Most people who work out frequently cite some “common knowledge”  whenever they are asked about the number of sets, reps, or minutes spent exercising that “gets the best results.” However, these maxims are probably more likely to be firmly entrenched in folk knowledge than actual science. Take as two relevant examples, a pair of articles recentlty published in the new york times —  both of which address women specifically, but could be easily generalized to men.

The first deals with the very common belief that if you want to “get toned” rather than “getting big” you should lift lighter weights with higher rep counts. Many of the fitness sources I have consulted in the past (including my current regimen — p90x) cite this as fact. Turns out this claim is not substantiated by science. In fact, lifting heavier weights in fewer reps is a bigger boon to losing weight and “getting toned.” This strategy also works for “getting big”  but requires the addition step of heavier calorie consumption.

The second article addresses a murkier topic with much more variability with regard to “rules of thumb.” It deals with the amount of exercise needed for women to  maintain a healthy body weight. I’m actually very surprised by this one. All that a normal body weight woman needs is one hour of moderate activity or half an hour of brisk activity to avoid gaining more than five pounds over any three year period. Heavier women appear to need more (though it is not clear how much they need).

As I have said before, I am a fan of empirical work that supports one method over another. Sure it’s not always cut and dry and it rarely gives us a certain answer. But I much prefer some scientific evidence to “a guy at my gym said” or “my grandpa used to say.” Anecdotal evidence is appealing because everyone wants to have the magic remedy (especially if no one else has it), but losing weight is no different than any other difficult goal. The surest path to success is the one paved with hard work and lined with sweat.

All you need to do is watch this clip:

I rest my case…

I am having pretty much no trouble keeping up with the program but I am having trouble keeping up with the blogging. Everything is going well, I’ve settled into a pretty good grove. I’ve done everything and I seem to be able to increase my reps and endurance each time. I’ve also noticed that it is easier for me to do other activities (I ran 6 miles the other day and felt pretty fine afterward). My next post will likely come at the end of this week (week 3 on the program) and then again at the end of week 4 (1/3 of the way through the program). Hopefully I will have more to report and maybe even some new statistics to compare to the old ones by that point. For now, I will just keep on keepin’ on.

Trying to catch-up here. Day seven was Sunday. On Sunday you are either supposed to rest or do a stretch routine. A friend of mine was in from out-of-town so I didn’t find the time to do the stretching. Monday was Chest and Back again. Still pretty tough to do with the wrist, but I managed it. In only one week my performance on nearly every exercise improved. I realize this is probably due to my body becoming familiar with the exercises and not actual strength gains, but I feel good about it either way. Day 9 was today. It was plyometrics again (the mother). I moved to a different space in my house to do this one because it requires more space than I have have in my room. I managed to get it done and do a load of laundry. Just call me multi-task man. I am off to dinner. Tonight I will run 2.6 miles (intervals) and maybe play volleyball (because of the wrist it is a game-time decision). Toodles.

Today’s workout was the “Kenpo X” routine. It is very similar to other fitness workouts that use pseudo-martial arts techniques (e.g., tae bo). I didn’t find that this workout challenged me as much as the other cardio workouts (yoga and plyometrics). It was fun though. One thing I like about the program as a whole is that you spend a lot of time focusing on stretching and working out your hamstrings. Mine seem to be perpetually tight and my right hamstring often gives me trouble because of an old injury that I keep re-aggravating.

Tomorrow is supposed to be rest day. Alternatively I can choose to do the stretch-x routine. Given that I am just starting the program and I am not that gassed yet, I think I will probably elect to do the stretching routine (if time permits).

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Food: the usual

Supplements: the usual

Activities: Long run (8.3 Miles)

Today was legs and back. I have to say it was the easiest exercise routine for me so far. That’s not so say that the exercises were easy. I just found it easy because my legs happen to be the fittest part of my body. It’s somewhat simple. Basically its a bunch of supersets of squats/lunges vs. chinups/pullups. I enjoyed the workout but couldn’t take full advantage (wrist still hurts, had to use bands instead of weights).

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Not much of a deviation from the norm today, same supplements, same foods (for the most part). From now on I will only post food/activities that are out of the norm.

Today was Yoga-X. I’ve never done yoga before and I have to say I very much enjoyed it. I certainly have a lot of room to improve on in my flexibility. Three relatively minor things irked me about this particular program though. First, it was an hour and a half. I didn’t realize this prior to starting the program and it almost made me miss a meeting (the others have all been under an hour). Second, as I mentioned, I have never done yoga before so this maybe just a general complaint about yoga and not this particular version of yoga, but I felt that they spent way to much time doing two poses (downward and upward dog). Third, at the end of the program they worked in a bunch of ab exercises. I don’t have anything against ab exercises but the way the program is structured, adding extra ab exercises in this program results in three days of abs in a row. Based on most programs, that does not seem to be enough time to rest. But what do I know…

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Sleep: I think I got close to 7 hours last night.

Supplements: 2 Fish oil caplets, multivitamin, protein shake

Breakfast: Whole grain cheerios, medium banana, 2 slices of whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter

Snack: No snack

Lunch: Reuben at Applebee’s, mozzerella cheese sticks (bad food is okay if you have it with good company :))

Snack: No snack

Dinner: Leftover fettuccine, 100 calorie pudding cup for desert

Snack: Maybe some peanut butter toast, haven’t decided yet.

Activities: I also ran 3.75 Miles at a moderate pace.

Well, turns out it is kind of hard to do just about any exercise with a sprained wrist. Despite this, I still gave my best (and forgot the rest) today in my workout. The required routine was a combination of arm and shoulder exercises that pretty much all required the use of dumbbells. To make it easier on the injury, I used the lightest pair of dumbbells I have (15 lbs). Surprisingly, the pain wasn’t too bad. I realize that most medical professionals would shake their heads at me exerting this kind of effort so soon, but what can I say? I’m bull-headed.

I have to say that I very much liked this workout. I never have been the kind of guy to sit there in the gym by the mirror and do concentration curls. I’ve always thought of these exercises as less than functional and purely for “vanity muscles” opting instead to do barbell exercises (e.g., dead lifts) and assume that my arms were good enough. Tony (the head p90x honcho, finally figured out his name) agrees with me that these are vanity muscles, but he also seems to structure the workout in ways that make these moves seem functional. And of course, the problem with my logic regarding other exercises is that when multiple muscles are involved in the exercise (especially if the legs are involved) the stronger muscles will pull more weight. Which is probably why the bottom half of my body looks like it belongs to an NFL athlete, while the top half looks like it belongs to kid in pee-wee football.

Now for some side notes about this particular workout. I like that on each video Tony uses different background folks. If it were the same people over and over, it might get pretty boring. This time one of the guys actually looked just like Tony. In fact, this guy was wearing a p90x tank top that is similar to what Tony usually wears (Tony was just wearing a plain gray tank top). It threw me for a loop early in the routine and Tony mentions it a couple of times later, suggesting to me that he might have done it on purpose. That trickster…

I like the program so far. It is keeping me motivated (though writing about it everyday is also pretty motivating). I like having a challenge first thing in the morning everyday. It gives me some extra incentive to get out of bed. I’m also starting to notice that I am having less trouble remembering important details, but I am not going to chock that up to the program just yet. It could be just that I am more aware of my sleep and my nutritional intake. More thoughts to come tomorrow.

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Sleep: I think I got close to 7 hours, probably 6 if we are talking uninterrupted.

Supplements: 2 fish oil, 1 multivitamin, 1 protein shake

Breakfast: Multi-grain cheerios, skim milk, 1 medium banana, 2 slices whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter

Snack: Missed the food portion, only diet dr. pepper

Lunch: Toasted ham and cheese sandwich (dry, no butter involved), small to medium apple

Snack: string cheese, slices of ham

Dinner: Healthy version of fettuccine Alfredo with plenty of veggies, crystal lite.

Snack: 1.5 Monster cookies (I know, so bad, but so good)

I am assuming most people who use the internet are familiar with google. And if you are familiar with google you are familiar with its auto-complete function — that sometimes annoying, often helpful feature that tries to complete your search term for you. David McCandless at Information is Beautiful posted this funny and sad graphic in his four infographic morsels no.5 comparing the most popular auto-complete search terms “how do I get my girlfriend to…” and “how do I get my boyfriend to…” The size of the font and arrow indicates the popularity of the search term.

As you can see, Mr. McCandless used the program web seer to create this graphic. I decided to try my hand at it as well:

Confusion on the interweb? Here’s another using one of my favorite auto-complete examples. This time I compared basically the same phrase but only changed the last word (I could do this all day):

Sex, drugs, and...eggs?The possibilities are seemingly endless. If you have any fun suggestions please pass them along.

Presh Talwalkar at Mind You Decisions presents an interesting graph of google search trends by year of the term “IRS.” It’s pretty incredible how reliable and pronounced the February, March, and April spikes are.

Speaking of taxes, need to do those soon…