There is no cure for being short.

I’m not in the habit of bagging blogs. But I came across one the other day which purported to provide remedies for various ailments. The post that first drew my attention was about five ways to increase your height.

Yes, you read that correctly: your height. And, yes, it was serious.

The post listed the five things you could do to get taller. Like exercise. Drinking more milk. Eating eggs. I won’t go on. Not only was the advice laughable, it was misleading. Your height is determined by your genes, people. No amount of milk and eggs is going to make you taller. Wider, maybe. But not taller.

This was not the only lamebrained remedy on that blog. There were also posts about numerous mental health and medical condition ‘cures’, all of them irresponsible and potentially harmful.

I’m a physically healthy, mentally unhealthy, short person (5 foot 7 inches). And I’m not going to get any taller in a hurry. I’d like to think that people in the world have more common sense than to follow potentially dangerous health blogs.

Please take care out there. The blogosphere can be a wonderful place of discovery. But sometimes it can be very misleading.

Oh, and one last thing–there is actually a cure for being short. It’s the same as the cure for baldness:

Develop a sense of humour.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Pain. A poem.

Pain is my best friend.
He lurks in fibre and ligament,
playing hide and seek
amongst time-worn bones
and weary blood.

He enters my thoughts
and hopscotches through my brain,
tugging on discontent
and dreams better left alone.

He wanders through
my cells, arteries, and veins,
grasping at the walls of my heart
in a gentle bear hug of regret.

He is the one friend
who will never leave.
Eventually, he will set the table
and dine upon the last of me.

My first book of poetry, The All or the Nothing, is available now as an e-book from most online distributors. To find out more, click here.

Marathon Walk!

Today I walked 24 kilometres. Why?

I dropped off my father’s car at a smash repair place, and rather than catch a combination of trains and buses home, I decided I’d walk. Five hours and just under 24 kms later, blisters and sore legs, but not too worse for wear otherwise. Hungry, though!

Had to tell someone, as I’m a wee bit proud of the achievement. Yeah, it was dumb, but I’m not renowned for my smart decision making.

Happy walking!

Steve 🙂

Workout. A Haiku Trilogy.

Endorphins
Working out can hurt
Endorphins overload me
Pain and rush, so good

Gains
Just one last rep, man
Lactic acid overdrive
But what gains I make

Weight
The weight of my world
Bench press, squats, rows, curls, pull ups
Take my cares away

Training Without Calves (or, Cows With Guns)

See what I did there? Okay, well it sounded funny at the time*.

I have been lying in bed recovering from my torn calf for the last week and a half (grrrrr…). Being the fitness-addicted idiot that I am, I decided that it was time to get back to exercising before I went stir crazy. Here is the routine I worked out to ease myself back into the big stuff:

  • 3 sets of sit ups (40 reps per set) – core/abs
  • 3 sets of push ups (15 reps per set) – chest/arms
  • 3 sets of bicep curls (10 reps per set) – upper arms
  • 3 sets of tricep extensions (10 reps per set) – triceps
  • 3 sets of dips (10 reps per set) – chest/triceps
  • 3 sets of bent over rows (10 reps per set) – back (make sure you are supported so there’s no weight on the offending leg)
  • 3 sets of pull ups (10 reps per set) – back

I do warm ups/stretching before starting. You will note this is all upper body (I’m a fitness idiot, but I’m not stupid). Avoid leg work for a few weeks (if you regularly work out you will know it is an in-joke that most gym heads avoid leg work like the plague, so it shouldn’t be too hard…). Remember: If you have a torn calf, do NOT stretch your calf unnecessarily while exercising – you risk tearing it again. If you feel any strain on said calf (it will ‘moo’ at you – just kidding), cease and desist immediately.

This work out is pretty easy considering what I did prior to my injury (you can check out some of my workouts here), but I’m taking it slow to start with.

Ahhhhhhh…I’m feeling better already (the calf’s not, but you know what I mean).

Health Warning: I’m not a doctor (despite past girlfriends assuming I was a gynecologist), so if you aren’t used to training, or if you have torn your calf, make sure you consult with a real doctor (no, not your workout buddy at the gym) before attempting any new training routine.

 

* Didn’t get the reference? Do yourself a favour and check out ‘Cows with Guns’ below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQMbXvn2RNI

The Lesson. A poem.

Fitter than I’ve ever been
Big, tanned and super lean
All it took was one little tear
And suddenly I’m geriatric
Limping like an old man
Bent over and wizened
Amazing how an injury
Can make the years catch up
A vision of my future?
Perhaps, perhaps not
I guess I’ll warm up more next time
Before I walk the dog

Not Without My Calf! A true story of cows, muscle fibres and underinflated ego.

Today, I tore my calf muscle.

For those of you not familiar with the calf muscles, they are not part of a cow, but located on the back of your lower leg. They are important for balance, walking, running and generally being human. When you tear your calf muscle it normally happens high up on the back of the leg. It’s similar to an Achilles tendon rupture – you could be walking or running and then you hear a pop and feel intense pain. In my case it felt like the muscle had left the bone. The muscle has major tears in the fibres (muscles are made up of fibres. These present as striations under the skin in very thin people or lean weightlifters – Dr Steve. Note: not a real doctor).

I was running with my friend’s dog (whom I used to walk when I was house sitting recently, and so I’ve kept up the visitation rights) up a steep, slippery, grassy knoll. Nothing could go wrong in that situation, right? Doh.

So, now I’m down and out for several weeks (more if I don’t let it heal properly, but hey, why would I want to use it earlier than recommended?). This is NOT a good thing. As some of you may know (or none of you, based on the number of views on my blog – just kidding), I’m a bit of a fitness fanatic. I work out four days a week, ride and walk regularly. With this injury I can hardly walk at all.

I am going to go cray-cray.

My fitness routine is part of my mental health regime. It’s a vital part. I’m not a fan of depression, and I don’t like the prospect of slipping backwards as a result of my injury.

It also means I can’t drive anywhere (despite the fact that I drove home VERY painfully). I have a manual car (‘stick’ for Americans), and using the clutch is agony. And doesn’t help my recovery time any. So Kung Fu is cancelled. Psych appointments are cancelled. Dinner with friends is cancelled. D&D is cancelled (NOOOOO!!! Notice how the nerdiest activity is missed the most).

At least I can still do my uni work, blog and write my novel. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

Hmmm, I guess I’ll keep telling myself that.

Workout. A poem.

Sweat on brow
Lactic acid burning
Muscles straining
Joints and ligaments
Crying out
Such wonderful pain
These moments
Bring me back to life
In its absence

Chest Day!

Today was chest day in my 4-day body split workout (Back/Chest/Shoulders/Arms). My workout for each body part changes each time to dupe muscle memory (so the muscles don’t get used to the range of motion and stress), but here’s the routine I did for chest, today.

I’ve included links to the main exercises, so you can see how they’re done.

Warm Up

  • 20 minutes – multiple arm and leg stretches, oblique twists, strong man overhead raises, 3 sets x weighted sit ups (30 reps each), yoga stretches

Push ups

5 x supersets – each superset includes:

  • Kettle Bell Push Ups x 10 – this time around, one kettlebell resting on floor, two hands in diamond over bell. Works chest and triceps. Haven’t got a kettle bell? Balance on a basket ball (harder), medicine ball, or books. The image above shows what I mean, except using a medicine ball. 
  • Incline Push Ups x 10
  • Decline Push Ups x 10
  • Dips (unweighted) x 10

Slow movements for the exercise, then move quickly to the next.

Flyes

5 x sets – includes:

Tabata Finisher

  • Tabata – 4 minutes – intense and fast – jump lunges, jump squats, push ups, burpies

That was today’s workout. Very enjoyable, in a painful sort of way.

 

Warning: I’m not your doctor. If you haven’t exercised before, or are out of condition (read: unfit, overweight, etc.), talk to one before attempting strenuous exercise. You have been warned.  

Walk. A poem.

I walk for me
I walk the lonely way
Up and down, crisply dried and crunchy
Around I go, wearing tracks in the carpet
Circuits in the yard are circuits in my mind
Endless surges of high definition creativity
Fingers make words in motion on my cell
My babies gestated, now given birth
Sweat mixing with pollen and grass seed
Each victory lap whips me lean
Until I’m spent, punished, exhausted
No need for a safe word
Feels good

 

I didn’t walk after my workout today. But I thought I’d write a poem about it, anyway.

Armistice Day! Oops, I mean arms day.

I just finished an arms session and thought I’d talk about it.

My body part split workouts involve clustering exercises for Back/Chest/Shoulders/Arms, split over four days. The arms workout is split into triceps and biceps, and I change this every session, so the following information is only reflective of today’s session.

Why change? So the muscles don’t get used to the type of exercise I’m doing – it’s easier to shock the muscle into growth. I also like variety – if I get bored I lose motivation. And we can’t have that, can we? My exercise is part of my mental health routine, and I, like most people, prefer not to be depressed all the time. Although, sometimes I get depressed anyway…okay, moving on.

I’ve included links to the exercises below, so you can see what they are and how they work.

Warmup

Warm up includes leg, torso and arm stretches, yoga stretches, 3 x sets of bicycle crunches (80 reps each set) (20 minutes)

Note: I vary warm ups each session – sometimes I do weighted crunches instead, however these have less reps.  

Triceps

5 x supersets, which involve:

Tricep Cable Pull Downs/Push Downs (20 reps)

Tricep Dumb Bell Kickbacks (10 reps each side)

Tricep Overhead Extensions, with dumb bell instead of cable (10 reps)

Note: I do weighted parallel bar dips on my chest day. By inclining forward with chin against your chest, as you lift your body mass and extra weight via a belt, you hit your chest more. It also hits triceps as well (many people would normally include dips in their tricep routine, but that’s just me).  

Biceps

5 x supersets, which involve:

Standing One Arm Cable Curls (15 reps)

Concentration Curls (8 reps each side, with dumb bells)

Barbell Curls (10 reps)

Cardio Finisher

Tabata – Intense cardio – jump lunges, jump squats, push ups, burpies (4 minutes)

 

Normally I do laps for two kilometres, stopping to do push ups and lunges each lap, but it was raining today. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

You’ll notice I combine some high rep exercises with low reps. I like to go for a balance of size and strength building. In a superset you perform each exercise slowly, but move quickly to the next one, so that you push the muscles to failure rapidly.

Phew! The blog was harder to write than the workout!

 

Note: If you are unfit, overweight, have medical issues or are not used to exercise, please consult with your doctor prior to undertaking any training programs.

Healthy Huff ‘n Stuff

As you may or may not know, I’m a bit of a health nut. I work out regularly, get plenty of cardio, try to eat right, read fitness magazines, and so forth.

Over time I’ve picked up a few things here and there to keep healthy.  Here’s some:

  • Tabatas – if you don’t know about tabatas as a way to lose weight and improve cardiovascular fitness, check out my rave about them here.
  • Sprinting – the equivalent of a Tabata. University studies have shown that 3 x 20 second sprints at maximum effort provides the same stamina/cardio improvements as 50 minutes of low intensity exercise. Three sessions a week is all you need to make a huge difference.
  • Multivitamins – ensure your dietary bases are covered. Just make sure they are balanced, and don’t take too many – overdosing on vitamins is not good for your body. Check the instructions on the label and the daily allowance indicator next to the ingredients. Don’t forget you also get vitamins and minerals from food as well.
  • Exercise – at least 3 times per week, for at least 30 minutes. If it’s just walking, walk fast to get your heart rate up, otherwise it’s a bit pointless.
  • Stretch – make sure you stretch well before attempting strenuous exercise. I stretch for at least 20 minutes before my workouts. The stretching warmup is a workout in itself, involving traditional stretches for all body parts and yoga stretches. Some people in training also stretch after their workout.
  • Eat well – but don’t overeat. You don’t need to consciously avoid eating fat either – fats, in moderation, are needed by your body. If you need to lose weight, reduce you serving size and drink more water. Your body will utilise the calories it has, and the water will help fill your stomach to overcome hunger pains. Do NOT cut out food altogether – your body thinks you are going into starvation mode and conserves fat by consuming muscle tissue first. In starvation mode your body takes a few days to start burning fat. Eat slowly – your brain uses hormones to know when you’re full – if you eat too fast your brain won’t have received the signal from your stomach and you will still feel hungry.
  • Measure rather than weigh – use your pants or dress size as an indicator. As you lose weight your clothes will fit you better or loosen. If you do have to weight yourself, try not to do it every day, especially if you are working out regularly – muscle is heavier than fat, so the scales could be misleading. And have a regular weigh time (8:00 in the morning, for instance), after you’ve gone to the loo!
  • Drink Tea – one cup a day supplies your body with antioxidants – the chemicals that help you live longer. Green Tea is even better.
  • Laugh – sometimes it’s hard, especially if you suffer from depression, but laughing is one of the best things you can do for your health. It generates endorphins, reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), increases blood flow, helps reduce damage to your brain from stress, improves medical recovery time and decreases anxiety. If you can’t laugh, find a comedy show you like, find a friend who makes you laugh. Force yourself to laugh if you have to.

Okay, some of these are obvious, and it’s not meant to be an exhaustive list.

But sometimes the little things in life can make the biggest difference.

 

I am not a doctor (although a lady once mistook me for a gynaecologist). If you have an existing medical condition or are obese, speak to your doctor first before attempting new exercise or diet routines.

Work Out Woes

(‘So, you’ve been resting for a week,’ says Alpha Girl. ‘Does your arm feel any better?’

‘Well, it did,’ I reply, ‘But I just worked out and now it hurts again.’

‘Did you go to the doctor last week?’

‘Yes, I did. He’s referred me for an ultrasound on my elbow in four weeks.’

‘Well, make sure you go to it.’

‘No worries. You know you sound like my Mum.’

‘There are worse things I could be.’)

 

So, the week of rest is over, and I’m back into working out.

I did my back workout this morning – 5 supersets of wide grip chin/pull ups (8-10 slow reps per set) combined with bent over dumbbell rows (10 reps each side per set), 5 sets of neutral grip chins (8-10 slow reps per set), 20 sets of push ups (20 slow reps per set), and 20 laps of the back yard (2 kilometres). Yes, I know push ups are for chest, but I was doing them after each lap, as part of the cardio.

And my left arm was in pain. It still is.

I know I have to get something done about it. But I’m not about to rest for 6 months. My workouts are not just physical training, they’re part of my mental health routine.

Tomorrow is chest day. We’ll see how that goes.

 

(‘Dude, you still working out?’ says Beta Max. ‘You should take a leaf out of my book, man.’

‘And do what, exactly?’ I reply.

‘I just rest 24/7, man. And I never strain anything.’)

Rest, Recuperation and the Art of Camouflage

(It’s been three days since my last workout. I’m lying on the lounge, checking Twitter. Alpha Girl enters and does a double-take. “Hey,” she says. “Aren’t you supposed to be doing 500 push ups or something, by now?”

“I’m having a week off,” I reply.

“So, you’re resting your arm?”

“As a matter of fact, yes.”

“Good. It’s about time you used your brain for something other than being stupid, or upset with yourself. Are you intending to lie around all week?”

“That was my intention.”

Alpha Girl’s hands are on her waist, her head cocks slightly to the side. An air of haughtiness floods the already cramped room. “Oh, no you don’t, mister. If you’ve got a week off, you can help Beta Max to paint the spare room. And clean up all that crap in the back yard.”

Beta Max enters the room and smiles. “No rest for the wicked, bro.”)

 

Every few weeks of working out, I have a week off. This is so my body has a chance to completely recover, allowing time for muscle tissue to grow and ligaments to repair themselves.

At my age, you don’t recover as fast as you do when you’re younger, so you need to take a bit more care. For those of you who have followed my blog from early on (that would be none of you), you may remember (or not) that I have a long-term tendonitis injury in my left elbow that causes me pain when I use it (read about it here). I’ve been using an ultrasound wand on it, but after some initial positive results, my elbow seems to have settled back into the “I hate you and intend to hurt you by making all your fevered self-torture dreams come true” mode.

If you’ve read any of my blogs, you will know that I use exercise as a way of combatting my ongoing depression (along with medication, therapy – you know, the usual suspects), so skipping a week is a big thing for me. But I have to weigh up the pros and cons. On one hand, it’s good for my tiny brain, on the other, I need my arm to get (slowly) better.

Yeah, I can still do chores and the like, I just don’t push myself with big weights until I’m a wet smear on the ground. That means no tabatas as well (don’t know what a tabata is? You really haven’t been reading my blog – check it out here). So, this week is going to be laid back. A week I can catch up on my uni work, watch some TV, look for jobs (yes, I do that occasionally, y’know), read, and do some work around the house. I might even do some meditation.

I think I’m going to be absolutely desperate for a workout by the end of the week.

 

(“Have you finished that yard work, boys?” calls Alpha Girl from the kitchen window.

Beta Max hides his beer and yells: “No worries, we’re right on it.” It’s been three hours and we’ve managed to move one small pile of junk about five feet away from where it was originally.

“She’s going to come out at some point,” I say.

“By that time, my friend,” says Beta Max, “we will be safely ensconced at the pub.”

While his logic is sound, I don’t believe the final outcome will be ideal for either of us.)

Tabata This, Tabata That…

So, I’m a bit of a fitness freak (well, less freak and more fitness). Exercise is not only great for physical fitness, but for mental fitness as well. Research has shown that regular exercise can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety, and contribute to improved self-esteem. So, I need to exercise to keep reasonably on track, head-wise.

I work out regularly and also do tabatas. So what’s a tabata, you say? I’m glad you asked that very intelligent question.

A tabata is a 4-minute routine that utilises four different exercises done at full intensity for 20 seconds each, with a 10 second break in between. These exercises are then repeated to complete the 4 minutes. By the end, you are exhausted. It’s designed to improve your cardio fitness and to burn fat.

Want to see one? Check out this YouTube video.

So, now you know what it is, I can tell you it is one of the best short exercises I’ve come across for improving fitness and burning fat. You can also customise the tabata to target particular body parts. I’ve included examples below of some of the routines I use:

Kettle Bell Tabata

  1. Single-Handed Kettlebell Swing (core and shoulder – one hand at a time, between legs to shoulder height, transfer to other hand at top of arc)
  2. Double-Handed Kettlebell Swing (core and arm workout – two handed, usually with heavier kettlebell – between legs to shoulder height) – see the picture above
  3. Kettlebell Spider Power Plank (core workout – legs are raised during plank one at a time to touch elbows)
  4. Kettlebell Power Plank with Renegade Row (for core and latissimi dorsi muscles – the “wings” of your back)
  5. Repeat each of the four exercises again

Bodyweight Tabata

  1. Push Ups (chest exercise – can be normal, incline or decline)
  2. Wide Grip Pull Ups (back exercise, using chin up bar)
  3. Dips (chest exercise, using dip rack)
  4. Mid-Grip Chin Ups (arm exercise, using chin up bar)
  5. Repeat each of the four exercises again

Keep the intensity high throughout the tabata. By the end your heart rate will be elevated, and you’ll probably be puffed out. The high intensity and increased heart rate kick starts your fat-burning.

So you’re interested in doing tabatas? You’ll need an interval timer, to set alarms at 20 and 10 second intervals, so you can keep track of where you’re up to. Here is the one I use:

If you already do tabatas as part of your routine, please share in the comments!

 

Warning: If you haven’t exercised before, are unfit or carrying an injury, check with your doctor prior to commencing any exercise routine.

The Ballad of Long Term Systemic Gym Junkie Injuries

(I’m just finishing my fifth set of weighted pull ups – that’s where you hang a 20 kilogram barbell from your belt and do correct form pull ups from a suspended chin up bar – when Alpha Girl enters and stands with her arms crossed. “You sweat a lot,” she says. “And do you have to grunt so loudly?”

“Could you go and bother someone else?” I say. “I’m pretty exhausted.”

“You look like you’re in pain.” Is that concern I sense? Can’t be.

“A bit. I have a long term tendonitis injury in my left elbow, and it hurts every time I work out.”

“So you’ve hurt yourself, and you keep making it worse?”

“Well, sort of. I have rest days and -”

“Your elbow injury is getting worse.”

“I’m looking after it.”

“Why are men such idiots?”)

Anyone who works out at home or in the gym on a regular basis will know what sort of short term damage you can do to yourself, if you’re not careful. Strained and torn muscles and ligaments are part of the game, but can generally be avoided if you stretch and warm up properly before starting your sets.

About two years ago I was working out with a mate who was much bigger and stronger than me. We were doing one of my favourite exercises, the aforementioned weighted pull ups, and I was lifting the same weight he was (as you do). I felt a twinge in my left elbow, but ignored it (as you do). I kept going, not wanting to show any weakness (as you do).

Over the next few weeks the elbow got worse. Being a man, and a stupid one at that, I chose to think it was just ligament strain, and that it would heal with a week off (as you do). I got back into training and the injury got worse. Eventually I went to the Doctor who gave me pain killers, a support bandage, and a recommendation that I stop training altogether for six months. After considering this for all of five seconds (as you do), I wore the bandage for a few weeks then took it off as I believed my left arm wasn’t getting the workout it needed (as you do).

Every gym junkie has their preferred approach to training. Many do 5-10 sets of 5-10 reps (repetitions) per body part (chest, back, legs, arms), exercising a different body part each day (a split routine). This can include supersets (my preferred option, whereby you do supersets of 2-3 different exercises for the same muscle group each set), drop sets (where you start with heavier weight and drop the weight back continuously as you go until you’re exhausted), circuits (multiple types of exercises for an all over body workout, moving from one machine to the next), and so forth.

Most sane people work out around three days per week. Body builders can work out five days per week, and if they have a competition coming up this can be stepped up to twice per day over that week (generally you would need steroids to recover from such intense workouts – my apologies to anyone who is competing who says they are not taking steroids).

I currently train for about 1.5 hours a day, four days per week. This includes a body split with a changing mix of supersets, followed by a tabata (a 4-minute intense cardio blaster) and/or jogging/walking circuits with push ups and lunges after each lap. My workouts tend to keep me lean with reasonable mass, but not huge body builder size.

One of the most important facets of training is having perfect form. This is where the exercise is done strictly, not rushed, using precise form so that the muscle is hit to maximise micro-tears in the fibres for optimal regrowth. Along with this is the need to eat right (lots of protein for muscle building, along with complex carbs for sustained energy) and sleeping right (good rest for recovery). This is, of course, oversimplifying things, but I didn’t want this post to go on forever.

(“That would be a first,” says Alpha Girl.

“Just go away,” I say.)

Anyone who has been training for any amount of time inevitably becomes a backseat expert (as you do) – you read a few fitness magazines and suddenly all of your advice is golden. Despite the threat of constant joint pain and crippling rheumatoid arthritis for the rest of your life, the basic formula is: Training = good, six months rest = evil.

But I had to do something. My neanderthal gym brain was telling me “must…fix”.

I finally started ultrasound therapy on my elbow, which is showing some promising results. I’m still working out regularly, so the improvement is slow. But at least it’s a start.

The moral of this story? Even a stupid gym junkie can use his brain. Sometimes.

(“Are you sure it’s getting better?” asks Alpha Girl. “I wouldn’t want anything to prevent you from getting a job. Or even better, moving out.”

“For a moment there I almost thought you cared,” I say. She smirks and exits.)

(English spelling, not American. Just so you know.) 

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