Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Changing My Diet To Plant-Based

I'm in the process of changing my diet from significantly animal-based to significantly plant-based.


The first inkling that I might need to change my diet came when I saw the Bodyworlds exhibition I mentioned in Welcome And Policies. In the section on centenarians, which is what inspired this whole venture, it mentioned that they ate primarily plant-based diets.

At the time, I was eating a modified keto diet, primarily animal-based foods with a significant plant-based component. Once I decided I wanted to become a centenarian, that information about plant-based diets concerned me.

My best chances for reaching my goal are to follow the examples of those who have already done it. My animal-based diet failed to do that. But the concept was still pretty abstract, so I didn't do anything about it.

Then I watched the Netflix documentary The Game Changers (which I'll refer to as TGC). This was consistent with information I had seen in other sources, and convinced me it was worth changing.
TGC discusses multiple factors that influenced my decision:
  • It presents multiple athletes who compete at world-class levels on plant-based diets.
  • It describes the negative effects of animal-based diets.
  • Dr. Ornish and others describe how plant-based diets can reverse those negative effects, and are typically the diets associated with long, healthy lives (Buettner's book The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World's Healthiest People is prominently visible on Ornish's bookshelf).
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger and other athletes talk about how to go about changing from an animal-based diet to plant-based, and how it doesn't have to be all or nothing, it can be a step at a time.
  • Chef Charity Morgan cooks up some delicious-looking plant-based recipes for her husband, Derek Morgan, and his Tennessee Titans teammates.
  • It says meat production uses 83% of the world's farmland while providing only 18% of the calories we eat, and that animals consume 6 times more protein than they supply.
  • It says meat production results in overuse of fresh water, resulting in shortages for other uses, and that one hamburger has 2400 liters of embedded water in producing it.
  • It says that farm animals in the US produce 50 times more waste than the human population, and that the livestock sector is responsible for 15% of global manmade emissions, the same as all the forms of transport in all the world.
  • It says that agriculture can provide the solution, by shifting to plant-based food production, which globally would free up an area of land the size of Africa.
  • Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University of London, sums it up succinctly when he says, "The message is overwhelming both for public health and environmental reasons. The more plants you can eat, and the less meat and dairy you can consume, the better."
So it's good for me, and it's good for the planet. I have my personal reasons for changing my diet that affect me directly, and my altruistic reasons.

If that's too tree-hugger for you, consider this: It's not purely altruistic. There's also self-interest: to achieve my goal of a sustainable life, I need a sustainable planet. I'd like to live to my 100's in a world that's not wracked by climate change, resource exhaustion, and suffering populations. Read Harry Harrison's MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! for that vision.


For now, I'm trying to split up my meals and snacks as follows as I adjust my habits and work down the animal-based foods we have in the house (the meat, eggs, and cheese we have in the refrigerator):
  • 50% vegan (no animal-based foods at all)
  • 25% vegetarian, with a small amount of animal-based foods on the sides
  • 25% with animal-based main dish
I had been planning to work through the whey and casein protein powders I have in the pantry, but after finally watching the 2011 documentary Forks Over Knives (which features several of the same people who appear in TGC, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and his son Rip Esselstyn, and Dr. Terry Mason), I'll give them to someone at work.

I'll replace them with pea and soy protein powders. For those who are concerned that soy contains estrogen, TGC says it is phytoestrogen, not estrogen, and that it blocks estrogen reception. As bodybuilder Nimai Delgado points out in the film, he has no lack of testosterone.

Once I've completed the shift and tried it for a while, I'll decide how to proceed. On the one hand, while my wife enjoys the vegetarian dishes, she also likes to have animal-based foods at all meals, either as main dish or sides. That determines both what we eat at home, and what restaurants we go to.

On the other hand, the reported negative effects of even a single animal-based food serving make a pretty compelling argument for me to avoid them entirely.

Realistically, I think it's reasonable to expect that I'll have animal-based foods as main or side dish at 1 or 2 meals a week. That seems like a reasonable and doable compromise, where my body can tolerate any negative effects. That's pretty consistent with the Oldways Mediterranean, Asian, Latin American, and African Heritage diet pyramids.

Making The Change

While in the past my wife and I found the changes to a plant-based diet to be too much at once, over the years we've actually been eating more and more of these foods. We've already come to treat many of them as major components of our meals and snacks.

My modification to the typical keto diet (where I had already cut out highly refined carbs and replaced dairy milk with almond milk) was to add more vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.

So I was already pretty far along. Tipping over to replacing all the animal-based foods is proving to be easier than I expected. Meanwhile, TGC is very clear about taking it at whatever pace I'm comfortable with.

Knowing how to choose and prepare a variety of flavorful foods has been a big help. Part of the key is keeping it enjoyable, because eating is truly one of our sensuous pleasures. I don't want to feel deprived for the next five decades, I want to enjoy great food.

We've recently gotten some cookbooks that look very helpful:

Physical Fitness Program 2019-12

This is my current weekly physical fitness program, following my Physical Fitness Principles:
  • Monday: Pilates/TRX for strength.
  • Tuesday: Yoga for flexibility.
  • Wednesday: Pilates/running for endurance.
  • Thursday: Swimming for endurance.
  • Friday: Pilates/free weights and weight machine for strength.
I generally don't work out on weekends, since those are when I do other activities, often including some kind of physical outdoor recreational activity.

I try to make sure to have time available for each full daily workout, but if I'm short of time, I can cut the number of reps, sets, or laps down, cut the time down, cut the rest periods by 15-30 seconds, or skip some yoga poses.

Monday: Pilates/TRX For Strength

This workout is very portable, good for traveling.

Warm-up: 3-5 minutes on rowing machine, ski machine, or elliptical.

Stretching: 2-3 minutes of general stretching and twisting.

Strength part 1: 15-25 minutes of Pilates mat work from Anatomy of Fitness Pilates, by Isabel Eisen. 1 set of 5-8 reps for each of the 25 separate exercises, moving at slow, controlled pace. I use a Tune Up Fitness Coregeous Ball for the ball exercises, but any medium-size inflatable ball or a throw pillow would also work.

The exercises:
  • Pointing Dog
  • Wide-legged plie
  • Standing leg extension
  • Monkey walk
  • Push-up
  • Breast stroke
  • Back burner
  • Triceps dip
  • Side leg series
  • Waistline warrior
  • Pilates ball roll-up
  • Rollover
  • Single leg drop
  • Corkscrew
  • Pilates ball heel tap
  • Pilates ball double leg stretch
  • Pilates ball hundred
  • Pilates ball side-lying inner thigh
  • Double dip
  • Low-to-high plank
  • Pilates ball tabletop-bridge
  • Bicycle twists
  • Teaser prep and teaser
  • Frog
  • Single-leg gluteal lift
This is excellent core body strength training using just body weight. It looks deceptively easy, so I make sure not to overdo it.

I built up to this level by doing 3 reps for the first few times.

Strength part 2: 25-30 minutes of TRX Go Suspension Training. 2 sets of 45 seconds for each of the 13 unique exercise from the "Burn Calories" and "Build Strength" workouts on the included instructional poster, moving at slow, controlled pace, with 45 seconds rest after each set. For single-leg exercises, I treat each leg as one set.

The exercises:
  • TRX hamstring curl
  • TRX low row
  • TRX crossing balance lunge
  • TRX chest press
  • TRX squat
  • TRX Y-deltoid fly
  • TRX lunge
  • TRX biceps curl
  • TRX atomic pike
  • TRX triceps press
  • TRX single leg squat
  • TRX hip press
  • TRX spiderman push up
This is excellent overall strength training using just body weight. The dynamic suspension straps mean that it incorporates many muscles at once, not just the primary ones targeted in an exercise, often including core strength.

That also means the effort is less focused on the targeted muscles and joints than with a weight machine, reducing the risk of injury. I found this to be a good way to restore my shoulder, which suffers from rotator cuff difficulty.

Because it depends on body position and angle relative to the straps, it's infinitely adjustable. If I need to increase or decrease intensity, I just step forward or back an inch or two.

I built up to this level by doing 1 set of 15 seconds for each exercise with 15 seconds rest, then increased by 5 seconds each week until I was at 30 seconds. Then I switched to 2 sets, resetting to 15 seconds, and increased by 5 seconds again each week.

Cool-down: 3-5 minutes on elliptical.

Tuesday: Yoga For Balance And Flexibility

This workout is very portable after memorizing the sequence of moves, good for traveling.

Because yoga workouts generally incorporate warm-up, stretching, and cool-down, I don't do those separately.

No matter what else I do during the week, if something disrupts my routine and I have to skip one or more workouts, I make sure to do this one, because of its general therapeutic and stress-reducing effects.

Balance and flexibility: 60 minutes of Power Yoga Collection: 3 Full-Length Programs by Rodney Yee. I cycle through the different programs on different weeks. They're all very similar, but with slightly different emphasis. I use a Yoga Mat, Block, and Strap Set. Sometimes it's convenient to have a second block. The 3rd program on that DVD shows best how to use the blocks and strap.

I'm not nearly as flexible as Yee, so I limit postures to only the degree I can do comfortably.

The postures, or asanas, not all of which appear in every program (most of the names from the book 50 Best Yoga Positions):
  • Tadasana, mountain pose
  • Adho mukha svanasana, downward-facing dog
  • sun salutation (this is actually a sequence moving through several poses, including mountain pose, lunge, plank, pushup, cobra, upward-facing dog, downward-facing dog, standing forward bend)
  • Biralasana, cat pose
  • Virabhadrasana I, warrior I
  • Virabhadrasana II, warrior II
  • Virabhadrasana III, warrior III
  • Trikonasana, triangle pose
  • Uttanasana, intense forward stretch/standing forward bend
  • Dandasana, staff pose
  • Navasana, boat pose
  • Balasana, child pose
  • Single-leg forward bend
  • Paschimottasana, double-leg forward bend
  • Upavista konasana, seated wide-angle forward pose sequence
  • Baddha konasana, cobbler's pose
  • Supta padangustasana, reclining big toe pose/raised leg stretch
  • Jathara parivartanasana, revolved abdomen pose
  • Marichyasana III, sage twist III
  • Garudasana, eagle twist
  • Kapotasana, pigeon pose
  • Anjaneyasana, crescent moon pose
  • Dhanaurasana, bow pose
  • Setu bandhasana, bridge pose
  • Purvottanasana, upward-facing plank
  • Urda dhanurasana, upward-facing bow pose
  • Virasana, hero pose
  • Utkatasana, chair pose/power pose
  • Prasarita padottanasana, wide leg stretch/wide leg forward bend
  • Savasana, corpse pose/relaxation pose
I built up to this level by using Yee's Power Yoga - Flexibility, 25 minutes. This is mostly the same set of asanas as the Power Yoga Collection, so it's both good training to learn them, and a shorter session if I have less time. It's also a good light flexibility workout any time I need it.

Wednesday: Pilates/Running For Endurance

This workout can be done almost anywhere outdoors, good for traveling. Also, many offices, hotels, and resorts have treadmills in their gyms. I do extra stretching to prevent tight or sore muscles the next day.

Warm-up: 3-5 minutes on rowing machine, ski machine, or elliptical.

Stretching: 2-3 minutes of leg stretching.

Strength: 15-25 minutes of Pilates mat work.

Endurance: 30 minutes on treadmill at 5 mph (2.5 miles in 30 minutes).

My goal is to work up to the USMC Timed Run requirement, which is 3 miles in 28 minutes or less (6.4 mph).

I built up to this level by doing interval training, starting at 1 minute running with 1 minute walking, increasing the running time by 1 minute each week until I was up to 9 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking.

Cool-down: 3-5 minutes on treadmill.

Stretching: 2-3 minutes of leg stretching.

Thursday: Swimming For Endurance

This is limited to health clubs with lap pools. I buy a 10-swim card at my pool, which is more economical than a monthly membership.

Stretching: 2-3 minutes of general stretching and twisting.

Warm-up: 2-4 lengths of freestyle at relaxed pace, 2 minutes per 50 (2 lengths of 25-yard pool).

Endurance: 32-36 lengths at workout pace, 1-2 minutes per 50, for total of 40 laps including the warm-up and cool-down. I break things up into groups of 5 50's: 2 50's of freestyle, 1 50 of kickboard, 1 50 of breast stroke, and 1 50 of freestyle. Sometimes I combine the 2 50's into a 100.

I built up to this level by starting with 5 50's, 2 minutes per 50, increasing by 5 50's every 2 weeks.

Cool-down: 2-4 lengths of freestyle at relaxed pace, 2 minutes per 50.

Thursday Alternative: Ski Machine Or Elliptical For Endurance

Occasionally I can't make it to the pool. The ski machine and elliptical are both good alternatives, since like swimming they're full-body, low-impact aerobic exercises (as opposed to running, which is a lower-body, high-impact aerobic exercise).

 3-5 minutes on rowing machine, ski machine, or elliptical.

Stretching: 2-3 minutes of general stretching and twisting.

Endurance: 30 minutes on machine at middle to high incline, at middle resistance, doing intervals of 1 minute at fast pace, 1 minute at slow pace.

I built up to this level by doing the same intervals, but with no incline and light resistance.

Cool-down: 3-5 minutes on elliptical.

Friday: Pilates/Free Weights And Weight Machine For Strength

Many offices, hotels, and resorts have some kind of weight setup in their gyms.

Warm-up: 3-5 minutes on rowing machine, ski machine, or elliptical.

Stretching: 2-3 minutes of general stretching and twisting.

Strength part 1: 15-25 minutes of Pilates mat work.

Strength part 2: 25-30 minutes of free weights and weight machine following Strength Training Past 50 by Wayne Westcott and Thomas Baechle. 3 sets of 8 reps for each of 11 separate exercises at slow, controlled pace, with 15-60 seconds rest after each set. I make sure the amount of weight I use doesn't cause any joint pain during or after completing all the sets.

The exercises and weights (pounds):
  • Squat, 70
  • Leg extension, 35
  • Leg curl, 15
  • Chest press, 35
  • Chest fly, 25
  • Seated row, 45
  • Shoulder press, 25
  • Lat pull-down, 35
  • Tricep push-down, 30
  • Bicep curl, 15
  • Ab flex, 35
My goal is to at least double these weights, up to triple for some.

Since my weight machine doesn't have a leg press, I do squats with a barbell.

I don't like the bicep curl station on it, so I do those with either Cast Iron Hex Dumbbells, or the dumbbells that come with the barbell. I have a range of hex dumbbells from 10-30 lbs., which is convenient for doing a variety of free-weight exercises without having to change plates.

I use a Bicep Bomber for bicep and tricep isolation with both the free weights and the machine.

Weight machines generally isolate the targeted muscles and joints well, so all the effort is directed to them. While that's good for building just those areas, it also means higher force on them and higher risk of injury. I pay close attention to make sure I'm not overdoing it.

I built up to this level by doing 1 set of 8 reps for each exercise at light weight with 15 seconds rest after each set, then increased the weight by 1 setting each week for the next 2 weeks. Then I switched to 2 sets, resetting to light weight, and increased by 1 setting again each week. Then I switched to 3 sets and went through the weight settings again.

This was a fairly long progression, but it allowed me to build up gradually without joint or muscle injury.

Cool-down: 3-5 minutes on elliptical.

Diet History

Since my mid-20's, I've used several different diets to control my weight. The most I've had to lose is 20 pounds. Usually it's been about 15 pounds.

I've proved empirically that any of the mainstream diets work. For the short term. Long-term is a different story.

The net result is that I've lost that same 15-20 pounds repeatedly over the years. I lose it, then I gain it back. Sometimes slowly. Sometimes faster than I lost it.

In the Netflix series Explained, the episode "Why Diets Fail" discusses this. In one study it covered, the Stanford Dietfits study comparing the response of subjects to either a low-fat or a low-carb diet, Dr. Chistopher Gardner concluded that they both worked.

But it wasn't because of the specific makeup of the diet. It was because in both cases, once researchers tabulated the numbers, it turned out that people on each diet were cutting their intake by roughly 500 calories a day. The diet provided them a structure for doing that, without explicitly doing it.

So for the purpose of weight control, it appears that any reasonable diet will work, as long as you cut the actual intake relative to your activity level. That doesn't address the other positive or negative effects a particular diet may have on your body or your health.

One conclusion I came to some time ago is that dieting for weight control is much more of a psychological game than a physiological one. Physiologically, many methods seem to be effective, but are limited long-term by behavioral ability to stay with them.

The other diet-related health concern I have is diabetes. Both my grandmothers were diabetic, and other members of my family have it. That light I see ahead isn't the end of the tunnel. It's the genetic freight train barreling down the tracks straight for me. One of my diet goals is to avoid getting run over by it. So far I've been successful.

For reference, I weighed 145 lbs. when I graduated from high school. A year later, after regularly swimming 4000 yards a night 3 nights a week, I weighed 155 lbs. and was in the best shape of my life. Though I had put on 10 lbs., it was all muscle; I wasn't bulky muscular, I was lean muscular.

I use that as my benchmark and target ideal weight. The most I've ever weighed is 175 lbs. I currently weigh 165 lbs.

When I was younger, the activities I listed on my Physical Fitness History were largely sufficient to control my weight independent of diet. As I got older, that became less effective, particular after about age 40. The amount of exercise that was sufficient to lose weight exceeded the amount sufficient to cause injury. Basically, I couldn't lose weight by exercise alone without hurting myself.

Diet Principles

Reflecting my experience with various diets and my goal of living into my 100's, the principles are:
  • Eat for whole body health.
  • Eat for long-term sustainability, for both myself and the world.
  • Follow the Oldways Vegetarian/Vegan Diet Pyramid.
  • Minimize or avoid highly processed or refined foods, particularly added sugar and refined grains. Use intact whole grains and whole grain flours instead.
  • Minimize or avoid meats and other animal-based foods.

Chronology Of Diets

Most of these dates are approximate.
  • 1983: Atkins Diet. At the time, the version in Atkins' book was a quite restrictive low-carb, high-protein ketogenic diet. Only a few vegetables were on it. After 2 weeks, even though it was working, my wife and I stopped, because we were ready to kill for a piece of bread or a bowl of pasta. Additionally, I was concerned that it reflected a poor nutritional balance. In its current form, the Atkins Diet has evolved to allow more complex carbohydrate foods.
  • 1995: We bought the first edition of The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook: A Delicious Alternative for Lifelong Health, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins, a founding director of Oldways. We tried briefly to follow it, but found it too big a change at the time (ironically, considering how pasta cravings had affected our Atkins Diet).
  • 2002: Weight Watchers-At-Work. This was the standard Weight Watchers program, but done on-site at my job with a group of co-workers for 12 weeks. This was very effective. I lost 22 pounds (down to 148) and learned a lot about managing what I ate. I used this method repeatedly over the years when my weight crept back up. The biggest advantage was that it allowed any food of any type, as long as it was in controlled amounts. Eventually I stopped because I disliked the point tracking methodology, but it took nearly 3 years to gain the weight back, so had good long-term results.
  • 2005: South Beach Diet, based on the results former President Bill Clinton reportedly had with it. Another low-carb, high-protein diet that was less restrictive than Atkins, but still restricted refined carbohydrates. We found it effective, but couldn't keep it up.
  • 2011: Dukan Diet. Another low-carb, high-protein diet. Like Atkins and South Beach, we found it effective, but again couldn't keep it up.
  • 2015: Ideal Protein. Yet another low-carb, high-protein diet, but based on program food. We bought the food from a diet coach and ate it in combination with recommended grocery food. This was very effective, and I lost about 15 lbs., but cost and carb cravings led us to stop. I regained the weight over the next year.
  • 2017: Low-carb, high-protein diet. Since I had found this method effective but expensive, I applied it with the guideline of no program food. I wanted to be able to do it just with what I could get at the grocery store. Since my carb cravings had been what had always ended such diets in the past, I added more non-starchy fruits and vegetables. I lost 15 lbs. again in about 10 weeks, but then we went on vacation and threw it all to the wind on sweets and other refined carbohydrates. I regained the 15 lbs. in less than a month.
  • 2018: Modified keto diet. This was largely following typical keto guidelines, since I found the high-protein diets that restricted refined carbs effective, but I further expanded my fruits, vegetables, and nuts, and included some intact whole grains. I only lost 7 lbs., but found it much more sustainable. The fruits, nuts, and limited grains prevented the carb cravings.
  • 2019: I watched the Netflix documentary The Game Changers. Combined with information I had from other sources, this completely changed my approach to diet. Where before I had been focused primarily on weight control, now my focus is on long-term health, with weight being just one aspect.

The New Diet

Until very recently, I had expected the modified keto diet, which was primarily animal-based but with a significant plant-based component, to be my long-term diet. But I've replaced that with a primarily plant-based diet.

This is the subject of an upcoming post, which also discusses the transition.

    Monday, December 9, 2019

    Physical Fitness Principles

    In Physical Fitness History, I outlined the following principles I use for my activity:
    • Avoid injury.
    • Work on strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility.
    • Warm up.
    • Stretch.
    • Control breathing.
    • Manage pacing.
    • Manage intensity.
    • Maintain proper form.
    • Don't overdo it.
    • Hydrate.
    • Occupy the mind.
    • Don't compete with others, just measure personal progress.
    • Cool down.
    • Get proper rest.
    • Don't do the same primary workout two days in a row, always alternate days with something else.
    • Use massage therapy balls between workouts.
    • Make getting regular exercise a priority no matter what else is going on.
    • Exercise for the long term, not the short term; this is for the rest of my life.
    Here I'll elaborate exactly what I mean by each of those. They work together as a team to reinforce each other and make sure nothing gets out of whack. They form an interlocking set of controls.

    Avoid Injury

    This is the first priority. If I injure myself, I'll have to back off or stop completely for a while. That can result in losing any progress I've made.

    Worse, I'm now at any age where it takes a lot longer to recover from injury than it used to. So that makes it even more likely I'll lose progress.

    Over the years I've hurt myself primarily in two ways:
    • Strained muscles due to insufficient warm up and stretching.
    • Strained muscles and joints due to overdoing it in either intensity, duration, speed, or weight.
    The first is the result of being impatient. I didn't take the time necessary to prepare for the main workout.

    The second is the result of being overly eager and aggressive, trying to push my body past what it was capable of at the time.

    Both are the result of youth, being all fired up to GET WITH THE PROGRAM! Both produced days or weeks of pain, and prevented me from doing proper exercise.

    It's also important to remember that our muscular systems aren't just muscle tissue. They're also tendons and ligaments and fascia, various connective tissues that make up the joints. It's important to make sure that all these tissues are building equally.

    Focusing on building muscles without paying attention to the joints risks causing joint injuries. This can cause shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, ankle, back, and neck injuries. These can be very painful and interfere with daily life, possibly for a long time.

    What I discovered when doing strength exercises was that my muscles built up faster than my joints. As I increased the weight, intensity, or number of reps, my joints would get sore. That became the limiting factor to my progress. I also realized I was at risk of causing a permanent injury that could force me to stop completely.

    It's far better for me to exercise restraint and avoid causing an injury. So even though I feel my muscle strength would allow me to workout at higher intensity, I gauge the proper level by how my joints feel.

    Work On Strength, Endurance, Balance, and Flexibility

    In order to be able to do all the things that I enjoy doing over a long and active life, I need to have strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility. So I mix up my workouts to make sure I work on all of those things.

    This isn't just for my muscles. My joints are just as important. I want to have strong, flexible joints that have the endurance to do repetitive activities. I want to be sure my joints aren't the weak link in the chain. As I've gotten older, I've found them to be more of the limiting factor.

    Balance actually has multiple meanings:
    • My actual physical balance.
    • Balancing all sides and parts of my body for equal fitness.
    • Balancing the different types of exercise so that I don't focus too much on one at the expense of others.
    For strength, I use anaerobic resistance training like Pilates mat work, body-weight exercises, TRX suspension straps, resistance bands, free weights, weight machine, and Pilates machine.

    For endurance, I use aerobic activities like running, swimming, cycling, paddling, rowing machine, ski machine, elliptical, and stair-climbing.

    For balance and flexibility, I use stretching and yoga.

    Warm Up

    I warm up at low intensity at the beginning of a workout to prepare for the main activity. My goal is to loosen my muscles, ramp up my pulse and respiration in a controlled fashion, and promote blood flow and oxygenation throughout my body.

    This literally warms the body up as the exertion level builds.

    I generally do 3-5 minutes of light aerobic exercise for warm up. I start at slow speed and minimum resistance, then increase a notch every 30 to 60 seconds until I'm up near the level of the main workout.

    It might be on different equipment from the main activity, or with the same equipment. Since I have a variety of home gym equipment, I have a number of things to choose from.

    I often use either the treadmill or the elliptical, set for easy walking pace, with no incline, and minimum resistance. Then I increase the pace as I warm up.

    I also use the ski or rowing machines the same way, starting at slow speed, no incline, minimum resistance.

    If I'm swimming, I'll start with a couple of easy laps. If I'm kayaking, I'll do a few minutes of easy strokes.

    Other things I've done are marching in place, easy jumping jacks, walking back and forth, or going up and down stairs at easy pace.

    I try to get a lot of full-body motion in, both legs and arms. I start with an easy level that feels like I could do it for hours without stopping.

    Skipping the warm up, or doing an insufficient warm up, risks injuring muscles or joints.


    I stretch after warming up to further loosen my muscles. I do it after the warm up because stretching cold, stiff muscles increases the risk of injury just during the stretching phase. My muscles are more pliable and flexible when they've been warmed up.

    I use a variety of stretches, based on the activity I'm going to be doing. The book Stretching: 30th Anniversary Edition, by Bob Anderson, is an excellent collection of stretches for all kinds of activities. This is the book our swim coach used to teach us in high school.

    For any given stretch, I go only as far as I'm comfortable. When I did karate in my 30's, I was extremely flexible. However, now I'm very inflexible. When I follow along with yoga DVD's, I can't bend to nearly the degree that they show.

    Forcing a stretch risks tearing the muscle. So I go just as far as I can, and don't try to force it further. I remind myself that I'm not competing with others for how far I can go.

    Just like the warm up, skipping the stretches or doing insufficient stretches risks injuring muscles or joints.

    Depending on the activity, I may repeat the stretches after the main workout and cool-down. I find that particularly helpful after running to avoid sore muscles the next day.

    Control Breathing

    I use several different breathing patterns, depending on what I'm doing.

    When I'm doing anaerobic strength exercises such as lifting weights or body-weight exercises, I exhale through the mouth on the exertion (i.e. when lifting the weight, or when pushing my body against gravity) and inhale through the nose on the recovery (i.e. when lowering of the weight, or when lowering my body with gravity). I think of it as "blowing out the work".

    When I'm doing aerobic exercises such as running, rowing, or ski machine, I do a three-four pattern. That is, I inhale for a 3-count, and exhale for a 4-count. The count may be strides (3 strides of the run or ski machine to 4 strides), or simply counting at a regular pace one-two-three, one-two-three-four.

    I try to breath entirely through the nose for this kind of activity, to avoid dry and burning throat. But if I'm going through a tough spot, I'll exhale through the mouth like when doing strength exercises, and try to get back to the more controlled nose exhalation. I'm aiming for steady, relaxed breathing.

    The reason I do a longer exhale is to blow out carbon dioxide to reduce the buildup of lactate in my muscles, to prevent soreness. This is something I learned back in the 80's when I was training for triathlons, but I've recently seen information that says lactate buildup doesn't cause sore muscles.

    Regardless of the actual physiology, I find that a regular pattern of longer exhalations results in good deep inhalations to oxygenate my system, and I avoid sore muscles and side-stitches.

    If I need to breath faster than the 3-4 pattern, I do a 2-3 pattern. The key is that even though I'm breathing faster, I'm still exhaling longer than inhaling. And then I try to get back to the 3-4 pattern.

    For swimming freestyle or back stroke, I take a breath every other full stroke, then hold it for a full stroke and blow it out hard on the half-stroke before taking the next breath. If I'm out of breath, I'll take a breath every full stroke, but I try to get back to taking a breath every other stroke.

    For breast stroke, I typically breathe once per stroke, since I'm usually using it as a slower, more leisurely stroke.

    When using a kickboard, I try to maintain a pattern of longer exhale than inhale, similar to running.

    When I'm having difficulty, I find that controlling my breathing helps me manage it and bring the overall activity back into control. It's a good physical and mental centering action.

    The worst situation is totally uncontrolled breathing, which results in hyperventilating and poor oxygenation. If I get to that, I focus on controlling my breathing to stabilize it. I slow it down, take full deep breaths and hold them, then blow them out slowly.

    If I'm in real duress and just need to get through it, focusing entirely on my breathing is a great mental activity to block out everything else and give me the single-mindedness I need. But I also try to avoid that situation as much as possible, because it increases the risk of injury.

    Even when it's not that bad, breath control is an excellent mental discipline to cut through the monotony of a repetitive workout, and suddenly it's done with much less awareness of the time passing.

    Depending on the activity, I also try to use full deep belly-breathing rather than just shallow chest-breathing. I use my abdominal muscles to increase the volume of the inhalation, and more fully complete the exhalation. That also helps me control and manage the pace and exertion.

    Some types of exercise, such as yoga and Pilates, incorporate explicit breathing control as part of their practice.

    After years of doing these breathing patterns, they've become automatic, and I'm able to get control pretty quickly when I need to.

    Manage Pacing

    I manage my pace in order to make sure I don't overdo it, and to ensure I get adequate rest cycles.

    As with breathing, this depends on the activity. For strength exercises, I make sure I'm doing repetitions (reps) at a controlled, steady, relatively slow pace. This slow pace is something I learned from Wayne Westcott's book Strength Training Past 50. He says to avoid fast motions that move the weights though momentum. Instead, the slow motions mean that your muscles are controlling the weight.

    I also make sure that I control the period between sets of reps. For instance, when I complete a set of 8 reps with a weight, I rest for 15-60 seconds before the next set. So I'm pacing both the individual reps and the overall workout.

    For aerobic exercises, I do several types of pacing. One type is to steadily build up the pace from the warm-up level to the maximum level I'm using for the rest of the workout.

    Another type is interval training, where I do a fixed amount of time at high intensity, then a fixed amount of time at low intensity. For instance, two minutes at high intensity, and one minute at low intensity, repeating this alternating cycle for the whole workout. I use a variety of different timing ratios.

    When I'm swimming at an average 2 minutes per 100 yards pace, I'll swim 4 lengths, taking part of that 2 minutes, then rest until the remainder of the 2 minutes are up.

    I can adjust this timing throughout the workout depending on what intensity I want to do, or how I'm feeling.

    I also use pacing to avoid going out too hard. When I do a 5K run event, it's easy to get caught up in the moment and try to keep up with people 20 or 30 years younger than me. That adrenaline rush of being with the crowd is a recipe for injury.

    Similarly, when I'm swimming or biking, it's easy to unconsciously compete with the person in the next lane or on the bike path. Careful pacing prevents that and keeps me at a level that I'm used to.

    As with the stretching, I remind myself that I'm not competing with others for how fast I can go. They have their pace. I have mine.

    If I'm using a machine that has a speed or pace display, I can use that to control the pace. If I don't have some kind of display to watch, I can use my breathing, gauging it to decide whether to increase or reduce my pace.

    Manage Intensity

    I manage the intensity of the exercise very similarly to the way I manage the pace, for all the same reasons.

    Where pace is speed, intensity is anything that can be adjusted to make the exercise easier or harder. That could be weight, number of reps, number of sets, time, distance, incline, resistance, tension, gear, etc.

    For strength exercises, I pay attention to how my muscles and joints feel during each rep, at the end of each set, and throughout the workout. Strength training tends to isolate specific muscle and joint groups, focusing the resistance on them. That's particularly true for weight machines.

    That focused resistance can easily cause an injury if I don't watch for signs of fatigue or overuse. I generally do 3 sets of 8 reps of each individual exercise. The joints involved should feel fine throughout the exercise, and should still feel fine at the completion of the third set. If at any time I feel discomfort in the joints, I back off to the next lighter weight.

    I use a weight that allows me to complete the first set easily, feels reasonable at the end of the second set, but takes some effort for the third set. If it makes the first or second set feel difficult, I back off to the next lighter weight.

    This strategy is not the one I would follow if I wanted to bulk up my muscles quickly, but I'm past the age where I'm interested in that. This is a more conservative strategy appropriate for my age and risk of injury, and my goal of long-term sustainability.

    For aerobic exercises, I pay similar attention and adjust as needed. If I'm doing interval training, I can increase the intensity a bit for the high-intensity phase, since it will be followed by a low-intensity phase. If I'm doing a long-duration steady-intensity activity, such as a continuous bike ride, I reduce the intensity a bit to allow me to maintain it for the whole time.

    In addition to paying attention to how I feel in the moment, I generally don't increase anything more than 10% over what I did the last time I did that activity. So I don't increase the speed or weight or distance more than 10% over the previous maximum.

    The only time I break this rule is when I'm starting up something new, and the adjustments between the initial levels are more than 10%. For example, if I start a new weight exercise with 15 lbs. and the next weight is 20 lbs., which is a 33% increase.

    That's generally not a problem at such light weights. If it does turn out to be a problem, I simply reduce the number of reps per set.

    Different exercises and machines have different adjustments, but by managing pace and intensity together, I have a great degree of control over the workout.

    In general now, I keep to "old man pace": back off, back down, rein in, take it easy, keep it at a level I can maintain for the rest of my life.

    Maintain Proper Form

    Poor form causes poor performance, reduces efficiency, and risks injury. I make sure that I'm doing the activity with proper form at all times.

    If I need to, I'll go slower so I can focus on the form and get it right. I may even stop completely and practice the individual moves step-by-step, which is what I used to do with martial arts. As I repeat it and the proper form becomes more automatic, I increase back to a normal pace.

    Poor form is also an indication of too high an intensity. If I can't do a weightlift with proper form, it probably means I'm using too much weight. If I'm having trouble doing an aerobic activity cleanly, it probably means I need to dial it down a bit.

    Being aware of my form is a good way to maintain control of the workout.

    Don't Overdo It

    While I'm working out, I monitor everything continuously to make sure I'm not exceeding a level that will cause injury. Don't go too fast, or too long, or too hard, or too heavy.

    I keep in mind not just how I feel at the moment, but how I'll feel at the end of the workout, later in the day, and the next day. Some overuse injuries aren't fully apparent until a day later.

    Whenever I start to get overeager or too aggressive, I remind myself not to overdo it. My experience has been that overdoing it in one way or another is the cause of most injuries. Pay attention and don't do something stupid.

    I use the other principles to tell me if I can push farther or not. Or if I need to stop.


    I drink 8-16 oz of water during each workout, sometimes more. Most workouts have regular rest points that allow me to take a quick sip. Others require me to break pattern or intensity momentarily to take a drink. I avoid needing to guzzle a large amount in the middle of a workout.

    Throughout the rest of the day and evening, I drink an additional 1-4 qt depending on how I'm feeling.

    Many years ago I learned to gauge my hydration level by whether my lips were moist. That allows me to recognize when I'm on the verge of minor dehydration before it becomes a problem.

    This is especially important when I'm doing something outside in cold weather. In hot weather, it's obvious that I need to drink water, but cold weather can be subtly dehydrating. It's easy to forget that all that vapor I see in my exhaled breath is water my body is losing.

    Occupy The Mind

    I occupy my mind in various ways while working out. That makes me less conscious of the time passing, so workouts are never drudgery or boring. Managing the combination of breathing, pace, and intensity is one way.

    If I'm not following along with a yoga DVD or something else, I like to listen to podcasts. As an embedded software geek, my favorite is Embedded.fm. Guests they've had there have led to other interesting ones:
    When I'm doing an aerobic activity that involves either a time or count goal, I'll play mind games with the numbers. I'll calculate the fraction and percentage that I've done, calculate the next fraction, and break down the amount remaining into chunks.

    That also helps me avoid losing count, because at some point my oxygen-deprived brain has trouble just doing simple math, let alone following along with a technical podcast.

    I used to watch movie DVD while working out, but there's far too much interesting stuff in podcasts now. I like the double value of learning something new at the same time I'm getting my exercise in.

    I also like to think I'm maintaining my mental fitness at the same time I'm maintaining my physical fitness, another important requirement for living to a hundred.

    Don't Compete With Others

    It's very tempting to measure myself against others. How much weight are they doing, or how fast are they going, or how far? When I was younger, that was a useful motivational factor. But I no longer feel the need to compete athletically.

    I'm at an age where it's just plain risky to do that. Other people have their performance levels, I have mine. Trying to compete with someone who's exercising at a higher level risks overdoing it and hurting myself.

    All I care about is how I'm doing relative to myself. What additional weight or speed or distance can I manage? How should I pace that out to avoid injury? How does my current level compare with last week, or last year?

    PR's (Personal Records) are all I worry about. And making sure achieving them is reasonable without overdoing it.

    Cool Down

    I cool down at the end of a workout to back down from the main activity. It's just a reverse warm up, where my goal is to relax my muscles after exertion, ramp down my pulse and respiration in a controlled fashion, and promote blood flow and oxygenation throughout my body.

    This literally cools the body down as the exertion level drops.

    I generally do 3-5 minutes of similar activity to what I did for warm up, tapering off the intensity a notch every 30 to 60 seconds back to slow speed and minimum resistance. By the last minute, I should be breathing at completely normal resting level.

    The time it takes me to recover to resting state is a good gauge of whether I overdid it or not. Quick recovery time means I stayed within my limits. Long recovery time means I was risking injury, so I make a mental note to lighten up next time.

    Get Proper Rest

    I make sure to get proper rest both during the workout and between workouts.

    For a workout consisting of reps and sets, I make sure to get a rest breath in between reps, and take 15-60 seconds between sets.

    When I'm swimming in sets of lengths, I make sure to get at least 15 seconds before the next set. Usually I'm working to a specific average pace per set that ensures a rest period.

    Whatever I'm doing, if I feel like I'm running out of steam, I'll either drop down to a minimal "resting" pace for a few minutes, or stop completely and take a break of a minute or two. That's short enough to recover, but not long enough for the muscles to start cooling down or tightening up.

    I make sure to get a good night's sleep. I generally do best with somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. Less than that, and I really feel it, tired and run down, and it can affect my attitude and motivation. More than that, and I feel groggy and thick-headed.

    My goal is to feel sharp and energetic all the time.

    Don't Do The Same Primary Workout Two Days In A Row

    I mix up different workouts to make sure I don't do the same thing two days in a row. If I feel the need to do multiple workouts of the same kind in a week, I make sure to do something different in between.

    That allows my body, my joints, and my muscles to recover in between. It reduces the risk of an overuse injury due to repeatedly stressing things the same way.

    The only exception to this is weekend activities where I'm doing something for the whole weekend, like a couple days of paddling or biking. Then I pay attention to make sure I'm not overly stressing any part of my body with the repeated activity, and make sure I get adequate breaks and rest in between.

    Use Massage Therapy Balls

    If I were rich, I'd get a deep-tissue massage every day. But I'm not, so I don't. Massage therapy balls are the next best thing. More information on these is available at Jill Miller's Tune Up Fitness website, including videos.

    These are spongy rubber balls that I roll against to apply a form of deep tissue massage. They're stiffer than typical stress-management squeeze balls, but softer than tennis balls. They apply pressure similar to the heel of the hand.

    I generally lean up against a wall and tuck a ball up under a knot in my back or shoulders, although I also lie down flat on the floor and do it.

    With the ball in place, I move against it in various directions or in circles to make it work the knot. I'm sure I look like pretty funny squirming around, but that allows me to put very precise pressure in exactly the right spot, as much as I want.

    By leaning in and out a bit as I squirm, I can maneuver the ball all around my back and shoulders. That's harder to do when lying on the floor.

    I also use it on my legs, always on the floor. I'll roll it under my calves and hamstrings, then roll over onto my stomach and side, rolling it under my thighs and IT band (the iliotibial band is the stiff band of fascia you can feel when you run your hand down the outside of your thigh).

    These will never replace a skilled massage therapist, but they allow me to work on knots whenever I want, and they're completely portable.

    Make Getting Regular Exercise A Priority

    Exercise needs to be a regular habit, like brushing my teeth or breathing. I just do it, because it needs to be done.

    I try to ensure that no matter what, I always get my exercise in. If I occasionally have to miss a day, that's not a problem. But I make sure not to let anything become a permanent disruption.

    Life throws all kinds of curve balls that disrupt our routines. Some are pleasant, like holidays and vacations, and some aren't, like sickness and family emergencies. And some are permanent, like job changes, that require figuring out a new set of logistics.

    Most transient disruptions are either very short or allow getting some kind exercise in. If I'm traveling, I make use of whatever gym facilities are available. Worst case, I can just go for a long walk. In any case, I'm usually able to return to my regular routine the next week or so.

    Other than injuries, these kinds of disruptions over the years have resulted in stopping whatever exercise program I was doing. In order to prevent that from happening again, I think of exercise as a regular part of daily life, like sleeping, eating, and bathing. So I make it a priority to return to normalcy as quickly as possible.

    Exercise For The Long Term, Not The Short Term

    I don't care about short term results. I'm focused on the long term, to be able to sustain this for the rest of my life. That means I'll be physically able to do the activities I enjoy for the rest of my life.

    As I apply the other principles, this is my overriding perspective, wrapping them all up to keep me on track.

    Tuesday, December 3, 2019

    Physical Fitness History

    I've been fairly active all my life. I'm not any kind of super athlete. Mostly I'm just an average active person.

    There have been periods where I maintained a regular activity, either on a school athletic team or on my own. There have also been periods, sometimes years long, where I didn't do anything.

    As a kid through elementary school, I was always fairly skinny and scrawny. I played outside a lot with my friends, so physical activity consisted primarily of running around, backyard baseball, riding bikes, and swimming in the summer. I had learned to swim at the age of 5 or 6, and that's served me well over the years.

    As I got older and participated in more structured activities, I got stronger, but I was never bulky muscular. In my best shape, I was lean muscular.

    I was never good at any sport that involved a ball or a puck, so I didn't participate much in those, attempting only one season of soccer in middle school. I did better with individual sports, though I only did one season of track in junior high school, and one season of swimming in high school.

    But those team sports were very formative, starting to teach me the principles of physical fitness that I follow today.

    Physical Fitness Principles

    Reflecting my current age and experience with various activities and minor injuries, and my goal to live into my 100's, the principles are:
    • Avoid injury.
    • Work on strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility.
    • Warm up.
    • Stretch.
    • Control breathing.
    • Manage pacing.
    • Manage intensity.
    • Maintain proper form.
    • Don't overdo it.
    • Hydrate.
    • Occupy the mind.
    • Don't compete with others, just measure personal progress.
    • Cool down.
    • Get proper rest.
    • Don't do the same primary workout two days in a row, always alternate days with something else.
    • Use massage therapy balls between workouts.
    • Make getting regular exercise a priority no matter what else is going on.
    • Exercise for the long term, not the short term; this is for the rest of my life.
    For the details on these, see Physical Fitness Principles.

    Much of this is based on the fact that the older I get, the longer it takes to recover from injury. In fact, the recovery period has become much more significant even for minor injury. So I'm more cautious and less aggressive in exercising than I used to be.

    The first and last principles reflect this. By avoiding injury, I'm able to keep exercising continuously for the rest of my life. I'd rather have a light workout or take a rest day than risk causing an injury that will make me take weeks off and possibly leave me with a long-term nagging problem.

    The rest of the principles are in support of those two, to minimize the possibility that I'll injure myself, and maximize the possibility that I'll be able to keep it up for the rest of my life.

    This is very much the story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race. In this case the race is a century of life.

    Chronology of Activities

    I learned a number of things doing these activities, both how to exercise, and how to hurt myself!

    Some of these dates are approximate where I don't have some specific event to jog my memory:
    • 1974, 8th grade: middle school junior varsity soccer team.
    • 1975, 9th grade: junior high school track team.
    • 1976, 10th grade: high school varsity swim team. This is where I learned to use weight machines; the young lady who was the girl's assistant swim coach was our strength coach.
    • 1976, 10th grade: AAU spring swim practice.
    • 1977, 11th grade: 4 months of karate at a local dojo.
    • 1978, 12th grade: taekwondo 12-week continuing education class.
    • 1978: college aikido club for a term.
    • 1978-79: swimming at college pool 3 nights a week, 4000 yards (160 lengths) @ 2 minutes/100 average pace. This got me into the best shape of my life.
    • 1980-82: 5-10-mile bike rides on recreational trail on a Sears 10-speed a couple times a week.
    • 1980-81: I bought a copy of Staying Hard: The Only Exercise Book You Will Ever Need, by Charles Gaines. This was an outstanding book that pretty much lived up to its title, covering resistance training in 3 types: Free Exercises (body-weight exercises without weights or equipment); Exercises With Weights; and Exercises On Universal Machines; with 3 levels of each type, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. I still have that copy, with the pages falling out. Since I couldn't afford equipment or memberships at the time, I did the free exercises.
    • 1983-85: now married, lap swimming at a local health club 2 or 3 days a week, 2500 yards (100 lengths) @ 2 minutes/100 average pace.
    • 1986-1990: 10-20 mile bike rides on weekends on a Raleigh Technium 21-speed bike.
    • 1988-89: trained for and ran several short-course triathlons. I was a great swimmer, average cyclist, and lousy runner, so I would come out of the water in the top 10% of the standings, finish the bike leg squarely in the middle, and drop to the bottom third by the end of the run.
    • 1993-94: Kenpo karate at a local dojo. I worked out for 90 minutes every day during the week: 30 minutes of stretching, 30 minutes of regimentation (i.e. calisthenics-type drills), and 30 minutes of katas (forms). I stopped after my daughter was born, since parenthood took priority.
    • 1994: We bought a treadmill.
    • 1996-2002: I did a lot of weekend outdoor adventure activities, always at a novice level: rock and ice climbing, hiking, backpacking, kayaking.
    • 1995-97: lap swimming at a local health club 2 or 3 days a week, 2500 yards (100 lengths) @ 2 minutes/100 average pace. I also used the weight machines and the NordicTrack ski machines. 
    • 1998: We bought a Tuff-Stuff Odyssey 5 weight machine, similar to their current AXT-225R classic home gym.
    • 1999: We bought a NordicTrack ski machine.
    • 1999-2006: 15-20-mile lunchtime bike rides at work 2 or 3 days a week on a Bianchi Giro 27-speed bike.
    • 2002: We bought a NordicTrack elliptical.
    • 2005: I got P90X, an awesome multi-faceted high-intensity DVD-based exercise program using free weights and body-weight exercises. I did this regularly for about 6 months.
    • 2012: I bought Power Yoga - Flexibility, by Rodney Yee. This turned out to be an outstanding beginner yoga DVD, 25 minutes. I've used it repeatedly over the years.
    • 2012-2018: I commuted by train to work for several different jobs. This required a 15-minute walk to and from the local station, and another 5-20-minute walk to and from work at the far station, depending on the job. I was getting 2-3.5 miles of walking in every day. The walking was a great way to bounce back from several years of virtually no activity.
    • 2016: Carey Goldberg of WBUR did a story on Dr. Wayne Westcott, professor of exercise science at Quincy College and author of 28 textbooks. I bought a copy of his Strength Training Past 50. This was another excellent book like Gaines', but focused on safely exercising after 50. I did this regularly for about 4 months.
    • 2018-2019: I repeatedly tried to restart one of my previous regular exercise routines after doing nothing for a year, but repeatedly had minor injuries that caused me to take long periods off (weeks to months).
    • 2019: I bought a TRX Go Suspension Training kit. This is an excellent body-weight strength training system using suspension straps.
    • 2019: I bought Power Yoga Collection: 3 Full-Length Programs, by Rodney Yee. This was an outstanding follow up to his Flexibility DVD above. It contains 3 hour-long programs that are more intense versions of that workout. So the Flexibility DVD is a great starter for learning these routines, or for when I want to do a lighter version.
    • 2019: I bought a used Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639 Rowing Machine from a coworker.
    • 2019: I finally pulled Anatomy of Fitness Pilates Book And DVD Gift Box by Isabel Eisen off the shelf and tried it. This is an excellent package that shows 25 Pilates mat exercises in clear photographs/videos and instructions. The only equipment needed is a yoga mat and inflatable Pilates ball, which could just as easily be a small beach ball or a throw pillow. This innocent-looking set of exercises is a fantastic core body workout.
    • 2019: I bought a used Stamina Pilates Performer JP machine from a coworker.
    Ok, that does look like a crazy big list, and yes, our basement home gym area is getting a bit crowded! But this is everything I did over 45 years, mostly 3-6 months at a time, with months in between.

    Also remember that I had to squeeze things in between working full-time and being a full-time husband and parent. So it was only at a novice recreational level, at moderate pace and intensity, for 30-90 minutes at a time. I wasn't doing it for hours at a time all the time like some elite athlete.

    The health club 1995-98 is where I started the habit of getting up at 5AM to workout before taking the kids to daycare. I continue that to this day, once I pack breakfast and lunch for my wife and get her out the door at 5:30.

    I find it a great way to kickstart the day, and whatever else happens, I known I've accomplished that. That also proved to be the easiest timeslot to carve out of a busy life on a regular basis.
    I've used the various home gym equipment on and off over the years. Sometimes I've been fairly regular about it for a while, but like the DVD- and book-based exercise programs I followed, something always interrupted it and I would stop for months.

    One big issue that came up was that I developed a persistent problem in my left shoulder rotator cuff sometime in 2014 after several years of doing virtually no exercise. What caused it? Nothing. I got old, and hadn't been maintaining regular exercise to keep my joints and muscles strong.

    After that, every time I started working out regularly and building up the weight and intensity, the shoulder would always force me to stop. That was the cause of the repeated injuries in the 2018-2019 period.

    The one upper body workout that seemed to help my shoulder was the TRX Go. I used it carefully and cautiously, building up from very easy intensity. I used that as the basis of getting back on track with a new program.

    The New Program

    In the Spring of 2019, after we had seen the BodyWorlds exhibit I mentioned in Welcome and Policies, I resolved to start a new exercise program, but with some new principles.

    Specifically, dialing things down to what I call "old man pace" to avoid overuse, as well as manage my shoulder. And rather than setting some kind of goal of speed or weight, setting a goal of sustainability for the rest of my life.

    Basically, that means any workout that does anything is better than doing nothing, as long as I don't hurt myself. I don't have to do things fast or hard, I just have to do things.

    This is the subject of an upcoming post.

    Sunday, December 1, 2019

    Welcome and Policies

    Welcome To Vivo Centum!

    My name is Steve Branam. Vivo centum is Latin for "I live a hundred." This is my goal: to live to be a centenarian, over a hundred years old. I want it to be a life well-lived.

    This goal was inspired by Dr. Gunther von Hagen's Body Worlds exhibit The Cycle of Life at the Boston Museum of Science. This is a fascinating exhibit, whose goal is preventive healthcare.

    In particular, the last section of the exhibit covered centenarians, the rare group of people who have lived to a hundred years and beyond, in full vigor, with a high quality of life.

    As I looked at the photos of these people enjoying active lives, I decided that's what I want to do. I want to live into my eleventh decade and beyond as an active member of society, able to continue most of the activities I enjoy now.

    That takes intention, planning, education, action, and care. It takes understanding the pitfalls and obstacles. It takes changing habits, eliminating bad ones and starting new ones.

    What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

    There are an infinite number of ways this can go wrong. Life is composed of the things you can control, and the things you can't. This is about the things you can control.

    What This Blog Will Cover

    In this blog, I'll cover my personal journey along this path. What I've tried, what works for me, what doesn't. What other people suggest, what I find interesting.

    This is about my choices, the information that influences them, and the effects they have on me. You don't have to listen to me, agree with me, or join me. But you're certainly welcome to.

    You might find some of that works for you, and some of it doesn't. I'm not you; you're not me. I won't make the mistake of generalizing a sample of one (me) to everyone else.

    But in most respects we're all closely enough alike that much of what applies to me may also apply to you. That's where you need to use your own judgement, as well as that of your healthcare and other professionals.

    I'm not qualified to give medical, financial, or legal advice. I'm not an expert or authority in any of those fields.

    There are a number of considerations for reaching my goal successfully, and these will all be the topics of various blog posts:
    • health
    • fitness
    • diet
    • medical
    • financial
    • emotional
    • psychological
    • cognitive
    • social
    I'll be posting on a completely random basis, depending on when I have time and something useful to say. That could be days or months between posts.

    I typically update posts a few times after initial posting, to take care of typos, awkward writing, and things I forgot to include.

    If you find my writing interesting, you might enjoy my other blogs, CloseGrain, covering woodworking, and FlinkAndBlink, covering software engineering. They are equally as random.

    You can also connect with me on LinkedIn; please mention that you saw the blog so I have some idea of why you're connecting.

    I welcome constructive feedback (see Policies below). If we engage in dialog and I find you have something interesting to contribute, I may include some of it in a post and give you credit for it.

    Baseline Status

    As of Dec 1, 2019, I'm 59 years old. I've always tried to be maintain reasonably healthy habits and avoid unhealthy ones.

    I'm married, well-employed with a good income, in good health, reasonably physically fit, with a little age-appropriate joint and muscle soreness, with no indications of chronic disease.

    I don't smoke or do drugs, and I try to eat and drink in moderation. I mostly have the energy, strength, and endurance to do the activities I want to, though I have scaled back due to age.

    The world is full of risk factors, so I try to mitigate them reasonably. I'm subject to all the stressors of modern life, so I try to manage them.

    I'm starting from a good baseline. That got me through the first six decades. Now on to the next five.

    Policies as of Dec 1, 2019

    All policies are subject to change at any time. I'll update this post whenever I change them.

    Principles: As an engineer, former Boy Scout, and former Scoutmaster, these are the thing I believe in:
    • don't let hate be your guiding light
    • facts
    • theories based on sound principles
    • the scientific method
    • education
    • honor
    • honesty
    • integrity
    • gratitude
    • compassion
    • empathy
    • courtesy
    • civility
    • respect for others
    • moving forward
    • thoughtfulness
    • open-mindedness
    • optimism
    • humor
    • diligence
    • perseverance
    • lifelong learning
    • learning from mistakes, my own and others'
    • celebrating others' achievements
    • giving credit where credit is due
    • having plans, backup plans, and backup plans for the backup plans
    • fortune favors the prepared mind
    Quality: I endeavor to make sure all information presented here is of high quality in accordance with the above principles, based on either my own personal experience, or information I've researched and verified from multiple sources. The topics of this blog are subject to all kinds of false and misleading information, unfounded claims, and uninformed opinion. I'll try to clearly differentiate opinion from established fact. Where anything is in honest doubt, a matter of opinion, or subject to honest controversy or disagreement, I'll note that. However, just saying something is in doubt or controversial with no legitimate evidence to back that up is not honest doubt or controversy. Sometimes things are a matter of judgement, subject to honest debate conducted in good faith.

    I Am Not A Medical, Financial, Or Legal Professional: The statements expressed on this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical, financial, or legal advice.

    Advertising: For now, there is no advertising. I find that most websites related to health, fitness, and cooking are so overloaded with advertising that you can hardly find the actual content. Or the sites are so obnoxious about it that you can hardly get to the actual content. This site is about actual content. I do expect to enable limited advertising at some point.

    Paid links: I don't accept paid links.

    Affiliate links: When I link to something for sale, it's usually an affiliate link, where I earn a small commission on the sale, per the target site's standard affiliate policies. I may link to items for sale or businesses that don't offer affiliate commissions if I feel they're worth sharing.

    Guest posts: I don't currently accept guest posts. That includes paid posts or placements of outside content. I'm not a fan of SEO. I may invite others to write posts ("invited posts") if they don't have some other platform for sharing their information, or if I feel it is particularly relevant or worth sharing here.

    Reviews: All reviews are of things I've actually tried, and in some cases used for a long time. This includes things that I've been given to try for free; I'll disclose that at the beginning of the review. I aim to be transparent, honest, forthright, and direct about my results, and am always willing to consider additional information. If you wish to offer me something to try and expect a positive review, make sure it is something that I will feel comfortable reporting positively. If you give me something that doesn't live up to it's claims, or I don't feel is worthwhile, I'll state that in my review.

    Comments: Comments are currently enabled, but require moderation; that is, I will review comments and publish them if I find them acceptable. This is because blog comments are often polluted by "comment spam", where people try to create more links to their sites by spewing them out to comment sections, in the hopes that search engines will treat them as indications of legitimate interest in their content and thus rank it higher in search results. I'm fairly ruthless in what I'll reject. I'll generally accept any comment that is directly related to the topic of the blog post, is civil in tone, and does not include any links. I'll usually accept reasonable links to personal websites or directly related content, subject to my judgement. I'll reject any comments that appear to be SEO comment spam. This typically includes comments that contain links not directly related to the blog post topic, links to things for sale, and include vague or nonsensical commentary. I'll reject any comments that appear to be made in bad faith or lack civility, subject to my judgement.