Thursday, May 29, 2014

What is Fitness?

For my first post on manly skills and what not I decided to start with a softball. Fitness. This is a subject that while I can't claim expertise in I at least have journeyman level knowledge of. I've spent close to the last decade educating myself. I even picked up a minor in Physical Education. Don't be too impressed. It was one test and I barely squeaked by. But still, I got some credentials. 

So, what is fitness and why should we care? You should care because nothing is less manly than being an out of shape slob. But defining fitness is more involved. Fitness encompasses strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, agility, and balance among other things. Different attributes lend themselves to different things. A power lifter needs tremendous strength. A marathon runner needs exceptional cardiovascular endurance. But which one is more fit? 

Dean Bowring doing the dang thing. 

Most of you have probably subconsciously picked the marathon runner. You envision the power lifter as obese and the marathon runner as toned. What if I told you that marathon runners suffer heart attacks more often than lifters? We'll get back to that. For now let's say that fitness is the ability to perform a physical task. Easy enough right? Sure. Let's look at the different areas of fitness. 

You can break strength into three main components. Maximal strength, endurance strength and power. Maximal strength is the ability to lift a very heavy weight one time. Think of power lifters lifting incredibly heavy weights in a competition. 

Endurance strength is the ability to perform a set movement for very high repetitions. Think of a gymnast moving their body through as series of complex movements repeatedly. 

Power is the ability to move a set weight very quickly. This is probably best expressed by Olympic lifters cleaning and snatching. 

Just remember ladies, lifting weights will make you look like a man. I hope my sarcasm was apparent. 

Cardiovascular Endurance:
On the surface cardio seems easy. You go run. That's cardio. Except of course it's not. Cardio can be split into two categories, aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic is cardio performed at a steady pace. Running a 5k for instance. Anaerobic involves faster paced exertion such as sprints. There is far more to this subject involving energy pathways but this post is meant to serve as an overview. 

There is a common misconception that cardio = running. The truth is that anything that gets your heart rate up and leaves you gasping for air has worked your cardio vascular system. Running, walking, skipping rope, riding a bike or even swinging a sledgehammer are all potential cardiovascular exercises. 

Flexibility or limberness refers to the absolute range of motion in a joint or series of joints, and length in muscles that cross the joints.

Irina Tchchina just chillin around the house. NBD. 

We find flexibility, along with balance, expressed in gymnastics, yoga and dance. 

Balance is the ability to maintain the line of gravity of a body within the base of support with minimal postural sway. In layman's terms, not fall down. 

I'm not drinking from that bottle after this act. 

As stated above balance shows up in gymnastics, yoga and dance. One wouldn't think it but a highly developed sense of balance is also vital to good form in weightlifting. 

Agility is the ability to quickly change directions. You see this every Friday night during football season. A running back needs speed and agility to evade the opposition and make a touchdown. 

Hey Marcus, just for you it's a Duck. 

Speed is the art of getting from point A to point B in the least amount of time possible. 

Coordination is simply getting all of your body parts and movements to work together smoothly. This is probably the simplest yet most vital attribute of fitness.  

Body Composition:
Body comp refers to what your muscle to far percentages are. Obviously being lean is ideal for most sports. Notice I said lean not skinny. Lean means low body fat and as much muscle as you can pack on. 

You can see the synergy and crossover of these different attributes. A healthy cardiovascular system can help with your endurance strength which in turn will train your body to flush away lactic acid quicker. Balance will help with Olympic lifts which can lead to greater strength and power. Speed and agility are close cousins. 

So what is most important? Well, what are your goals? Getting thin? Playing football? Gymnastics? Running? All of those goals call for slightly different training. There is one place that all of them need to start however and that is with strength training. Strength is the base of all human endeavors from sprinting to moving a couch. In the next post in this series we'll delve deeper into strength training, methodologies, terms and techniques. Each attribute will be the focus of its own blog post down the line. 


Friday, May 9, 2014

New Direction

I've been thinking for awhile about taking my blog in a new direction. The biggest issue with decision is that it never had a direction to begin with. I ramble a lot about writing. Occasionally I do a review of a tv show or book. I just don't have a niche to work in that will draw readers back regularly. 

What I do have is an eclectic personality that loves to learn and loves to share that knowledge. In all of my internet searching I've found several men's lifestyle sites that I enjoy frequenting. My personal favorite is I realized that I love that format but I'm far from an expert in these kinda of things. I'm definitely not knowledgeable about men's fashion. A polo and jeans and I'm as dressed up as I ever get. And that's when it occurred to me where I wanted to go.

I'm not an expert. I'm not even a novice at most things. But I do love to learn and try new things and I'm sure that there are other men out there like me who would enjoy watching me relay what I learn. The next question was where to start.

Amidst all of my searching I found a list of manly skills written by Robert Littell in 1933. Writing for Harper's Magazine he composed a list of things that he felt every young man should know. Some of them are a little dated but I feel that most of them are still valid. Here is what Mr. Littell considers of most importance. 

  • Swim
  • Handle firearms
  • Speak in public
  • Cook
  • Typewrite
  • Ride a horse
  • Drive a car
  • Dance
  • Drink
  • And speak at least one foreign language well
Now, we can probably agree that horse riding isn't as relevant for the modern gentleman as it once was. Also, driving a car is so ubiquitous to the American lifestyle I think we can scratch it off the list. That still leaves us a nice little, see what I did there, list of things to work on. Some of them I have experience with but I'm far from an expert at any of them. I would also like to add to and expand on this list. Here is what I think every man should know how to do. 

  • Swim
  • Handle firearms
  • Speak in public
  • Cook
  • Typewrite
  • Sew
  • Defend himself
  • Dance
  • Drink
  • And speak at least one foreign language well
  • Be fit
  • Handle tools/small projects 
  • Play an instrument
  • Hunt
  • Make a budget
  • Have a hobby
It's important look dapper while defending oneself. 

Ok, that seems like a much more extensive list but I think a lot of it can be grouped into categories. 

  • Fitness- swimming, weightlifting, etc. 
  • Self Defense- firearms
  • Life Skills- cooking, sewing, typewriting, making a budget and the occasional drink. 
  • Crafts- tools, projects
  • Hobbies- dancing, musical instruments.
  • Speak a foreign language. 
  • Hunt- what could be more manly?
Ok, that seems a little more manageable. Like I said, I can do a few things on this list. Obviously I play an instrument and my wife will tell you that I have too many hobbies. I can cook well enough if I have a recipe but my craft skills are beginner level at best. And dancing? Forget about it. 

I have never looked this happy while doing carpentry. 

So here is my goal for life which is to be chronicled in this blog. I want to start tackling this list. It would certainly behoove me to learn another language. I would also love to be more self sufficient with skills like sewing. I have several pants missing buttons that I can practice on. You can look for simple projects to tackle yourself. You'll get to see my mistakes as a newbie hunter and hopefully learn from them. 

Step one. Blend in. Got it. 

If you have been enjoying my reviews fear not, I intend to keep them up. I've spun them off into a new blog at I will be getting back to Blakes 7 soon enough. I've also been putting in time watching Farscape by request from my brother in law and I've got my wife hooked on The Unit. 

Ok, that's all for now. I have a wedding to get to and a list of manly skills to learn. Happy Mother's Day weekend to you all. Stay manly.