Thursday, March 19, 2020

Physical Fitness Program 2020-03

This is my current weekly physical fitness program, following my Physical Fitness Principles:
  • Monday: Pilates/free weights and weight machine for strength.
  • Tuesday: Running for endurance.
  • Wednesday: Yoga for flexibility.
  • Thursday: Ski machine for endurance.
  • Friday: Repeat Monday workout for strength.
Over the past 3 months, I've made a few tweaks from the previous version 2019-12:
  • I replaced the Monday TRX with weights and machine, making it the same as Friday. The TRX was great, because it gently rehabilitated my shoulder and helped build the base for more strength work with increased weight. This poses more risk of injury, but has been working well.
  • I swapped the days for running and yoga, in order to split the endurance days.
  • I tried increasing my running pace, but returned to the previous pace and even ended up splitting it into 5-minute intervals. This is definitely part of keeping it at a manageable level; I'll build it up over the longer term.
  • I replaced swimming with the ski machine to save the cost of pool membership and simplify the logistics (no need to drive to the pool).
  • I increased the stretching times to about 10 minutes, using the full sport-specific stretch routines from Bob Anderson's Stretching: 30th Anniversary Edition.
I occasionally have a random sore muscle or joint, a calf, knee, or ankle, so I spend a little extra time stretching it, and adjust the workout as necessary. That's usually sufficient to take care of it.

The one thing that's been a little more persistent has been lower back twinges during the day. In addition to a little more back stretching, I've reduced the weight I use for squats. That seems to have managed it.

My back is definitely something I want to protect. I can limp around for a day with a sore leg and get over it quickly, but back issues can turn into serious problems with long term consequences.

It's also worth noting that we're currently in the midst of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, so staying healthy is paramount. Being cautious and conservative, maintaining my workouts within my limits, is more important than pushing those limits and risking injury.

The medical system is already at risk of being overburdened, access to non-emergency care is getting more difficult, and being full-body healthy gives me the best chance of riding it out. And really, that's the goal of all this. Not peak physical performance, but peak longevity.

But I can tell I'm firming up my muscles and have definitely improved my endurance since starting out. I'm not aiming for muscle mass, just for good solid general fitness.

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/Free Weights And Weight Machine For Strength

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

Stretching: 10 minutes of Bob Anderson's weightlifting stretch routine.

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, 40
  • Leg extension, 55
  • Leg curl, 25
  • Chest press, 55
  • Chest fly, 35
  • Seated row, 55
  • Shoulder press, 35
  • Lat pull-down, 55
  • Tricep push-down, 45
  • Bicep curl, 25
  • Ab flex, 55
These are mostly an increase of two 5- or 10-pound plates from the previous program, except for the squats, which is a reduction of 30 pounds to reduce the strain on my lower back.

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 from the previous level by adding weight every 6 weeks, cutting back to 6 reps for each set for two or three workouts, then increasing to the regular 8 reps.

Cool-down: 3-5 minutes on elliptical.

Tuesday: 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 post-workout stretching to prevent tight or sore muscles the next day.

Warm-up: 5 minutes on treadmill.

Stretching: 10 minutes of Bob Anderson's pre-run stretch routine.

Endurance: 30 minutes on treadmill in 5-minute intervals: 1 minute walking at 3 mph, 4 minutes running at 5 mph.

My goal is still to work up to the USMC Timed Run requirement, which is 3 miles in 28 minutes or less (6.4 mph continuous running), but I realized it's going to take me longer to get there.

Cool-down: 5 minutes on treadmill.

Stretching: 10 minutes of Anderson's post-run stretch routine.

Wednesday: 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.

Thursday: Ski Machine For Endurance

Warm-up: 5 minutes on ski machine at low to middle incline, and light but increasing resistance and pace.

Stretching: 10 minutes of Bob Anderson's cross-country skiing stretch routine.

Endurance: 30 minutes on ski machine at middle to high incline, at middle resistance, doing intervals of 2 minutes at fast pace, 1 minute at slow pace.

Cool-down: 5 minutes on ski machine at middle to low incline, at reducing resistance and pace.

Friday: Pilates/Free Weights And Weight Machine For Strength

This is an exact repeat of Monday's workout.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Some Vegetarian Restaurants

One of the challenges in eating a plant-based diet is eating out, since most American-style restaurants cater to the primarily animal-based US diet. My wife and I both enjoy eating out as one of our main activities together.

But now that I'm paying attention, I'm seeing more restaurants that cater to vegetarians. Their menus tend to be very creative and flavorful. Eating at them gives us all kinds of ideas about dishes and substitutions to try at home. That really opens up the options for eating a delicious and satisfying vegetarian diet. It's way beyond simple green salad rabbit food.

Some restaurants specialize in vegan recreations of meat dishes, challenging your ability to tell the difference. These are great for taking people who feel they could never enjoy food that doesn't taste like what they're used to.

Others throw convention completely to the wind and make no attempt to recreate animal-based dishes. They show that a whole new range of flavors and textures are just as good.

Some are very careful and explicit about what is vegan (strictly no animal-based product used in any way) and what is vegetarian (sauces, broths, oils, sides, or some other aspect may include a small amount of animal-based product). It never hurts to ask, since some dishes listed as vegetarian are in fact strictly vegan, and others may have an unexpected animal-based ingredient.

The Hidden Vegetarian Restaurants

I have to remind myself that vegetarian dishes are prominent in many international cuisines.

Virtually any Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese restaurant lists tofu as one of the protein options for many dishes, so these can automatically be considered vegetarian. Tofu is a great replacement for meat, taking on the flavors of the sauces and spices.

Similarly, Indian and Ethiopian restaurants will have a number of vegetarian dishes, as will many other Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean restaurants. Some places will have separate meat and vegetarian buffets.

Broadening to ovo-lacto-vegetarian (adding eggs and dairy) opens the choices even more. For instance, many Italian restaurants offer meatless dishes that include cheese, in addition to the pasta dishes with purely vegetarian sauces like marinara or puttanesca. And of course good old pizza in its many vegetarian varieties.

The Restaurants

This is a list of restaurants in the greater Boston area that cater to vegetarians. Some are totally vegan, "except for the little half-and-half containers for the coffee" as they told us at one. Some are old favorites, and some are new discoveries.

This is only a tiny sampling, the ones we've tried so far. There are many more out there, so I'll be updating this on a random basis.

For each listing, the name links to the restaurant's website, and the location links to Google Maps.

Asmara Restaurant, Cambridge, MA: Eritrean and Ethiopean food eaten in traditional style, scooped up by hand with injera bread from a communal platter. We've been going here some 25 years, a family favorite. Our kids started requesting it regularly as their birthday meal once they grew past the Chuck E Cheese stage. It has both vegetarian and meat dishes. We always just order the meat sampler and vegetarian sampler to keep it simple and get a variety. I call this shoveling food, because it's so good you just shovel it in your mouth as fast as you can, until you suddenly realize it's all gone. The secret is the spices. Some are hot, but all are amazingly flavorful.

Life Alive Organic Cafe, Lowell, Boston, BrooklineCambridge, and Salem, MA: A variety of creative flavorful dishes that make no pretense of recreating traditional fare. The Lowell location is one of our favorites. The Cambridge location is just around the corner from Asmara.

Veggie Galaxy, Cambridge, MA: Conversely, this offers traditional diner comfort food, but all in vegetarian versions (with options for 100% vegan), and includes a vegan bakery. The meat substitutes we've had have been delicious and utterly convincing. This is the one with the half-and-half. Also just down the street from Asmara (Central Square Cambridge is full of interesting restaurants).

Pho Pasteur, Boston and Quincy, MA: A variety of Vietnamese dishes.

My Thai Vegan Cafe, Boston, MA: Upstairs above Pho Pasteur, vegan versions of Thai dishes.

Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro And Bar (Portland website), Portsmouth, NH, and Portland, ME: Vegetarian versions of several Asian cuisines, with spectacular flavors.

Mr. India Restaurant, Newburyport, MA: A wide range of delicious vegetarian dishes, including Nepali and Himalayan cuisine.

Mayuri Indian Cuisine, Acton, MA: Simple strip mall restaurant with amazing variety and flavors.

Dawat Authentic Hyerabadi Biryani Place, Nashua, NH: Another very simple strip mall restaurant with fantastic flavors.