No Gym Required – Abs Exercises II

The reverse crunch is the second abdominal exercise to master.

It may seem like the reverse crunch is for the lower abs but, remember, the rectus abdominis is one long muscle, so you can’t separate upper from lower and the obliques do a lot of the work in this exercise.

1. Lie on the floor and place hands on the floor or behind the head.
2. Bring the knees in to 90 degrees with the calves parallel to the floor and your  feet together.
3. Contract the abs to curl the hips off the floor.
4. Lower in a slow and controlled fashion and repeat for 12 reps per set.
5. It’s a very small movement — use your abs to lift your hips rather than swinging your legs to create momentum.

This may feel almost impossible to do at first, but you will learn to contract the abs properly. Then it may feel impossible to hold it at the top and lower the hips slowly. Don’t get discouraged, being fit is about consistent effort. You must exercise in some fashion every day of your life to remain fit. Making exercise a habit makes it easier and produces greater results with fewer injuries. The week-end warrior will be the guy who suffers the injuries and delays in his progress.

Abdominal strength prevents back, groin, and leg injuries. Get your abs in shape before engaging in more strenuous activities.

No Gym Required: Abs Exercises

So your quest for fitness continues and like me, you’re lazy. That’s good, after you’ve read this you can lay down and do abdominal exercise without feeling guilty. You remember sit-ups and how much you hated doing them — me too. The reason you hated doing them was that you had to do so many to accomplish so little.

I’ve studied this problem because studying is easier than doing sit-ups. My studies have led me to some conclusions.

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Countdown to Fitness

One of the problems with office work is the long periods spent sitting. This is hell on the abs and back. We obsessive types work right through lunch and wonder why we are so hungry when we come-up for air.

To avoid this, I installed XNote Stopwatch and set it in countdown mode. Every 45 minutes it beeps and reminds me to get up and move around. Usually, that means doing some stretching, sit-ups, Hindu squats, or some push-ups. Just a few of each to get the blood flowing and remind the body of what it is really meant to be doing.

Diet Diary

One of the problems with loosing weight is seeing where all the calories we take in come from. A study scheduled for publication in August’s American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that people who kept no daily food records lost an average of four kilograms, while those who kept six or more per week lost an average of eight kilograms.

This approach has been advocated for controlling personal and family budgets  for decades. It is surprising that somebody had to go to the trouble and expense of conducting such a study to prove something so obvious. Simply put, you have to see your mistakes to make changes and you have to see your successes to repeat them.

Honey, I Fired The Employees

Working from Home

More than a decade ago I fired the employees and got rid of the office downtown. Computer and telecommunication technology makes the “office” a nearly obsolete concept for many information workers.

Why I work from home:

  • I only have to correct my own mistakes
  • I can play jazz, Beethoven, or blast out Eye of the Tiger –nobody cares!
  • No commute, no huge gas & parking bills
  • I can get to work early, or not
  • I can work late, or not
  • I can use Dovorak on a QWERTY keyboard — nobody cares!

Monthly Habit List

An associate pointed-out that I seem to do more work than 3 people. This was a shock to me. After the shock wore off, I realised that he might be right — not because I am some kind of superman, but because I have objectives and I am quite organised about accomplishing them. I use three lists to keep track of tasks.

Habits List

The Habits list – for the repetitive tasks I do at work or at home; the things that I should be doing regularly. This allows me to see when I am not doing important repetitive tasks like exercising and studying. An example such as this can be recreated in Excel or used as is.

Of course I keep other lists:

To-Do List

A list of 3 to 5 things to accomplish today and a list for the rest of the week in a police notebook.

Done List

The reverse of your TDL, I write down everything I accomplish in the day, and I check off items in my TDL.

Get Rid of that Pain in the Neck

The following exercises do not require much energy to do, but a little goes a long way with this.

Strong neck muscles are necessary for later training of the traps, shoulders, and upper back. A strong neck is also a survival attribute. Car accidents, fights, and other events that whip the head about can be fatal if your neck muscles are not strong enough to stabilize the neck and head. These exercises also improve your posture and make working at a computer all day much easier.

While I have included three exercises, treat them as three separate items. Do the first until you can fully accomplish 2 sets of 12 repetitions 3 times a week before adding the next exercise. To do otherwise is inviting headaches and severe stiffness that will affect your balance, driving, and even depth perception.

The 3 Neck Exercises

  1. Neck Flexion– Lay on the floor face-up. Raise the head until the chin touches the chest and slowly lower it to the floor.
  2. Neck Extension – Lay on a bed or bench face-down. Lower you head over the edge. Raise you head until it is level with your back. Do not go beyond level.
  3. Neck Lateral Flexion – Sit on a chair. Head straight and level. Tuck-in your chin so that the back of your neck is straight. Without changing the position of your chin, tilt your head to the left. Put your right hand against your head above the right ear. Push against your hand with even and steady pressure for a three count. Repeat for 12 repetitions. Do the other side.

The neck is a weak structure by it very nature. Training with excessive weights and intensity can be counter-productive. Go easy with these exercises and slowly build-up your ability to do them. You should strive for 2 sets of 12 repetitions for each of the three exercises.

The Pinch

Pinching strength is important both in a fight and in combating repetitive strain injury.

If you extend you finger with your thumb underneath and parallel to your fingers, then you have the beginning position of the pinch.

I learned the importance of this type of hand strength the hard way. I learned about the solution in the ensuing physiotherapy.

To improve this type of hand strength get a Titan’s Telegraph Key from IronMind or have a metal shop make one for you.

Now understand this, this is serious training. It may not take a great deal of energy to do, but it vigorously works muscles, and to some degree, stresses tendons. Train no more than 3 times a week or you will have problems.

Get a Grip

Now that your diet is under control and you are taking in fewer calories, burning more calories, sleeping better, and living a more active life, it is time to start exercising. This isn’t the type of exercise that would be recommended by your average personal trainer. This will actually work.

Purpose of this Exercise

If you want to be ready to prevail over an adverse physical environment, then you need certain physical abilities. Gaining these abilities will also bring about better health.

I will deal with these in order from easiest to the hardest to develop. The easiest abilities require the least energy to develop, but provide the foundation for the more difficult skills. The first exercise requires very little energy, but creates an important, lifesaving ability.

Hand strength is ignored by most people today because we don’t need superior hand strength in our daily lives. But strong hands are life-savers. It could be a fight, it could be climbing out of a stopped elevator, or climbing a rope. Hand strength is a survival attribute. It will help prevail in your desperate battle with the dreaded keyboard.

Crushing Hand Strength

There are two types of hand strength: crushing and pinching. You need both. Both are easy to develop.

Begin with crushing strength. You have seen the cheap hand grip exercising in Wall-Mart. This is for crushing strength. But these cheap things from Wall-Mart won’t get the job done. Go to IronMind and order one of their grippers. If you are a woman, start with the lowest grip resistance and work your way up to the Trainer model. Few women can close the #1. If you are a normal healthy man without tendinitis or similar problems, then start with the Trainer model and move up to the #1. Few men can close the #2 and fewer still the #3.

These are serious exercises that must be approached with deliberation and commitment. Do 3 sets of 10 with each hand, 2 or 3 times per week, and no more. It may take you quite some time to reach a full three sets. Remember, everybody starts from a different point and everybody has different limits.

Next week I’ll discuss pinching strength.

Dvorak Keyboard

I’m tired of trying to do something worthwhile for the human race, they simply don’t want to change!

– August Dvorak

Perhaps August Dvorak didn’t understand how great a motivator pain can be.

The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard puts all the most frequently used consonants on the right hand side of the home row, and all the vowels on the left hand side. The only vowel on the home row of the QWERTY keyboard is the letter A. Every English word has a vowel, and with QWERTY that means you’ve got to spread your hands over the entire keyboard. The QWERTY layout also overstresses the left hand and wrist.

By putting all those keys on one row, the hands move about less and most words come from one row of keys with the Dvorak layout. This means less strain on the wrist, and greater typing speed.

While you may type faster, standard keyboard shortcuts won’t be in the same spot. (Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V won’t be beside each other, etc.)

The least costly way of addressing this ergonomic issue is to purchase a Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 for about $70 and rearrange the keys to the Dvorak scheme and switch the OS into recognising the Dvorak keyboard.

I will be doing just this and I will report my experience with the transition to this keyboard.

The World’s Most Dangerous Sit-Down Job III

This might seem like an opus on dieting, but it isn’t. It is drawn from my experience over the last few years of getting older, less active, and of eating too much.

Calorie counting

After a certain age your body uses the calories you take in at a slower rate. You gain weight. You slow down. This is normal. However, this fact becomes a problem if you gain too much weight.

The solution might seem obvious — stop eating so much. Most of the fad diets don’t work. Eating fewer calories and being active does. Most diets rely on eliminating the calories from either carbohydrates or fat. A normal diet should consist of 1/3 protein, 1/3 carbs, and 1/3 fat calories. These diets eliminate 1/3 of the calories taken in by eliminating 1/3 of the nutrients you need. That is not healthy.

Most people in the industrial west add about 1 pound per year after age 25. This is a result of taking in too many calories, regardless of the source, and too little exercise. The weight gain comes from the calories in carbs and fat. To reduce your weight you have to reduce the calories you take in and burn off more calories than you take in. These facts are self evident until you try to loose weight (as we all know). Food is everywhere, its so easy to overeat. And how do you count calories anyway?

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The World’s Most Dangerous Sit-Down Job II

When I started this series of articles, I’d bet you thought I would begin by telling you to loose weight and join a gym. That’s not necessarily the best place to start in your quest for improved fitness and a better lifestyle.

It is better to start by making your work life easier, less stressful, and less time consuming. I started that process by getting rid of the office and the employees. Working from a home office reduced costs and travel time, while allowing me to be more productive. This had a major beneficial impact on my fitness and lifestyle. But that change has created its own challenges as my work became more dependent upon computers and telecommunication technology.

Our hands are the fundamental to our success as a species. They support our creativity. They bring to life what our minds imagine. My dangerous job is hell on the hands and forearms. Writing and typing put an enormous repetitive strain on the hands. I tried limiting how much I wrote and typed, but my efforts were inconsistent with making a living. My solution to this problem relies on old technology, mature technology, and a relatively unused technology.

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The World’s Most Dangerous Sit-Down Job

For about three decades I’ve been an Investigator. It’s a very dangerous job.

Sitting in a car watching what people do and what they shouldn’t do. Hour after hour slaving over a hot computer searching for data and producing reports. Sifting through papers, tabulating costs, and organising file material at a desk.

It’s dangerous work. Hear ye the Investigator’s lament!

Over one pound per year have I gained.
Flexibility have I lost.
Physical endurance I have no more.
Of cholesterol I have an abundance.

I can see this dangerous job taking its toll on the young guys who have less than a decade’s experience. Car accidents, whiplash, carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, repetitive stress injuries, and back problems, but no shootings, stabbings, or similar misadventures.

Being a Private Investigator is the world’s most dangerous sit-down job.

In future articles I will outline my solutions to some of these perils.