and affairs which hinder worship to God or the suitable relaxation of mind and body.

Christians have been honoring their virtuous dead since the beginning of Christianity; after its legalization in 313, a common celebration of saints and martyrs began to emerge in the Church. Since the number of Christians killed during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire exceeded the days available to celebrate their martyrdom, a common feast day for all saints was established.

According to St. Paul, a "saint" is a follower of Christ (Col 1:2); however, the word "saint" has come to mean a person who has lived a life of great charity and heroic virtue.

Catholics do not worship saints, but we pray to them asking for help and prayers to God on our behalf, or thanking them for having already done so. Just as we might ask a friend or family member to pray for us, we can approach a saint with our prayers too.

That's all I have to share today because I am celebrating All Saints Day.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum