This is a reprint of an article first published in the November 2003 issue of "Fitness News & Views." It's incredible to realize the hardships that the small band of Pilgrims had to overcome in order to travel to the New World where they could practice their religion without the restraints of government. Here's a brief account of their story:
One hundred and two Pilgrims spent 66 days crossing the ocean on the Mayflower. They were crammed into a space about the size of a volleyball court. They left England to escape religious persecution. They landed at Plymouth in November of 1620.
Bitter cold soon arrived. Death came with it. In December, six Pilgrims died. Eight in January. In February, there were seventeen deaths. In March, fourteen more died. When what came to be called the "General Sickness" was over, forty-seven of the 102 Pilgrims were dead.
The turning point for the small colony occurred in mid-March 1621 when an Indian appeared at the door of their meeting house. His name was Samoset. He spoke perfect English, and he relayed to them a remarkable story, telling of travels up and down the seacoast with English traders and fishermen. Samoset told of the Patuxets, a barbarous tribe which had been wiped out by a mysterious plague a few months prior, leaving only the friendly and peaceful Wampanoags in the area.
When he left the Pilgrims, he said he would return soon. He did, a week later, bringing with him another Indian Squanto. William Bradford, the Governor of the colony, called him "a special instrument of God for our good, beyond our expectation."
Squanto was one of the Patuxets, but he was away from his tribe at the time of the plague. He had been captured and taken to England and educated so he could be probed for information about where the English should settle in the New World. Later, he was captured by a slave trader, but was rescued by monks. While staying with them, he accepted the Christian faith. Soon he was able to procure passage back to the New World with a wealthy merchant. It was then that he found his native tribe wiped out by disease. He took up with the Wampanoags, and it is here that his story intersects with the Pilgrims.
Squanto stayed with the newcomers, teaching them how to plant Indian corn which became the staple of their food supply. He showed them how to fish the streams and creeks and how to stalk deer and plant pumpkins among the corn. In the fall after the harvest, the Pilgrims wanted to set aside a day to thank God for His provision and for Squanto and the friendly and helpful Wampanoags. So in October 1621, Governor Bradford declared a day ofpublic Thanksgiving. He invited Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanoags, who arrived a day early with 90 Indians! They brought deer, wild turkeys, and a delicious treat the settlers had never seen before - popcorn. The festivities included competitive games like target shooting, foot races, and wrestling. It was America's first Thanksgiving.
The holiday became official in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday to be celebrated each year on the last Thursday of November. This Thanksgiving, I hope you'll take a moment to reflect on how God has richly blessed this country and its people, and to ask God to protect us from those who would destroy our country and our way of life.
Every year around this time, I give myself a fitness test. It consists of three measurements - weight, waist, and body fat percentage - and three exercises - a 3-mile run, bench press, and pushups. I've been doing this for 11 years. I'm 68 years old now - gosh, that sounds old - and my results are beginning to reflect my age. Here's how I did this year:
Weight 138 pounds
Waist 33 inches
Body fat % 10.6%
Bench press 138 pounds (1RM)
3-mile run 32.55 (10:58 per mile)
My weight and waist measurements are about the same as last year, but my body fat percentage is up almost 2 percent. The standard for a man my age is 15 to 19 percent, so I'm still below that, but it's creeping up.
Where my age is really showing is with the performance tasks. The maximum weight I could bench one time last year was 175.5 pounds. This year that number is 138 pounds, a 21 percent decline. I'm still benching my weight, but I need to work on that. My pushups are down from 75 last year to 60 this year, but since 57 or more is considered excellent for a 19 year old, I'm not too worried about just doing 60.
Running is my main area of concern. Boy, am I slowing down. I've dropped from a 9:51 per mile pace two years ago to a 10:58 pace now. That's a big dip in just two years. Pretty soon I'll be passing myself walking.
While I'm talking about accomplishments, I'd like to add how proud I am of many of my current and former clients who are doing remarkable things these days. I can think of several who started with me in less than great shape, but who are now running half and full marathons. I'd like to take all the credit for their success, but I guess they deserve a little bit of it. Seriously, congratulations to all of you.
If you've ever experienced a runner's high, you've probably attributed it to endorphins. Researchers discovered the effects of endorphins in the 1980's when they found that blood levels increased after strenuous physical activity.
Endorphins have pain-killing properties, much like morphine. But they don't create the euphoric state known as the "runner's high." That comes from another chemical produced by the body during prolonged exercise - endocannabinoids. These chemicals act like the cannibinoids produced by marijuana. Endocannabinoids are, essentially, internally produced cannabis. Now you know why runners keep running.
The overload principle is the primary rule of muscle development. It states that in order to stimulate growth, a muscle must be subjected to resistive forces greater than those it normally encounters.
Experienced weight lifters are always looking for different ways to train in order to maximize muscle gains. There are several training systems that can be utilized. The most common is the plateau system. With this technique, you use the same weight and number of repetitions for all work sets. For instance, you might do three sets of 12 reps of biceps curls with 20 pound dumbbells. When that gets too easy, you increase the weight. This is the basic training system I use with most of my clients.
Pyramiding is another technique that we have discussed in this newsletter. With this system, the weight is increased and the number of repetitions is decreased with progressive sets. Compound sets are very difficult, but they produce excellent results. You perform a multi-joint exercise followed by a single joint exercise which works the same muscle group. For example, you might do a set of squats followed by a set of leg extensions.
Supersets are similar to compound sets except you alternately work opposing muscle groups. For instance, you might do a set of biceps curls followed immediately by a set of triceps pushdowns.
Twenty-ones are really tough. With these, the joint range of motion is broken into thirds, and 7 reps are performed in each range of motion to complete one set. With biceps curls, for example, you would do 7 reps lifting the weight one-third of the way up, 7 reps lifting it two-thirds of the way up, and complete the set with 7 reps in the full range of motion. Or you can reverse the order. Either way, this is a super intense training technique.
One of the biggest myths perpetuated by the fitness industry is spot reduction. Spot reduction is doing a specific exercise to lose weight in a targeted area. Perhaps the best example is doing crunches to reduce belly fat. I have told you countless times in this newsletter that spot reduction does not work. It is a myth that is no more real than unicorns or fire-spewing dragons.
Recently I read an article on active.com entitled "6 Exercise Myths for Women." Number 3 was about spot reduction. Here's what the article by Naomi Rotstein said:
"Unfortunately, doing hundreds of side crunches isn't the secret to making your waist smaller. Your body is genetically predisposed to storing fat in certain locations. When you begin to lose overall weight, you'll lose weight in certain locations more than others, and this is simply due to genetics.
You may lose weight in your thighs, then your chest and then your belly. You may lose weight in an entirely different order. It all depends on your genetics. You can isolate muscles or certain areas all day, but it's unlikely you'll see drastic changes in those areas without an overall decrease in body fat."
This is well stated and absolutely true. But here is how prevalent this myth is. At the end of this article, there was an ad for another article entitled "4 Exercises to Lose Your Love Handles." So I clicked on it. This article by Rochelle Connery proceeded to list four exercises designed to spot reduce love handles. Amazing! Listen, don't buy into this myth. Begin an exercise program that includes weight lifting at least two days a week and targets all your major muscle groups. Add 30 minutes of cardio exercise at least four days a week, and eat sensibly, and you'll begin to lose weight, but you can't just do crunches and expect to lose belly inches or just do triceps pushdowns and expect to lose those bingo arms. You just can't. Sorry.
Using an A to F scale how would you rate the following restaurants for healthy menu options: Applebee's, Burger King, Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle, Domino's, KFC, McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Subway?
The average American consumes 43 percent of their calories at restaurants during the course of a year, so if you throw caution to the wind when eating out, you're taking a big risk with your health. Here's the report card on these restaurants according to Eat This, Not That!
Applebee's has a few healthy options, but not many, and even the better options are loaded with sodium. Your best choice is the Northern Walleye. You might think the salads are good, but more than half of them have in excess of 1000 calories. Grade: D-
Burger King is not much better. Your best bet is the basic hamburger - the Whopper Jr. Grade: C-
Cheesecake Factory? Well, forget it. Good luck finding anything healthy here. Eat This, Not That! rates it the worst restaurant in America. Grade: F
Chipotle's best bet is the soft corn tortilla tacos with steak, cheese, lettuce, and salsa. It's only 530 calories and it has half the sodium as the Applebee's walleye. Grade: C
Domino's thin crust grilled chicken and roasted red peppers pizza is a good option. Generally, the more stuff you put on the pizza with the exception of greasy meats, the lower the calories, because there is less cheese. Grade: B
KFC is not as bad as you might think. Avoid the pot pies and crispy chicken and get a healthy side, and you'll probably be okay. Grade: B+
McDonalds's has added several healthy items in the last few years and even a Big Mac is okay occasionally as long as you skip the fries and soda. Grade: B+
Taco Bell has a Fresco menu and you can order anything on it and feel good about yourself. Other good choices are the crunchy tacos and bean burritos. Grade: B
Subway is the best of the bunch with a number of healthy options. Stick with the 6-inch subs and load it up with lots of vegetables and you'll be just fine. Grade: A
Military wisdom from the instructions for a U.S. rocket launcher: "Aim towards the enemy."
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
Certified Nutrition Specialist
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