Roll Your Way to an Amazing Core

Roughly two years ago my wife went on a cheap-exercise-equipment-buying binge. One can obtain any item on Tao Bao, the Chinese equivalent (though much better version, if you know Chinese) of Amazon with a touch of Ebay. She found the Ab Wheel.

“Is a roller a good exercise to do?” she asked me.

“Absolutely, but it is very difficult. Definitely not as easy as it seems,” I replied.

Within a week a courier delivered our new roller/abdominal (ab) wheel. My daughter had been visiting us to attend our wedding. Excitement filled the air as the desire to try the new exercise equipment escalated. I demonstrated how to use the roller; I started from a kneeling position for two reasons: 1) I knew that neither my wife nor my daughter could successfully complete the exercise from the standing position, and 2) I knew that I could not successfully complete the exercise from the standing position. Each of us would fall flat on our faces if we attempted the standing roller exercise. We placed a folded up towel on the ground to cushion our knees during the exercise. I struggled to complete ten reps fully extended with only my knees and the roller touching the ground, but I did not fall flat on my face.

My wife tried the basic exercise. “Roll the roller out farther,” I encouraged. “You look more like an arch than a board. Your body has to be more like a board…flat.”

“I’ll fall if I do that!” She said.

“Try,” I encouraged a little bit more enthusiastically.

She tried and her whole body thumped on the ground. We all had a really good laugh.

I show them the exercise one last time. I luckily did not fall this eleventh and final time.

My daughter tried the exercise with the same result as my wife: she got to a certain point and fell with a thump. It showed us just how difficult this exercise truly is. Here I am demonstrating the ab wheel from the kneeling position.

Incorporating The Ab Wheel into Our Program

We used it on and off for the next two years. My wife got to where she could do ten reps with pretty good form in the kneeling position. I got to where I could do three sets of ten reps with good form. We never stuck to it, and each time we picked the ab wheel back up resulted in very sore abdominal muscles for the first week.

Every time we decide on an exercise regimen, we get our ab wheel out, dust it off, and give it a whirl. Last April, when we started to exercise and intermittent fast, provided us with another opportunity to use our inexpensive yet beneficial wheel.

A Rose is a Rose by Any Other Name

Perhaps, “The Core Wheel” would be a better moniker for this piece of equipment, seeing as how it exercises and strengthens the entire set of core muscles like no other machine, not even far more expensive ones come close to exercising the entire core as well.

The core muscles consist of all the muscles that keep one upright and balanced: abdominals (stomach), obliques (love handles), thighs, the gluteus maximus (buttocks), and lower back.

After about six months of working out, I successfully performed one standing roller exercise. Here I am three months later demonstrating a standing roller exercise. I now do thirty of these a week (ten per day/ three days a week).

Cautionary Note

A note of caution on this exercise: it puts an immense amount of pressure on the back muscles, especially at first. Caution should be taken when attempting this exercise. Go slow. Don’t try too much at one time. If you are not sure about correct form, get professional coaching before trying this form of training. And as always, consult your physician before starting any exercise program.


A Better Way to Resolve to Have a Better Year

Today, I shall share with you a method to make your New Year’s Resolutions more solid for an all around more successful 2017!

The first day my gym opened for the New Year, it was relatively quiet. I expected it to be packed with the fresh victims of New Year’s Resolutions not-made-to-keep. I expected a horde of new faces jumping, squatting, treadmilling, and just generally looking like they did not know what the hell they were doing. I expected to have to fight these neophytes for every machine and dumbbell that I wanted to use. To my surprise, this did not happen.

January and February, due to New Year’s Resolutions, tend to be the busiest months at any given gym in the world. I would say that 50% of the regulars at my gym stayed home to avoid this dreaded beginning of the year influx of fledglings, but the fledglings made up for the lost volume of the regular gym goers. Notwithstanding, no regular or newcomer occupied any machine or weights that I wanted. My workout proved to be smooth and free of delay. I rather enjoy watching these new kids on the block sweat and grunt with fat hanging over their new or ridiculously-old gym-shorts, most using bad posture and form because they have obviously never visited a gym in their lives. My amusement makes up for the inconvenience at the beginning of the year. I’m almost ashamed at how much entertainment I derive from these bumbling beginners.white-male-1734423_1280

The gym makes lots of money off of these New Year’s Resolutioners, who will stop coming to the gym anywhere from a week to two months later. The gym makes not much money off of me: I get my money’s worth, now that I have found intermittent fasting (more on this, in another post).

On the other hand, I admire these tenderfoots for their tenacity and their resolve to lose weight and get in shape; I feel sorry for them that the vast majority do not know how to do it, or how to stick with it. I just hope they don’t hurt themselves.

My Two Cents

At a very young age, I gave up on New Year’s Resolutions, due to the fact that no one I knew, including myself, could ever muster the dedication it takes to achieve their set goals. I wondered if it were not human frailty that caused this oft too repeated pattern: make New Year’s Resolution, gain determination for about a month, lose resolve, fail. I have experienced my fair share of failure; I don’t need to plan for it on December 31st of each year. So I used humor to answer the agonizingly brash question, “Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions for this year?” My reply, since about 25-years-of-age, “My New Year’s Resolution was to make no New Year’s Resolutions…and it worked.” We would laugh about the irony, I would ask about their Resolutions, they would tell me, I would laugh inside because I knew that they would fail, I would give the obligatory congratulations on Resolutions well chosen (even though everyone has the same damn New Year’s Resolutions), and we would never return to the subject again.

Lately, I have figured out the reason for this resolve/failure pattern. Most New Year’s Resolutions lack true resolve. Sounds simple, but let me explain. Resolutioners generally plan their goals in a vague way from January 1st on, to an undefined and undetermined time or date. Here’s an example: “Re-connect with friends I’ve lost touch with.” Very, very, very vague. This Resolution raises more questions than it answers. Here’s another example, “Lose weight and get in shape.” Wow, just wow! Failure waiting to happen. Once a little weight is lost and a little bit of shape regained and a lot of pain and suffering experienced, we can convince ourselves to quit, right? Sound familiar?

A Better Way

Also, I’ve discovered a better way, not a foolproof way, but better than the usual way. My daughter turned me on to Carrie Green over at the Female Entrepreneur Association, who besides being a very motivating person has three questions one should ask one’s self in order to have a successful year.

Here are the questions:

  1. What do I want to have achieved by the end of 2017?
  2. How am I going to make it happen?
  3. What kind of person do I need to be to make it happen?

You should write down the answers to each of these questions for each of your goals. Watch the video, here.

You see, Carrie starts from the end of the year and forces you to imagine specifically what you want to accomplish. Not only that, you have to answer exactly what you are going to have to do to accomplish said goals. As if this were not enough to make Resolutions your superpower, you have to determine the type of person you will need to be, or the type of person you need to change into, in order to succeed at your goals. Amazing! Empowering and amazing! Also, these “resolutions” can be easily quantified and measured and modified throughout the year for success.

Practice, Practice, Practice

So let’s rework the first resolution above: “Re-connect with friends I’ve lost touch with.” Answer #1: “I want to have reconnected with ten friends with whom I have lost touch by the end of 2017!” Answer #2: “At least once per month, I will pick up the phone and call, or email, or contact on social media, one long-lost friend and start a conversation and invite them for coffee if applicable.” Answer #3: “I’m going to need to be a lot less shy and ashamed for not keeping connected. I’m going to need to be more extroverted and not expect people to call me first.” A sure plan for success!

How about one of my goals? (I still don’t like calling it a New Year’s Resolution…smacks of failure to me.) Answer #1: “I want to still be on at least two-days-a-week intermittent fasting and achieve four seasonal long-term fasts by the end of 2017.” Answer #2: “By studying about IF and long-term fasting, setting a schedule for fasting two days a week on Tuesday and Thursday, growing my blog, setting the countdown widget for each long-term fast.” Answer #3: “I’m going to need to be on Facebook less, much less! and continue to be diligent about fasting, exercising, and study.” With my friends, I will share this method. However, I’m still going to tell people that I made no New Year’s Resolutions; it’s funnier.body-1822459_1280

So remember, ask yourself 1) What you want to achieve by the end of 2017, 2) What you will need to do to accomplish the goal, and 3) What kind of person you will need to be to achieve success.

Let’s see if you can rework the other example, about weight loss and getting in shape, in the comments below. Feel free to reshape any of your New Year’s Resolutions in the comments, and I will give you feedback. Gone are the days of Resolution failures. Plus, go to the Female Entrepreneur Association and check out all the great ideas presented by Carrie Green.

Good luck with your New Year’s Goals! And if you see me in the gym anytime between March and December, say hello. Until next time stay fast and fit!

High Intensity Interval Training* Gets You In Shape

This is my first blog post of the year! May 2017 bring many informative and interesting posts about our life with intermittent fasting (IF) and fitness!

Endurance Training or High Intensity Interval Training?

On New Year’s Eve, I got to the gym for my workout and I found some terrible and yet freeing news. The gym would be closed from 15:00 December 31st 2016 until 15:00 January 3rd 2017. Good for the gym employees, bad for my workout schedule. Oh well, IF has made me a more accepting and calm person, we are flexible with the diet regimen as well as workouts, I could use a few days rest. I still had time to get in my last workout of the year, though.

If it had been a regular workout day schedule for me, I had planned a 40-minute ride on the rowing machine: an endurance workout. However, with the news of the gym closing for the holiday, I changed my plan to a high intensity interval-training (HIIT) workout, still on the rowing machine. Intense is no exaggeration for this workout. This workout gives the exerciser more benefits for a shorter workout than endurance training (ET). I try for three HIIT workouts and one endurance workout per week. Let’s talk about how it works and then discuss the benefits of this short but powerful workout.

HIIT Better Than Chocolate Ice Cream

First, how it works: HIIT consists of a 2-3 minute warm-up, then a 30-second burst of all out exercise (sprint, stair-stepper, elliptical, any endurance machine really), sport-1283791_1280followed by a 90-second recovery period of slow and easy exercise (one can do 4-15 intervals of intense exercise followed by recovery periods), and then a 2-3 minute cool down period. I do ten intervals, at present, for a total workout of 22 minutes. That’s half the time of an ET workout. Trust me HIIT is intense, and if you are just starting out on this exercise regimen, I would recommend only doing a few intervals and working up to more (at least eight). 30 seconds does not seem like much, but if you do it right, you will be winded. Also, HIIT workouts should not be done on consecutive days. The body needs at least one day of rest to recover fully from this extremely intense exercise.

Second, the benefits: for two hours after the HIIT workout, the exerciser’s body is still burning calories. This is due to the depletion of oxygen in the muscles during the workout and the time it takes to replenish the oxygen stores in the muscles, afterwards. It’s like you are still working out for two hours after HIIT. Amazing!

The shorter time required for this exercise is an obvious benefit, one burns more fat than regular endurance training, and one realizes greater exercise gains than with ET. One can do this exercise regimen anywhere: in a gym on exercise equipment, on the street with just running gear, on a hill (I found a great hill for this exercise in Pristina, Kosovo). Anywhere!

Intermittent fasting increases human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone in and of itself, and so does HIIT. I will dedicate at least one entire post about these important hormones that decrease with age. Anything that increases them warrants recognition. HIIT increases HGH and testosterone incredibly. Very important for gaining lean muscle mass and increasing the body’s metabolism.

HIIT improves one’s metabolism, and helps to decrease insulin resistance. Increased insulin resistance leads to diabetes (not good). It even increases mitochondria in the muscle, which helps to increase our energy levels. Seems like the best exercise out there, eh?

Is There Anything Bad about HIIT?

It does take a lot of effort and mental strength to stick with this exercise program. Due to the intense nature of the exercise, it is difficult to sustain the regimen. As with most exercise programs, and IF in general, it is especially hard at first. However, if you continue through the tough times, the results and benefits will amaze you, your partner, and your friends. I could barely huff and puff through four intervals at first. Now ten intervals present no problem for me. It is worth it!

As I ramped up my first interval on the rowing machine (the high intensity parts of HIIT on a rowing machine make quite a clamor), I got a lot of stares. I didn’t really care. 2016 brought me HIIT, the benefits far outweigh the difficulty, and the stares. My last workout of the year would prove to be a good one.

Tell me what you think in the comments, and feel free to follow our blog.

*Before starting any exercise program or diet regimen, consult your doctor.

Change Your Life with Intermittent Fasting

“I’m going to spin for thirty minutes,” said Jacie. She referred to the use of our stationary spinning exercise bicycle, not the process of converting fiber into thread or yarn. This piece of exercise equipment had been taking up space in our little Chinese apartment for about six months. I’m sure it yearned for one of us, or both, to use it. If it were a dog, it would have been wagging its tail in anticipation, at this point. “Do you want to join me?” prodded my wife.spin-class

“No, no, I’ve got videos to edit. You go ahead,” I replied. Any excuse would have worked for me. My body, happy in its inactivity, complacent in its overweight borderline obesity, started at the thought of spinning for thirty minutes. I shuddered at the mere suggestion (my belly shuddered a little longer due to my ample belly-fat reserves). One does not pack on twenty-five or thirty extra kilograms of fat by working out on a regular basis.

As I edited my English language videos for my Chinese students, I witnessed my cute little Chinese wife pump and grunt and sweat and huff atop the spinning bike to Western disco music for the next thirty minutes. I was exhausted by the time she had finished. The bike was happy. She was happy, filled with exercise endorphins and the satisfaction of accomplishment. I was still just fat.

Inertia Realized

The next day, 13 April 2016, Jacie announced her intention of making a daily ritual of spinning. Envy, one of the deadliest cardinal sins, and pure jealousy served me well, at this time.

“I’ll spin after you,” spilled out of my mouth before my fat belly had a chance to protest.

“Really!?” My wife barely able to contain her excitement, blurted out. She felt she inspired me. In a way, she did.

I couldn’t have my cute wife get into shape without me. Anyway, she would not stick with this ridiculousness for more than two weeks. Then we could both get back to our slothfulness and overeating in peace.

Inertia is real. When my body is at rest, it stays at rest and my mid-section expands and expands. When my body is in motion, I can’t stop it.

About a week later, I researched the best foods to eat before a workout. I wanted to find out how long before a workout one should eat. As if nudging me to exercise had not changed my life enough, this search would change my entire being, both mentally and physically.

Perhaps due to the fact that I lived secluded, from Western culture and its myriad, trendy new ideas, in China, or perhaps because I’m clueless, I had never heard about intermittent fasting. Apparently, this eating regimen redefined cutting-edge nutrition and health. My eyes devoured article after article. An unexpected find, before my wife walked into the apartment, I had worked out every detail of my new life with intermittent fasting (IF). It would be a couple of weeks before I found enough research to convince me that the best thing to eat before a workout is nothing at all. More about exercising in a fasted state, later.

Being a good partner, I have never expected my love interests to participate in my crazy diet plans. Jacie asked many, many questions about IF, most of which I could answer, the rest I researched and came up with the answers, later. She was all in from the start. What a great wife! We worked out the kinks as we progressed.

Tangible Results

That was eight months, and thirty kilograms, ago. They brainwash us to believe that disability and disease inescapably result from the ageing process. Not true. Eight months ago, I could not bend over to tie my shoes without getting out of breath, the plight and inevitability of a 52-year-old, right? Not so fast, bucko! After my winter solstice 3-day long-term fast, and after eight months of intermittent fasting, I performed an act that I have not accomplished in a decade or two or three. I can now, standing on one foot, raise my other foot and put on my sock with ease. It may seem a small feat to you, but to me, a man who could barely bend over to tie his shoes, it is a monumental triumph; one I want to continue and improve upon for the rest of my life.

Intermittent fasting causes regeneration not degeneration. I have found the fountain of youth, the pathway to young living into old age. It’s tough for about one month, then it gets easier, lots easier.

Feel free to follow my blog. As I explain the process and the benefits of IF and fitness from an experiential point of view, we will explore this life-enhancing lifestyle together. And tell me what you think in the comments below. Until next time, stay fast and fit.