Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Saturday, August 25, 2018


Andrew Heffernan


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Final Post: I've moved!

In case people are still checking back here for updates, I'm now blogging over at Male Pattern Fitness, so if you haven't already, head on over and check it out! Some stuff, same guy, different heading, and fingers crossed, more regular posting. Enjoy and thanks for the support at this site.

Incidentally, a reader wrote in to ask that I not delete this blog, and fear not, I won't! This information will be up and available at this site for the foreseeable future. If I do decide to drop it eventually, I'll make sure the information is available online somewhere so it's always accessible, and I'll let everyone know where to find it.



Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Big News!

Big News! A few days before embarking on my trip to Lapland, I got an email from Lou Schuler, whom most of you will know as the author of The New Rules of Lifting, former fitness editor for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, and general fitness guru, as well as the proprietor of the “Male Pattern Fitness” blog.

Lou recently got an offer he couldn’t refuse from a site called T-Nation, which I’ve mentioned here numerous times. Apparently he’ll be overseeing much of their editorial material, encouraging all the fledgling strength coaches and exercise physiologists out there to spread their wings, fly, and share with all the fitness geeks out there all the newest secrets to getting the Bodies They Want and Rightfully Deserve. Sounds like a great gig, and something he’s ideally cut out for.

Due to his new obligations, though, Big Lou is stepping down as from his post as “Male Pattern Fitness” blogger and has asked me to take over for him.

And I said yes.

That doesn’t mean much for most people reading this: just that from now on you’ll be hitting up the MPF site instead of this one for my latest ramblings about fitness. (I’ll figure out some fancy way that this site will automatically redirect you anyway, so it will be an even smoother transition). I will most assuredly be updating that site more often than I’ve been doing this one—particularly lately—in part because the overseers of that site expect me to, but mostly because I’ll hopefully be inheriting many of Lou’s readers over there and they’ll probably expect me to keep up something approximating Lou’s furious blogging pace, heaven help me, and I hope not to let them down too horribly.

I’ve enjoyed keeping up this blog, have enjoyed the crosstalk with many readers on this site, and I hope that you’ll all join me over at MPF starting later this week.

I’d like to add in closing—and, I imagine, REALLY closing-- that I’m very pleased and rather flattered that Lou has asked me to fill his shoes. When I first read ‘The New Rules of Lifting’ years ago I remember thinking, “Not only is this guy informed to the gills but the dude can WRITE, too.” Turned out I already had two of his other books on my shelf. As far as I’m concerned, Lou continues to set the standard for fitness writing that is smart, engaging and, improbably, hilarious. Without his much-imitated style to make it go down easy, it’s all just a bunch of sets and reps, and really, who but the most geekish among us cares about that stuff?

I started reading his blog right around that time, and shortly thereafter started this one, which, if case no one has noticed, owes a lot in form and content to The Big Man himself. Lou has nurtured along some of the biggest names in the fitness world, encouraging them, presenting them opportunities, and, I gather, kicking them in the butt once in a while, and I gotta say now I’m honored to be among them. So—thanks, Lou. Stop by any time.

Everyone else: Male Pattern Fitness-ho! See you over there later this week.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Inexplicably, I'm off to Lapland this evening and will be gone through the 26th of June. When I get back I intend to start a reindeer-wrangling class at CRUNCH.

Meantime, everyone stay well--

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shoeless Bliss

A few weeks back Lou Schuler blogged about a study, which indicated, in short, that Shoes are Bad. The evidence is fairly convincing: examining the bones in the feet of a few thousand cadavers, researchers discovered that the feet of indigenous peoples, and others whose footwear was typically minimal, were far healthier than those of Europeans who spent their lives with their feet swathed in stiff leather.

It probably comes as no surprise that high heels are rough on feet, but plain ol’ regular shoes? Who knew?

Because I’m a runner (a fact I will continue to proclaim with pride despite the efforts of some fitness luminaries to brand me and my endurance-athlete brethren with a scarlet ‘EA’ across my chest), I usually wear thick-soled running shoes while training others or working out myself. I mean, how many pair of athletic shoes does one guy need?

But given the results of the study, I was curious. I’ve also been on a ‘rehab’ kick in my own workouts after a year or so of unusually intense pounding in the weight room, so I wondered if going barefoot, or at least minimally shoed, might help to clear up some of the soft-tissue and joint issues I’d been developing as I attempted to add some muscular weight to my frame.

So I ventured out one day in my falling-apart running shoes to a store called A Snail’s Pace, where let it be known the service was terrific: friendly, knowledgeable, and, I discovered after a few pointed questions, on the whole, extremely fleet of foot.

I walked out of the store with a new pair of running shoes and an additional pair of shoes called Nike Frees, which are built with the geniuses at Nike call “barefoot technology.”

Leave it to Nike to latch onto mounting evidence that shoes are bad for your feet and use that same evidence…to sell shoes. Geniuses indeed.

As you can see, though, I completely fell for it. And I have to say: they work. I don’t think I’ve ever had a pair of shoes that I noticed as feeling good, bad or indifferent after two or three wearings. But it’s now been about two weeks, and these babies still feel fantastic. I’ve worn them to work out; I’ve worn them on walks; I’ve worn them training clients, I’ve even worn them doing brief runs. Heck, I’m wearing my Nike Frees right now, sitting in a municipal building waiting for my number to come up for jury service, and they’re making my time here just a weeeee bit less miserable. As a wise man once said, the blog must go on.

Now, I don’t want to come across as a zealot or anything, but I would have to add that I also feel better in general: my back pain has subsided, my knees are feeling better. I’m less creaky. True, I’ve been hitting up the foam roller, and reorganizing my workouts to include more stretching and less hardcore pounding, but I’m convinced the shoes have helped.

It may not be cool to love on the corporate giants (especially ones with some questionable labor practices, which I'm just now finding out about, ugh) but when they get something right, you gotta give them their props. As far as my trotters are concerned, Nike knocked this one outta the park.

As Lou Schuler wrote, Tivo has a shoe called the Barefoot which operates on much the same premise: that the best way to promote foot health is to encourage the foot do what it wants to do naturally. I haven’t tried those yet, but if anyone has, hey, write in and let me know the skinny.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Old Dogs...

Back at Hanover High School I had a Latin instructor who said that teachers had to repeat themselves seven times before students would remember what they said. I don’t know where she came up with that number, but since then I’ve heard similar stats cited about sales—you need to hear about something seven times before you’ll buy it, or consider buying it, or even remember the name of the product or what it’s for. Sounds about right to me: there are just too many advertising messages out there begging for our attention for any one of them to capture our interest for long.

So a few days ago I was paging through a new book by fitness wunderkind Eric Cressey called Maximum Strength. In it Cressey opens his chapter on warm-ups by telling us how much sympathy he has for work-a-day dentists, who spend most of their careers exhorting patients to floss, only to have the same stubborn and oblivious patients come in after a few weeks or years with their teeth in need of serious and expensive help. Similarly, fitness folks spend a lot of time telling people to warm up and stretch, but no one really ever does, because they’re short on time and energy and want to jump right into their benchin’ and curlin’, man.

After my fourth or fifth excruciating lifting-induced back strain, I finally saw the light when it came to stretching, and started doing it religiously about ten years ago. But Cressey’s book finally convinced me to try foam rolling, a little pre-workout ritual I’ve been resisting for about six years. I’ve attended seminars on foam rolling, I’ve heard the pleas of uber-trainers Alwyn Cosgrove and Mike Boyle on the benefits of foam rolling, but I’ve never actually DONE or RECOMMENDED foam rolling myself because, well, it seemed like just one more hassle before I was allowed to get to the good stuff in my workouts.

Besides, all that scooting around on the floor doing questionable-looking things with a cushy cylindrical object just struck me as a mile or two too far down the Willing-To-Do-Anything-For-Fitness Freeway.

But somehow Cressey’s dentist-analogy finally got to me, and I started kicking off my workouts with a foam-rolling regimen early this week.

Hate to admit it, but it appears that Mike Boyle, Alywn Cosgrove, Eric Cressey, and Mike Clark, who runs the National Academy of Sports Medicine, from which I hold a certification, were all, surprisingly, correct: foam rolling feels great, instantly unkinks muscles, makes your workout, and athletic movement in general, easier. I noticed it when I sashayed myself into my microscopic Ford Escort after I left the gym. As relatively limber and athletic as I am, getting into that car can be a bit of a drag for a tallish, biggish guy like me. Not since I started foam rolling. Suddenly I move with the grace of a dancer.

Well, maybe not quite, but you get the idea. The effects are pretty much instantaneous, and certainly recognizable during your workout if you foam roll thoroughly before vigorous athletic movement.

Who knows what the long-term effects are, but if the acute effects of a five-minute full-body foam rolling session are any indication, I think I’ll have acquired the gift of flight by this time next year.

The humble but surprisingly effective foam roller is part of a relatively new movement in fitness that factors long-term health into the equation, rather than just seeking to shrink a woman to a size two before bathing suit season. There seems to be a much needed crop of smart trainers out there who are realizing that staying healthy and strong over several decades requires a more sophistocated body of knowledge and expertise than just getting in shape for the first time. Just in time, too, because my generation of fitness freaks--the ones raised on a steady diet of Weider-style bodybuilding concepts--are getting a little older. We're feeling a few more exercise-induced aches and pains and we're starting to wonder how we can stay in shape for another 50 years without grinding our joints into oblivion and, ironically, suffering the same, wheelchair-bound fate as our sedentary contemporaries whom we've treated with such scorn over the years.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More Kid-Tastic Training

It's happened to every fitness geek at least a handful of times. Although the hours of his local chur--er, gym--are tattooed across his forehead, we will, on the rare occasions, show up at the gates of our own personal Emporium of Pain only to discover them locked shut. Maybe they're closed for renovations or inventory or pool-cleaning. Maybe they're observing Passover or the Chinese New Year. Or maybe the place has just plum closed up shop for good and we didn't notice all the signs posted about saying "We're Out of Business Tuesday!" because we were too darn focused on beating our PR for the clean and jerk.

Whatever the reason, we're caught unawares, and suddenly we have to do something an OCD fitness nut HATES to do: improvise. My wife and others who know me and the generally haphazard way in which I sometimes lead my life (my car is frozen in a perpetual state of "On The Way to a Goodwill Drop-Off") find it amusing that when it comes to my workouts I'm as immaculate and careful as an engineer making out one of those schematic charts. I know exactly what I'll be doing when and why; how much weight I'll be lifting for how many sets and how much rest and how it compares to past workouts and my eventual goals, short- and long-term.

So coming up against a locked gym door when I've got a workout planned provokes a response in me that's a bit like what Raymond Babbit does when he has to miss an episode of Wapner.

On a few such occasions, I've actually gone to another gym and shelled out up to 20 bucks for my hour-long workout. Weirdly, some gyms don't want you paying a day fee more than once, and will actually turn you away. I once BEGGED some teenage front-desk jockey to allow me the privilege of paying him 15 bucks to use the 24 Hour Fitness facility he was jealously guarding...and he refused. Unbelievable.

On this particular day, though, I wasn't up for that. I was short on time, as well, so I had to come up with a good way to get a resistance-training workout in.

Okay, I could have gone running or biking; I could have pounded on the 70-pound heavy bag that's hanging proudly in my garage; I could have gone to the local park and scared the bejesus out of the 5-year olds by running obstacle races through their plastic play-gym (which I sometimes do at 6 AM when no one else is there. It's way fun, by the way). But I'm fitness OCD, remember? I had a weight workout scheduled, and I was going to get one in, darn it!

So I summoned Kate, my 40-pound living, breathing resistance-exercise device to help me out with a little Kid-Tastic training in our backyard. In exchange, I promised she could shoot me with the garden hose, and, after taking a moment to tally the cost-to-benefit ratio of my proposal, she agreed.

First, I cranked out some dynamic stretching, just to get the blood pumping. Then I did some core work, a few planks, a few situps (darned if I can't stop doing that exercise despite all the cries of "unfunctional!" and "dangerous!"). Kate, meanwhile, was happily bouncing on our mini-trampoline (this is the one kind of workout where your Resistance Device needs to warm up as well). Anyway, all her bouncing around gave me an idea. Power exercises should precede sheer strength movements, as we all know, right?

So I grabbed her and did three sets of Overhead Kid Tosses. This is your basic kid-chucking movement, you know, the kind your uncle used to do when he saw you at the airport for the first time in six months: stoop down, grab the kid under the arms, stand and throw him or her as high as you can; catch them, and then lower them to the ground under control. Repeat for reps. Giggling, squirming, and screaming just make the exercise all the more functional. Dropping of the weight is highly discouraged, especially if you're on shaky ground with your spouse in the first place for enlisting your child's help in this sketchy endeavor.

I did three sets of ten, got a good sweat going, and, though my wife looked worried, Kate had a VERY good time.

I then pulled our old baby-carrier--good for up to sixty pounds--and strapped Kate to my chest. I got a good hold on a sturdy branch on a backyard tree and cranked out three sets of eight of Mixed-Grip Kid-Resisted Chinups. The squiggling mass strapped to my chest made the movement even more challenging, and rather more fun, than the 45-pound plates that usually serve the same function.

Rounding off my upper-body workout were Kid-Resisted Pushups: Kate perched on my back while I cranked out three sets of pushups. This was the most challenging movement for Kate, because it required her to balance on my back. At the conclusion of each set, she'd roll off and I'd do as many as I could using only my body weight. At this point, Kate realized that she could serve a secondary function as 'abusive drill sergeant,' much like Yoda in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and began encouraging and sometimes berating me as I pushed away.

"Come on, Dad, what are you, weak?"

That was it for the day, and I was spent. Kate, to my surprise, wasn't: she wanted more, and getting to hose me off after the workout was a poor substitute for more Fun Laughing At Daddy.

Sometimes I see groups of Moms doing quarter-lunges in the park while holding onto the push-handles of their baby-strollers; they'll stop every three reps or so to coo over their babies; then they'll do a few quarter-squats and maybe quarter-pushups on their knees, and head home, convinced they've had a good workout.

I wish I could teach those classes, but since I'd probably get sued, this is most likely as close as I'll get.