I have a sedentary job. But outside of the office, I lead a very active lifestyle. I enjoy many physical activities: kayaking, hiking, weight training, martial arts, running, and bicycling. I suppose you can say I'm a cross-trainer but the fact of the matter is that I just enjoy being physically active.

The purpose of this page is to share some of my views, insights, opinions, and accomplishments regarding physical conditioning. If anything I describe helps you with your training, fantastic! If not, try something else. What works for one person won't work for everyone. That being said, please understand that I am not a personal trainer or medical professional, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

In the above image, I am demonstrating what is called a Superman pushup in May 2021. Here is how to do it:

  • Push off from the floor as hard as you can.
  • Maximize your air time.
  • Strike a "Superman in flight" pose.
  • Don't break your nose on the landing.

  •  Workout

    Workout structureOpen accordion icon
    Old school fitness people say one should stretch out prior to exercise. The more modern view is that the body should be warmed up with light cardio (about 5 minutes). Mobility movements, just to get the joints loosened up can then be done prior to the main part of the workout but serious stretching should be saved until after the cooldown. Hence, if we were to map out the stages of exercise, it might resemble the following:

    Warm up

    Spend at least five minutes with the warm up. If it is cold or you are feeling stiff, spend longer. Any of the following are good warm up activities:
  • Slow jog
  • Stationary bicycle
  • Skipping rope: I typically do three 3-minute rounds with 1-minute rest between each round for a total of 11 minutes during the winter when I exercise in my unheated garage.
  • Jumping jacks

  • Loosening joints/light stretch

    I recommend spending 3-5 minutes with this. It is especially important if you are doing something requiring flexibility such as martial arts.
  • Neck rotation: Side to side ("no") and up/down ("yes").
  • Shoulder shrugs.
  • Large arm circles: Palms up, circle arms upward. Palms down, circle arms downward.
  • Elbows: Keep upper arm fixed out to side (crucifix stance) and move forearms in circles, inward then outward.
  • Wrist rotations: Keeping arms out to side, rotate wrists inward then outward.
  • Fingers: Flick fingers outward as if trying to flick water from fingertips without moving the wrists.
  • Lower back: Twist from side to side with arms extended and loose.
  • Hips: While standing with feet spread, put hands on hips and move hips in circular motion, clockwise then counterclockwise.
  • Hips/knees: Knee lifts.
  • Knees: Bend at knees and hips, placing hands on knees. Rotate knees clockwise then counterclockwise.
  • Ankle rotation: Clockwise then counterclockwise.

  • Main part of workout

    I typically spend 30-60 minutes with this. I've read that experts suggest doing skill-based activities (e.g., boxing), plyometrics, or heavy compound lifts (e.g., squats) early in the workout, general strength training in the middle, and saving isolation exercises (e.g., curls) for later in the workout. If cardiovascular training is not your main focus, then save it for last.

    Cool down

    I suggest spending 1-3 minutes with light activity to get your heart rate back down to normal.


    In my opinion, this is the most underrated part of a complete workout. At a very minumum, devote at least five minutes to this. If you work out extra hard and think that you might cramp up later, or if increasing your flexibility is the goal, then spend more time.
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    Strength trainingOpen accordion icon
    Bodybuilding sculpts the body, primarily through weight training and dieting, while strength training conditions the body through resistance exercises for strength development. Often the two disciplines have similar paths but they are quite different. For those who train vigorously with weights, the disciplines are typically divided up into power lifting, Olympic lifting, and bodybuilding. In addition to having different goals, the exercises, the number of repetitions per set, and the number of sets per exercise are sometimes dissimilar. I have never competed or trained seriously in power lifting or Olympic lifting, but I have a great deal of respect for both.

    Most people who lift weights do so as part of a general fitness program. In addition to strengthing the muscles, it also burns calories, helps develop a balanced physique, and builds density in the bones. The latter is perhaps the most underrated benefit to weight lifting and it is especially important for people prone to low bone density.

    Weight training is a subset of strength training. I enjoy lifting weights but I actually prefer bodyweight exercises such as pullups and pushups. In my opinion, strength in proportion to bodyweight is much more important for health than any other form of strength.

    Back when I lifted heavy, I divided my weight training schedule into three workouts with one workout done per day
  • Chest, shoulders, and triceps
  • Legs
  • Back and biceps
  • Rest and recovery

  • The above workout schedule is logically set up so that the secondary muscle used in the compound lifts will be worked on the same day as the primary muscle. Compound lifts use compound movements which involve multiple joints moving in unison at the same time. Dividing things up this way enables more time for recovery. For example, bench or dumbbell presses (both compound lifts) work the chest as the primary msucle, with shoulders and triceps as the secondary muscles. Pullups or lat pulldowns (another compound lift) work the lats as the primary muscle and the biceps as the secondary muscle. Do these workouts with high intensity then give yourself plenty of time to recover.

    Dividing up workouts isn't always so easy to do because some exercises like power cleans, clean and jerk, snatch, and many kettlebell exercises are compound movements that involve a large number of muscle groups, some of which you may be trying to rest. I don't have a hard and fast rule for fitting in such compound exercises. Just keep in mind that if you do them at high intensity, you might want to do so on the day before a rest and recovery day.

    Now that I am over 50, I still train hard but I typically divide up my workouts as follows:
  • Upper body
  • Rest and recovery
  • Lower body
  • Rest and recovery

  • Age is not a reason to stop exercising, but you may need to modify your workout to prevent injury, to maximize your gains, and minimize your losses. Listen to your body...and your doctor.
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    PlyometricsOpen accordion icon
    Plyometrics are exercises to develop explosive strength. This type of training is particularly useful for sports that involve jumping, throwing, punching, or kicking.

    Plyometric exercises develop power and speed by training the muscles' stretch-shortening cycle. These exercises target the eccentric (negative) movements that occur as a muscle puts on its "brakes" [1].

    This type of training is considered an advanced fitness program that is meant to augment other forms of training. You should be in good condition before starting such a program. One should allow at least 48 hours between plyometric workouts [1].

    In addition to several years in the martial arts, I took a couple years of gymnastics in high school where I realized just how important this type of training was for certain activities.

    Clapping pushups

    The below photo of me doing a clapping pushup appeared in the Winter 2001, Volume 5 issue of the Thai Boxing Association of the U.S.A. It was submitted along with an article I wrote titled Plyometrics and Interval Training for Muay Thai. Plyometric pushups are a great way to develop explosive strength in the chest, shoulders, and triceps, which is essential for power punching. Various degrees of difficulty include clapping pushups, chair hopping pushups, double clapping pushups, and clapping behind your back pushups.
    Me doing a clapping pushup

    One of the more difficult plyometric pushups is the one hand clapping pushup, which I demonstrated in 2021. Click the below image to start a video.
    One hand clapping pushup

    Clapping Pullups

    For me, the most difficult thing about this exercise was just building up the courage to try it. In the end, it wasn't all that difficult. But it is certainly more difficult than a standard pullup because you need to have enough momemtum to have time to release your grip and clap your hands. If you're feeling really confident, try clapping twice. If you want bragging rights, clap behind your back.

    Muscle Up

    I've been trying to do this exercise for awhile but I was finally successful in late 2022. After making a few minor adjustments to my form...voilĂ , I got it. If pullups/chinups are pretty easy for you, then this is a great way to take things to the next level. Click the below image to start a video.
    Seven muscle ups

    Toe-touch Pullups

    This one takes a good bit of coordination, some flexibility, speed, and strength, but in my opinion, not a great deal of any one of those. Click the below image to start a video filmed at half speed.
    Three toe-touch pullups


    Like many guys my age, I spent many of my days in high school watching Kung Fu Theater. I was always impressed by the fancy jumps and flips those guys could do. High school gymnastics was usually where we would see if we could match their skills (usually we couldn't). One thing I remember seeing Jackie Chan and a few others do was to stand on one foot, grab the other foot, then jump over your ankle without losing your grip or your balance. Click the below image to start a video I made in 2017.
    Clapping pullups

    Later, I started doing stick jumps, which are easier. To do this,
  • Find a lightweight stick, at least as long as your shoulder width.
  • Grip the stick with both hands at each end so that the stick rests horizontally in front of your crotch with your arms straight.
  • Hold onto the stick lightly with just your fingertips.
  • Now jump over the stick without letting go with either hand.
  • Land on your feet and repeat.
  • You could jump over the stick backwards to end up where you started but I've found this to be awkward to the point it takes away from the point of the exercise. Stick jumps require you to jump high, pull your knees to your chest, and do it all very quickly.


    If you want to test your agility with a plyometric move, look no further than a kip-up. When I was young, it seemed like everyone on kung fu theater could do this cool little trick. David Lee Roth also did it in the Van Halen "Panama" music video.

    A kip-up (also called a rising handspring, kick-up, Chinese get up, kick-to-stand, nip-up, flip-up, or carp skip-up) is an acrobatic move in which a person transitions from a supine, and less commonly, a prone position, to a standing position. It is used in activities such as breakdancing, gymnastics, martial arts, professional wrestling, and freerunning, and in action film fight sequences.
    Not only does the kip-up require muscle activation and strength, but it also requires proper technique for successful completion. A practitioner must perform the preparation phase (initiation of movement until directly before flight), aerial phase (time spent in flight), and landing phase (time from touchdown of the feet to maintenance of balanced standing) using specific accelerations, angular velocities, and joint positions of the extremities in order to land on their feet.

    - from Wikipedia - Kip-up

    Click the below image to start a video I made in 2017.


    [1] "Elastic Energy" by Kermit Pattison in the Lifetime Fitness magazine Experience Life. June 2007.
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    IsometricsOpen accordion icon
    Isometrics are a form of exercise involving the static contraction of a muscle without any visible movement in the angle of the joint.

    I've never been a fan of isometrics. I don't doubt its just doesn't hold my attention. I will sometimes try a very challenging isometric hold just to see if I can do it but the only one I do regularly are wall sits.

    The plank is an isometric exercise that some of my co-workers would do during their lunch break. It is simple and unless you do it for a very long time, you probably won't break a sweat, so it is appropriate for the office. Perhaps the best thing about it is that unlike crunches, which target the abs, the plank is more well rounded in that it also works the lower back, thereby providing greater core muscle balance.

    In 2017, I did a modification of the horizontal pole hold which is a watered down version of the "human flag." Circus people make it look simple. It really makes you harness your inner core strength. It is easier without cowboy boots.
    Modified horizontal pole hold

    Holding a leg lift is an isometric core exercise that works the abdominal muscles. A dragon flag takes it up a notch. Bruce Lee is credited for inventing this exercise.
    Dragon flag hold

    I call the following exercise the one-armed lock-off pike, which I demonstrate below at the age of 56.
    Lock-off (n): The act of pulling on a hold until your arm is in a bent position, then holding that position using body tension in order to reach the next hold with your free hand. The lock-off is a static move by definition—there is no dynamic, explosive movement involved. The goal is to retain extreme tension throughout your body in order to stay balanced and in control as you move from one hold to the next.
    - from FrictionLabs - How it Works: The Lock-Off

    Pike: A position in diving or gymnastics in which the body is bent at the waist but the legs remain straight.

    I am not a rock climber but I have a great deal of respect for those that excel in this activity. Their strength-to-bodyweight ratio is phenomenal. One move that many rock climbers master is the lock-off. In this video, I hold it for a mere ten seconds from the pike position.
    One-arm lock-off pike

    They say that Einstein's Theory of Relativity claims that time decelerates as you approach the speed of light because momentum bends the fabric of spacetime causing time to pass slower. But I also think time slows down when holding a one-armed lock-off pike. This was perhaps the longest ten seconds of my life!

    For more information about isometrics, see SparkPeople - The Perks and Pitfalls of Isometrics.
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    Bodyweight trainingOpen accordion icon
    In my opinion, strength in proportion to bodyweight is much more important for health than any other form of strength. So naturally, pushups and pullups are a good choice for upper body strength training. Pushups work the chest, shoulders, and triceps while pullups work the upper back and biceps. Both also work the core. There are a plethora of variations between the two.

    For those that have a hard time with pushups, you can do them with your hands higher than your feet or do them with your knees on the ground instead of your feet. If pullups are a challenge, you can do the flexed arm hang, which is an isometric exercise.

    People with shorter limbs have a mechanical advantage when it comes to bodyweight exercises. That's probably why so many Olympic male gymnasts are my size. Folks with longer limbs have to move their bodies further and thus do more work for the same number of repetitions as compared to someone with shorter limbs. So if you're tall and can do the various exercises in this section, then pat yourself on the back because you're awesome!

    One-arm, one-leg pushups

    If you find pushups easy and want a greater challenge, there are many ways to make it more difficult. There are numerous plyometric variations of the standard pushup. You can also do one-arm pushups. One of the more difficult pushups that I can do is the one-arm, one-leg pushup. Click the below image to start a video where I demonstrate this.
    One-arm, one-leg pushups

    Handstand pushups

    You can make standard pushups more difficult by elevating your feet above your hands to put more strain on your upper chest muscles. Taking this to an extreme, you can do handstand pushups against a wall. In the below video from 2019, I am doing them on risers which give me 4.5 inches of extra range of motion.
    Handstand pullups

    On March 20, 2013 (the first day of spring), a co-worker and I had a handstand pushup contest. I challenged him about three months prior after finding out he was a serious gymnast in high school. Every gymnast I've ever known included handstand pushups in their training regiment. It is something I learned when taking gymnastics classes in school. But unlike my co-worker (AJ), I was not a serious gymnast. I only took it for a couple of years as a physical education class in the 11th and 12th grades. Our teacher was a regular gym teacher without much gymnastics training. AJ and I did our contest and I won with 24 handstand pushups against his 23. With me victorious, he had to buy donuts for our office. Kevin B., another co-worker of mine, commemorized the event with a muskrat drawing.
    Handstand pushup muskrat

    I quit doing handstand pushups after doing them for about 35 years because they caused my shoulder tendons to get inflamed. It sucks getting old...but it beats the alternative (death).

    Pole pushups

    As of 2021, the toughest pushup I have found that I can do is what I call the horizontal pole pushup. In the below video, I do as many as I can do with good form, which is only two.
    Horizontal pole pushups

    What makes this move interesting is that you are pushing with one arm and pulling with the other. I've read that you can actually be stronger when you work opposing muscle groups at the same time. For example, you can supposedly curl more with one arm if you also do a tricep extension with the other arm at the same time.

    One difficult thing with this exercise is ensuring you have just the right balance between pushing and pulling to keep the pole horizontal. That part isn't about brute force but rather keeping your strength in equilibrium. Still, there is a lot of brute force involved.

    When doing this, almost all the force in the lower part of your body will be shifted to the side opposite the fixed end of the pole. Notice in the video that my left leg lifts up momemtarily.

    The following is something I saw on the "People Are Awesome" Facebook page that I figured I'd try. It isn't really a pushup but it is more similar to a pushup than a lot of other exercises. Not sure what it is called so I'm naming it a pole climb pushup. If your feet are at the same level as the base of the pole, it is not extremely difficult. In this video, my feet are elevated about five inches which makes it more challenging. I tried it with my feet on the bench and failed miserably. The next day, my triceps and abs were very sore.
    Pole climb pullups

    Pike pullups

    If you want to add variety to your strength training workouts or simply make them more challenging, you can try working several muscles at once. Exercises that harness multiple muscle groups at the same time are called compound exercises. If you only have a limited amount of time to exercise, you'll train more muscles and build more strength by focusing on compound exercises.

    Most of the exercises in this section are things that I do as a test of strength but aren't necessarily part of my regular exercise routine. But pullups from the pike most definitely is. This is a great compound bodyweight exercise that puts a lot of strain on your abdominal muscles. The big question is, which will give out first...your ability to do pullups or your core strength. If it is the latter, you can always bend your legs so they are in the tuck position, which will be easier on your core.
    Pike pullups

    Pike to handstand

    Moves that incorporate balance use stabilizer muscles. Lots of people use these muscles by creating an unstable situation like putting their feet or hands on a ball when they do pushups. This ends up working a lot more muscles than if the ball was a flat floor.

    Incorporating a couple of things from exercises mentioned earlier in this section (the pike and risers), in the below video, I demonstrate lifting myself into the pike position and then inverting my body into a handstand. For most people (myself included), a handstand is not a natural position so a lot of stabilizer muscles are used to maintain it. I suppose if I was really good, I would then do a handstand pushup (not against a wall) but I'm not that good.
    Pole climb pullups


    In the late autumn, I put away my kayaks and SUP for the winter. Here's how I'm using my kayak straps. I call this exercise "superfly."
    Front view of superfly

    Here's the side view.
    Side view of superfly


    I remember my parents having a very old-fashioned fully manual typewriter that I enjoyed playing around with. Then in high school, we had big, electric IBM typewriters. Did you grow up with a typewriter? This pullup pays homage to those days.

    I read that someone felt typewriter pullups were more difficult than muscle-ups. They are hard to compare because the former involves lots of control and brute strength while the latter is about explosive power and technique. But if you were to gauge difficulty based on how many I could do, then yes, I would say typewriter pullups are more difficult than muscle-ups.
    Me doing typewriter pullups

    Kick-through pike pushups

    I don't know what these are actually called but I'm calling them kick-through pike pushups until someone gives me a better name. Notice that I have Daphne on one side of me and her treat on the other. She has enough discipline to wait until I am finished before enjoying her reward.
    Me doing kick-through pike pushups

    Horizontal to vertical pike

    Here's a discipline test for Daphne and a test of abdominal strength for me:
  • Using risers, lift up into a horizontal pike from a seated position.
  • Without touching the ground, hold the pike and slowly rotate your body so your legs are vertical.
  • Hold for two seconds.
  • Slowly rotate your body back into a horizontal pike.
  • Tell your dog she can have her treat.
  • Me balancing on dumbells turned vertically from a pike position then rotating 90 degrees without touching the floor

    Sideways hinge pushup

    I really have no idea what this is called so I'm assigning it my own descriptive name. I'm demonstrating it on a retaining wall I built.
    Me doing a sideways hinge pushup on a retaining wall with chickens behind me
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    BodybuildingOpen accordion icon
    Although I've been training with weights off and on since high school, I never considered competing in bodybuilding until various people at my gym began encouraging me. Normally, I wouldn't take people seriously but some of the encouragement was coming from local champions, which made me think twice.

    For my first contest, I sought the help of Ghaniyy in June 2001. Ghaniyy played professional football in Canada and trained the Maryland Muscle Machine, Kevin Levrone, who placed as high as second in the Mr. Olympia contest and, as of March 2005, was the world record holder for most professional wins in International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB) history. Ghaniyy taught me the proper way to train, diet, and pose. He was my consultant, not trainer. Kevin Levrone also gave me a couple of pointers that came in handy.
    Ghaniyy flexing


    On August 25, 2001, I competed in the United States Bodybuilding Federation (USBF) 2001 Natural Nationals and American Cup Novice contests in Baltimore, Maryland. These are drug free, all natural competitions where contestants are tested for a variety of anabolic steroids. Considering these were my first contests, I did very good, with four victories:

    USBF American Cup Novice Men's Lightweight Division First Place
    This division is open to any men who have not won a bodybuilding contest and weight less than 165 pounds. On the day of the contest, I weighed in at 144. My normal weight was 153.

    USBF Nationals Men's Lightweight Division First Place
    This division is open to men under 155 pounds, regardless of previous bodybuilding victories or losses. To win this, I had to defeat a lightweight bodybuilder who had never lost his weight class.

    USBF American Cup Novice Best Poser
    This award was presented to the best novice poser. It was a reflection on how well the various bodybuilding poses were executed along with the choreography and execution of the individual routine. My individual routine drew upon some of my gymnastics and martial art skills set to the music of White Zombie. I chose their "I Zombie" (Europe in the Raw Mix) from their "Supersexy Swinging Sounds" CD.

    USBF American Cup Novice Men's Overall Champion
    This award was presented to the best men's overall novice competitor. The winners of each men's novice weight division compete against each other for the title of Mr. USBF American Cup Men's Novice 2001. I had to beat the middleweight and heavyweight winners to earn this honor. It is a little unusual for a lightweight to win this. People were calling me "Giant Killer."

    I did lose the USBF Nationals Men's Overall Champion title to Hugo Frazier, who eventually won the Mr. Virginia competition. He was pretty amazing.

    It is important to me to give recognition where it is due. Ghaniyy guided me through my training and dieting. Dad inspired me since I was a young boy. I remember watching him lift the old plastic-covered concrete weights in the garage. He would tell me about the old days when he knew guys like Bill Pearl. In the below photo, taken the day after my competition, Ghaniyy appears on the left. Dad is in the center and I am on the right.


    On the morning of my second contest, April 27, 2002, I weighted in at 142 pounds, 12 pounds less than my off-season weight. I felt lean and mean...well, at least lean. I wanted to prove to myself that I had the self-discipline to do what I did in 2001...but this time by myself.

    That afternoon, in Baltimore, Maryland, I competed in the USBF Silver Cup contest. I demonstrated that I still had what it took to win by taking first place in the USBF Silver Cup Men's Lightweight Division.

    I choreographed my posing routine to the music of Marilyn Manson. I chose "The Horrible People" from the "Remix & Repent" CD. While I won my weight class, I lost the overall title to Hugo again.

    I decided to not compete after 2002. Competitive bodybuilding is a HUGE commitment that I was not willing to make again. I don't mind the training but the ten weeks of dieting leading up the the event was brutal. I also had to give up some of my other physical activities (such as long distance kayaking) because I did not have stamina due to the dieting. I accomplished what I set out to do and learned a lot from the experience. It was time to put it behind me and move on.


    I no longer complete in bodybuilding but I still try to maintain a lean, balanced physique with a high level of strength in proportion to bodyweight. This is me at age 55, weighing 147 pounds.
    Closeup of Daphne and me at lighthouse
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    CardiovascularOpen accordion icon
    Cardiovascular training primarily conditions your heart. It also works the things that support your heart such as your lungs and circulatory system. While most of this web page focuses on strength training, cardiovascular (cardio) conditioning is more important for overall health and longevity.

    How do you know how hard to train for running and cardiovascular activities in general? There are a few different methods but knowing your maximum heart rate (MHR) in beats per minute is a good start.
  • For men: 220 - (your age)
  • For women: 226 - (your age)
  • When training for cardiovascular conditioning, make sure the activity is continuous (preferrably 20-60 minutes) and gets your heart rate up to 60-85% (some books say 65-85%) of your MHR. This is your target heart rate. Training so that your heart rate exceeds 85% will shift the focus from aerobic to anerobic training. This dividing line is called the steady state. Similarly, the point at which a further increase in effort will cause more lactic acid to accumulate than can be eliminated is called the anaerobic threshold (AT). Training beyond the anaerobic threshold for an extended and continuous period of time will enable one to reach what I call the puke, you won't find that in any books. It is recommended to perform aerobic conditioning 3-5 times per week (but not at the puke threshold level of intensity) [1] [2] [3].

    The following terms are also of importance:
  • Predicted maximum heart rate: The maximum number of times a person's heart should beat per minute during "all out" (balls to the walls) cardiovascular training.
  • Recovery heart rate: The cool down process should bring your heart rate down below 120 beats per minute (110 if you are over 50).
  • Resting heart rate: The number of times a person's heart beats per minute while resting. Ideally, this can be determined by someone who takes your pulse while you are sleeping and not having active dreams.
  • Anaerobic threshold: The heart rate at which your body transitions from burning primarily fat to using primarily carbohydrates for energy. When your body kicks into carbohydrate burning gear, lactic acid begins to accumulate in the bloodstream faster than you can use it. This level of intensity is difficult to maintain for long [3] [4].

  • Cardiovascular conditioning can be divided into 5 zones:
  • Zone 1: Warm up and cool down; 60-70% of AT.
  • Zone 2: Aerobic development; 70-90% of AT.
  • Zone 3: Aerobic endurance conditioning; 90-100% of AT. Pushes your cardiovascular system and results in emproved endurance and cardiovascular efficiency.
  • Zone 4: Anaerobic endurance; 100-110% of AT. Raises tolerance to lactic acid. Carbohydrates are primarily burned.
  • Zone 5: Short intervals of effort and intensity that don't last more than a few seconds [4].

  • You've probably heard that having a high metabolic rate helps one burn fat more quickly. At the cellular level, this is done by the mitochondria, the "cellular power plants." Regular exercise, especially training at zones 2, 3, and 4, helps increase the mitochondrial count [4].

    Training under ideal conditions is great. But it takes time for your body to adapt to hot weather.
    Your health, age, and activity level determine how quickly you adjust to heat.
    Fit, healthy people acclimitize best and fastest. Those who gradually work up to 60 to 90 minutes per day exercising or working hard in the heat should be fully acclimitized in 14 days [5].

    Cardio and aerobic exercise are the same, but they refer to slightly different mechanisms. When we exercise, our breath and heart rate increases to pump oxygen and blood to our muscles. Cardio refers to processes related to the heart, whereas aerobic refers to exercises using oxygen. When exercise doesn't use oxygen, like in short sprints, this is called anaerobic exercise [7].

    I was once told that the best form of cardiovascular conditioning is what motivates you the most. I believe there is a lot of truth to that. But there are advantages and disadvantages to different forms of cardio training.

    Kayaking and paddleboarding

    You really have to work pretty hard if you want to get your heart rate up to the point this is effective for cardio conditioning. The reason is that even though the legs are used to some extent, the upper body muscles are primarily used. It is much harder to get your heart rate up if your leg muscles aren't heavily engaged in an activity. Rowing is much more effective for cardio conditioning.


    I have found no better activity for burning fat. But pounding on the joints resulting from running can wear out connective tissue over time. People with a lower body mass index (BMI) will generally have less issue with impact as will folks that keep their distances shorter.


    This has many of the same benefits of running but with less impact. My biggest critique is that most walkers don't maintain a pace that elevates their heart rate to the Zone 2 level. Military folk often wear a heavy pack to make walking more challenging but this oftentimes results in similar impact injuries as those associated with running.


    As of 2022, this is my favorite form of cardio conditioning. The biggest concern is motor vehicles. So I try to ride when and where traffic is light.


    I think this is a great form of cardio conditioning but for most people, it is not as convenient as stepping out of the house for a run, walk, or bike ride. The biggest advantage is the low impact on joints, though folks with shoulder problems might find freestyle difficult because of its wide range of arm motion. Some people say swimming is not as effective for weight loss, assuming that is your goal.

    Exercise that raises your body temperature, which is most land-based exercise, tends to suppress your appetite, but swimming has the opposite effect because the body temperature usually remains relatively low.
    - from ABC News - Swimming to lose weight? You might want to keep a few things in mind

    Skipping rope

    Not everyone has the luxury of having access to a gym. But if you can afford $8, then look no further than your basic jumprope. One great thing about it is that it is also highly portable, so if you're on the road a lot, this is a must-have item. I like the cheap ones with the plastic beads. At 5'5", an eight footer works best.


    I tend to group stair steppers, NordicTrack, rowing machines, and elliptical machines in the same category. They get the job done efficiently, usually with a low chance of injury. Personally, I don't find them interesting but if they keep you motivated, then more power to you.


    [1] "Step Training, A Manual for Instructors" by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, 1997.
    [2] "Muscle and Fitness," September 2004.
    [3] "Orienteering: The Sport of Navigation with Map and Compass" by Steven Boga. Published by Stackpole Books in 1997.
    [4] "A Better Way to Train" by Sheila Mulrooney Eldred in the Lifetime Fitness magazine Experience Life. January/February 2007.
    [5] "How Bodies Beat the Heat" from the "Health and Science" section of the Washington Post, Tuesday, May 29, 2012. By Bonnie Berkowitz and Aberto Cuadra.
    [6] Active - Target Heart Rate Calculator
    [7] FitBod - Cardio vs. Aerobic vs. Anaerobic: Are they the same?
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    Running / JoggingOpen accordion icon
    Growing up, there was nothing I hated more than running. I was horrible at physical activities and running was probably the thing I did worst.

    In the latter part of high school, I started to jog a little. I wasn't good but I knew it was an excellent form of training, especially for someone aspiring to earn their black belt.

    Then I enlisted in the Marines. I was definitely a below average runner for a young Marine but I improvied and after awhile, got to the point where I was above average.

    After my enlistment, I kept up with running and continued to improve for a short while. But I was never a great runner, partly because I spread myself too thin. Engaging in several other physical activities, I was not dedicated to running. Rather, running for me was just one aspect of overall conditioning, and never the main goal. My best one mile time was 6:09 and the furthest I ever ran in a race was a half marathon.

    Now that I am over 50, my knees hurt if I run too much. I generally run about 2.5 miles once a week as part of my circuit course. I don't aspire to push myself further.

    Here are some of the races I've done after age 30:

    Army Ten-Miler, October 12, 1997

    This was without a doubt, my best running race. I completed it in 1:13:14, averaging 7:19 per mile for 10 miles. I had a very competitive mindset that day. This race attracted a lot of military and veterans, many of whom wore a shirt representing their branch of service and unit. Whenever I saw someone with a branch of service shirt that was not Marines, I told myself, "I'm not going to let someone in the [opposing branch of service] beat me." Then I would pick up my pace and pass them up. I kept doing this for the entire race. For the next week, I was so sore that I could barely walk.

    Run for Alex Mack, July 30, 2011

    After a 14 year break from running races, I decided to do a small fundraiser 5k in Pasadena, Maryland with my former co-worker, Janie. I completed the race in 22:50, averaging 7:31 per mile.

    Race against Wahab, June 19, 2012

    Wahab is a former co-worker of mine. We've run together quite a few times and of everyone that I've run with, he was closest to my equal in terms of speed over at least a half mile. So early in 2012, I challenged him to a race. I hoped this would make me train harder and really work on my running speed. It did not. I pretty much trained how I normally would. The upcoming race did not affect Wahab's training either. The race was originally scheduled to be on summer solstice (June 20, 2012) but due to a very hot forecast, we moved it a day prior.

    The route was Patapsco Valley State Park between Lost Lake and the Swinging Bridge, and a little on Soapstone Branch to make for an even 3 miles (up and back). We started running on the Soapstone Branch in the Glen Artney Area around 1730. It was a humid 87 degrees. He took the lead from the start, maintaining a very good pace. I did my best to stay close. I thought to myself, "If he keeps this up, I will lose for sure." But after about a half mile, we were equal. Then I took the lead. He stayed on my tail for quite sometime. Then I gradually pulled ahead. My eyes weren't focusing properly. This often happens when I run hard. I don't know why and neither does my opthalmologist but everthing is fine soon after I stop running. Wahab and I turned around at the Swinging Bridge. My lead increased. Turning left onto Soapstone Branch, I started running uphill towards the finish. I was giving it everything I had. I dry heaved twice before crossing the finish line then three times more after. My time was 21:36. Wahab was about 12 seconds behind me. I averaged 7:12 per mile!

    My goal was to finish in under 22 minutes or finish not more than 10 seconds behind Wahab. I really thought he would beat me. I rehydrated and stretched out before leaving. On the drive home, I had a hard time remembering where to go. My concentration sometimes gets flustered after exerting myself so hard. Getting out of my car, my thighs were screaming. Walking up the stairs in my house, my calves started to cramp. Physically, I felt like crap, but mentally, I was on top of the world. As of 2022, I don't think I've ever pushed myself this hard again.

    Did I say that Wahab is almost 19 years younger than me and ran track in high school? Running with him got me to push myself harder than I ever would have alone, or running in a big race. So for that, I thank Wahab. Did we have a bet? Yes. Loser bought donuts for the winner's office. I went into that race feeling quite certain that I would much so that a few hour prior, I wrote a reminder to myself on a sticky note to buy donuts for Wahab's office. Thus, the thing I ate the next day wasn't just a glazed was the sweet taste of victory!

    River Valley Ranch 10k Trail Run, August 11, 2012

    Running the River Valley Ranch 10k Trail Run was a last minute decision. My co-worker, Jim C. signed up to run this a long time ago. He is a hardcore runner. He convinced Ted, my cubemate, into running the day prior. With the two of them running, I became interested. I had considered spending this day out on my stand up paddleboard but it was supposed to be a little windy so I figured a run would be better. Ted and I met Jim C. at his house at 0530. From there, we carpooled to the race where we met Stephen W., another co-worker. The race began at 0800.

    I started with those claiming to maintain an 8.5 minute mile pace but I soon found that most of them overestimated themselves as I ended up passing many. It was a hilly run on dirt roads and narrow trails. There were lots of rocks, at least one fallen tree, and a shallow stream to cross. I hadn't run a race of that distance or further since perhaps 1998 and I probably haven't done any real trail running for almost as long, so I didn't push myself too hard for fear of injury. I ended up finishing 92nd our of 647 people. This put me in the top 15%. For my age group, I finished 22nd out of 70. My time was 53:42. That certainly doesn't sound fast but with trail runs being highly variable, I don't think the time matters as much compared to how you place.

    It was an enjoyable run that was very well organized and staffed. My co-workers and I had fun and that is what matters most.
    Co-worker at the 10k River Valley Run

    Savage 7k, October 14, 2012

    I ran the first annual Savage 7k. This event was organized by my neighbor and good friend, Sara. The route was mostly uphill in the first half and downhill in the second half. It was extremely well organized. Money raised from this event went to help fix up the Carroll Baldwin Hall.

    Carroll Baldwin Hall, a lovely old Richardsonian Romanesque building constructed of stone from the nearby Patuxent River, was built for the residents of Savage as their Community Hall. The center of gatherings, movies, and stages performances, the building formerly housed a bowling alley in the basement and was once home to the Savage branch of the Howard County Library. It was built in the early 1920's as a memorial to Carroll Baldwin, former president of the manufacturing company. The Baldwins managed the company from 1859 to 1911.
    - from Savage, Maryland (a broken link as of 2020)

    A total of 65 people competed for this event. I placed 11th with a time of 32:30, averaging 7:28 per mile. The fastest runner maintained a pace of 5:28 per mile!
    Savage 7k map
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    SwimmingOpen accordion icon
    In my opinion, this is probably the single most effective means to maintain overall good health.

    In February 2006, I began swimming on a regular basis. Swimming is gentle to the body in the sense that it has no impact. However, it can be tough on individuals with tendonitis or rotator cuff problems.

    I've never been a fast swimmer. I am very short, have short arms and legs, and broad shoulders for my height. But I am comfortable in the water and have good endurance, so if I have the time, I can cover a pretty good distance.

    In a 25 meter long pool (~82 feet), 20 laps (one lap is up and back) equals 1000 meters (a little under 2/3 of a mile) while a mile is 32.2 laps. In a 25 yard long pool, a mile is 35.2 laps. Standard public pools are either 25 yards to 25 meters long.

    On September 4, 2015, I swam a 25-meter-long pool in 32:29 though that was 66 lengths rather than 64.4. Interpolating, my one mile time would have really been 31:42. Don't laugh but for me, that's my best time for a mile. I wore a swim cap which takes about a minute off my time. That year, I really put a lot of effort into making my stroke more efficient. Here are some things I found that seemed to help:
  • Push off hard from the side about 1-2 feet below the water line. I should surface before my speed slows down less than my stroke speed.
  • When pushing off, have one hand on top of the other (touching and horizontal) and reach out in front of me with my arms straight and toes pointed. I really need to reach out to make my body as long and narrow as possible.
  • Breathe on the right side every fourth stroke. I tried switching sides but found it very awkward and gave up.
  • When breathing, open my mouth wide and take in as much air as I can quickly. Fill my lungs as much as possible. It should feel like I am taking a deep breath to stay under water a long time.
  • Start to exhale on the second stroke. Doing so earlier will deplete my body of good air that I need. This is very important. I might be able to wait until the third stroke but I also need to make sure I get as much air out of my lungs before I take a breath.
  • When my arm is out of the water, I should also try to get my entire shoulder out of the water to make myself more streamlined.
  • During the stroke, reach out in front as much as possible, angling my shoulder girdle to get an extra couple of inches in the stroke.
  • Continue the stroke until my fingers touch the thigh on the same side of my body.
  • Pretty much all my training was done at the Villages of Dorchester community pool during the summer and at the North Arundel Aquatic Center during the rest of the year.

    Note that I am not an open water swimmer. This type of swimming is much more challenging, both mentally and physically, than the pool swimming I do. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for open water swimmers.

    Duel in the Pool, September 9, 2015

    They say that 90% of the outcome of a race is determined before it even takes place. In other words, it is more about the training than the actual race. That was certainly the case for a competition I called Duel in the Pool. This was a one mile swim race in a pool between me and my former co-worker Mike D. Mike is about 22 or 23 years younger than me, was a competitive swimmer in high school, and also used to play water polo. In the spring of 2015, we spoke about swimming and when I mentioned a one mile race, he said he would accept a challenge. So in April or May (I forget exactly when), I threw a glove down at his feet (a symbolic gauntlet). He looked down and said, "You lost your glove." I issued the challenge with witnesses present and he accepted. It was the usual office bet where the loser would have to buy donuts. We sit at opposite ends of the office so each side was rooting for their swimmer. Because of his experience on the swim team, most people were putting their money (not literally) on Mike. But my friend Janie was extremely confident that I would win. I was not so confident. Had I been, I would not have issued the challenge. I like a competition that could go either way so that we will both be encouraged to train.

    Mike joined "LA Fitness" so he could swim and lift weights. But he soon found weight lifting taking priority and got noticeably bigger and stronger, which encouraged him to lift more. I started swimming when the pool at my townhouse opened on Memorial Day weekend. About twice a week, I swam a mile at the pool and then did my 2.5 mile circuit course run afterwards. Each time I swam, I pushed myself harder. Prior to 2015, my best one mile swim time was around 36 minutes. My best time prior to August was 32:30. That was wearing a swim cap and form-fitting swim trunks. I always timed myself and wrote down notes as to how I could improve my time. I also spoke to Mike who gave me pointers on my technique. In return, I gave him advice on weightlifting. But while I was swimming and running, I was not lifting or practicing my martial arts. By mid-August, my times were getting better and more consistent. On my final training swim, on September 4, I set my personal best of 31:42. I felt ready. Mike did not. He hadn't even swum a complete mile though his half mile time was much faster than I could ever do.

    Over the next few days before the race, I did not train. I slept a lot and relaxed at my sister-in-law's farm, helping out with some light chores. I was around a lot of kids so I feared getting sick (children are full of germs) but I did not. For race day, I had a playlist on my iPod called "Race Music" that contained aggressive music to get me in in the proper mindset. It had "Bodies" by Drowning Pool, "Blind Man" by Blackstone Cherry, "Come On Get Up" by Adrenaline Mob, "Absolute Zero" by Stone Sour, and other similar music. On the drive out to the race, I listened to it all. The last song I heard was "Bawitaba" by Kid Rock. That song brought back memories of a really intense mixed martial arts seminar weekend I did back when I was studying Muay Thai. If that song couldn't get me in the right mindset, I don't know what would.

    I arrived at Mike's gym a little early. I weighed myself on their properly calibrated medical-grade scale. I came in at 149.5 pounds which is pretty low for me...a result of not lifting weights. Mike walked in right on time. He graciously paid for my day pass. His girlfriend, Haley, would count laps. He had asked the gym staff the length of the pool and they said 25 meters. So Haley would time us for 64.4 lengths. Mike and I shook hands and commenced the race at Haley's command. From the start, Mike set a pace that I could not maintain. Though our body types were similar, his technique and short distance conditioning was obviously better. I tried not to let that intimidate me. I hoped to catch up with him in the long run. I maintained a steady pace, trying to do exactly like I had done in training. Then, near the halfway point, I saw him switch from freestyle to the breast stroke, which is slower. At first, I thought he was trying to let me catch up but I soon realized that he was tired. A little later, I saw him standing. I caught up and he told me he was done. It was like the second fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran where Duran quit in the eighth round, telling the referee "No Mas."

    Like the true gentleman he is, Mike congratulated me. He also commented that my technique is good, which, coming from a seasoned swimmer like him, meant a lot to me. Had we swam a half mile, I am confident he would have won. I am also sure he would have won had he trained even half as much as I did. As I pondered my win, I thought about the donuts he would bring in the next day. I don't usually have much of a sweet tooth but nothing satisfies my appetite like the taste of a victory donut.

    Saki Challenge 2016

    Since 2006, I have been doing what I call an annual Saki Challenge. This is a physical accomplishment that I find personally challenging. On April 24, 2016, Carmen and I did a century ride. At first, I figured that would be my challenge for the year but to tell the truth, it wasn't very challenging. I really enjoyed the ride and was glad that Carmen joined me but I could have easily gone further or faster.

    On August 17, 2016, I swam 2.5 miles. That's really far for me...perhaps a personal record. But I knew I could still do a little more.

    Summer was coming to an end and on Labor Day, the Villages of Dorchester pool would close. I was wanting to get in enough swimming so that there would be no regrets when it did close. I hate the idea of looking back and thinking, "Dang it, I should have swam more during the summer."

    On August 23, 2016, it was sunny, the water was cool, and I had the entire lap lane to myself. Slightly cool water is good for swimming laps rather than warm water. Everything was right and I was in the zone. I swam 200 lengths (up and back 100 times) in the 25 meter pool. This equates to just over 3.1 miles. This is the furthest I've ever swam. It took me 2 hours, zero minutes, and 40 seconds. I never stopped. After 2.5 miles, my form was really suffering but I just stuck it out. I had lifted weights with my legs the day prior so I made sure not to push off from the side too hard for fear of cramping up. I paced myself and when I felt tired, I forced myself to take deeper breaths, filling my lungs with as much oxygen as I could.

    Swimming that far is really boring. I don't think I will do that again. But I'm glad I did. I'll probably never be as good a swimmer as my friend Stacy but for me, this was a feat worthy of a Saki Challenge.
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    Circuit courseOpen accordion icon
    The circuit course is without a doubt my favorite workout. It consists of several stations with different exercises performed for short periods of time. This type of training, circuit training, is something I learned in the Marines and have been doing ever since.

    What exercises should be performed in a circuit course? The options are endless but I generally suggest activities that create balance (i.e., utilize opposing muscle groups) and work on areas that support your fitness goals. Bodyweight exercises are very adaptable to this type of training. The only requirements for my personal course is a pullup bar and space to run.

    I have yet to find a more efficient workout than the circuit course. The best thing about it is that it gives me a fantastic cardiovascular workout that involves running while minimizing the wear and tear on my knees. How is that done? I only run 2.5 miles but my heart rate stays high for 45 minutes because when I'm not running, I do other exercises so I am continuously breathing hard. After doing pullups and pushups, a lot of blood flows to my upper body to provide oxygen to those muscles. This makes running more difficult so it feels like I'm running at high altitude. I get the aerobic benefit of running twice that far with half as much impact.

    What exercises do I perform? At each station, I do pullups and pushups. I might also do some type of plyometric exercise (e.g., tuck jumps), burpee pushups, or something similar that involves my legs so I can work my lower body fast twitch muscles. Very often, I will alter my grip or hand position for the pushups and pullups to focus on different muscles. How many you do isn't as important as the ratio. Keep in mind that pullups and pushups work opposing muscle groups so do them in a way that creates balance. I do pullups first and do twice as many pushups.

    If you do the circuit course in a group, keep the group small enough so that nobody has to wait to do pullups. Breaking up the group and staggering start times is one way to avoid this. The important thing is to keep your heart rate high.

    I typically do a circuit course in the non-winter months once a week. It takes me about 45 minutes. An average circuit workout for me consists of a 2.5 mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, and 25 burpee pushups.

    Once your put a course together, stick with it for a few months so you can monitor your progress.

    As of 2024, I'm still doing a 2.5 mile run with five stations. But at each station, I now do the following:
  • Flip a 350 pound tire once
  • Starting with my hands at eye-level, climb a 12-foot high rope without using my legs to grip
  • 20 pullups or chinups
  • 35 pushups
  • 5 jump burpees, leaping onto and off the tire I flipped
  • 5 small tire overhead tosses. These tires are regular car tires
  • After the last station, I go across the monkey bars twice which is about 25 feet long. I can't yet do all this without some rest. My goal is to be able to do it all with no rest.
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    Flexibility / StretchingOpen accordion icon
    Only when you are extremely soft and pliable can you be extremely hard and strong.
    - Zen proverb

    They say that as you age, you lose some flexibility. But at 50, I can still do the straddle (Chinese) splits.
    Me doing the straddle splits

    When to stretch

    In the past two decades, study after study has shown that so-called static stretching, in which you hold a stretch for 30 seconds or more, doesn't prepare muscles for activity; in fact, it can do the opposite. Those toe touches will inhibit the activation of muscles, making them weaker, for about half an hour. On the other hand, evidence shows that dynamic stretching, or moving your body through a range of motions, leaves your muscles and joints much better prepared.
    - from the April 29, 2012 issue of Parade Magazine

    I do a good bit of static stretching but I save it for the end of a workout. If I do dynamic stretching, it is closer to the beginning, after the warmup.

    Stretching tips

    Relax into the stretch. If you find yourself tightening the muscles you're trying to stretch to maintain the position, modify your stretch.

    Use a small towel or belt to assist if needed. This will help keep the body properly aligned.

    When doing stretches that involve bending the torso to the knee, concentrate on leading with the sternum, not the nose, to ensure proper body alignment.

    Keep the muscles warm.

    Try to decelerate your metabolism when stretching. Concentrate on slowing your breathing.

    Exhaling slowly will help you stretch further.

    Stretches should be deliberate and controlled, not bouncy.

    Many sources recommend holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds. Yogis hold for a certain number of breaths.

    Don't stretch to pain.


    Fitness is more than strength. It is a balance amongst strength, endurance, power, speed, balance, and flexibility. Each person needs to determine the appropriate combination and level of each.
    Me doing a leg hold

    Most of the below stretches I learned from studying gymnastics, dance, running, or martial arts. A few were learned from a yoga instructor.

    Different disciplines stretch differently depending on the purpose. For example, dancers and gymnasts frequently do leg stretches with the toes pointed whereas runners stretch with the toes pulled back. I recommend doing both. The ones I show are some of my favorite static stretches.


    These are particularly good for preventing rotator cuff problems, an overuse injury common to weightlifters who don't maintain a balanced training routine. I've suffered such problems but after seeing an orthopedic doctor, a physical therapist, modifying my training routine, and incorporating rehabilitation exercises and stretches, I'm fully recovered without the need for surgery.
    1 / 3
    Upward shoulder stretch with towel
    Upward shoulder stretch.
    2 / 3
    Downward shoulder stretch
    Downward shoulder stretch.
    3 / 3
    Chest and shoulder stretch
    Chest and shoulder stretch.


    These stretches can prevent tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome. Also see stretching the wrists and hands.

    Many of the stetches I do (such as these) are a little different from the conventional in that I prefer to use body position or gravity to permit me to stretch further. I like this over using some other muscle to assist with the stretch.
    1 / 2
    Palms up wrist stretch
    Palms up.
    2 / 2
    Palms down wrist stretch
    Palms down.

    Lower back

    My favorite lower back stretch is the plow, a popular yoga position. While yogis have been doing it for hundreds of years, many gyms do not recommend it, claiming it isn't suitable for those with lower back problems. It's effective but if it hurts, don't do it.
    Me doing the plow

    Yoga has many other stretches and exercises for the lower back. If that is an area you wish to improve, I suggest taking some yoga classes. You can learn a lot online but a good instructor will help ensure you are executing proper form and can make suggestions to help you achieve your goal.


    You work your abs hard so don't ignore stretching them. My favorite abdominal stretch is the yoga pose called the cobra. A similar position, called upward dog, differs only in that your toes are turned under so you're supporting your weight on them.
    Me doing the cobra

    Hip flexors

    I often find my hip flexors feeling tight from kayaking. These stretches help keep them loose.

    I learned the below from Muay Thai kickboxing master Ajarn Surachai "Chai" Sirisute. Squat down so that the left shin is on the floor. The other leg should have the right foot on the ground with the knee up. Bend at the torso to plant both forearms on the floor, thumbs touching, and index fingers touching. Left elbow should be near left knee and right elbow should be near right big toe. Forearms, left shin, and right foot should form a square on the ground. Hold, rock gently back and forth, then repeat on other side.
    Muay Thai hip flexor stretch

    The below stretch was learned from a dance instructor. Place the right leg behind, almost straight. Bend the left leg, placing the shin perpendicular to the rear leg. Bend at the hips, maintaining an upright posture, stretching the right hip flexor. Use the hands to gently push back the torso, increasing the stretch.
    Dance hip flexor stretch

    Keeping the hip joints loose is essential for any martial art that involves a significant amount of kicking.

    Groin stretches

    A lot of martial artists place a great deal of emphasis on groin stretches.

    One of my favorite groin muscle stetches is the butterfly stretch. Grab the ankles and push the knees down with the elbows to increase the stretch.
    Butterfly stretch

    I learned an inverted version of the butterfly stretch from a Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor. This uses gravity to stretch rather than pressing with the elbows. Lie face down with legs in butterfly stretch position. Increase the stretch by arching the back as in the cobra pose.
    Inverted butterfly stretch

    A second modification of the butterfly stretch requires one to place the feet forward of the hips then bend at the hips. When doing such stretches that involve bending the torso toward the floor, concentrate on leading with the sternum, not the nose.
    Modification of butterfly stretch

    A third modification taught to me by a dance instructor places the feet forward of the hips with the feet about a foot apart.
    Dance modification of butterfly stretch

    When I took gymnastics classes in high school, I stretched for long periods of time to achieve the Chinese (straddle) splits. This involved stretching to the right...
    Straddle stretch to the right

    ...then the left, and finally to the center.
    Straddle stretch

    I'd do half the stretches with my toes pulled back and the other half with my toes pointed. After each cycle, I'd spread my legs wider and repeat. Before I graduated, I could do the Chinese splits and place my torso flat on the floor. Later, I was able to combine this flexibility with strength and balance to support my weight on risers in the straddle splits position.
    Straddle splits on risers

    Also see Working towards the splits.

    Hamstring stretches

    Hamstring injuries are extremely painful and debilitating. But they can be avoided with stretching.

    I've seen the hurdlers stretch done with the rear leg bend behind the hips rather than in front. I find that variation more difficult to achieve proper alignment and relaxation. If you can't reach your foot easily, use a towel or belt to help pull your sternum towards your knee.
    Hurdlers stretch

    Touching the hands to the floor with straight legs is a common and easy stretch. Relax at the waist and let gravity pull your upper body to the floor. Try and touch your fingertips to the floor. If you can do this, touch your knuckles to the floor. If you can do that, try putting your hands flat on the floor. To take it a step further, cross one leg over the other, keeping both legs straight.
    Touching hands to floor

    Finally, try touching your face to your legs without straining your neck (reach with the sternum). Remember to exhale into the stretch.

    Hamstrings are sometimes tight to compensate for weakness or instability elsewhere in the body. Specifically, tight hamstrings are often an indication of weak lower-abdominal muscles and/or weak lower-back muscles [2].

    PNF Stretching

    Back in the 1970s, we were taught to bounce when we stretched. In the eighties, we were told that was bad. So we did static stretches before and after a workout. Then in the nineties, they told us we shouldn't do static stretches before a workout. I never quite know what to believe anymore but I figure the experts certainly know more than me so I'll go along with the current school of thought. I just won't base my training solely on what appears in the latest trendy magazine since they tend to be fickle.

    In martial art classes, we would do dynamic stretching before training. As of 2015, that is still good [4].

    In 2018, I read about proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching.
    Originally designed for rehabilitation, it's now popular with athletes, including martial artists.
    Introducing tension to a passively lengthened muscle sort of 'tricks' the muscle into thinking it can maintain this longer length.

    Isometric stretching is the fastest and most efficient method of increasing static passive range of motion [1] [6].
    What is the difference between isometric stretching and PNF stretching?
    The simple answer is, "They're the same thing [5]."

    Quite a bit has been written about PNF stretching so rather than possibly describe it incorrectly, I suggest just doing your own web search on it to get the info first hand. I can't comment about it since it is still very new to me. If I develop an opinion of it, I'll sure sure to let you know.


    Too much flexibility in some parts of the body can be detrimental to your sports performance or just unhealthy [1]. This may sound counterintuitive but I've been told that if football players have too much flexibility in certain areas, it increases their chance of certain impact injuries.

    To some extent, flexibility is genetic, "'s a function of body structure...some people seem to naturally possess more flexibility than others [2]."

    While flat feet usually aren't considered a good trait, it is often associated with unusual flexibility of other joints [3].


    [1] "Stretching Scientifically: A Guide to Flexiblity Training" by Thomas Kurz. Published by Stadion, 1987.

    [2] "Loosening Tight Strings" by Matt Fitzgerald, Experience Life, December 2006.

    [3] Learning About Health and Fitness (original link no longer exists)

    [4] "Solo Training 3, 50 and Older" by Loren W. Christensen, 2015.

    [5] Flexibility Research - What is the Difference Between PNF and Isometric Stretching?

    [6] Her Sports Corner - Isometric Stretching
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    Elder trainingOpen accordion icon
    It is important to remain physically active throughout our lives to ensure a good quality of life. But how we train is just as important as taking the time to train. An 80 year old person might not reap the same benefits as a younger person and could easily put themselves at risk if they engage in heavy lifting, sprints, or high impact activities. Instead, elderly people should engage in activities to reduce injury. I am not a fitness or medical professional but in my opinion, healthy senior citizens who find that their bodies are not responding as they would like to everyday tasks (e.g., walking) should focus on the following:


    As we age, our bodies become brittle. One fall can result in a broken hip and leave a person wheelchair bound for the rest of their life. Preventing such injuries can start by avoiding the fall in the first place. This can be done by improving one's sense of balance. Tai Chi is a great activity for developing balance. Walking with walking sticks is a great way to improve one's stability when out for a stroll.


    All too often, I see senior citizens that hunch forward. This affects one's stability and can affect muscle development leading to pain in various parts of the body. Make sure to sit, stand, walk, and run with an upright posture. Look at a ballet dancer. Such people typically have excellent posture. They move with their head up, shoulders back, and spine kept perpendicular to the ground.

    Muscle balance

    Many problems are a result of muscle imbalance. I've heard that shin splints are partly caused by having strong calf muscles and weak shin muscles (tibialis anterior). At least since the 1990s, the focus has been on having strong abdominal muscles. This is indeed important. But what happens if you abs are strong but your lower back is weak? Such an imbalance around the spine is not good. That is why more recently, trainers have been talking about training one's "core" muscles. Doing so helps ensure more functional muscle development and balance.

    Range of motion

    Taking tiny steps while walking is often a result of having a limited range of motion. If your exercises require you to move your muscles only a short distance, then you might be guilty of this. But having too much range of motion can also be bad. If your knees aren't strong, then doing deep squats can make things worse. It is important to know the right balance for you that gives maximum benefit with minimal risk. I highly recommend riding a stationary bike. This forces your legs to move in a way that works them over a good range of motion. If this is hard on your knees or lower back, then consider a recumbent bike. Elliptical machines are also good but require more balance.


    One might say this falls under the "range of motion" category but I tend to think of flexibility as more a result of stretching rather than training with a fuller range of motion, though the two are certainly related. A lot of older people stretch the way they were taught when they were young. Times have changed. Bouncing while stretching is no longer taught. Proper body alignment, exhaling into the stretch, and slow, controlled movements are now emphasized along with holding the stretch for several (~30) seconds. Fitness professionals, particularly yoga instructors, can help with this. Do a good stretch at the end of your workout, not at the beginning.

    Increasing bone density

    In the event that one does fall, you'll want your bones to be strong. A good diet with sufficient calcium and vitamin D will help with this but maintaining a good strength training program focusing on weight bearing exercises is also essential. Cardiovascular training by itself may not be sufficient. I don't recommend heavy lifting. Instead, light to moderate resistance is best. Medium to high repetitions (10-20) working over a good range of motion is ideal. Free weights are very good for developing strength but they also pose a greater risk for an elderly person. For safety's sake, I recommend strength training machines...especially those that target the large and/or core muscle groups. Don't work the same muscle groups on consecutive days. A good routine might include chest press, shoulder press, lat pulls, seated row, and crunches one one day. On the next workout day, work leg extensions, leg curls, back hyperextensions, chair squats, and stationary lunges. For leg extensions and leg curls, do high reps (15-20). The most important thing for elder strength training is to never lift more than you can control.

    Exercises for seniors

    Chair squats

    I've always said that bodyweight exercises are the best and I believe this to be true even in the golden years. Your own weight is the one thing you have to be able to handle throughout your entire life. It doesn't matter if you can squat 200 pounds if you can't walk down the street without stumbling or get out of a car without assistance.

    Chair squats are a very basic, easy, and practical exercise.

    There are two big problems I find when older people do squats. First, they limit their range of motion too much. This results in less flexibility. The second (and opposite) problem is squatting too deeply, which can create problems for the knees or lower back. Chair squats solve both issues.

    The motion for a chair squat is the same as a regular squat. The difference is that you squat until your buttocks touch the chair. You don't want to sit back and put your weight on the chair. It is only there to ensure you achieve your full range of motion and protect you if you fall backwards. As soon as your butt touches the chair, stand up and repeat. Having the chair to stop you ensures you do not squat too deeply. Look slightly upward or straight ahead to help maintain good posture. Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. Movements should be slow and controlled. Curling the toes up when squatting will help protect your knees.

    Try to do at least 10 repetitions. If you find that you can do 20 repetitions fairly easily, consider holding light dumbbells to increase resistance.

    Stationary lunges

    Lunges have always been one of my favorite exercises. But stepping forward or back could be difficult for a lot of seniors and increase their chance of injury. So instead, I propose stationary lunges.

    First, position yourself next to something you can grab onto for support. A chair or table will do. Stand so that you can bend your arm slightly at the elbow to grab onto this support which should be at your right or left side. For now, let's assume it is at your right side.

    Next, position your feet so that your left foot is forward and slightly to the left of the right foot. Just how far forward depends on your height and level of flexibility. Planting your feet so that your left heel is 14 inches in front of the toes of your right foot is a good place to start for someone that is 5'4". Adjust to what feels comfortable after the first few reps. Both feet should be facing forward.

    Position your right hand on the support so that it to the right side of your left heel or slightly further back. Keep your body erect. Adjust your body around your support (or move your support) rather than lean towards it.

    Now you're ready for the exercise. Looking slightly upward or straight ahead, keep your back perpendicular to the ground, and bend your knees to lower your torso slowly so that your right knee approaches the ground. Go only as far as you can control. Then straighten your legs and repeat. Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. Keep your hand on the support for balance but avoid using it to help lift your weight. It is there just to make sure you don't fall.

    If you have a very good range of motion, you can lower your right knee so that it touches the ground lightly. But don't put your weight on it. Again, only go as far as you can control.

    Be sure to work the opposite side (right leg forward). Just follow the above instructions but substitute right for left and left for right.

    The angle between your calf and thigh should never be less than 90 degrees. If it is, then you are putting too much strain on your knees.

    Try to do at least 10 repetitions. If you find that you can do 20 repetitions fairly easily, increase your range of motion so that your right knee is closer to the floor. If you can do 20 repetitions easily with the right knee touching the floor, then try holding a light dumbbell in your left hand.
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    Stationary lunge front view
    Front view.
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    Stationary lunge side view
    Side view.

    Walking with sticks

    I suggest trying to walk with at least a cane, hiking pole, or walking sticks if any of the following apply.
  • Your sense of balance is not great.
  • You have bad posture. If in doubt, have someone take photos or a video of you when you walk.
  • You take very short steps.
  • You find yourself getting out of breath easily.

  • If you or loved ones feel that there is a good chance you might fall, then you probably need something more than walking sticks. Consult a medical professional. Maybe a walker is more appropriate.

    When we walk, we have two points of contact with the ground. With a walking stick (or sticks), we have three or four points of contact, which make us considerably more stable. It is prety intuitive to use a single stick. When using two sticks, try to move like you are cross country skiing...that is, your right pole is on the ground when you step forward with your left foot and vice versa. You should generally not have both poles off the ground at the same time when you walk.

    As we age, our ability to walk starts to diminish. Using a walking stick or sticks helps us retain this skill. Though it may seem like a thoughtless process, older people should keep the following in mind when they walk:
  • Maintain good posture. That means keeping your back perpendicular to the ground.
  • If you are on smooth, even terrain with good lighting, you shouldn't have your head bent down.
  • Swing your arms if they are not holding onto walking sticks. This will help lengthen your stride.
  • Breathe naturally. Don't hold your breath. Maintain a pace that gets your heart pumping and your lungs working, without forcing you to get out of breath.
  • Walk only as fast as you can control. If you (or others) feel like you are not in total control, then slow down or take a rest. Since you can't see yourself when you walk, rely on the observations of others.

  • Walk frequently and try to keep your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes for good cardiovascular workout. If you can't do that, then do what you can.

    Hiking poles are typically made for walking in the woods. Thus, they have pointy tips so they can grip onto slick surfaces. But walking in a more urban or suburban environment may cause these pointy tips to get caught in sidewalk cracks. If this describes your hiking poles, then you may want to consider getting rubber walking tips.

    Walking is one of the first skills we learn. It should also be one of the last to go.
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    Using the straps on a hiking pole
    Hiking pole grip.
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    Walking with hiking poles
    Walking with hiking poles.

    Good workout practices apply for elders as much as anyone else. You'll want to do a good warm up at the beginning and do a cool down followed by a stretch at the end. If a particular muscle group is sore, then give it time to recover before working it again.

    I don't recommend high intensity workouts for most seniors. There are just too many risks associated with this. When in doubt, play it safe.

    I feel that some of the best workouts for folks in their golden years include Tai Chi, swimming, low intensity group fitness classes (especially those specifically for seniors), walking, yoga, and dancing. As with any long-term exercise program, it is important to find what motivates you. Exercise should be something you enjoy and look forward to.

    If you feel pain when exercising, stop, go to a doctor and get the problem fixed. Take a few days off but don't just quit exercising unless the doctor tells you to do so. Even then, I would get a second opinion since there aren't many conditions where one should simply not exercise. More often than not, one's exercise program just needs some modification. Physical therapists are great for suggesting exercise options.

    People are living longer thanks to things like modern medicine. But living into the golden years doesn't mean much if you have a poor quality of life. Regular visits to the doctor/dentist and maintaining a proper diet are essential to staying healthy. So is a good exercise program. Stay healthy and stay fit for life!
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    Muscle fiber typesOpen accordion icon
    Most muscles are made up of two kinds of muscle fibers that help you move your body:
  • Slow-twitch muscle fibers (type I), which move more slowly but help to keep you moving longer.
  • Fast-twitch muscle fibers (type II), which help you move faster, but for shorter periods.
  • "Twitch" refers to the contraction, or how quickly and often the muscle moves. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are all about endurance or long-lasting energy. In comparison, fast-twitch muscle fibers give you sudden bursts of energy but get tired quickly [1].

    Slow-twitch muscle fibers have high concentrations of mitochondria and myoglobin. Although they are smaller than the fast-twitch fibers, they are surrounded by more capillaries. This combination supports aerobic metabolism and fatigue resistance, particularly important for prolonged submaximal (aerobic) exercise activities [2].

    Fast-twitch type II muscle fibers are further divided into Type IIx and Type IIa, but I won't get into this. Typically, these have lower concentrations of mitochondria, myoglobin, and capillaries compared to our slow-twitch fibers, which means they are quicker to fatigue. These larger-sized fibers are also produce a greater and quicker force, an important consideration for power activities [2].

    Training is the result of hard work and discipline but muscle fiber type is largely genetic. I've read that people with ancestors from western Africa often tend to have a large proportion of type II muscle fibers. This includes most African Americans who excel in sports like football where having a lot of fast-twitch muscles is necessary. In contrast, I've heard that folks from eastern Africa (e.g. Kenya) have a lot of slow-twitch muscle fibers which explains why there are so many excellent long distance runners from this part of the world.

    Different animals also have a tendency for different muscle fiber types. The next time you eat a turkey, and someone asks if you want white meat or dark meat, think about type I and type II muscle fibers. Dark meat is associated with endurance and aerobic they are slow-twitch. In contrast, white meat is fast-twitch.

    Aging causes a loss in lean muscle mass, with a decline in our fast-twitch fibers, but there is also an increase in our slow-twitch fibers [2]. Notice you rarely see older sprinters but there are lots of older long distance runners.

    It is important to know the difference between fast and slow-twitch muscles so you can adapt your training accordingly. My martial art training uses a lot of fast-twitch muscles while my jogging utilizes slow-twitch. Think about your physical goals and adapt your muscle fiber type training to help achieve them.


    [1] Healthline - Flexing Slow-Twitch Muscle Fibers
    [2] NASM - Fast-Twitch Vs. Slow-Twitch Muscle Fiber Types + Training Tips
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    Energy systemsOpen accordion icon
    If you are serious about exercise, you need to understand how your body taps into its various energy sources. Depending on the need, your body obtains its energy from three different energy systems:

    Adenosine triphosphate and creatine phosphate (ATP-CP)

    This in an anaerobic system where your muscles are used at maximum intensity (balls to the walls) for not more than 15 seconds (8 seconds for an untrained person). Many plyometric exercises utilize this energy source. It takes 2-3 weeks to condition this energy system but it is also lost quickly through disuse. If the goal is to develop the ATP-CP system, one might train all out for 15 seconds followed by 2-3 minute periods of rest.

    Lactic acid

    This is another anaerobic system where the muscles are used at high intensity for up to 180 seconds. Lactic acid is produced as a by-product. Many bodybuilding exercises use this system. One must train 6-8 weeks for 3-4 times a week to develop this system. Training 1-2 times a week is sufficient for maintenance. Glycogen is the fuel used by the lactic acid system. Initial reserves last about 80 minutes. To enhance this system, train at a submaximal level for 30-90 seconds, followed by 2-5 minutes of rest.


    In this system, the muscles use oxygen as the energy source and operate at lower intensities for over 180 seconds. This system requires at least 3-4 months for 4-6 times a week to develop. After development, maintenance requires training 2-3 times a week. Fat and glycogen are the primary fuel sources used by the aerobic system. For cardiovascular conditioning, train with 8 minutes of high intensity intervals followed by 2 minutes of rest.

    Source: "The Barton Mold: A Study in Sprint Kayaking" by William T. Endicott. USA Canoe Kayak, 1995.
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    Home gymOpen accordion icon
    In late 2007, I injured my left knee doing one-legged squats (pistols) and running. I decided to take some time off from weightlifting after it took so long to heal. From May to November 2008, I stayed away from weight training. But I did take the time to do lots of pullups, pushups, and outdoor activities. After a cortisone shot, the inflammation in my knee went down and I began to resume training. In the autumn of 2008, I began putting together a home gym. This gym took up about a third of the basement in my townhouse. It was comprised of a pullup bar, bardip station (with fold-up handles), handstand pushup station (risers), dumbbell pairs ranging from 10 to 60 pounds in 5 pound increments, an adjustable bench, leg extension/curl apparatus, sissy squat device, and about 275 pounds of Olympic plates. I made the risers and an attachment so I could use the bench as a back hyperextension station. This all sits on a 2 centimeter thick 8 x 12 foot mat or 3/4 inch plywood. Much of the equipment was purchased used from Craig's List - Maryland. The total cost for equipment and setup was about $1500.
    Home gym at townhouse

    In December 2009, I moved out of my townhouse and into a single family home. So my gym was moved into the garage of this house. The garage is unheated and uninsulated so in the winter, I put on thermal coveralls and warm up for a long time before lifting. In the summer, I just deal with the heat though I tend to spend more time doing stuff outside and less time lifting when it is warm. I made myself a free-standing heavy bag stand and installed gymnastics rings. I did away with the sissy squat device because I hardly ever used it. Instead, I put my 75 pound heavy bag over one shoulder and did lunges. I prefer that over squats as it is easier on my knees.
    Home gym in garage

    I've been pretty fortunate with the equipment I purchased. I didn't pay a lot for anything but there is one thing that I should have paid more for. I had foam mats that I purchased from Dick's. They fit together like a puzzle. After about 3 years, they started to deform and didn't fit together so well. In 2013, I bought some replacements and planned to just get rid of the worst pieces. But the new mats didn't fit together at all with the old ones. The old ones had flattened out. Rather than buy new foam mats that I would have to replace again in a few years, I bought dense rubber mats. These are 3/8 inch thick and also fit together like a puzzle. I bought enough to fill in my 10 foot by 10 foot workout space. It cost me $362.52 at Gym Source but hopefully, I will never need to replace them. As of 2022 (nine years later), these rubber mats are still holding up well. If I had to do it all again, I would consider purchasing horse stall rubber mats to save money.

    My home gym has paid for itself many times over as compared to what I was paying for a gym membership. There is some equipment at a regular gym that I really miss (including a swimming pool) but there are plenty of benefits to having a home gym:
  • No waiting to use equipment.
  • I can listen to whatever music I want.
  • Access to a Muay Thai heavy bag.
  • Open all hours.
  • Convenience.

  • Since about 2012, I worked in a place that has a free corporate gym. This is great to give me more variety in my workout, though if I have to choose between the two, I would much prefer my home gym.

    I haven't paid to use a gym since 2008 and I don't plan to do so ever again.
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    Poor Man's WorkoutOpen accordion icon
    If you want to get to bodybuilding competition level, you need a gym and weights. Bodyweight exercises are great for strength conditioning but for building mass, it's hard to beat weights.

    That doesn't mean you can't get strong without a gym. As long as I have a pullup bar, I can do pullups, and pushups I can do anywhere so I have what I need for a basic upper body workout. But even if you don't do pullups or pushups, there are things you can do to develop practical strength...and get chores done in the yard at the same time.

    In 2018, I used a post hole digger in my backyard. I thought a lot about the kinesiology of the movement to use this tool. It seems like I was using all the major muscle groups in my body:
  • Triceps and abs: Forcefully hitting the blades of the digger into the ground.
  • Lats and chest: Closing the blades to grasp the dirt. These muscles are engaged if one pulls with one hand and pushes with the other.
  • Shoulders and biceps: Lifting the tool while grasping the dirt.
  • Shoulders and chest: Squeezing the handles together to release the dirt.
  • Quads and hamstrings: If instead of bending forward at the hips, you concentrate on keeping your back upright and bending the legs, the movement resembles a squat.
  • Post hole digger

    You can buy a post hole digger for under $30. It may not be the kind of workout you want to do regularly but I'm pretty sure that if there is one tool that will work a lot of different muscles, this is it. Splitting firewood is also great and in my opinion, a lot more fun.
    Me splitting firewood in 2006
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