The Calisthenicist

Bear with me as I attempt to keep my blog alive.

When last we met, I was once again exploring the wild and wonderful world of calisthenics. I continue to do so. Of note today is the fact that, despite my haphazard - and some might say lackadaisical - approach to working out these days, I am now beginning to see some gains. I have a long way to go, but my frame is once again beginning to take the shape of man - and not just Slenderman.

How did I do it?

One successful theory I have employed recently is my old concept of incremental fitness. This has been absolutely indispensable to me in light of my limited time and exercise resources (read: longer daily commute to/from work and no current, active gym membership). When I have time to exercise, I do it. If I can steal a few moments to do some squats, a wall press, a few push-ups, whatever, I will take the opportunity. It doesn't matter much if there are people around, or if I can only do a set or two. I take the opportunities as they come. What I've discovered is that the opportunities come constantly. There is no shortage of excuses to take the stairs, or to quickly get in a few push-ups on my way to taking my lunch break, or to do a wall-press while chatting with a group of people, or whatever it might be. Indeed, these opportunities present themselves to me all day long. Having the wherewithal to actually make use of them is the grand (not-so-grand) innovation here. And it really works.

The other part of the incremental fitness approach these days is making a conscious effort to increment-up. I don't allow myself to do the same number of repetitions of the same exercise every week. I'll never make progress that way. So, more reps, or more sets, or a more challenging variant of the same exercise, or some combination of those.

The next ingredient I've been happy about recently is obtaining my standing workstation in the office. This has made an immediate and positive impact on my blood sugar, so that means it's obviously working, at least according to one bio-marker. On top of that, though, I've noticed that standing all day makes me more conscious of my posture. That, in turn, makes me straighten  my shoulders, engage my abs, engage my lower back muscles, and generally adopt a healthier, stronger stature all day long. This must be the reciprocal of the factors that make sitting all day so deadly (not to be sensationalist or anything).

Finally, for the first time in my life, I've started using my eyes as a guide for my workout regimen. I can see how small my shoulders have become since I stopped lifting regularly. I can see the changes in my abdominal muscles and triceps. Because I can see these things, I can address them directly with exercises intended for their benefits. This isn't really spot-training, since I typically do calisthenics and not isolation weight exercises, but it is still targeted. (And, hey, even if it is spot-training, I'm old enough and experienced enough to have earned a few mistakes, okay?) I can also see the impact of my recent workouts and so I know what isn't getting enough of a workout.

Long story short, I'm feeling good and I have a path forward. I'll continue along this way for a while, but I am anxious to get another gym membership and start keeping myself healthy in a more formal way.


No Fences?

Quote #1:

U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson also barred Hughes from the District of Columbia, except for court appearances, and said he must stay away from the Capitol, White House and nearby areas while he is there. He will also have to hand over his passport.

Quote #2:

Johnson said it was too soon to say whether the incident would prompt any change in security protocol, the AP reported. "We are a democracy. We don't have fences around our airspace, so we've got to find the right balance between living in a free and open society and security and the protection of federal buildings," Johnson said, according to the AP.

Notice anything funny?


One great thing about working on one of the mid-to-upper floors of an office high-rise is that you get some exercise every time you choose to use the stairs rather than the elevator. For a person like myself, that happens every time I want to go from one floor to another.

I know what you're thinking: Great fitness advice, Ryan - I can similar advice from Good Housekeeping for chrissakes. And you would be right. But when you hear this advice from me, you get it in your web browser! 

But it's not just that. I don't take the stairs because I'm trying to win over the Weight Watchers crowd or shift my target demo toward old ladies. There is an all-encompassing philosophy here. Taking the stairs is about what I call fostering a culture of activity in your life. Don't take the stairs to lose weight; take the stairs "because transportation." You're at point A on Floor X, you want to be at point B on Floor Y (where Y <> X); so you walk.

You could object that it takes longer - but it certainly doesn't take more than a couple of minutes longer, unless you are really out of shape (and taking the stairs more frequently will change that in a hurry).

You could object that it's less pleasant than taking the elevator, but I assert that after a couple of weeks of dedicating yourself to stairs-only travel, that will no longer be the case. This should be especially true once you reiterate to yourself that you're doing it purely for reasons travel, not health. If something doesn't feel like exercise, then it's tough to mentally categorize it as "exercise." (This, by the way, is how we distance runners "do it without going crazy." I mention this because I have often been asked.)


The Problem With Good Things

There are a rash of fresh headlines about the allegedly deleterious effects of fitness apps:

Etc., etc.

The idea seems to be that some users of fitness tracking smartphone applications get so preoccupied by maximizing their data that they start to worry, suffer anxiety, over-exert themselves, and so forth. 

Imagine if someone suggested that knowledge itself were harmful because, once you know that knowledge is possible, you may quickly start to worry about not possessing it.

It seems silly, but I vividly recall a conversation I once had with a close friend. I was telling this friend of mine all about my fabulous wife, then girlfriend. I was discussing what we had done the previous weekend, and a few things that she had done to demonstrate a few of her many great qualities. This friend of mine suddenly became sullen and withdrawn. After some questioning on my part, my friend told me that it hurt to hear about all the wonderful things I was doing with my girlfriend because the friend did not have a romantic partner. 

I remember being stunned. Here I had shared a big part of my life with my friend, hoping to receive some positive empathy, and really just making harmless conversation, and the friend instead took it as though I was rubbing everyone else's face in what a good life I had.

And so it goes with fitness apps. It's not enough that they can track our every caloric expenditure (and acquisition), geo-locate us anywhere in the world, automatically parse our bio-markers by time of day, and so on, and so forth. We now ask them to insulate our fragile egos from suffering the blow of not having had a perfectly healthy day!

The problem with good things, it seems, is that some people feel bad for not having them. If only there were an app that delivered narcissistic supply. Perhaps I should develop one.

In A Hurry? Improvise!

If exercise were my full-time job – and, boy, would I love it if that were the case! – then every morning I would wake up and carefully plan a new and exciting workout for myself. I’d extend my morning breakfast/coffee deep into mid-morning and arrive at the day’s perfect workout. Then, I’d deliver it in spades!


In the real world, I’m a working stiff, a parent, a husband, and a guy with a diverse set of interests and responsibilities. In short, I don’t always have time to concoct The World’s Greatest Workout, Man and then spend all day making my muscles sing from the rooftops. (Notes to future self in the event that reincarnation occurs: (1) You were wrong about atheism; (2) consider a career as a fitness model or personal trainer.) To put it concisely, I don’t always have a lot of time on my hands to think up a great workout.


What do I do in those situations? Well, I could always dig up someone else’s workout, but that starts to feel like a to-do list preceded by uninteresting internet research. I could also pull Stationary Waves up on my internet browser and see what I’ve done in the past. I’ve actually done this a number of times to smashing effect. (Indeed, it’s probably the main reason I blog my workouts – sorry to disappoint those of you who supposed I was primarily motivated by fitness altruism.)


But in this morning’s case, I opted for another handy approach to creating one’s own workouts: Doing the same thing you did last time, plus additional repetitions.


Unimaginative? Yes. Boring? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely!


TL;DR: Today’s workout was the same as Mondays, plus more reps.


Light Calisthenics, Part Two


This morning's push-up/squat workout sure was fun. On the other hand, it didn't feel like much of a workout. I think that means I ought to push a little harder tomorrow morning, and that's exactly what I intend to do.


Before I do, though, I think I ought to supplement this morning's workout with a little more exercise this evening. Nothing too complicated, just a few more sets of push-ups - I'll make it up as I go, because I don't want to burn up mental energy heaping workout responsibilities on myself. I just want to have fun with this - no pressure, no commitment, just a little something to make me feel more accomplished tonight.


As for tomorrow, my plan is as follows, perforated by mountain-climbers:


·         Set 1: 10 L-sit pull-ups

·         Set 2: 10 underhand pull-ups

·         Set 3: 10 L-sit pull-ups

·         Set 4: 10 underhand pull-ups

·         Set 5: 10 side-to-side pull-up isometrics


I suppose now might be a good time to mention that my ultimate goal is to create substantial increases to my ability to perform calisthenics. More on that as details become available. For now, I’ll just focus on building my strength.


Workout Of The Day

I typically use Monday as my triceps-and-chest day. As such, today's workout explores the deeper end of the push-up pool.

And speaking of push-ups, I typically do repetitions of between 20 and 40 - but that's sort of a runner's approach to push-ups, isn't it?

In the spirit of new-ness, today I'll try a new approach. I'll do five sets of push-ups as per below. Between each set, I'll do squats.
  • Set 1: 10 diamond push-ups
  • Set 2: 10 plyo-push-ups (clapping)
  • Set 3: 10 side-to-side push-up isometrics
  • Set 4: 10 incline push-ups
  • Set 5: one-arm push-ups to max

Mojo, The Return Of My

The road ahead, get it?
I was training for a half marathon that didn't happen due to inclement weather. In order to run my fastest, I was anxious to shed some upper body mass, and I did that very successfully. Then the race didn't happen, and since then, my workout pattern has been, shall we say, sporadic.

Well, cue the theme music, because it's time I reestablished myself as a purveyor of fine calisthenics and exercise ideas. To accomplish this, I'll need to get in shape - big time. And why not leverage my stagnating blog toward that process?

This time around, I'll be focused on all-around fitness, which means I'll be heavy on the calisthenics and plyometrics, significant on the free weights, and merely present on the cardio. I love cardio, but what this recent half marathon training reminded me is that I love cardio for fun, not for competition or serious dedication. (Perhaps some day I'll tell that story - it is probably worth it.)

Of course, I could always just go back to my trusty 8W routine; and I'll admit that it was a lot of fun. But I'd like to recapture some of that fitness mojo I've been lacking lately, and in order to do that, I want to focus on the playful nature of inventing my workouts on the fly. 

There will still be some semblance of structure, but within that semblance, all bets are off. 

Let's do this thing.