The first major challenge we face when we exercise regularly is just getting started and committing to a consistent pattern of working out. I say “consistent pattern” to cast as broad a net as possible. For you, working out regularly might mean going to the gym three times per week, or it might mean going for a morning walk 4-5 times per week, or it might mean training twice a day for 13 consecutive days and taking a rest day. The only thing I mean to exclude is an irregular pattern of exercise, i.e. going to the gym “when I have time” or going for a run “when I feel like it.” I’m not trying to criticize anyone, I’m just trying to focus my message on the subset of people who exercise regularly.

It can take weeks or months to reach the point where you are committed to exercising regularly and showing some progress with your work. It’s not easy. If you’ve made it that far, take a bow – you deserve it.

After that, you reach the dreaded plateau, the point of diminishing returns, when you keep hitting the gym hard, but you stop showing any kind of progress. Perhaps your weight loss has stalled at the wrong number, or your muscle size gains are inadequate, or you find that you cannot run any faster or lift any heavier weight, even though you have still fallen short of your goal. This is the second major challenge.

It’s natural and, to a certain extent, inevitable. You need not feel as though you’ve failed or that you’re not capable of accomplishing what others can accomplish. That isn’t what your body is telling you. Your body is telling you, “Try something different now.”

At this point, you might want to look for a new workout program entirely. Stop running, and start swimming. Stop lifting, and start doing calisthenics. Stop doing yoga, and start doing pilates. Whatever.

If you like what you’ve been doing, though, and you don’t want to make a radical change because you’d rather just improve, then I recommend first taking a couple of days off to give your body a full rest. Then, you can try a number of things. One simple technique is to just inject some variety in the order in which you do your exercises, the number of sets, the number of repetitions. As long as you’re working out to exhaustion, then the order and mix of sets-and-reps shouldn’t matter too much, anyway (within reason).

Another thing you can do is gamify it: Turn your workouts into a sport. Rather than trying for a gain every week, or ever couple of weeks, set a goal and attempt to meet it, gradually.

I wrote about this the other day. I’m trying to perform certain exercises that I cannot currently do. I felt for a while that I was reaching a plateau, but really I needed to pause, re-group, and concentrate on what it will take to achieve my goals. Attempting to do a muscle-up every time I attempt a pull-up would be overkill, but setting aside some time every week to attempt something new and previously impossible is an important way to keep yourself on track. Concentrate on what you want to achieve, and dedicate time to achieving it.

It’s no different than any other aspect of life, really. You’ll never be happy if you expect to get a little happier every day; but if you set aside a little time every now and then to make yourself happy, before you know it, you’ll feel very content. That’s what it’s all about.


There Is No Tea Party


In the wake of the Dave Brat/Eric Cantor upset, the news media and all the political pundits are saying the same thing: another “Tea Party challenger” defeated a member of the “Republican establishment.” Out of curiosity, I checked out Brat’s official website so that I could see what his policy stances are. To be sure, his position on the issues has been accurately reported. But his official platform consists of things like opposing amnesty for immigrants, balancing the budget, increasing military spending, repealing Obamacare, and supporting the free market system.

Can anyone tell me which one of those positions is at odds with the Republican establishment?

The news media are making a big deal out of the immigration side of things. It’s true that Brat’s stance on immigration is stricter than Cantor’s. But since when does one issue like that make a person a “Tea Party extremist” or not? One issue?

This made me think – and not for the first time – that there is no such thing as “the Tea Party.” The Tea Party, more than anything else, looks to be a re-branding of the Republican “establishment.” From my vantage point, the only way the “Tea Party” differs from the “establishment” is in tone, and even that benchmark is not totally reliable.


How do you sell a new smartphone to a nation of people who already own five apiece?

You could do it the old-fashioned way. You could offer people a smartphone with new or significantly improved features, that performs faster, has clearer calls, more storage capacity, better apps, and so on. The problem with this is that it’s both difficult (to technologically improve on something that is already cutting-edge), and risky (to offer something that may turn out to be an “alternative” platform).

If you’re both greedy and lazy, then you have another option: You could simply stop providing meaningful updates to your phone’s operating system, make a few cosmetic changes to your flagship smartphone, give its operating system a new number (you know, increment from “” to “5.0”), support it with meaningful updates, and sell it for an extra hundred bucks. In this case, you’d be relying on your customers’ collective sense of product envy and mounting frustration with the lack of operating system updates. It might also help to make the phones as brittle as possible, to maximize the periodicity of replacement.

The funny thing is, we all know that the smartphone companies are scamming us, but we’re tolerant of it. We might be less tolerant of this kind of thing if, rather than smartphones, we were talking about political regimes.


Well, maybe…

The Republican establishment hasn’t offered any sort of meaningful operating system upgrade in a century or more. They’re “conservatives,” and conservatives like things to stay just as they are, thank you very much. What’s more, it’s doubtful that making any significant changes would be good for them as a political party. New or significantly improved features are difficult to produce, especially when your central goal is to reign supreme over the country. You might “alienate your base” by introducing them to weird, new-fangled concepts like ending agricultural and corporate welfare. If you stop talking about god, then you won’t be able to rattle certain cages anymore, and you’ll have to risk giving them individual liberty. And we can’t have that.

So what you can do instead – again, assuming you are both greedy and lazy – is add a few cosmetic upgrades (a woman here, a member of a visible minority there) to your old product and bill it as an entirely new product! You can sell it to people under the guise of its being a “grassroots movement,” meaning it must be popular and forward-looking; popular, because it’s a movement, and forward-looking, because its “grassroots” AKA “indie” AKA hip.

If you did this, though, you still might risk alienating the more somber, contemplative members of your base. They wouldn’t be prepared to join any noisy and impulsive grassroots movement. They’d want to make sure the ideas are sound and consistent with Republican ideals. How would you dupe them into accepting your new sham product?

You’d introduce a plot conflict: the Tea Party is passionate, but they may also be extremists! This lends credence to the old fuddy-duddies while simultaneously inspring the grassroots hipsters to double-down. “Hey!” they’ll scream, “We’re not extremists! We just want the party to return to its old ideals!” So you hand the Tea Party a stack of posters to circulate around Facebook, mostly consisting of pictures of wounded soldiers and smiling old Ronald Reagan. Both of these symbols will reassure the fuddy-duddies while energizing the hipsters.

At this point, you’d be inclined to think you have a new problem: With all this Republican grand-standing, your new product has zero appeal among the centrists. But you’d be wrong, because by introducing the plot conflict, you’ve set yourself up to resolve it with a “compromise.” That is, you’ll dilute the so-called Tea Party extremism, the “anti-government” stuff with the wisdom of the Republican “establishment.” Some old racists will have to go, no matter how good they are for funneling pork into the hands of your favorite funding organizations. The most clever of the hipsters will also have to be sacrificed to appease the beast, and also to ensure that they don’t cook-up any genuinely good ideas.

Remember, we’re not selling freedom, we’re selling Republicanism. It’s two different things.


There’s a chance you’re chuckling softly to yourself as you read this, because you’re a Democrat. “Ho ho! Those nutty conservatives!”

But the Republican “establishment” is the same thing as the Democrat “establishment,” and you were recently sold a movement variously called “Occupy,” or “Green Party,” or “Progressive” or “evidence-based” so-and-so, or whatever new thing you think you’re buying.


Think about it. These new “grassroots” movements haven’t actually managed to weaken anyone’s grip on anything. Guantanamo Bay is still open for “Business… And Business Is Good.” We are still at war with Eastasia. (Or was it Eurasia?) So the end result hasn’t really changed.

Now consider the actual platforms of these groups, the Tea Party or whoever else. The core question I would like you to answer (to yourself) is: How –EXACTLY – do these organizations differ from the establishment? Be specific. The Tea Party’s platform is nothing new. It’s not “extreme,” and it’s not “different.” It is the same old Republican Party platform we’ve seen for at least 30 years. At best, you could argue that their tone is more belligerent, but that’s not a tangible difference. It’s just marketing.

There is no Tea Party.


Workout Of The Day

On that note, here's today's workout.


Three sets of:


·         5 dips w/ forward lean

·         5 one-arm push-ups (5 each arm, alternating; 10 total)

·         5 dips w/ forward lean

·         5 clapping or Aztec push-ups

·         5 dips w/ forward lean

·         10 decline push-ups


Followed by a running fartlek (weather permitting):


·         8 mins brisk

·         4 mins recovery

·         6 mins fast

·         3 mins recovery

·         4 mins fast

·         2 mins recovery

·         2 mins hard

·         1 min recovery


Don't forget, if you're doing an out-and-back run, the turn-around point should occur at the fifth minute of your 6-minute fast split.

Fitness Endeavors

Let's zoom-out a bit on the Fitness Experiments blog posts long enough to consider a bit more of the bigger picture.

I have originally explained that the general idea governing the creation of these workouts is to use body-building workouts as a framework with which to create calisthenics workouts. Now that I'm six or seven weeks into these experiments, I realize that this is no longer an appropriate way to describe what's happening. I haven't been looking for new and different body-building workouts that I can convert into calisthenics, but rather I did so initially, and have spent the rest of the time attempting to improve upon my ability to perform calisthenics. So what started out as a hybrid workout approach has slowly become a calisthenics-only approach.

The reason this happened is because I experienced such significant strength gains that I came to realize that calisthenics is all I really need to achieve my goals. Let's reiterate: I am not really a body-builder, I'm a distance runner (fundamentally). Diabetes makes it challenging or impossible to eat the way a body-builder eats, anyway, so it's not something within my practical reach. I don't want to be a hulk, I want to do cool calisthenics.

The other thing I discovered is that calisthenics offers a seemingly limitless way to improve upon prior gains. Sick of push-ups? Do handstand push-ups. Sick of handstand push-ups? Do clapping push-ups. Sick of clapping push-ups? Do Aztec push-ups. The fun never ends.

Well, the fun never ends, so long as it actually begins. There are a great many calisthenics exercises that I'm not currently able to perform. I just don't have enough strength, or balance, or both. The fact that I can't do some of the things I'd like to do is, in fact, a blessing in disguise. If I could do absolutely everything that I want to do, then I'd have very little motivation to work out. It would be a matter of putting together combinations of exercises in various sets of various reps, for no discernible reason, and without experiencing any sort of improvement. Perhaps that's even what some of these workouts look like from the blog-reader's perspective.

So, I'd like to clear things up a little bit. There are a few exercises that I'm currently trying to perform, unsuccessfully. There will come a day when I'll have built up enough strength and balance to pull them off; then, I can make them a regular part of my workouts. Until that point, though, they're really just movements I'm trying to figure out and master. I know I'll eventually pull them off because I've done this before with other exercises.

Here's a short list of exercises I could never do, until I gradually built up enough strength and coordination to do them properly:

·         Dips – Let's face it, these are difficult for most people.

·         One-arm push-ups – Again, most people don't really do these, perhaps because they have a bad rap as a "showing off" exercise. So, they've become a skill that few actually have.

·         Lateral raises – Maybe it's just me, but I always started out with too much weight. Consequently, I never really figured out how to do them until I pulled back and started with the basics.

·         Hanging leg raises / Hanging torso-twists – I never would have even attempted these, had it not been for a personal trainer I worked with briefly. Stick with them; it's worth it to learn how to do them.

The reason I bring up the past is that, over the course of the existence of this blog, I've learned how to do a great many exercises I couldn't do before. Maybe I've given the impression that I'm just building workouts out of movements I already know how to do. Truth is, I'm learning as I go.

Now I'd like to write down a list of exercises I'm working toward, slowly but surely. If you can already do these, then congratulations – you're already way ahead of me. Good work! If you can't, then here's your opportunity to learn them as I learn them. We'll do it together.

All these calisthenics workouts I'm doing these days are created with the intent of being able to do:

·         Pistols, AKA "one-legged" squats. I could do these once, but no longer. Time to re-acquire the skill.

·         Muscle-ups – A pull-up, followed by shifting the weight of your shoulders over the bar and pushing up, as if climbing over a ledge. Currently working on proper form, but I might not have enough arm strength yet.

·         Aztec push-ups – Like a clapping push-up, but rather than just pushing your arms off the ground, push your arms and legs off the ground and do a "jack" in the air by making your body form an X. I can almost do these; I just need a little more plyometric power.

·         Planche Push-ups – Maybe this is the "ultimate" push-up. Get in push-up position, lean forward, shift your bodyweight over your hands, and balance so that your legs aren't touching the ground. Now do a push-up. I have major balance issues, so I'm a long way off from this.

These are the exercises that are on my current horizon. It will take time and effort. Know that when I list any of these in my daily workout routines, I am simply attempting to do them.



Fitness Experiments 1.2

It has been a little while since I injected some variation into my calisthenics routines. Having been walking this path for about five weeks now, I have a real need to start changing things up to avoid stagnation (before stagnation sets in).

I've had good success with my pushups routines, but I need some variety. Today, I'm hoping to get that variety by using super-sets and focused motions. I'm also applying plyometric techniques for an added blast.

The workout will be three sets of the following:

5 forward-lean dips
10 clapping pushups

5 forward-lean dips
10 incline pushups

5 forward-lean dips
5 alternating one-arm pushups

I plan to finish it off with a 5-mile run. Won't you join me?