Ring Masters

Gymnastics - an amazing display of strength, flexibility, agility and balance. This great montage of some serious ring work demonstrates what I’m talking about.

Where’d the Summer Go?

It’s about this time of year that many of us are thinking, “whoa - where’d the Summer go?” There are only a handful of days left before September, only a few weeks left before Fall officially begins. Did we get everything in that we wanted to? Are there things that we didn’t even think about doing that, come to think of it, we should have done?

For me, I’m wondering if I actually took full advantage of the warm weather. Sure I ran a couple times per week and played beach volleyball every Thursday night, but my bicycle is still hanging in the garage and my inline skates have remained at the bottom of a container in my basement since last year. Two Summer activities that I really love to do have gone undone through all of these amazing Summer days we’ve had thus far in 2007.

But there’s still hope, right? If I schedule things properly, I can get in some good skating and biking before sweater weather comes blowing in. But what else have I failed to do this year? What other Summer activities should I try and enjoy before I have to wait until next year?

Here’s a top 10 list of Summer activities to try and get in before the Fall comes guns a blazing around the corner.

Read more, click here…

Video Review - Tony Horton’s Ab Ripper X

I recently used Tony Horton’s Ab Ripper X video for a couple of exercise sessions. As the title suggests, it’s an exercise video that focuses primarily on the abdominal muscles. The abs are a group of muscles that don’t require long bouts of work and as such, the routine is really quite short. But was it any good? Read on to find out…

Read more, click here…

Handstands in Wasaga

We went up to Wasaga Beach this weekend and had a blast with my sister and her husband. Although it was a little cooler and rainy on Saturday, it didn’t stop us from jumping in the lake for a swim. I also had a chance to do some handstand practice. I’m getting better at holding the handstand position for longer without losing balance - about 10 seconds. My ultimate goal is to be able to hold for at least 30 seconds. It’s a ways off.

The Fit Blog Tip #3

The whole gym or running thing got you down? Not that exciting sometimes, is it.

Have you ever thought about joining a team sport? Amazingly, a recent study has found that the fitness benefits of football (or soccer) are so massive that it’s even better than running for fat burning. Most communities offer local soccer leagues for all sorts of skill levels from recreational to competitive, for all ages. And not only are they a great way to get in shape without the monotony of a regular running\gym routine, team sports are a great way to meet new people and have a great time.

The Grunting and Shadow Boxing

I have very few pet-peeves. I consider myself a fairly laid back kind of guy. However there are some things that just bite at me until I find it incredibly difficult to continue to tolerate. When at the gym, it’s gotta be the grunters and shadow boxers.

I’m not talking about under your breath grunting that comes with the strain of the last few reps of a set, I’m talking about what often sounds like yelling or moaning as though in excruciating agony. And it’s one thing to let out a few weeps when you’re struggling, but does making an incredible amount of noise really help get through some warm-up curls? Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but sometimes it seems like a form of attention seeking.

The shadow boxers are the other group of gym-goers that occasionally make my eyes bulge. The gym that I attend has a fairly large number of martial arts classes and thus many of the gym’s members practice some form of boxing. But just because you’re practicing for an upcoming Muay Thai competition, it doesn’t give you the right to run around the gym, in between sets, punching and kicking the air. It gets kinda freaky, actually. Again - do you just want attention?

For the most part, I like my gym best when it’s quiet - when everyone is actually working out - when I can focus - just me versus machine. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. So please, if you can, do others a favor and leave your shadow boxing in the ring and save your grunting for when it’s actually needed.

Holy Jumpin Bodyweight Overhead Squats

This is a great crossfit video clip. Nicole - a super strong crossfitter makes several attempts at overhead squating her body weight for 15 reps. I struggle with 10 reps at half my body weight. Can Nicole do it? Watch the clip to find out.

p.s. yay crossfit.

The Fit Blog Has Migrated to WordPress

Blogger has been a great blogging framework. During the course of the last few days, however, I’ve migrated over to WordPress. I still use Blogger for some other blogs of mine, but as The Fit Blog grows, I figured I needed to move to another framework that supports more features. Blogger doesn’t offer the same sort of trackback system that most of the other frameworks support. I’m also not really fond of the commenting system on Blogger. There are also some other issues, particularly when using their FTP process, that I’d like to see changed. I’m not saying that Blogger isn’t a great resource. It is. It’s just that it isn’t right for me for this particular blog.

WordPress, on the other hand, is a constatly maturing product that has a huge user community and numerous features and plugins that I’m hoping to eventually take advantage of. For the time being, however, the site is pretty much the same as it was on Blogger except for a few minor differences (though the commenting is quite a bit better IMO).

If you’re a little interested in the technical side of things, read the rest of the article after the jump…

Read more, click here…

Why Weight Training is Important for Weight Loss

When most people think of a weight loss program, they first probably think of dieting. Second to that is usually some for of cardio - walking, running, elliptical, whatever. These two components are definitely important parts of losing weight. However, what many people don’t realize is that resistance training is also very important.

Resistance training is pretty much synonymous with strength training. It’s working your muscles against some sort of resistance. This includes body weight exercises like pushups, situps and air squats as well as other forms of resistance training including weight training.

Yikes - did you just say weight training? But I don’t want to get huge like Arnold. I just want to lose the bulge.

A common misconception is that weight training should be relegated for those individuals looking to gain muscle mass - who want the big guns. While it’s true that weight training is a necessity for bodybuilders, it’s pretty much a myth that lifting dumbbells and barbells translates into getting huge. In order for this to occur, bodybuilders need to eat a large number of calories on a daily basis. It’s just a difficult thing to do - especially for women. Substantial muscle growth requires hormones (like testosterone) that just isn’t as readily available in women. Even many men have much difficulty getting the big guns. For dieters, who are probably on some sort of strict diet (hopefully a Zone diet), getting huge should not be a worry at all. It aint gonna happen - not even close.

But muscle mass is a good thing for the dieter and it’s very important to include resistance training in any sort of weight loss program. Here are some reasons why.

  • More muscle equals a higher metabolic rate. Research has shown that regular resistance training may boost your metabolic rate up to 15%. A higher metabolism means more fuel gets burned faster making it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Resistance training can boost bone mineral density, decreasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
  • It can strengthen weak body parts and joints, reducing the risk of injury in day to day activities and sports.
  • Resistance training creates muscle and changes the body composition which improves an individual’s appearance.
  • Muscle takes up less space than fat. Building muscle changes the ratio of fat to muscle on the body, helping to create tone.

So if you’re currently on a diet and have been thinking about getting to the gym and incorporating some weights, find a good weight training program and add it to your weekly routine. If you have always thought of weight lifting as a guy’s thing or something that’s strictly for bodybuilders, think again. Weight lifting and resistance training is great for all of us, regardless of our goals.

Calf Raises - Donkey Style

You may be familiar with calf raises. Usually, these are done on either a seated or standing calf raise machine. Your shoulders or knees sit under levers attached to weights. The balls of your feet sit on the ledge of a small platform, with the heels slightly over the ledge. From here, you move up onto your toes and then lower. That is a single rep. Other variations include simply performing this on a platform while holding onto dumbbells or a barbell, or usingno extra weight at all. It can also be done without a platform, on the floor, by simply raising up on the toes and back down.

Yet another, lesser known, less popular variation, is the donkey calf raise. Perhaps this is because those who actually perform this version do so in the privacy of an empty, or home gym. Instead of using weights or a machine to do the calf raise, the donkey calf raise is done leaning forward, with a partner straddling you back. The name comes from the image of a person riding a donkey. The awkwardness of this seems obvious. Why someone would actually want to put themselves through the humiliation of attempting the calf raise donkey style is not obvious. Apparently it is an extremely good exercise for the calf muscles. I’ll never have a first hand account to know if this is true or not.

The following pic is from the Complete Weight Training Book, by Bill Reynolds. Complete with the 1970’s gym apparel, the Donkey Calf Raise is done perfectly.

p.s. Yes, the guy on top is wearing shorts. It’s hard to tell in the actual book, but this scan makes it seem even more like he’s forgone the vital piece of clothing.

Crazy Upper Body Strength

I’ve been working on handstands lately. Attempting to get from a squat with my hands on the floor to a full handstand. Needless to say, I’ve yet to do it. However, even with my futile attempts, I definitely feel it in my triceps and shoulders. But this is all childsplay, compared to what these guys can do. This is crazy stuff.

Workout on the Cheap

Working out can be expensive. A gym membership may cost $50 per month. A treadmill will set you back at least a few hundred dollars. Something like the Bowflex could cost thousands, plus interest on financing. Then there’s the countless unopened exercise DVDs and that spontaneous ab roller purchase that never really got used. It’s almost ridiculous how much money can be blown on fitness. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A gym membership can be a great investment. They tend to have a lot of equipment, making it easy to get a good workout in. Some gyms even offer free group classes that you can join . It may be a recurring monthly cost, but if used to its fullest, a gym membership can be sublime. However, don’t be fooled by that brand new Super Mega Health Club that just opened. It may be big, but it will probably also be costly. Lower priced memberships can be found at other less lavish gyms and while the larger clubs may have the latest and greatest elliptical machines, there are some really great reasons to choose the less ostentatious abode. The smaller places are generally more accessible as their memberships are lower. You may find that you are less intimidated at a smaller gym and even though it has less equipment, the equipment that they do have might be free more often. It’s also far easier to get to know the staff at a smaller place and take advantage of some of the programs that they may offer. All of this will actually help keep you motivated and keep coming back.

But if you can’t afford a gym membership, there are alternatives. However, don’t fall for the infomercials and all the costly gimmicky equipment. You can easily get a good setup at home with low (or no) cost.

  • A great way to keep in shape is running or walking. And not on the treadmill. The only cost you will incur for taking this up is the price of a decent set of sneakers. Make your investment count, however, by visiting a shop that specializes in running, such as the Running Room.
  • Find some used weights. All you really need is a bench, a barbell and some plates. With just these few items, you can pretty much do any weight training you’d ever need to do. Check you local classifieds. Go garage sale hunting. Check out your local freecycle group - watch for equipment that someone just wants to toss. Scour around your parents place for some old weights that your Dad has long since stopped using.
  • Find a good workout video and use it. All sorts of people have gotten amazing results with the likes of Billy Blanks. Tonnes of Tae-Bo videos are available used from online sources like Amazon.com for as low as $5!
  • Get a skipping rope. You can find them super cheap, but a good skipping rope workout pays off huge. Jumping rope is a seriously great cardio exercise.
  • Work on body-weight exercises. Do circuits of situps, pushups, air squats, calf raises and lunges. If that gets boring, try adding in handstand pushups, dips and clappers.
  • Build some homemade equipment. Fill up a sandbag or get a heavy rock or object. Curl it, throw it, press it, put it on a sleigh and pull it.
  • Check out your local public swimming pool. It may offer free public swimming at certain times of the week.
  • Get a basketball and get your sweat on by shooting some hoops with a few buddies.

There are probably a billion other ways to keep fit, with either very little or absolutely no money down. What would you suggest if you were cash strapped and couldn’t afford the gym membership?

No Time to Sleep? No Good.

With all of our busy lives these days - the long stressful workdays, families to be with, houses to fix up, appointments to meet, errands to run, and all that good TV, many times we find ourselves going to bed really late and waking up earlier than our body would like. Sometimes it gets so bad that we just try and push through the work week and look forward to sleeping in on the weekend to catch up on the lost Z’s. Thank goodness for coffee - our World would be faced with a zombie crisis if it weren’t for caffeine.


It’s unfortunate though. Sleep is important. We’re all mostly aware of that fact. Usually, however, we completely disregard it. Sleep is something that we more or less take for granted. In fact, I used to think of sleep as a waste of time. So many things to do and so little time, why would I want to sleep at all? Well, there are a bunch of reasons.

From a fitness perspective, sleep is important for muscle maintenance and growth. When you’re at the gym, lifting weights, muscle fibers are ripped and damaged (hence the pain you might sometimes feel). In order for muscles to repair themselves, sleep is needed. While sleeping (particular while in deep sleep), our bodies go into repair mode and rebuild the muscle. For bodybuilders, sleep is essential for muscle growth. Repair mode also requires substantial energy and depends on energy stores in our bodies. The energy stores include fat storage. In an indirect way, sleeping actually burns off calories.

Of course, there’s also the fact that the earlier and longer you’re in dream land, the less likely you are to spend any more of your day munching on chocolate bars or nachos. Sure, it’s an obvious point, but I’m sure there have been countless times that you found yourself raiding the fridge at midnight.

Besides the physical benefits of sleep, the mental benefits are huge. More sleep leads to higher levels of alertness and cognitive function. Taking a siesta in the afternoon has been shown to cause higher levels of productivity into the later parts of the working day.  Memories are are improved and better solidified during sleep. Your brain files daily events and works subconsciously on problems. I can recall numerous times when working on programming bugs when I would be getting absolutely nowhere to the point that I’d actually be moving backwards. I’d decide to call it quits and come back to it in the morning. I’d wake up, logon to the computer and fire up my code and almost instantly figure it out.

And then there are health reasons too. Your immune system and organs function immensely better when you get more sleep. It’s the reason why bed rest is next only to chicken soup when it comes to fighting a flu or a cold.

So the moral of the story is to get your sleep. If you find that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get enough sleep at night, re prioritize. Work at becoming more organized. Downgrade to basic cable. Set solid bedtimes for yourself. If you have to be awake by 7am, try to get to bed by 11pm. Aim for 8 hours a night. Once you get into the swing of a good sleep schedule, it will become a piece of cake (low cal cake, of course). You will feel way better, more productive, more alert, more energized and your body will thank you.

Diet Television

So you’ve committed to losing some weight and have set a goal in mind. Step one complete. Now what? How do I achieve this goal? Fortunately for you, there are literally thousands of resources on the web that can help, including thefitblog.net, of course. Shameless plug aside, it’s true. If there were one resource that can actually get you to your goal weight, it’s the web. A few articles ago, I reviewed a bunch of social networking fitness sites. What I discovered today was a similar kind of site, but less geared towards social networking and more geared to helping you get on the train to successville.

Diet Television could possibly be the diet site to end all diet sites. You sign on and they more or less just tell you what to do. They get your body stats and interests (whether your looking to be lifting weights or going for runs) and from that, determine when you should expect to reach your goal and what can be done to help get you there. They devise a workout plan and include instructions for each of the exercises. They also provide lots of nutrition and diet information. The best part of all of this, of course, is that it’s completely free.

The motto for Diet Television is “Learn it, lose it, link up”, aptly describing its inclination towards goal setting and assistance. Like the social networking sites, you can create a profile and “link up” with others, which can be a source of some inspiration as you watch other individuals get closer to their goals. The site is in Beta and is still under construction, but with its simple, intuitive interface and the obvious large amount of thought put behind it, it definitely looks promising and is worth at least checking out.