About Distance Running and Pullup Progress

Last month (October), the Nairobi Marathon was held. I have not participated for two years now. I sent a congratulatory message on Facebook to those who ran. Turns out a number of my friends did not run this year either, though a number of others did run. Maybe next year I will run, just for the challenge and to improve my time.

I once read an article that pointed out that it is only human beings that engage in distance running. Animals in the wild run to catch food, to avoid being caught, or to play. All this running is normally relatively short distance sprints (especially if the animal is about to be eaten). Animals sometimes play by chasing each other in small areas, and the movement is somewhat similar to various ball games that humans play like soccer or basketball. Such playing involve short runs and turning this way and that, and not continuous running for a long time. In other words, long-distance running isn’t really natural. Long-distance running also often comes with injuries . In fact, two avid distance-runners that I know have been off running for a while now due to injuries. For fat loss and fitness, high-intensity interval training, such as sprints, are more effective than distance running. However, like I mentioned, I may participate in next year’s run just for the challenge and to be part of something big.

As for my pullups, I was away from home for a few nights and my pullups stalled a bit, but I resumed. I did the Week 9 workout of the Recon Ron program. I completed the first three sets without getting off the bar, but had to get off during the last two sets. I was about 4 weeks behind schedule.

On Friday the 13th I did Week 11 and on Monday the 16th, I did the Week 13 workout. I am now about two weeks behind schedule. I think I will be able to get back on track and achieve 20 pullups before this year ends.

Renewed Goal of Twenty Pullups

I have decided to again go after my goal of 20 pullups. I intend to achieve this goal by the end of December 2015. I think the reason I did not succeed the last time was simply that I did not have sufficient motivation. This time, I have two things motivating me:

One is the realisation that time is passing by and I should not keep on putting off my goals, or else I will one day realise that the window of opportunity has closed or narrowed considerably. (This realisation seems to dawn on many people when they turn 40, like I did in 2014).

The second thing motivating me is that I’d like to blog more on pullups and I think actually getting to do 20 pullups myself will give credibility to what I say.

 

So I have been doing pullups, following my favourite program, the Recon Ron Pullup Program. Counting backwards from the last week of December 2015, I saw that I would need to start at Week 7 of the program, so I did. That was the week of 21st September.

Today, I was able to do the sets for week 7 as specified (10, 8, 6, 6,6). I’m supposed to be on Week 9, but I was still quite pleased.

 

The 7-Minute Workout (App) Review

I came across the free 7-Minute Workout app and installed it in my phone. I also installed the Max Capacity Training app (which I reviewed here. I had it on my previous phone but not my current one). I had heard of the seven-minute workout before, so I was familiar with the concept. The idea is basically that you perform various exercises for 30 seconds each, with about 10 seconds rest between exercises. Ideally, the exercises should be performed as intensely as possible.

Note: There are a number of different 7-Minute Workout apps on Google Play. This review is about the one by Abishkking.

The Exercises
The app has two workouts: A ‘Classic’ workout and and Abs workout.
The classic one is usable immediately while the Abs one is locked by default. You can unlock the Abs workout by doing the Classic workout for five days in a row, or by paying $1.99.

I have only done the Classic workout, so I will only talk about that one.

The Classic workout has 12 exercises:
Jumping Jacks
Wall sit
Pushup
Abdominal crunch
Step-up onto chair
Squat
Triceps dips on chair
Plank
High knees/running
Lunge
Pushup and rotation
Side plank
(The app says 13 exercises, but the last two are the same exercise, just for different sides of the body. Interestingly, the app does not make the same distinction for the lunges or the step-ups).

There are brief illustrated instructions on how to perform each exercise and links to videos (or video categories) showing the exercises.

Screenshot_2015-09-11-13-05-41

You can change the duration of each exercise period, rest times, countdown time and also how many times you want to repeat the circuit.

The Workout
The day after I installed it, the app told me that it was time to work out. I hesitated, since I had planned to start the Max Capacity Training, which I had done part of before. Then I decided to try something new and do the 7-minute one. After all, it’s only 7 minutes.

When you start the workout, the app tells you by voice and also shows you on the screen what exercise to do. An on-screen timer times each exercise. The voice also tells you when you are halfway done with each exercise and counts down when the time for each exercise is ending.

7 minute workout

7 minute workout

I have done the workouts three different days now and they were pretty intense. I did only one circuit each time and it was fairly challenging. I was breathing hard when I was done, but I was not sweating a lot. I generally felt it was good and repeating the circuits would have been tough.

The Good Things

  • The exercises in total generally provide a full body workout
    The workout can be done anywhere. You only need a wall and a chair or equivalents
  • The workout lasts only a short time.
  • An in-built calendar shows you which days you worked out, so you can tell if you have been slacking off.
  • The app is free, though supported by ads. You can remove the ads by paying.
7 minute workout calendar

7 minute workout calendar

The Things That Could Be Better

  • The only major category of exercise missing is pull exercises, perhaps because this would require a place to hang from or something to pull, while the app aims to provide a workout that can be done anywhere.
  • I would perhaps change the order of exercises a bit, so that you alternate between upper and lower body exercises and not tire out some muscles too much. For example, the step-ups and the squats both exercise your thigh muscles, and the pushup with rotation and side plank are also alike.
  • Another thing that would be good to have is the ability to record scores for each exercise, so that you can track your progress.
  • It seems you do the same exercises every day, meaning you might get bored.
  • There is no scheduled rest day, which is needed for rest and recovery. However, there is a calendar that shows you which days you worked out, so you can schedule your own rest day.
  • If you choose to remove ads, then you will be required to pay for one year’s removal of ads. In other words, this is a subscription service that you pay for per year. The amount is not high (HK$ 15.46 which is about US$ 1.99 per year) but I found that approach a bit unusual.

Final Verdict
The 7-Minute Workout app is a bit limited if you want a greater variety of exercises or if you want to track progress within the app or if you want to customise your workouts. However, this app will help you exercise. If you are stuck somewhere and want to exercise, or if you have no workout plan at the moment, you can get a quick full-body workout using this app. The 7-Minute Workout app is good for that purpose. In my view, get the app.

Consistency Is Key

Consistency is key for any lasting progress regarding fitness and fat loss. Actually, consistency is key for progress in almost any field. You can see this in almost anything that you have learned in the past: You learnt (or learned) to walk as a child by practising a little (or a lot) every day. You learnt to talk in a similar manner. You went to school every day during the school term, with weekends and vacations off. But it was all consistent.
Yet, when it comes to fat loss and fitness, many people are looking for quick results – lose x pounds of fat in 30 days. Gain 5 pounds of muscle in two months. Well, sometimes it can be done, but with extraordinary effort.
Let’s look on the flip side and ask: how do people become overweight? By consistently making bad food choices, a little at a time, but consistently. Weight is usually gained slowly over time. Similarly, weight loss can be achieved through consistent proper eating and consistent exercise. Of these two, proper eating is more important (for weight loss).

Consistent Proper Eating
Many diet plans you will find will include what is called a cheat day. This is usually one day in the week when you can eat whatever you want. A cheat day allows you to enjoy the foods you are used to and satisfy your cravings. This helps you avoid abandoning the diet plan altogether. Don’t be afraid of having ONE cheat day in a week. One day of ‘bad’ eating will not make you gain weight, just as one day of ‘good’ eating will not make you lose weight. The important thing is that you consistently eat properly during the other days of the week.

Consistent Exercise
A good training plan will have exercises that are challenging but do-able, and that get a little harder over time (as your ability increases). For example, a beginner running plan that I followed a while back starts with walking for 6 minutes then jogging for 1 minute, then repeating this. I did this 3 days a week. The next week, the plan stated I walk for 5 minutes, then jog for 2 minutes, then the week after that was 3 minutes walk and 4 minutes jog and so on. A little more at a time. It seemed difficult at various points, but with consistency, I was eventually be able to jog for 30 minutes non-stop.

Whatever plan you decide to follow, follow it consistently, be patient, and the results will come.

It Works! How My Wife Lost 22 Pounds

Hello dear reader!

I hope you are keeping healthy. It has been a while since I posted, but here we are, and I have a fat loss lesson that I have learned.

In December 2014, my wife slipped and fell and broke two ankle bones. She underwent surgery and started using crutches to move about. At that time, we were living in an apartment on second floor (what Americans call third floor). There was no elevator or ramp, so the only way up or down was using the stairs.

This meant that every day, as she went to work, my wife had to use the crutches to get out of the house, move down the corridor, down the stairs, to the car, and after I drove her to the office, up one flight of stairs to her office. In the evening, it was the reverse.

English: Short flight of stairs in the fire ex...

English: Short flight of stairs in the fire exit stairwell. Huntsville, AL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Using crutches means supporting your weight on your arms as you swing your good leg forward, then supporting yourself on the good leg as you move the crutches forward. On stairs, she would hold the railing and lean on it as she lifted her body up one stair (or down).

This went on for weeks, and it was tough! For the first time, after more than four years of marriage, I saw my wife actually sweating due to physical exertion. I’m not sure I had ever seen her sweating at all.

Consistency

The distance to be covered was fixed – our house remained at a fixed location, as did her office. She could not say “Today I will not go all the way to the house. Let me sleep in the car.”
The frequency of activity was fixed – she had to do this every day when going to work and coming back, and on weekends if we went anywhere. She could not quite fail to go to work.
The weight to be carried was fixed – her own bodyweight.

How To Lose Weight

The result: she lost weight! She lost 22 pounds (10kg). Twice as much as she had lost through rope-skipping. There were no fancy exercises, no switching up the routine after a while (though she started panting less and stopped sweating). No alternating of exercises to target different muscle groups. She just did what she had to to get to work and to get home.

The lesson of the story: If you want to lose weight, one simple way is to pick a challenging exercise and do it consistently. No excuses to get yourself off, no lightening of the load, no reduction of distance. Just stick with it. Change will come.

20 Pullups Progress Update

After deciding to prepare to do 20 pullups straight on my birthday, I have not been consistent in my pull-ups. (Yeah, what’s new?). Today I decided to do some, before things get too far out of hand. I thought I had reached Week 13 on the Recon Ron Program. When I counted backwards on the calendar from the week of my birthday (Sep 11th), I realised that I am supposed to be on Week 15.

However, I did the Week 13 pullups as specified (14-10-8-8-8) without breaking any set, so I was happy about that. I think on Wednesday I will jump to Week 14 and hopefully on Friday I will be able to take on Week 15. So this week or next week I should be back on track to doing 20 pullups straight on my 40th birthday.

A US Marine Doing Pull-ups.

A US Marine Doing Pull-ups. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Keep working out!

 

Recon Ron Pullup Program

You may know from my previous articles (like this one) that I like the Recon Ron Pullup program, mainly for two reasons:

1) It is simple to follow – you just read and do.

2) It is realistic in that the first set in a workout has the most pullups and the number decreases as you do the subsequent sets.

The program can be found here as a web page. I recreated it here for those who may want it in a vertical format (with the weeks coming one below the other, rather than across). There is also a copy similar to the original one here.

I also extended the program by a few weeks.

For the sake of clarity, here are the links again. (Links will open in new window).

Vertical (Portrait) version of Recon Ron Pullup Program.
Horizontal (Landscape) version of Recon Ron Pullup Program.

Enjoy!

Goal: Do Twenty PullUps In A Row

The Goal
I will be turning 40 on September 11th 2014. That is 77 days, or 11 weeks, from today (26th June 2014). On that day, I want to do twenty pullups in a row. That is my goal.

The most I have done in one set is 19 pull-ups. That was in 2012, I think. I have since not done pull-ups consistently until I reached 20 pull-ups, though more recently – in April 2014 – I did 16 pull-ups (video below). So I have a goal and I have a time-frame.

The Plan
I use the Recon-Ron pull-up program. On the program, 20 pull-ups in the first set appears on Week 21. Counting backwards 11 weeks, I should start on Week 10 today.

Week 10 says 12, 9, 7, 7, 7. I should be able to pull that off.

Let’s see how it goes.

Keep working out!

Soccer

A group of men from our church organised a soccer event. It was no big deal, really, just guys (mostly in our thirties or so) coming together to play soccer on a Saturday morning. Some young men who teach children soccer at the church were around. They joined in and we played two matches. I noticed that the young men were in good shape – good body definition. I guess the running and jumping involve in soccer does them good.

A football (or soccer ball) icon.

A football (or soccer ball) icon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also noticed that I did not feel tired immediately, as happened when I played soccer about eight years ago. At that time, after a few minutes of playing, I felt so winded that I just wanted to lie down and breathe. This time I was okay.

I was surprised to notice that after jumping for the ball, it mattered how I landed.  Once or twice, I had to stop and let my ankle recover before I could run around again properly. I had not expected that.

The effects of the vigorous exercise came later. At night, my legs were paining. I later thought it may partly be because we did not stretch after the matches. We just sat down and ate. I don’t know why I forgot this. I usually stretch after running. Of course it was also partly because I have not sprinted for a while, choosing to skip instead, and even with that I have slackened a bit.

Let me say that our team won 🙂

Meanwhile, a friend of ours was admitted at the hospital with heart problems. He is overweight. Take care of your health, people. It may seem trivial when you are just being told about it and you are generally functional, but when it gets to a point where you are actually sick, it will no longer be a trivial matter. The financial costs, the emotional cost on yourself and your family. The thought that you could have prevented it will weigh on your mind.

Make the changes you know you should be making. If you don’t know what change to make, I can suggest one: If you are overweight, change what you eat. Specifically, cut out sugary drinks or start by limiting them to no more than one small glass in total a day, with the aim of reducing such drinks to taking them only once in a while.

Live healthy. Take steps today.

Rope Skipping Continued

After failing to skip 1,500 times in 20 minutes, I tried again

Wednesday, 19th Feb 2014
I set my timer in order to limit rest intervals
I managed to skipped 1,500 in 20 minutes, with 10 seconds to spare

🙂

IMG_1456b

Monday, 24th Feb 2014
This time I used a simple countdown, without rest intervals specified.
I would need to skip 375 times every 5 minutes.
At some point there was a count discrepancy of 100 between what my wife had counted and what I had counted. I went with the lower figure.
I finished with 25 seconds to spare.
Did 70 extra