Sunday, November 3, 2019

Health & Fitness Goodies

I will talk more about the advantages and disadvantages of my super-popular No-routine routine in a future post. I will note, however, that I do that routine on Saturdays only when I am staying in town but want to expend some energy and just be in a gym environment. In the meanwhile, here are some short goodies that I now have had significant experience with:

Sauna

I remember using saunas occasionally back in my 20s. But then I did it more because it was available at the gym and it seemed a "cool" thing to do in a harebrained sort of way. This past year, I started using saunas both because I decided I needed a pro-active way to take care of my skin, particularly of the face, neck and lower legs.. and also because I read about Olympic lifter Dmitry Klokov using the sauna for recovering from hard workouts. Here is a video of it, actually:


The recovery aspects of using the sauna caught my attention because I wanted to move away from using post-workout protein shakes. I still think protein shakes are needed to gain muscular body-weight but my goals no longer involve that sort of thing. I wanted to remain strong and mobile. That's it. And, yes, I diligently started using the sauna Tuesday and Thursday evenings after my upper body workout. I only use it for 15 minutes at a sitting. On Sundays, I might hit the gym to just sit for another 15 minutes in the sauna. The idea is to work up to 30 to 40 minutes of total sauna time per week. And it works! My skin looks and feels better and muscle soreness is not evident at all. And then there is just that great feeling of relaxation you have when inside the sauna. Now I start twitching when I think of hitting the sauna as I cannot wait to finish a work day and earn my "reward".

Knee Sleeves

I have long had crunchy knees. By crunchy, I mean that my knees make a little creaky noise when I get back up from, say, sitting or kneeling on the floor. But there was no pain and my knees were always very mobile. Strangely, I don't hear that noise when I am squatting with a heavy barbell. In recent years, I no longer squat heavy preferring to stay around the 250 lb range for several sets of five or six reps twice a week. Still, I noticed that as I got near the 200 lb range, my knees would start feeling "uncomfy" like they were going to explode out the sides. Then I saw a YouTube video where Dexter Jackson was answering fan's questions while sitting outside a gym:



And one thing he mentions in the video is about how wrapping his knees saved them and that he wished he had started wrapping them earlier in his career. Now Dexter is known for his longevity in professional bodybuilding. The guy just did his 18th or so Mr.Olympia in September 2019 and placed fourth at age 49! Needless to say, when I first saw this video last summer, I decided to invest in a pair of knee sleeves (which are somewhat different from knee wraps, by the way) and.. voila! Just as with the sauna, I saw immediate results. My knees seemed to track better, yes, but the more significant effect was in how compact and "young" my knees felt. These days I always start my leg workouts with Leg Curls, followed by Good-mornings before moving on to squatting. The reason for this sequence is simple: the Leg Curls warm up my knee area thoroughly while the Good-mornings grease my hips well and also warm up my glutes and lower back.. and the net effect is much better prep for squatting. I generally do a couple of warm-up sets with an empty bar and 135 lbs without knee sleeves. Then I put on the knee sleeves and rep out the third and fourth sets with about 185 and 225 lbs respectively. Then I add another 30 lbs to the bar and do two or three sets of five or six reps. A nice, tight finish. Do I take the knee sleeves off right away after finishing squatting? No. Because I do kneeling ab pulldowns next and the knee sleeves provide nice padding for my knees when I am knelt down. They also continue to keep my knees warm for a while after the squats. But I noticed that about seven or eight minutes after the last set of squat, my knees get cold anyway. At this point, I take off the knee sleeves, turn them inside out and wipe them down with a towel provided by the gym. If you don't do this, the funk builds up. Still, I now have a second set of knee sleeves that I use on alternative weeks.

Conditioning not Cardio

Listen. Have you been attempting to lose weight, body fat, whatever and failing miserably? I have a thought that might help you out. Here it is: get on that treadmill with an intent to improving your general fitness and your conditioning so that you can play better.. be it lifting weights, jumping into a lake with your family in the summers or just walking around town or the workplace without dragging your feet. Stop thinking about losing weight because that has a lot to do with your eating, drinking and merry-making habits. Be honest with yourself. If you are eating and drinking as you please, you are not going to lose weight. So simply get on the treadmill and maintain a good walking pace on, perhaps, an uphill slope. Yes, all you need is brisk, steady walking. There is no need to run unless you like to run or are preparing for a marathon. Steady walking has the benefit of not screwing up your joints and your feet. It might actually make your knees and lower back feel better. If you are working out to gain muscle, steady walking will not affect that goal either. As for time or distance, use this general rule of thumb when first starting out: either walk 20 minutes or a mile, whichever comes later. So if you have walked 20 minutes but have not yet reached a mile, keep walking until you reach a mile. Or if you have a reached a mile but are still short of the 20 minute time period, keep walking until you reach 20 minutes of walking time. As with the sauna, two or three short walking sessions a week is better than one long session. This way, you won't feel too bad if you have to skip a walking session. Also, multiple sessions -- be it walking, sauna, lifting weights -- provide better structure to your week days, which is supremely important. At some point, you will find yourself increasing that time and distance to say 30 minutes as your conditioning improves. That's fine. But I suggest that you first increase slope and walk uphill more before attempting to increase the time/distance component. The best time to get on the treadmill is immediately after lifting weights. I like to walk after my lower body workouts on Mondays and Wednesdays.