Monthly Archives: April 2017

Essential, Yet Old School Home Exercise Equipment

Our lives continually seem to be dominated by technology that changes on an almost daily basis, and home exercise equipment is not immune to this phenomenon.  The current trend is to connect the equipment to that internet machine in order to run, or bike, or row, or swim (well, maybe not swim) in various locales across the globe with other people from various locales across the globe with a remote trainer providing the motivation.  However, many believe, myself included, that when it comes to exercising, there’s no school like the old school.

I tend to view this debate in a similar manner to that classic pugilistic and cinematic masterpiece, Rocky IV.  As I’m sure you recall, Rocky decides to travel to Russia to train and then fight Ivan Drago, who had just killed the object of Rocky’s bromance, Apollo Creed.  The training regimes of the two rivals were diametrically opposed.

Rocky trained in Siberia with horse collars, rocks, a horse-drawn wagon, ropes, snow, and mountains, in other words, like a 19th century hermit.  Drago, on the other hand, had the most technologically advanced equipment known to man, all connected to computer diagnostics to measure his every step and punch (Oh yeah, and steroids too).  The moral of the story?  (SPOILER ALERT) Old school exercise equipment is superior to new school as Rocky prevailed, obviously, due to his Neanderthal-like training methods.

So, with the example of Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago fresh in our minds, here are three perfect examples of antiquated pieces of equipment that should be in every home gym.

  1. A heavy bag – Yes, I realize in Rocky I, that Rocky eschewed the heavy bag in favor of a side of beef. However, few of us have a future brother-in-law (Paulie) to provide us access to a meat packing company.  That being the case, a heavy bag will have to suffice.  This simple piece of equipment, if used properly, provides both cardiovascular and weight-training benefits, especially if you bring mixed martial arts into your workout.  And while most equate a heavy bag with just an upper-body workout, it can also provide a great core workout, which is all the rage in the training world.  For beginning heavy bag workouts, check this out: http://livehealthy.chron.com/heavy-bag-workout-routines-beginners-6313.html 
  2. Medicine balls – To my knowledge, there is no video evidence that Rocky ever trained with medicine balls, but perhaps that footage was simply omitted from his various training montages. Please notice that it’s balls, rather than “ball.”  Medicine balls come in a variety of weights in order to provide a range of workouts, from intense cardiovascular to weight training.  Here’s a list of 25 medicine ball workouts that will get your heart pumping and your core…well, doing what a core should do: http://greatist.com/fitness/25-must-try-medicine-ball-exercises
  1. An air bike – No, they haven’t invented a bike that can fly…yet. Air bikes have been around for decades, long before spinning classes became more popular than actually riding a real bike.  The concept is quite simple, the harder you pedal, the more resistance created by that huge fan that serves as the air bike’s front wheel.Combine the cycling motion with handle bars that oscillate in conjunction with the pedals and you’ve just incorporated your upper-body into your workout.  And they are generally much less expensive than a technologically advanced stationary bike.  If you must train with a screen, simply place the air bike in front of your console television set.  Again, there is no known footage of Rocky training on an air bike.  However, Rocky does pull his trainer, Mick, while Mick sits upon an adult tricycle in Rocky II.  Here’s some more info on air bikes: http://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/air-bike-hiit-workout/

So if you’re looking for some cost effective (cheap) exercise equipment that has seen a recent resurgence in popularity, due to their muscular and cardiovascular benefits, then look at any or all of the three above examples.  Yo, Adrian!

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It’s Spring, Get Outside: 8 Outdoor Activities for Seniors

Have you noticed that the heat is coming on less and less in your home?  If not, just look at your last heating bill.  And in our world of cause and effect, the cause is increased outdoor temperatures and the effect SHOULD be increased outdoor activities on your part.  Outdoor activity is the panacea for cabin fever and you don’t even need to fill a prescription.

Look, I’m sure you’re aware about the benefits of regular physical activity, but what about the benefits of regular “outdoor” physical activity?  Humans have an innate connection and attraction to nature which is referred to as biophilia and too many of us attempt to resist that connection.  Yet another fact: less than 3% of America’s senior population attains the recommended 2.5 hours of physical activity per week, and that can have dangerous consequences.

Some of the benefits of outdoor activity are more obvious than others, such as increased exposure to sunlight which exposes us to vitamin D which improves brain, bone and muscle functions (just beware of overexposure…as with everything else, moderation is best).

However, studies have also shown that regular outdoor activity improves our health and well-being and improves our physical, emotional and cognitive functioning.  So, keeping all this in mind, here are eight outdoor activities we all should do more of:

  1. Tai Chi – Before you think I’m getting all “Karate Kid” on you, let me explain. Yes, tai chi began as a defensive martial art, but it has since evolved into a balletic activity of continuous, gentle movements.  It’s different from yoga in that with yoga you hold a pose (sleeping dog) for a short period of time, while with tai chi, you’re in continuous motion, albeit, at a slow pace.  Locate a “tai chi in the park” group in your area, or simply access the internet machine, learn the basics and head to your backyard.
  1. Search for gold — …with a metal detector. And no, it doesn’t have to be on a beach.  Grab your metal detector and head to the local park or historical site and you’ll be amazed at the objects that are lying around out there.  Here’s am interesting article that offers examples of successful treasure hunts and can help get you started: https://www.wired.com/2011/08/treasure-hunters/
  1. Picnics – Grab your basket, blanket, chicken salad sandwiches, your favorite companions and locate an out-of-the-way picnic spot, preferably on a level, grassy area near a babbling brook. Just ensure that getting to that spot requires some walking to get there.  You’ll be amazed how relaxing this activity is and how the conversation flows when you’re away from a screen.
  1. Yard games – Hit the backyard or park for a rousing round of horseshoes, bocce ball, croquet or badminton. These games are perfect for bringing out the competitor in all of us and can be a great way to reconnect with friends and/or family members.  Side note: I understand the safety aspect, but I truly miss “Jarts,” the yard game that involved plastic circles and metal tipped lawn darts…just sayin’.
  1. Be a tourist – even in your own hometown. Go on a historical walking tour, visit the zoo or botanical gardens or downtown area or local, state, or national parks or Civil War battlefields or any other outdoor place that interests you.
  1. Bird watch – Yeah, I know, I used this one in my fall outdoor activities post, but it’s perhaps even more relevant in the spring as birds become more active as they prepare to bring the next generation of our avian friends into the world. The few birders I know are extremely passionate about their hobby and tend to record just about every aspect of their sightings, to include the species (of course), and when, where, and under what weather conditions the sighting occurred.  This is one of those hobbies that permits various levels of immersion, but its seems to have some addictive qualities, and, in this instance, that’s not a bad thing.
  1. Gardening This activity is perfect for the spring for obvious reasons and there’s nothing more satisfying than eating delicious and healthy food you planted and cultivated yourself. And if you live in an apartment or senior community that does not offer space for this activity, move…just kidding.  There are many places that rent small plots for a nominal fee.
  1. Stroll through a local farmer’s, flea or craft markets – The larger the better. Heck, this one doesn’t even seem like an outdoor exercise, but it most certainly is.  Remember, all that’s required to reap the benefits is getting outside and slightly raising your heart and breathing rate for a moderate period of time, and wandering through a massive flea market in search of hidden treasures certainly qualifies.

One last note, try to do these activities with a group of friends or family members and do so on a regular schedule.  Also, use the group to coerce (or shame) each other to get out there and find that Baltimore Oriole, or practice tai chi like Anne Hathaway and Robert de Niro in “The Intern,” or go in search of lost jewelry, or weed the garden, or watch the handlers feed the elephants, or whack that shuttlecock around, or pack that picnic basket.  Hell, just get outside and be active.  You’ll be glad you did.

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For the Mom Who Has Everything…

Yes, it’s coming, like a shark’s dorsal fin speeding through the water that can’t be stopped…duuuh-nah……..…..duuuuh-nah……………duuuh-nah, duuuh-nah…………….duh-nah, duh-nah, duh-nah, duh-nah………dunn, dunn, dunn, dunn, dunn, dunn (yes, that’s my poor attempt to put the theme to Jaws into words, sorry).  Of course, that dorsal fin represents Mother’s Day, which arrives on Sunday, May 14th.  But don’t panic, at least not yet, because here are some unique gift ideas for the mother that has everything, I mean, after all, she has you!

Something different – Now, of course these gifts are not for all moms as we all know, every mom is different.  But here’s a sampling of some interesting gift ideas.

  • Drunken owl wine bottle holder – I don’t know why, but every time I look at this thing it makes me smile. Maybe it’s because it’s such a random animal (I mean an owl?) and it looks like a baby drinking a bottle…is that creepy?  Hopefully it will make your mom smile too.  Check it out here: http://www.homewetbar.com/drunken-owl-wine-bottle-holder-p-4187.html
  • Dawn redwood Bonsai forest – Rather than flowers, why not get your mom something that will last quite a while and is perfect for a table center and conversation piece? And it looks really cool.  Here it is: http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/dawn-redwood-bonsai-forest

  • A personalized smart phone case – Wouldn’t you like your mom to always carry a picture of her favorite child (you) in the form of a smart phone case? Well, all you need to do is go here and design a case that’s perfect for your perfect mother: https://www.mycustomcase.com/

  • Literary candles – I think, genetically, once a woman becomes a mother they immediately become candle aficionados. I don’t question this strange phenomenon, I just cater to it.  That being the case, here are some unique scents for the candle and literature loving mom in your life that are linked to Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, and Pride and Prejudice (and zombies…yes, a book was written and a movie produced entitled “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I neither read the book nor viewed the movie).  Peruse them here: http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/literary-candles

  • Time saving and delicious meals from MagicKitchen.com – The last thing you want your mother doing on her day is cooking, or on any other special or non-special day for that matter. Have the Mother’s Day meal delivered to her (or your) door and save her (or you) a great deal of time and hassle.  MagicKitchen permits you to customize your meal and also offers delectable “bundles” to include Gourmet, Customer Favorites, Homestyle, and Top-Rated bundles.  Have your Pavlovian (you know, that Russian dude that conditioned a poor dog to salivate at the sound of a bell) moment here: http://www.magickitchen.com/menu/mothers-day.html

“Make” her something – And no, I’m not referring to like a dining room table or a back porch or something, unless she really needs either of those two things.  I was thinking of something a bit more personal, something that she wants rather than needs, something intimately linked to you, her and your family.

Here’s a quick example: last year I semi-learned how to play the guitar (no, I didn’t go so far as to write the music and lyrics to a sappy “I Love You Mom” type song).  My mother, as she constantly reminds me, was born in Ireland and we immigrated to the US back in 1968.  Anyway, despite becoming an American citizen, she has missed her homeland ever since.

So last year, I learned to play and sing (terribly, I might add) “Danny Boy” and I played and sang it for her on Mother’s Day.  Yes, I missed a few notes and sang REALLY off key.  However, by the time I was done, she had a tear on her cheek and a smile on her face.  She then exclaimed it was the most thoughtful Mother’s Day gift I had ever bestowed upon her in my 51 years on this earth.  I then asked her “why?” and she simply said, in her fading Irish accent, “Because you put some thought into the gift and “made” it just for me.  Nothing’s more personal than that.”

I firmly believe that you can do the same thing for your mother…not play and sing Danny Boy, but make her something with your mind and two hands.  Write her a poem, or a song, or a play, or a rap song, or a short story about you, her and your family.  Create a photo essay or a humorous, yet poignant power point presentation that you present to her and the whole family or montage with old family photos.

Draw or paint your family or an old house you all lived in, or her favorite place she likes to sit and think, or an old pet.  Throw (as on a pottery wheel, not literally “throw”) a flower pot or coffee mug for her.  Plant a tree for her, or her favorite plant, flowering bush, or perennial.  Create a short movie for her with your smart phone.  Just use your imagination, make the gift personal to her and try to make her laugh and cry at the same time.  She’ll love you even more for it, if that’s possible.

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