Wednesday, December 31, 2008

See you next year

Here are some New Year's Eve words of wisdom I found surfing the internet:

"Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to." ~Bill Vaughn

"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves." ~Bill Vaughan

"New Year's eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights." ~Hamilton Wright Mabie

On this New Year's Eve, the 366th day of the year 2008 A.D., please accept my prayers and thoughts for you and your family's good faith, fitness, fortune and health. See you next year.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The oldest man in America

Yesterday I read that the oldest man in America died last Saturday at the grand old age of 112 years. I read about it in the local newspaper obituaries because he lived in my city.

George Rene Francis was born on June 6, 1896 in New Orleans, Louisiana and died at the convalescent home where he resided about 8 miles from where I live. He lived through 19 presidents and saw baseball legend Babe Ruth hit a home run.

Mr. Francis was 33 years old during the economic depression of 1929 and certainly could have given all of us some financial food for thought. I would have loved to listen to him bend my ear and soak up his words of wisdom. The best I've done lately are periodic conversations with a 96-year young man I know.

Mr. Francis smoked cigars until age 75 and got by on six hours of sleep a night. He broke all the rules of healthy eating with a diet heavy on dairy and eggs and some lard sandwiches. He also loved hot links and pizza.

Several weeks ago Mr. Francis refused to eat or drink anything and was hospitalized with pneumonia and just gradually faded away until his death after 112 years and 204 days of life.

Always up for a challenge and numerically oriented, I did a little math to figure out what it would take for me to outperform Mr. Francis in the life longevity department. I need to live at least one day longer than he did to do it - 112 years and 205 days - or until September 12, 2067. That's a long way to go - 58 years and 256 days to be exact - longer than the life I've lived thus far. That assumes, however, that someone doesn't raise the bar by living longer!

I better take good care of myself with plenty of exercise and diet. Or maybe I should do as Mr. Francis did and smoke cigars and eat lard sandwiches. Rest in peace Mr. Francis and thanks for the motivation. I'm on your heels in my long-term goal to be the oldest man in America.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, December 29, 2008

High blood pressure surprises

I could never explain blood pressure in my own words so I recently consulted the American Heart Association website. Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood against the walls of the arteries.

Blood pressure results from two forces. Systolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.

In America, these blood pressure numbers are written with the systolic number above or before the diastolic number, such as 120/80 mmHG (the mmHG is millimeters of mercury – the units used to measure blood pressure).

Blood pressure below 120 over 80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) is considered optimal for adults. A systolic pressure of 120 to 139 mmHg or a diastolic pressure of 80 to 89 mmHg is considered "prehypertension" and needs to be watched carefully. A blood pressure reading of 140 over 90 or higher is considered elevated (high).

For the last five years, I’ve kept a simple journal of my blood pressure every time it’s been checked. I don’t regularly check my blood pressure so my journal only has thirteen entries from August 22, 2003 to December 23, 2008.

How am I doing?
Here are my blood pressure readings recorded in my journal:

August 22, 2003 – 116/70

September 15, 2005 – 121/74

October 5, 2005 – 127/73

October 7, 2005 – 118/75

August 23, 2006 – 127/73

November 17, 2006 – 113/69

October 22, 2007 – 118/63

January 10, 2008 – 117/63

August 21, 2008 – 125/70

September 15, 2008 – 111/78

December 1, 2008 – 127/78

December 15, 2008 – 129/75

December 23, 2008 – 116/75

My current bodyweight is 10 to 15 pounds higher than 5 years ago and I now train in the Olympic lifts using heavier weights for low repetitions rather than bodyweight-only exercises for higher repetitions. I’ve also reduced my running and other cardiovascular training. Genetics aside, I would expect higher blood pressure readings now than 5 years ago but that hasn’t been the case.

That's fine with me because I wouldn't like high blood pressure surprises.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The last Sunday of 2008

Pierini Fitness is closed today. I’m exhausted from the physical do-nothingness of this past Christmas week and bordering on being zealously lethargic, the title of yesterday’s blogflection.

Visit me tomorrow for another blogflection about a topic yet to be determined but guaranteed to be both original and middle-age manish in reflective thought.

Until then, I’m enjoying today , the last Sunday of 2008.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Zealously lethargic

After a conversation with someone, I’ll often wish them good faith, fitness, fortune and health. I put this expression in the same category as “have a good day” and other blindly-expressed and robotic utterances that sound more cliché than “see you later” or "good-bye".

What exactly does it mean to have good faith, fitness, fortune and health? How do we measure the quality of these attributes? How do we go about our daily lives pursuing them? Do we do it deliberately and with focus, or haphazardly without clarity? And finally, how bad do we want good faith, fitness, fortune and health? Do we want it only if served to us on a silver platter, or do we want it bad enough that we eat, breathe and sleep it in our day-to-day activities?

It’s honest to say that we all want it and that we want it bad - I do that’s for sure – but are we always willing to do the hard work required? As the calendar year comes to a close and I think about setting goals and resolutions for the new year, now is a good time for me to reflect on how I spent my time this year pursuing good faith, fitness, fortune and health. Did I do so with youthful passion and purpose or like a middle-age man zealously lethargic?

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Friday, December 26, 2008

Memories of Christmas far from home

At this point in my life, I prefer to be home during the Christmas season. Just like Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz movie as she clapped her shiny red shoes, there’s no place like home. There were four times in which that was not the case, each of which provided pleasant memories of Christmas far from home.

My first pleasant memory was Christmas 1974 when I was in the U.S. Army stationed at Osan Air Force Base in South Korea. While missing my family, I remember enjoying the adventure of being a young, wild and crazy guy in another country and in the company of other young, wild and crazy guys who were my fellow soldiers, one who is still a good friend.

My second pleasant memory was Christmas 1990, the time my wife, daughter, son and I went to Maui, Hawaii for a week vacation. We had a great time. I remember the excitement on our children’s faces when they opened their Christmas presents early and learned we were going to Hawaii for Christmas. It felt so good to be at the beach enjoying warmer December weather knowing how cold it was back home.

My third pleasant memory was Christmas 1992 when my wife and I took our children to England and Scotland for an 8-day vacation. It was our first time crossing the Atlantic. We departed on Christmas Day and spent December 26th roaming all over London on foot before heading as far north as Edinburgh, Scotland a few days later. We returned to London on New Year’s Eve and attended a theatre performance of Les Miserables. Afterwards, we hung out at Trafalgar Square as the clock struck 12:00 midnight to ring in the new year. We have lots of photos to rekindle pleasant memories.

My fourth pleasant memory was Christmas 1994 when my wife and I took our children to England and several other European countries for a 14-day Christmas vacation. We attended Midnight Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II on Christmas Day in the Basilica of St. Peter at the Vatican. The next day, 14 years ago to this day, we walked all over Rome and visited all the popular tourist sites. The weather was great that day. A few days later we ended up in London on New Year’s Eve and found our way to Big Ben as the clock struck 12:00 midnight to ring in the new year. It was very cold that night. Again, we have lots of photos of pleasant memories.

Now that our children are adults living their own lives, it’s not easy to take those types of family vacations. I’m so glad that we did when they were young because of the pleasant memories of Christmas far from home.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas in the language of my ancestors:

Buon Natale - Italian
Feliz Natal - Portuguese
Feliz Navidad - Spanish

And in the language of the countries I have visited:

Joyeux Noel - French

Frohe Weihnachten – German

Saehae Bok Mani baduseyo – Korean

Iyi Seneler – Turkish

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tamales at midnight

Last week I wrote that my wife and I were cooking homemade tamales on Christmas Eve, ready to be eaten hot off the steamer at midnight. Here’s my blogflection if you missed it: Tamales for Christmas

Well the big day has arrived as today is Christmas Eve. Starting this afternoon, we’ll begin spreading the masa on the corn husks, and then filling them with shredded pork cooked in an ancho chili sauce prepared from scratch. These will be healthier tamales if there is such a thing, because the masa was prepared with corn oil rather than the standard lard.

After prepared, the tamales will cook in a large steaming pot over the stovetop for a couple hours. I’ll lift the steamer lid every now and then to see if they are ready. These periodic inspections are reminders that, as a middle-age man, I’m impatient when it comes to food, as if doing this speeds up the cooking time.

Bets are that I’ll eat eight tamales at midnight.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Willing to dig ditches?

Bad economic news continues to be reported by all the news media. Whether we get our news from the internet, newspaper, radio, television or word of mouth, the message is the same – the economy continues heading south with falling real estate prices, new home foreclosures, rising unemployment and corporate red ink. Reading this dismal news during the Christmas season reminds me of the Dr. Seuss classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!".

As a middle-age man, I’ve witnessed three decades of our economy's highs and lows in action and inaction. People from a generation or two before me have a greater perspective as many experienced the stock market crash of 1929 and major depression that followed. I don’t believe we will experience anything like that this time but time will tell and may prove me wrong.

Personally, I don’t know many people who are unemployed. Those I do know still manage to put food on their family table. I live in a gentrified neighborhood adjacent to downtown with a large homeless community. My homeless neighbors still appear to eat as they did when the economy was better.

What would the unemployed do if their jobs never came back and their unemployment benefits expired? Would they ever be hungry with no money for food? That’s a question lingering in my mind. What would a person do in that situation?

How long would you be hungry before willing to dig ditches to put food on your family table? That’s a question I asked my 82-year Dad the other day. I also asked several of my fitness brothers and sisters. My Dad said it would take about two days of hunger before he’d be willing to dig ditches. Thank God he’s in good health, strong and agile enough to do that work if necessary.

A couple fitness brothers and sisters responded they would start digging ditches before their hunger began. That's a response I wasn't expecting. Overall, the average response was two days.

I'm so well fed that it’s incomprehensible of starving for food and I thank God for my blessings, knowing that I could dig ditches to earn money for food if that was the only job available. So the question I asked others is now one I ask myself - how hungry would I have to be before willing to dig ditches?

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, December 22, 2008

Perfecting the burpee/pullup combo

Last Friday I tried for the first time a bodyweight-only exercise called the burpee/pullup combo. I haven't done burpees since March 2007 because of a love/hate relationship with them - I love the cardiovascular benefits they provide but hate doing them.

Here’s a video of my first attempt performing 10 reps of the burpee/pullup combo:

I wasn’t satisfied with my form because I collasped my core and bumped the floor to bounce up faster, rather than maintain a solid core, while performing the pushup part of the burpee. I also hesitated before jumping up to grab the pullup bar to perform the pullup rather than jumping up and grabbing the pullup bar for one continuous movement.

I’ll try again in about a week and expect that my next video will demonstrate better form. Check back and watch my next attempt at perfecting the burpee/pullup combo.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday before Christmas Day 2008

Today is Sunday and Pierini Fitness is closed. Come back tomorrow for another original blogflection, about something not yet known but guaranteed to be an original middle-age man reflection.

The photo is of the Christmas tree on the west side of the State Capitol in Sacrameto, California, one mile from where I live. Enjoy your Sunday before Christmas Day 2008.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday before Christmas shopping

Hello sports fans, this is an important announcement. Normally open for business on Saturday, Pierini Fitness is closed today.

The chief executive blogger is busy with some Saturday before Christmas shopping.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Friday, December 19, 2008

A dozen random acts of kindness

Shopping for my wife's Christmas gift has never been easy because I'm not a shopper. I remember many Christmas Eves walking aimlessly at a shopping mall late in the evening, in the company of other middle-age men stool pigeons, as we scrambled to find last minute and obligatory gifts for our spouses.

It's easier these days because my wife has made it clear that all she wants for Christmas are masses celebrated for her special intention by our church priest. Roman Catholic priests celebrate mass daily with a special intention of a donor. The donation is generally a token cost such as $10 per mass.

So her gift this year - the same as it was last year - is a dozen masses celebrated for her special intention by our church priest, or one mass a month. It's exactly the gift she wants, it makes her happy, and if she's happy then I am too.

Normally I don't buy myself a Christmas gift because I buy my middle-age man toys and trinkets as needed throughout the year. This year, however, I've decided to buy a gift that will bring great joy. I'm buying a random act of kindness.

A random act of kindness is an act performed by a person wishing to assist or cheer up an individual or in some cases even an animal, generally done for no reason other than to make people smile or be happier.

We've all learned that there's joy in giving as well as receiving. This Christmas, I'll be on the receiving end of holiday joy as I give to others a dozen random acts of kindness.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Private Pierini

Thirty-six years ago on December 18, 1972, a young 17-year old high school dropout joined the U.S. Army.

The cumulative toll of running around with the wrong crowd, the negative impact of his parents' divorce, and the era's rebellious times were straws that broke this young camel’s back. Always told he was smart and had lots of potential, the soon-to-be man believed it, but wasn’t motivated to put those gifts from God to good use. He reckoned that signing up to serve in the U.S. Army was a good solution to stop his downward spiral to nothingness.

Turns out it wasn’t a bad idea.

The 8 weeks of basic training learning how to be a soldier, under the direction of tough-as-nails drill sergeants bellowing out commands and orders one after the other, and learning how to survive in the company of stranger fellow soldiers from all over the country did the young buck good. Still attracted to the dark side, he met and befriended several new acquaintances from that dark side. But he also met others from a brighter side, many of who would be positive role models on his outlook of life and future.

Military discipline and structure motivated the young soldier to save money so he could resume his education when discharged. Tours of duty in San Francisco and the Republic of South Korea gave him a more "worldly" perspective of life than the south Sacramento neighborhood he identified as home.

Three years of military service seemed like eternity but time did pass and the young soldier eventually became a “two-digit midget”, a term used by fellow soldiers to describe someone who has less than 100 days remaining until discharge. With enduring perseverance, he then became a “single-digit midget” with nine days of active duty remaining.

Shy of his 21st birthday, the still young but more mature soldier was discharged from the Army in December 1975. More motivated than three years earlier, he enrolled in college and studied diligently while working at various jobs to support himself. Along the way he met a wonderful woman who would become his wife. He eventually graduated from college with honors, began a professional career, and with his wife became the parents of two children.

It seems so long ago - 36 years to this day - that this person turned a new page in his life, joined the U.S. Army, and became Private Pierini.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Monkey makers

Yesterday morning at the gym I tried something new - a bodyweight-only combination exercise of the standard grip pullup immediately followed by the hanging knees-to-elbow exercise for one repetition. I call this exercise "monkey makers".

The standard grip pullup grips the bar about shoulder width with palms facing away as you pull yourself over the bar and back down to the bottom hang starting position. The hanging knees-to-elbow exercise starts at the pullup bottom hang starting and ending position, then you lift your knees upward until they touch your elbows and return to the starting hang position.

Here's a video of me performing 6 repetitions:

My strength endurance is less than what it use to be because I am concentrating on the Olympic lifts. Currently, I'm guessing I could complete 7 repetitions of this combo exercise or about 50 percent of my current standard grip pullup set maximum of 14 repetitions.

My short-term goal is to perform 10 repetitions of this combo exercise, expecting that it will improve my standard grip pullup single set rep max.

If you can perform at least 10 repetitions of pullups, you are a candidate for this exercise. Give it a try and tell me what you think. Have fun doing monkey makers.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tamales for Christmas

Well it's official - my wife and I will cook tamales for Christmas and I'm looking forward to it. Homemade tamales cooked in the evening on Christmas Eve and ready for consumption at midnight on Christmas Day. Tamales for Christmas is a taste of family and a tribute to the rich Mexican heritage of our ancestors.

Join me for a delicious Christmas dinner of homemade tamales. Need help? Click here: a recipe for making homemade tamales

Follow the instructions, be patient and get ready for a delicious and mouth-watering Christmas meal.

Right now my taste buds are salivating with excitement because we will be eating tamales for Christmas.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not so fast

Done for both health and spiritual reasons, fasting is a period of abstinence from all food or specific items. A health reason for fasting is detoxification, the normal body process of eliminating or neutralizing toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands, and skin. A spiritual reason for fasting is expression of interior penance in imitation of the fast of Jesus for forty days in the desert.

I have fasted for both health and spiritual reasons in the past. Yesterday morning I began a 30-hour fast required for a Monday afternoon medical examination. My fast began on Sunday around 10:00 a.m. and will end at 4:00 p.m. today.

Like most Americans, I am well fed – actually overfed - so a fast is good because it gives my digestive system a long-deserved rest. It also gives me an opportunity to experience the discomfort of real hunger and perhaps a dose of starvation rather than boredom hunger in my day-to-day relationship with food.

Something I read yesterday about fasting caught my attention. Fasting technically begins within the first 12 to 24 hours of the fast. It does not chemically begin until the carbohydrate stores in the body begin to be used as an energy source. The fast will continue as long as fat and carbohydrate stores are used for energy, as opposed to protein stores. Once protein stores begin to be depleted for energy (resulting in loss of muscle mass) a person is technically starving.

There’s no doubt that an episode of real hunger and starvation will do me good. Despite that good, my natural response on Sunday morning as the time was approaching to begin my fast was to look at the clock and tell it “not so fast”.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Sunday, December 14, 2008

santa domenica

Today is another santa domenica (Holy Sunday) and, as usual, Pierini Fitness is closed. Come back tomorrow for a blogflection yet to be written but guaranteed to be original.

This photo is of the main altar of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (Italian: Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura). It is one of four churches considered to be the great ancient basilicas of Rome, founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. This photo was taken in April 2007 when my wife and I spent an entire 17-day vacation in Rome.

Have a blessed Sunday.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why is it so hard?

It's true that charity begins at home and I am no exception. Most of us are not that generous when it comes to voluntarily sharing our wealth outside of home, using charitable giving as a measure of our effort. Wealthy people are no exception, often echoing that they do enough with the taxes they pay. While it's true they do pay more tax, it's open for discussion whether they do enough. That's for them to answer; my time is better spent focusing on me.

This self-talk is because the calendar year is coming to an end and I'm reviewing our family finances and charitable giving. My wife and I do most of our charitable giving check writing in December so there's work to do this month.

This week I spent time studying our charitable giving for the past five years using amounts reported on prior year tax returns. True charity is much broader than tax deductible charitable contributions; such as random acts of kindness to people in need, giving or loaning money to family and friends, and working as a volunteer. Tax-deductible charitable contributions, however, do provide clues at how good a job we are doing at being charitable.

My analysis is that we haven't done as good a job in the last two years compared to five years ago. Here's a five-year analysis of our family tax-deductible charitable contributions as a percentage of total income:

2007 - 4%

2006 - 5%

2005 - 10%

2004 - 8%

2003 - 27%

Our 2003 charitable contributions were significantly higher thanks to my wife's demand that we make a significant contribution to support a local organization that provides prenatal services to pregnant women. Fighting hard and telling her why we couldn't or shouldn't do it, she prevailed. I remember feeling numb and weak for at least one week after the big check was written. In hindsight, I'm glad we did it and we should do it again soon, but will we?

Our planned 2008 charitable giving should be about 6% of total income. That's better than the last two years but far from the homerun we hit in 2003. I may need to get down on my knees pleading to God to make me brave this month with my charitable giving, while asking myself, "why is it so hard?"

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Friday, December 12, 2008

Discovering my new maximum heart rate

For years I ran several days a week and became a heart rate monitor junkie in my goal of becoming a better runner. I always wore my heart rate monitor when I ran and afterwards recorded my average heart rate and highest heart rate statistics in my training journal. I don't run as often as before but I'm still curious about my heart rate training effort.

Heart rate monitor training is a great way to objectively measure and improve your cardiovascular fitness. It's all based on training at a certain percentage of your maximum heart rate (MHR) depending on your fitness goals. I've learned that my MHR varies from fitness activity to activity and that my MHR for lower-body fitness activities is about 10-13 bpm higher than upper-body fitness activities.

The most basic MHR calculation method I know suggests that your MHR is 226 minus your age for women and 220 minus your age for men. This method is suggested for beginning runners who have been leading a sedentary lifestyle. Using this method gives me a MHR of 167 beats per minute (bpm).

There's another calculation method that is very similar but preferable for those who are already quite active. For this formula, simply subtract half of your age from the number 205. Using this method gives me a MHR of 178 bpm.

A third calculation method subtracts 80% of your age from the number 214 for men and 70% of your age from the number 209 for women. Using this method gives me a MHR of 177 bpm. There are other calculation methods I've read about. They generally take into account age, resting heart rate and sex. I'll not describe them here.

The best way to get closer to your MHR truth is by conducting an actual test of your MHR through physical exertion while wearing a heart rate monitor. You can give yourself a personal test or pay and have one administered to you in a laboratory setting. I've determined mine through a personal test and discovered that my MHR is higher than the than all three of the above calculation methods.

A good personal test to determine your MHR is to sprint up a hill for 20 to 30 seconds at maximum effort and note your MHR at the end of the sprint. Jog back to the starting point and repeat 6 to 8 times. Your highest recorded MHR during this test is a good measure of your actual MHR. Lately, I've ran one mile as fast as I can and noted my highest heart rate, considering that to be a good measure of my MHR.

For years I have considered 185 bpm to be my MHR based on several past maximum-effort running workouts. Yesterday in the gym, while running one mile on the treadmill as fast as I could, my MHR was 191 bpm.

At this point, I don't know if I am ready to consider the 191 bpm my new MHR truth or merely a heart rate monitor anomaly for the day. I'll continue testing myself in an effort of discovering my new maximum heart rate.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two weeks until Christmas Day

Monday evening I was sitting in a restaurant by myself waiting for my food to arrive. My day hadn't gone the way I liked it so I was slightly agitated and lacking my normal calm. The following song was on the radio:

That song melted the hardness that was residing in my heart. It also reminded me of my grandmother who I was very close to and miss very much. She passed away in 1975 and liked Dean Martin.

Enjoy this song and begin your countdown because it's only two weeks until Christmas Day.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A middle-age man plan to lose 50 pounds

Last Saturday I received a telephone call from my cousin asking for advice on getting fit and losing 50 pounds. He's a middle-age man like me and will turn age 52 the end of next April.

Sounding frustrated, he told me he's been training hard and eating healthy for 5 weeks but has gained 3 pounds. I told him that those 3 pounds could be muscle, which is good, and that a better test is how his clothes are fitting. This made he feel better because his clothes are fitting looser.

He then shared his current eating and exercise plan with me; it's a classic example of newbie zeal of doing too many exercises too often, not eating as clean as he thinks he is, and wasting his time taking creatine and protein supplements.

A fitness friend of mine who lost over 40 pounds the past year provided the specific eating plan. I provided the initial exercise plan. What follows are the specific eating and exercise recommendations we made:

Eating Plan

Follow the No-S diet, a very simple eating approach that can be summed up as follows:

No - S (no seconds, sweets or snacks) except (sometimes) on days beginning with S (Saturday and Sunday). A friend of mine followed this simple eating plan and lost 40 pounds in the past year. You can read up about it here: The No-S Diet.

Add an additional strictness to it with by avoiding the forbidden 7 C foods, which I wrote about in my blog here: My seven forbidden C foods

Get rid of the creatine and protein supplements, as they are not necessary.

Plan on a slow and steady weight loss of no more than 2 pounds a week. Weigh yourself the same time each day and record it in a journal.

Maintain a food journal, writing down everything you eat, and then regularly sharing it with someone. This helps create rigorous honesty and over time it will change your behavior. You can maintain this food journal on the internet. Here's one that I've used in the past:
A free food journal website

Exercise Plan

Exercise less but with more intensity because rest and recovery are your friends. Favor compound exercises that work your entire body rather than isolation exercises. Continue using the 10-minute abs workout plan you purchased. Here's a suggested workout:

Monday - Perform a combination exercise of a front squat then overhead press for one repetition using a challenging weight that requires your best effort using good form for 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Rest 2 minutes between sets. Then do the 10-minute abs workout. Wrap up your training with 30 minutes of easy-intensity cardio with a target heart rate training zone of 65 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Wednesday – Perform a superset of the deadlift for 10 repetitions followed by the bench press for 10 repetitions using a challenging weight that requires your best effort using good form. Perform 3 of these supersets resting 2 minutes between supersets. Then do the 10-minute abs workout. Wrap up your training with 20 minutes of medium-intensity cardio with a target heart rate training zone of 75 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Friday – Perform a superset of a maximum effort set pushups followed by a maximum effort set of walking lunges. Perform 3 of these supersets resting 2 minutes between supersets. Then do the 10-minute abs workout. Wrap up your training with 10 minutes of high-intensity cardio with a target heart rate training zone of 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Go for an easy 30-minute outdoor walk on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Rest on Sunday.

Well I haven't heard from my cousin since I sent him a middle-age man plan to lose 50 pounds.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wide grip behind-the-neck pullups

Overhead presses, behind-the-neck overhead presses, and wide grip behind-the-neck pullups are exercises the "fitness experts" frequently warn are dangerous and make us more prone to injuries.

If the us is us with poor shoulder flexibility, then I agree. But if the us is us with good shoulder flexibility, then they are challenging and great exercises to periodically include in our training.

I seldom perform traditional overhead presses, although I do a lot of other overhead exercises. Because I do a lot of shoulder flexibility drills, my shoulders feel great and normally I have no problem with overhead exercises. I do not perform behind-the-neck overhead presses but would have no problems if I did.

With my current training, I seldom perform pullups or chinups. Last Friday, however, I decided to do a set of wide grip behind-the-neck pullups, after reading several posts on a fitness discussion forum stating it was a dangerous exercise and thus should be avoided.

Here's me banging out 10 reps:

Watching the video, I see that my bottom range of motion could have been better, as well as my form. My strength endurance is not what it use to be, and I felt like a weak middle-age man that day, so the 10 reps was a maximum effort.

It’s my opinion that there are no bad or dangerous exercises, but only people with bad judgment and poor flexibility using bad form to perform exercises unsafely.

It's an exercise I don't perform that often but in my opinion, there's nothing dangerous about wide grip behind-the-neck pullups.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, December 8, 2008

Introduction to Mullets 1A

Everyone who went to college remembers the predictable numbering schemes of college courses with most introductory courses numbered as 1A. I remember my English 1A and Financial Accounting 1A courses and the C grades I received for my substandard efforts.

If there was an introductory college course on how to grow and wear a mullet, it would make sense to call it Introduction to Mullets 1A. To learn the subject well, you'd need a reference textook with plenty of good photos, like the above photo taken of me twelve years ago when I was age 41, entering middle-age manhood.

Since learning is a lifelong experience, I think all men about to enter the kingdom of middle-age manhood should be required to take the class Introduction to Mullets 1A.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ave Maria

Today is Sunday and Pierini Fitness is closed so the chief executive blogger can spend the day in worship, rest and relaxation, and get ready for a week of jury duty beginning tomorrow.

But do return tomorrow for a great blogflection, one I know you will really enjoy. It might even make you laugh.

Until then, enjoy the following:

It's a wonderful song with beautiful imagery titled Ave Maria.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thanks for the memory O.J.

Yesterday's news of former NFL football legend O.J. Simpson's prison sentence for a Las Vegas motel armed robbery was a bittersweet moment for me because I remember a different O.J from a brief encounter over 24 years ago.

My wife and I were walking on Martin Luther King Boulevard towards the Los Angeles Coliseum to watch the track & field competition during the 1984 Olympics. Catching a glimpse of someone I recognized ahead of me, I looked at my wife and said to her, "look, it's O.J. Simpson!" My wife replied with a "who is that?" response.

I told her, "It's O.J. Simpson and he's a well-known former professional football player and now sports announcer. He's probably going to the same place we are to cover the track & field event. Let's see if we can get him to autograph our ticket and maybe take a photo with you."

So I approached him and asked if he would autograph our ticket and be in a photo with my wife. "Sure" he replied with a friendly smile. With the stroke of a pen in hand, he autographed our ticket. Then, with a photogenic smile he posed for a couple camera shots of my wife and him. "Thank you O.J." was my response as the three of us proceeded in the same direction along our merry way.

That was then and this is now.

The tragedy that has been part of his life is sad and unfortunate. It's not my job to judge whether he was innocent or guilty of the crimes he was charged. That was the job of our criminal justice system, and in one case he was found innocent and in the other case he was found guilty. But it is my job to have empathy for him as a human being and child of God and for those other human beings and children of God who were victims of these crimes.

His prison sentence is a very long time and not how he contemplated spending the senior citizen years of his life. It's really so sad but also a stark reminder of how our lives can change so drastically and so suddenly from the visions we have for them.

Thanks for this valuable lesson and thanks for the memory O.J.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Friday, December 5, 2008

Lessons learned when turning 100

Pierini Fitness was "born" 100 days ago and today marks its 100th consecutive blogflection. For me, it’s a day to be grateful that God has given me an ability to express myself with the cyberspace written word. It’s also a reminder that it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, there’s nothing new under the sun, and there’s always something new to learn.

A case in point is learning the origin of the word “blogflection”. It’s a word I frequently use to describe my daily cyberspace utterances. With a false sense of cleverness, I thought it was an original word I created, and told so to several friends and acquaintances.

Turns out I was wrong – not once, not twice, but at least three times.

Blogflection was used in the Under The Southern Cross blog on September 19, 2006 when the blogger wrote:

“a blogflection based on a few transient emotions occurring in a heart beat. Blogs are immediate, but appear reflective, and thus allow regurgitation of notions, synapse flashes and semi-thoughts under the guise of reflection. A blogflection.”

Eureka, strike one!

Blogflection was also used in the PSoDT blog on August 19, 2007, excerpted in part as follows:

“Blogflection - . . . one of the beauties of blogging is that a writer's work can be treated as a reflection of how he or she thinks, and some analysis can be made of how they come to conclusions. One of the weaknesses of newspapers is that they treat a writer's work much more as a transitory experience. This is a major flaw in the editorial room, and it allows for writers to continue writing - and being clearly wrongheaded - for years and years and years, because each written exercise in boneheadedness is seen separately and not as part of a flotilla of feebleism”.

Eureka, strike two!

Finally, it was used in the title of ilovecerts' blog on May 16, 2008 "Post Webquest Blogflection”.

Eureka, street three!

It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, there’s nothing new under the sun, and there’s always something new to learn. These are lessons learned when turning 100.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The cat has got my tongue

Normally, I have no trouble getting an idea for my daily blogflection. Some days the idea comes quicker than others. Every once in a while, I draw a big blank. Today is one of those days. There's an idiom for this condition, one that I'm sure most of you have heard before.

So bear with my blogflection dryness today and enjoy this substitute video of me yesterday in the gym, during my 5th set of an 8 set workout performing 3 reps of split jerks from the rack. My goal was to increase the weight each set until getting to my 3-rep max, and then perform multiple sets with this weight. I managed 2 sets of 3 reps and 2 sets of 2 reps with this weight.

Here's the video:

Visit me tomorrow for my daily blogflection. I just couldn't write one today because the cat has got my tongue.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You'll shoot your eye out

Well it's fair to say that the 2008 Christmas Season has arrived. With each upcoming holiday activity is a pleasant memory of one from the past.

One of my favorite memories was the annual viewing of the classic movie "A Christmas Story". My daughter, son, wife and I would watch this fun movie at least once each Christmas season. We never got tired of it.

There are so many favorite scenes for me that it's hard to narrow down the one I like the best, and my favorite constantly changes the more I reflect. One of them is definitely the scene where Ralphie tells his mother that he wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, to which she replies that he can't have one because he'll shoot his eye out.

Enjoy that scene with this trip down memory lane:

One Christmas, my wife and I bought our son a Red Ryder BB gun and I had fun playing with it. Our son is now an adult living on his own, but in the bowels of my basement is his Red Rider BB gun.

This weekend I'll go down to the basement and secretly play with it. I don't want my wife to know because she might tell me, "you'll shoot your eye out".

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Turning 100 this Friday

Guess who is turning 100 this week? Pierini Fitness is with its 100th blogflection scheduled for Friday.

I started Pierini Fitness on August 28th with this introductory blogflection:

Welcome to Pierini Fitness, a middle-age man's cyberspace
chronicle of his journey down the superfitness highway in the fast lane.

For the past four years, I have maintained a training journal on two different fitness forum websites. I've created this new blog to continue my cyberspace training journal, and to record anything else I have on my mind for my archival benefit and for the benefit or disadvantage of anyone else who happens to stumble across Pierini Fitness.

Read at your own risk. I make no guarantees and I do not profess myself to be an expert at anything other than my own pursuit of my own destiny.

The cyberspace training journal never happened, but I sure have expressed myself about this and that on my mind.

As I got into writing daily blogflections, I learned something new about me - I enjoy reflective and introspective writing and, quite frankly, find it relaxing and refreshing from the business correspondence writing I do in my profession.

Little did I know that I would get fired up about political issues and the Presidential election and cough up some related strong opinions and thoughts in my daily blogflections. I also didn’t plan that Sunday would be a predictable blogflection day of rest or that I would share little tidbits of information about my Catholic faith.

Overall, I'm having fun and hope that, in a small way, I've given you some food for thought about the things that matter the most in life. Hopefully, I've also given you at least one idea or thought about fitness and health.

You are invited to a cyberspace birthday party later this week as Pierini Fitness is turning 100 this Friday.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

Monday, December 1, 2008

Enjoying the challenge of 8x3

Lately, I’ve had more structure with my squat training and it's doing me good. I’m focusing on front squats but I also do back squats. Both are assistance training exercises for the Olympic lifts, thus I concentrate on very low squat depth and very upright upper body uprightness.

This month my goal is to do squats three times a week, alternating between heavy, light and medium training days. Since I have no hypertrophy goals, I perform many sets of low reps. After much trial and error and wise counsel from others, I’ve settled into a progressive resistance cadence of 8 sets of 3 reps with plenty of recovery between sets.

Sometimes I’ll do a squat workout but first perform 3 reps of another exercise such as the overhead press or the split jerk, done one after the other like a superset.

Here’s a planning template I generally follow for a heavy training day, consisting of 3 reps of the split jerk followed by a quick rest then 3 reps of the front squat for one superset with a longer rest between supersets (all percentages are of my one rep max):

Set #1 – 50%

Set #2 – 60%

Set #3 – 70%

Set #4 – 80%

Set #5 – 90%

Set #6 – 90%

Set #7 – 90%

Set #8 – 90%

This workout is slowly but surely giving me additional strength. While it’s tough, done only once a week, I am enjoying the challenge of 8x3.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum