Sunday, March 5, 2023

Physical Fitness Program 2023-03

It's been nearly 2 year since my last physical fitness update.

We made a big change this past year: after 31 years in Massachusetts, my wife and I moved to Maine. That meant packing up and selling our a house of 18 years.

That turned out to be a huge job! We had accumulated a lot of stuff to sort through with 5 people in the house over time. We started in late March, and it took until November, the week before my 62nd birthday.

I realized after the first couple months that I was going to need to dedicate more time to the task, so I stopped my morning workouts to spend the time on moving.

That meant a good 6 months without exercise. In October, that resulted in a problem in my left knee; it was loose and sore. By the time we completed the move in November, my knee had gotten so loose that I was afraid I was going to suffer a fall or serious injury. I was extra cautious while carrying moving boxes around.

First thing while we were getting settled in the new location, I joined the Boothbay Region YMCA, just 5 minutes away. The new house is actually 150 years old, with no space for a home gym, so I had given away a lot of my exercise equipment.

The Y is an outstanding facility that has just completed a major renovation. It has a 6-lane swimming pool, rows of ellipticals, treadmills, two rowing machines, a spinning room, aerobics and yoga rooms, a basketball gym, two raquetball courts, indoor track and tennis courts, and weight rooms with free weights, circuit machines, and combo machines.

It's also a fantastic community resource with a great after-school program and STEM focus. I've started teaching an after-school introduction to engineering class there using Arduino for embedded systems development.

It has this very interesting TRUE Stretch cage. Looking like a cross between a shark cage and a medieval torture device, it's an amazingly effective static stretching frame.

Going through all the stretches pictured on the instruction panel is the closest you can get to a deep tissue massage without actually getting a massage. That takes about 20 minutes.

This is my current weekly physical fitness program, following my Physical Fitness Principles:
  • Monday: Swimming for endurance.
  • Tuesday: Circuit weight machines for strength.
  • Wednesday: Rowing for endurance and yoga for flexibility.
  • Thursday: Repeat Monday workout for endurance.
  • Friday: Repeat Tuesday workout for strength.
In addition to switching from a home-based gym to a public facility, I've made a few tweaks from the previous version 2021-05:
  • I swapped the strength and endurance days because I've always enjoyed swimming as a primary whole-body exercise, and I wanted to include the rowing endurance in the middle of the week.
  • I added the rowing machine because I wanted to learn to row. I've bought a used Alden Martin rowing shell and want to be able to take it across the street to the Damariscotta River public boat ramp.
  • I kept the strength sets at 2, but reduced the weight to carefully restrengthen my joints.
  • I replaced the stretching routines from Bob Anderson's Stretching: 30th Anniversary Edition with the TRUE Stretch cage.
This worked well to recover from my 6 months without exercise. By keeping the endurance work at relaxed pace with moderate intensity, and the strength work at light physical therapy rehabilitation weight, my knee was fully recovered in 2 weeks.

I'm very slowly increasing the intensity and weight, paying careful attention to my joints. In addition to my left knee, my left shoulder rotator cuff and right elbow are the most sensitive and prone to soreness. Those are the joints to manage.

I continue to focus on eating healthfully with a mostly-plant-based diet augmented by small amounts of animal-based foods in accordance with the Blue Zone recommendations (as opposed to the typical Western diet that is the opposite).

I also continue to use deep breathing meditation for general stress management and as a sleep aid when I wake up in the middle of the night, based on Dr. Herbert Benson's 1975 book The Relaxation Response.

As before, I generally don't work out on weekends, and I try to make sure to have time available for each full daily workout. If I'm short of time, I can cut the number of reps or sets down, cut the time down, cut the rest periods by 15-30 seconds, or skip some yoga poses.

Monday: Swimming For Endurance

Stretching: 20 minutes on TRUE Stretch cage.

Endurance: 10 x 100 yards (1000 yards, 40 laps total). I split that up into two 5 x 100's, doing a 100 kickboard on each third one. I rest 30-60 seconds between 100's. I use my first and last 100's as warmup and cooldown.

Tuesday: Cybex Circuit Weight Machines For Strength

Warm-up: 5 minutes on rowing machine.

Stretching: 20 minutes on TRUE Stretch cage.

Strength: 25-30 minutes of weight machines following Strength Training Past 50 by Wayne Westcott and Thomas Baechle. 2 sets of 12 reps for each of 12 separate machines 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. On some machines I keep it down to the first 2 or 3 plates to protect my joints. On others I can go with a heavier level, about half the weight stack or so.

The exercises and weights (pounds):
  • Leg press, 130
  • Leg extension, 70
  • Leg curl, 70
  • Hip adduction/abduction, 50
  • Lat push-down, 50
  • Bicep curl, 50
  • Lat pull-down, 70
  • Shoulder adduction/abduction, 50
  • Shoulder press, 50
  • Chest press, 70
  • Abdominal flex, 110
  • Back extension, 110
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.

Cool-down: 5 minutes on rowing machine.

Wednesday: Concept2 Rowing Machine For Endurance And Yoga For Balance And Flexibility

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

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 yoga session, because of its general therapeutic and stress-reducing effects.

Endurance: 30 minutes on rowing machine: 5 minutes of warmup at 25 strokes per minute, 20 minutes of 1:1 minute intervals at 35:30 strokes, and 5 minutes of cooldown at 25. I set the air damper in the middle at 5. I learned how to use the machine primarily from these YouTube videos by RVA Performance Training and this New York Times article by Dana G. Smith.  

Balance and flexibility: 25 minutes of asanas (postures) based on Power Yoga - Flexibility and Power Yoga Collection: 3 Full-Length Programs by Rodney Yee, and Yoga With Adriene.

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

The asanas that I choose from based on how I feel (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
  • 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
  • Urdhva 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

Thursday: Swimming For Endurance

This is an exact repeat of Monday's workout.

Friday: Cybex Circuit Weight Machines For Strength

This is an exact repeat of Tuesday's workout.