Print Story Please Pump Me Op
By johnny (Thu May 22, 2014 at 10:24:41 AM EST) (all tags)
I've been working on getting into shape. Would appreciate your advice on one or two things.

If you don't have any opinions about the best way for a 61 year old man to further his personal fitness goals, skip this diary or risk boredom of a potentially lethal level.  Even if you do theoretically care about such things you might want to skip reading this. It's boring. I'm mostly writing for an audience of me. (But I do seriously welcome advice.)

My fitness history

At my tallest I was about 6'3" but I've shrunk a bit.  I was mostly unathletic in college but played basketball or frisbee or whatever. I was pretty skinny. I was a reasonably good surfer.

When I got home from Peace Corps in 1976 I was half-starved & full of parasites and weaker than a kitten. I weighed about 160lbs. I started an exercise regime with a lot of running and some weightlifting. When I got married in 1980 I was in the habit of running about 20 miles/week & I weighed about 180.

20+ years or so years ago, when I was in my late 30's (Gawd I'm old), I got in the habit of working out with weights & I got pretty strong. I benched about 220lb on a flat bench and 350 on a decline bench.  I looked reasonably fit but not like a muscleman. I weighed about 220. I never found much time to workout when I was at home, but I was spending a lot of time on the road for my job, and so working out with weights in my down time was my main hedge against loneliness.

Then Real Life intervened again & I stopped traveling so much. I never became completely sedentary, but I was getting flabbier. I got up to about 230lbs.

2007 & 2008 were pretty rough years. I spent a lot of time taking care of my brother who was dying of ALS & his wife who developed acute leukemia. I was also preoccupied with the suffering of my sister, who died of brain cancer shortly after my brother died. I lost my job. My three children all had major, unrelenting, health crises. We flirted constantly with foreclosure; nearly lost the house a few times. My main recreation/stress-reliever became beer.  In May, 2008, at the time of the memorial service for my brother,  I weighed 278lbs. ( I didn't feel that fat or think of myself as fat, but I weighed 100 pounds more than I did when I met Betty and 120lbs more than I did when I got home from Africa. Yikes!)

So that scared me & I got serious about bicycle riding & by January 2009 I was back down to 238lb. There I stayed until October of last year when my father died. Without realizing it I had really upped my beer & food intake. By January 2014 I weighed 250.

This time fer sher

Every year since 1980 I've told myself that "this year I'm going to get in shape for surfing" and every year since then, come August, I've been unable to surf well because I wasn't in good enough shape -- too weak or too fat or not enough cardiovascular endurance to paddle through the waves. I always started working out in earnest in late spring but I never quite made it to my goal -- for three main reasons: starting too late, exercising too little, and beer.

This year, by gosh by golly, I motherfucking AM going to be in shape for surfing by August.

Where I am now

I walk at least 5 miles/day and average about 5 miles/day on bike. I work out at either the weight room at the fire station or at the health club at least 4 days/week, usually 6 days/week. I mostly do HIT circuits with body weight or low weight, but sometimes I use heavier weights for chest & back exercises. I bench about 150. I joined the health club mainly to get access to the "dip/chinnup assist" & lat pull-down machines. since I'm not strong enough to do a pull-up or a dip.  I also like the bigger range of lighter dumbbells, the cleaner floor & mats for stretching etc. But I still do most of my workouts at the fire house. It's much less deluxe, but I feel at home there. Plus, if there's a fire I just go get in the truck; I don't have to figure out how to get from the gym to the scene.

The pull-up-assist machine lets you go through the motions of a pull-up with your weight counterbalanced. Pathetically enough, I require a counterbalance of 100lbs in order to do 10 (palms out) pull-ups.

When I do HIT -- high intensity training -- I mimic routines I've found on youtube -- cycles comprised of lot of whole-body exercises like jumping jacks, pushups, clean & press, burpees, etc done with no rest between individual exercises in a cycle. Some of these routines use (lighter) dumbbells or barbells; some use no equipment.

 I stopped drinking beer two months ago and have cut my intake of other carbohydrates in half. I eat oatmeal for breakfast & raw vegetables for lunch. I weigh about 225, down 25lbs since January.

My goals

My goal is to be in shape for surfing by the time of the annual Sundman Family Reunion in New Jersey during the 1st week in August. Subgoals:

  1. Weigh 205 lbs or less.
  2. Bench 205 lbs or more.
  3. Do 3 unassisted pullups.
  4. Complete 15.67 mile bike ride (on my mountain bike) in 1 hour. This is a proxy for aerobic fitness, which you need to paddle through surf.

Next week I start my new job as a construction laborer (working for the same guy I worked for in 1999). That can be physically taxing work & I'm concerned that I'll be tempted to punk out of my regular exercise because I'll be too tired from work. Also concerned about what I'll eat for lunch on the job. You can't lift heavy stuff when you're weak from hunger, but the temptation is to over eat because you're starved by lunchtime.

Finally, my questions

  1. Is my basic approach OK?
  2. Should I use a pre-workout drink (with creatine, etc)? If so, what kind?
  3. Should I bother with recreational/exercise bike riding at all? I already use my bike for my main mode of transportation around town. I reside 1 mile from stores, 1 mile from fire station, 2 miles from Dear Wife's office at the library. Can I get enough cardio from HIT ( which takes less time than bike rides & also builds strength), or do I need to incorporate rides of 10+ miles at full exertion into my routine?
  4. I take my dog on a 2 mile walk over hilly terrain about 4 times/week. This takes about 45 minutes. I took dog to vet yesterday for regular checkup & she's overweight. Should I increase my dog-walking mileage? This would be good for the dog, obviously. I know walking is good for me but it's the least intensive of the exercise modes.
OK, There you have it

Comments welcome. I suppose I should do a poll but I've already spent too much time writing this up. Cheerio!

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Please Pump Me Op | 16 comments (16 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
thoughts by gzt (4.00 / 3) #1 Thu May 22, 2014 at 10:59:53 AM EST
  1. sure. one thing you might look at doing is "pullup negatives" - somehow get to the top of the bar, let yourself down slowly, do a set of 5 of those. work up to doing more sets. this might cause some pretty heavy muscle soreness at first, so ease in, but, for a lot of people, it gets them to doing a real pullup pretty quickly.
  2. pre/post/whatever is overrated, but there's a lot of evidence around about how creatine is helpful in various ways for most people, but timing isn't all that important.
  3. depends on whether you see the kind of results you want from what you're doing.
  4. see 3.

Did 5 negatives tonight by johnny (2.00 / 0) #3 Thu May 22, 2014 at 10:45:17 PM EST
after a pretty heavy HIT workout. First 3 not bad; next two much rougher. I'll definitely build that in to my routines at fire house.

She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)
[ Parent ]
a few additional ideas by nathan (2.00 / 0) #5 Fri May 23, 2014 at 11:46:25 AM EST
You may want to swap bench for overhead press. Overhead press is just a better lift in general and does more for full-body strength. Bench is also somewhat more dangerous if you're just getting back into lifting -- you don't need a separated shoulder, so build the shoulder socket complex up by other means before getting back into BP.

Speaking up shoulder socket complex, if you want to juice the ol' chesticles for a family reunion, you're probably better off just doing push ups at this point, esp because you can do multiple sets a day and you're likely to see "swollertrophy" gains from them if you haven't lifted for a while. Even if you can't do a lot of them at one time, recovery is fast, and it's not too tough to get up into the range of hundreds/day. They also help with the shoulder socket stabilization part of pull ups. If you really don't want to do push ups, preferring BP, do reps in the 8-12 range to get swole.

Finally, re: supplementing, I'm not against it, but if you want to look ripped, your first step should be to carefully count calories and be very strict about macronutrient ranges. That will do a lot more for your gainz and abz than supplementing will.

[ Parent ]
Thanks, and by johnny (2.00 / 0) #8 Sat May 24, 2014 at 08:49:22 AM EST
I'm not particularly interested in looking "ripped", although it would be good for the vanity, of course.

I've decided against supplements for now. I just have to figure what's best to eat before starting workout if I'm a bit hungry. Fruit & yogurt are the default for now. My intent isn't to get all ripped-looking, merely to prevent anabolic consumption of muscle for fuel. Which perhaps isn't a concern at my level of exercise, but what do I know?

About bench press: I'm coming around to your way of thinking about just doing pushups instead, for a couple of reasons. First is the risk of injury, which I've read about in a couple of places. In fact my right shoulder is a bit arthritic (I think I "hairline" broke it in a fall on the ice about 4 years ago), so I don't want to tempt fate. 2 is that although the amount I can bench has been going up week by week, my pushup ability hasn't tracked. It has increased, but not as quickly. Which leads me to think that benching is missing some of the muscles that pushups hit. 3. is of course that bench pays of the most when you lift heavy to fail, and I often don't have a spotter, which rules that out. Failing on pushups is pretty risk-free ;^). and 4 is for all the other reasons you give. Plus, there are also dumbbell exercises I can do with less risk of injury. So, bye-bye bench for now. I'll load up a bar a month from now & see what I can lift.

I do overhead press with light weight as part of one of my HIT circuits and with medium weight as part of another HIT circuits. I'll work on (slowly) increasing values of $light and $medium.

She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)

[ Parent ]
right on. by nathan (4.00 / 1) #11 Sat May 24, 2014 at 02:50:49 PM EST
 Best of luck, hope it works.

[ Parent ]
re 2 by bobdole (2.00 / 0) #16 Tue May 27, 2014 at 06:21:21 AM EST
Completely agree with gzt. Personal opinion (and mostly experience) is that if you don't know that you positively need a supplement - you probably don't.
A normal varied diet is usually enough, as long as you don't starve yourself at the same time, this is usually enough.

More serious advice, all supplements come with side-effects. Creatine is fairly benign, but almost all of the creatine you digest orally is processed by your kidneys (~90%). While normal doses should be well within what you can process, you get the point.
Supplements are not quality assured in the same way that pharma is...
-- The revolution will not be televised.

[ Parent ]
In 2008, I could barely do one pull up by nathan (4.00 / 2) #2 Thu May 22, 2014 at 11:20:50 AM EST
I was coming off serious back problems. Mmm, temporary paralysis. Anyway. I put a pull up bar in my house and decided that, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be sickly again.

My regime was to start with one. Just do one every time I walked by the damned thing and felt like I could manage it. Maybe 10-12/day spread out over 18 hours. After a while, I felt like I could routinely hit 3 in a row and that the immediate limiting factor was now weak shoulders. So I added push ups to the regime. 10 per pull up, or 5 if I couldn't hack it.

I do a lot more of both now and many other lifts/exercises as well, but that's how I launched my lifting career. Can't recommend it highly enough; a truly life-changing habit, in a good way. It's weird to be way healthier and in way better shape at 35 than at 25, but better late than never.

When I search by barooo (2.00 / 0) #4 Fri May 23, 2014 at 11:37:28 AM EST
your post for "squat" I find nothing.  I'll assume you just didn't mention that because it's a given.

Otherwise, do you have any physical issues preventing you from squatting?  If you're lifting weights I would think that'd be key, and if you're doing clean-and-press for HIT you probably can squat just fine.  Or you could do bodyweight squats, prison workout style, maybe throwing in a dumbbell goblet-style.

Although this is coming from someone who's gone full circle and decided to run another marathon despite not being convinced that's very good for you.

Seems like you're getting enough cardio for your goals, although if you have access to a rowing machine doing tabata intervals on a rower is a great way to get an ass whuppin' without beating yourself up in the process. If bike riding is fun the occasional longer ride would be good but doing it just for the sake of cardio seems unnecessary.  As for supplements, I would think that all you need is make sure you're getting enough protein, maybe get some creatine somewhere but doesn't matter when as gzt said.  

On your dog walks do you ever push the pace or is it a comfortable walk?  Trying to push the pace up the hills might also help; you don't have to run or anything, it's easy to be breathing quite hard at the top of a hill just by walking faster.

man, i need a beefy taco now.
another excellent workout by nathan (4.00 / 1) #6 Fri May 23, 2014 at 12:09:41 PM EST
holy cow! by johnny (2.00 / 0) #13 Mon May 26, 2014 at 05:14:46 AM EST
I'd be impressed as heck with myself if I could do any part of that routine.

She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)
[ Parent ]
one-handed snatch is kind of a trick lift by nathan (2.00 / 0) #15 Mon May 26, 2014 at 08:49:27 PM EST
It's mostly hips and technique. But the barbell complicates things for sure. 

[ Parent ]
Squats etc by johnny (2.00 / 0) #9 Sat May 24, 2014 at 09:08:16 AM EST
In my earlier weightlifting career I mostly avoided squats because I was afraid of hurting my back, afraid of hurting my knees, and they were just too damn unpleasant.

This time around I'm being less chickenshit. I've been doing lunges for few months now, so hamstrings are much looser (& a bit stronger) then before. Recently I've been including squats with light weights into my main HIT routine (jumping jacks, pushups, overhead press, squats, lunges (with weights), curl, overhead triceps extension).  I don't plan to go heavy with squats but I do intend to gradually increase the amount.

I'm aware of my age & creaking knees, so I squat to a bench for safety. It's my compromise.

I've decided that for this summer, bike riding will be utilitarian only. That usually gets me 5 to 15 miles on a typical non-rainy day.

The dog-walk route as a few relatively gentle hills and one very steep one. I"m going to modify my route to loop around that hill, adding about 3/4 mile to the route, good for both doggie & me.

Thanks, all, for your suggestions. Very helpful.

She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)

[ Parent ]
Biking for exercise is overrated by lm (4.00 / 1) #7 Fri May 23, 2014 at 09:53:00 PM EST
At least in your situation. Don't get me wrong, it's better at burning calories than driving to the store in a car (and cheaper too). But unless you're climbing hills or doing speed work or going hella long distances, it's not all that effective at burning calories or building strength.

As far as being weak from hunger goes, I'd be surprised if you were in any danger from that so long as you're getting enough calories on a regular basis. OTOH, if you're doing manual labor there is a risk that you'll be overexerting yourself if you are also doing either serious strength training or cardio.

If you have access to a pool (or a beach), I'd add swimming to help with the cardio. Doing laps freestyle will do more to build your cardiovascular endurance than biking or running or HIT.

I second Baroo on the squats.

Losing weight is more about what you put in your mouth than how much you work out. For most people, the amount of exercise needed to significantly lose weight borders on a level that I would consider ridiculous. The hard part is that if you want to train for strength, getting too few calories is a problem. It's possible to build strength while eating at a calorie deficit but it requires discipline. The larger your calorie deficit, the more your metabolism slows down and the more your metabolism slows down, the harder it is to build muscle.

You might consider super-circuit training, going through the various weight machines and instead of resting between sets do two minutes of cardio such as jumping rope.

Dogs love to run. If you're doing two miles over hilly terrain, start running for sixty seconds out of every ten minutes. Slowly increase that amount until eventually you're running the whole distance up and down the hills. The dog will love it. Just be sure to build up the running distance very slow. Trying to run too far too fast is a good way to injure yourself.

That said, walking fast burns more calories than running slow. It varies depending on gait, how long your legs are, your body mass, etc. but for most people the cut off point is 5mph (12 minute miles). Slower than that, walking burns more calories than running at the same speed. Faster than that, running burns more calories.

What gzt said about supplements and creatine. Most supplements aren't worth your time. Creatine is an exception. When you take it doesn't seem to matter.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
Thanks and by johnny (2.00 / 0) #10 Sat May 24, 2014 at 09:32:07 AM EST
I've come to conclusions (see comments above) consistent with your advice.

The health club (in which I took a 3-month membership) has a pool that I've never used. Perhaps I will in June. Also, I live on an island surrounded by beaches. When the weather warms I can stop making excuses for not swimming in them. Anyway for the next few weeks I'm going to concentrate with my existing regime, modified as noted above.

As for caloric intake, reducing has not been hard, yet. I was, frankly, consuming a lot of beer. Cutting that out was a very easy way to radically cut my daily caloric intake. Being strict about breakfast & lunch has made it increasingly easy to be good about dinner, I'm just not as prone to eat as much as I used to because I find I'm not as hungry. Also, I'm working on that whole "learn to eat slowly" thing, which helps a lot.

She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)

[ Parent ]
lost the bulk of my weight biking. by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #12 Sun May 25, 2014 at 10:18:40 PM EST
But maybe I was doing more distance than I thought.

[ Parent ]
I lost 40lbs in 2008 by johnny (2.00 / 0) #14 Mon May 26, 2014 at 05:19:08 AM EST
mostly based on biking, with some watching of calories, of course. I should have kept going another 30 pounds or 40 pounds, but I didn't, oh well. In any event, in Summer, 2009, I was still pretty much a manatee on the surfboard.

She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)
[ Parent ]
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