Fitness Quest: Personal Health Update, August 2022

It’s been a while since I updated everyone on where my personal health stands. So, here goes…

The Good News

The good news is basically that I’m still here. I started taking Entresto for my heart “failure” over a year ago now and it seems to be doing what it’s supposed to do. While my ejection fraction is still low by most standards it is hire than it was without the medicine. So I’m in a range too close to normal to consider any kind of implant (i.e. an internal defibrillator) which is good news in my book.

The Better News

Since my surgery in 2018 and switching to Stelara my Crohn’s has remained in what the doctors are calling “deep remission.” I don’t think that anyone can ask for more than that.

The Bad News

Since my close call with Norovirus (see Wash Your Hands People for details) my kidneys have never fully bounced back. They do seem to be stable but I have now been officially diagnosed with Stage I Kidney disease. As long as it stays stable I’m good and at this point all I can do is stay hydrated to make sure that my kidneys don’t have to work too hard. Could be a lot worse.

What I’m Doing For My Health

Getting older doesn’t mean getting weaker!

I’m doing pretty much what anyone should be doing in my effort to stay healthy as possible. Exercise, eat right, and keep moving! My exercises of choice are still weight training/bodybuilding and my cardio is from walking.

I’ve slacked recently on the cardio – which is a mistake in my case as I need what’s left of my heart to be a strong as possible – but I’m catching back up. I did run in the Rose Run 5K again this year. I did not post my best time but it wasn’t my worst either. In fact, I actually got a medal for 3rd place in my age group! And yes, there were more than 3 runners in my age group. Looking ahead I think I can possibly take second or, dare I say it, first next year if I actually train for the race.

My weight training is still going pretty well. I’m focusing on getting leaner, again to keep my heart from working too hard, and as a result I am putting on more muscles. My arms look as good as they ever have in fact. I just need the rest of me to match. I want to be the jacked old man that the young guys can’t believe lifts that much.

Heck, I want to be that jacked old man that can’t believe he lifts that much himself! Barring that I want to be able to do 10 pull-ups…would you believe 5?

Summary

Barring a catastrophic health crisis (COVID, plague, whatever…) I plan to be able to be here next year reporting once again that all is well as can be.

I hope that you are reaching your fitness goals and are making sure to move every day. Keep pushing forward folks.

Onward!

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr

When is a Man’s Chest Considered Big?

Size Matters…Right?

It’s no secret that men are obsessed with size. In fact, men are so obsessed that we are constantly comparing ourselves to other men that we meet on the street, bar, gym, locker room, even office. “Is this guy taller than me? Stronger? Could I take him if I had too?” and other thoughts enter our minds. To most of us bigger, taller, stronger, and even longer, is almost always better. Just listen to any sports cast for proof of this. At some point you’ll learn the basic physical stats of almost every player whether it’s basketball, football or even golf.

When that man is a bodybuilder the size that matters most to him, outside of the bedroom or locker room at least, is his arms. As is evident by the popularity of my earlier post When is a Man’s Arm Considered Big which has had literally thousands of views. I’ll go out on a limb and say that he next size he’s concerned with is his chest or more specifically the width/circumference of the upper torso (shoulders/back/pecs). After all, arms are often hidden by sleeves but a wide back and a thick chest is evident even in bulky clothing.

Average Chest Size?

Not an average sized chest.
You don’t need a chest shelf like Arnold in his prime to appear big. But it sure doesn’t hurt!
This may be the closest I ever got to having the “big chest” look.

Which leads us to the question – how big is the average man’s chest?

I thought this would be an easy question to answer by simply doing a little research and seeing what size shirts were the most popular. I was wrong. It turns out that there is some variation among clothing manufacturer’s as to how they determine shirt size. For example one company’s “large” may fit a 42″ (106.68 cm) – 44″ (111.76 cm) chest but another’s “large” is only 40″ (101.6cm) – 42″ (106.68 cm).

However, I did discover that almost everyone out there agrees that the most popular shirt sizes are large and medium. So I made an arbitrary decision based on the sizes that Hanes (the t-shirt and underwear people) use that a Large shirt fits up to a 44″ (111.76cm) chest. Using the approximate percentages of sales from several companies I determined that about 30% of all men (in the USA at least) wear a large shirt and, depending on whose sales you go by, between 65% and 80% of all men wear shirts that suggest a chest circumference of 44″ (111.76cm) or less.

So, the quick answer is that most men have a chest which does not exceed 44″ (111.76cm). You can consider your chest large if you exceed this measurement.

End of story, right? Not so fast bucko!

Does Size Matter?

While it’s true that your chest is big if you have more than 44″ (111.76cm) that may not matter if your waist is also close to the same size or worse is even larger than your chest. It should be obvious but, just in case, today – especially in the USA and other “western” nations – there is an obesity epidemic. So a lot of men have big chests because of bodyfat and a big chest with a big belly underneath it is just not impressive. You may be strong but you are not going to look like it (sadly, I fall into this category). People will see the gut and think “fat.” So if you want your chest to really stand out you need to keep the waist tight and bodyfat low.

So at what point does the chest start to look big? Well, again, the clothing industry gives us a clue. Most shirts and suits are designed for men who have what is known as a “drop” of less than 8″ (20.32cm). That is to say that their waist is between 0 and 8 inches smaller than their chest. A drop of anything over 8″ (20.32cm) is considered an athletic cut. So that’s our basic answer.

However, in my opinion and observation at least, this 8″ drop is just a starting point. To get that classic V shape (or X shape as it’s described now – don’t skip leg day) I think you need at least a 10″ (20.54cm) drop or larger. Sadly, this is easier said than done but certainly a goal to strive for.

The Final Verdict

Unfortunately, unlike arms or even legs, which can essentially hold their own in terms of size and visual impact, you really can’t consider the chest without looking at the entire torso. A big chest with weak shoulders just looks…odd. Big chest with big belly as I’ve already said just looks fat. Of course you can’t have a strong chest without a strong back. You really need to focus on developing all upper body parts to get that muscular well-built look that we all want.

The good news is that there really isn’t a magic number – even though you’ll find plenty of articles concerning the fabled “golden ratio” and “perfect proportions.” One I really like by John Romaniello on T-Nation is linked at the bottom of this blog by the way.

Clothes Make the Man

Since I’ve been talking about clothes so much I should also mention that they play an important part in displaying your work in the gym. Most men won’t admit that they really don’t need a large shirt or XL shirt and end up hiding their chests under a layer of cloth that flaps like a tent awning in the breeze. You’ll look much better and bigger with a shirt that actually fits. So put the ego size aside and maybe try a size smaller to see how it looks. Warning – this only works with a solid chest and a flat stomach. If you don’t have both you risk showing off bulges and sags that you’d rather have hidden. Trust me on this…I won’t say how I know, but I know.

To Sum it All Up

Even if you can’t manage a 10″ (20.54cm) drop just having a flat stomach a few inches smaller than your waist will really set your physique apart from most men today. So when they size you up they’ll realize who the bigger man is (unless alcohol is involved then all bets are off).

And isn’t that what we all want in the end?

Here’s an article on T Nation that better explains the “golden” ratio.
Timo Eherer (@newteemo on Instagram) demonstrates the importance of a proper fitting shirt to show off the chest (and arm!) gains. A baggy shirt will make you look smaller and hide your hard work in the gym. Note how the width of his delts contributes to a classic pec “shelf” and the overall size of his chest.

Photo Credit: Timo Eherer – used with permisson.
Bryce Gambler demonstrates the dramatic effect of a relatively wide upper body (44 inches/111.76 cm) and a small waist (32 inches/81.28 cm). A 12 inch/30.5 cm “drop.” Note that Bryce is about 6’4″ (1.93m) but doesn’t have that “lanky” look many tall men have – because he paid attention to developing his complete torso.


Photo Credit: Bryce Gambler – used with permission.

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr

How to Audition for a Show

One of the longest and most rewarding journeys I’ve taken in life is my journey through the world of theatre*. My first experience in theatre actually started by putting on plays in my backyard as a kid. I rounded up my sister, brother, and a couple of the neighbors and we enthralled our parents with a stirring rendition of The Three Billy Goats Gruff – written, directed, and produced by myself. I may have also given myself the lead role. Yes, it was a vanity piece.

Since then over the past half-century, and a little more, I’ve acted and directed many plays primarily for community theatre. Dramas, comedies, musicals, you name it and I’ve done it. Along the way I’ve learned a few things both as an actor auditioning for a role and as the director selecting actors for roles that I would like to share with you.

I have to stress that the tips and suggestions that follow are my ideas and they won’t apply in every case. For example, I don’t have enough experience in professional theatre to be knowledgeable in how most of them handle auditions. But I have auditioned for several amateur groups and I usually get cast. So I hope that you’ll find them helpful in preparing for your next audition.

First Things First

Before deciding to audition for a show check your calendar!

Most shows will rehearse between 6 – 8 weeks, sometimes more for a musical, and depending on the role you are cast in you may need to be at rehearsal 3 – 4 times a week for that period. Be realistic, can you put in the time necessary to be in the show? Most directors at the community theatre level will expect actors to have a few conflicts due to work and family but they will expect you to be available every night for the last week or two leading up to a show. Likewise, if you have a big vacation or business trip in the middle of the rehearsal period that will take you away for a week or more understand that this will likely mean that you won’t be cast for the lead – no matter how talented you and perfect for the part you are – if you are cast at all.

Typically, you will be asked about conflicts at the audition. Be honest, I have seen people cut from shows during the rehearsal period because they could not live up to their commitment in terms of availability. It isn’t pretty and it isn’t fair to your other cast members. Putting on a show is a team effort. If one or more people are consistently missing the entire production suffers.

Know the Rules

Though auditions are similar from group to group there are often differences. The group putting on the show will usually have expectations listed on their website, Facebook page, etc. for the audition process listed. Read them and follow them to the letter.

Know the Show

If at all possible try to obtain a copy of the script and read it ahead of time. In some cases groups may have reading copies available to lend – but don’t count on this. At the very least go online and find a synopsis and list of characters.

Know Yourself

After reading the script, be honest with yourself, is there a character that you could see yourself playing in the script? If you are auditioning for a musical is the part you want in your vocal range? Do you have the special skills that may be required of the role (tap dancing for example)?

The good news is that most if not all community theatres have policies of inclusivity when casting so opportunities to be cast have never been greater. This used to be called “color-blind” casting in which race does not usually play into selection of the character unless race is a theme of the play (for example, you are not likely to see an all white cast for Raisin in the Sun). Gender blind casting has recently come to the forefront as well with some groups but not most. Do not assume that this is the case for any show you are auditioning to be in. Sometimes the playwright has put restrictions on who can be cast, most famously Edward Albee and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, or a director feels that “gender bending” would impact the message of the play. The norm still is that men should audition for male roles and women for female roles. However, in my opinion, it doesn’t hurt to ask about this.

Race and gender aside I believe you will still find that most directors will stick to other qualifications, such as age, when casting.

You are now ready to go to the audition!

At The Audition

Remember that the audition is essentially a job interview. So basic rules apply:

  • Be on time if the audition is by appointment. If the audition is during a block of time – 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for example – don’t arrive at 8:45 or later and expect to be given a try-out.
  • Be polite.
  • Dress appropriately. You don’t need to wear a business suit, but be sure to wear loose fitting clothing that doesn’t restrict you movements. I prefer to dress in neutral colors so that the director is focusing on my movement and face instead of my outfit. Some people recommend dressing as you think the character you are audition to be would. I do not. Your idea of how the character would dress most likely will not match the ideas that the directing staff have. Most directors are looking for actors who will be flexible during the rehearsal process, not actors who are already set on how to interpret the character.
  • Be respectful of other actors who are auditioning. Many groups have open auditions in which everyone watches everyone else’s audition. Be quiet and attentive when you are not on stage.
  • Be ready to take risks. Too often I will see people trying to copy another person’s performance during an audition. Try to give the directors something unique about your performance that no one else did. Especially if there is a large group auditioning for the same role. You want to stand out at an audition, not blend in!

Remember this is your time to shine. You need to put aside all fear of failure and go for it! If you can’t speak up and move in front of a relatively small group how can the director trust that you will before a sold out house on opening night?

After the Audition

I think that the hardest part of an audition is afterwards when you are waiting to see if you got cast. Hopefully, the group you auditioned for told you how you would be notified if you are cast and if you are not.

In Conclusion

If you are cast in the role you want, congratulations! If you are not cast in the role you wanted or worse yet not cast at all please don’t let this discourage you. Auditioning is a skill and most people do not get cast in a leading role their first time out. Keep auditioning and you will get better at it.

I hope that these tips help you get the role you want. There really is nothing quite like being in a show and I have found a lifetime’s worth of pleasure and satisfaction in community theatre. I’m sure that you will, too.

You can find other tips for auditioning on the web, of course, and I also recommend finding a copy of Audition by Michael Shurtleff (ISBN 9780553272956). It’s a great guide and many consider it the “bible” of auditioning.

Break a leg!

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Photo by Flo Dahm on Pexels.com

When I named this blog it was with the intention of being a travel blog as much as anything. Then, you know, COVID hit and I’ve been slow to get back onto the travel train so to speak.

So though I’ll still blog about my fitness and other journeys I think it’s time to start talking and planning travel again. With that in mind here’s my list of places I’d like to see before I die.

The first two are in order of importance. The rest, not so much:

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com
  • Alaska – my fiftieth state.
  • Train trek from London to Paris to Rome (with a stop at Disneyland Paris, of course).
  • Mt. Everest Base Camp (okay, at least close enough to see Mt. Everest).
  • Germany
  • Japan (can you say Disneyland Tokyo?)
  • Sweden/Norway/Denmark/Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Greece
  • Mexico – Yucatan peninsula in particular.
  • Kenya or South Africa
  • Ireland
  • Manchu Picchu (health willing)
  • Might as well go for Hong Kong and Shanghai Disney parks, too!

That’s my list as of today. So much world, so little time. My list doesn’t even take me to all 7 historical continents!

Where do you dream of traveling?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr

How to Choose A Personal Trainer

Don’t worry – a good trainer won’t judge you for past mistakes. But not following his or her advice is fair game.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

At some point in your training life you are going to decide that maybe you could do better with a personal trainer. Perhaps it’s to help you get started on your fitness journey, to take you to the next level, or even, as in my current case, someone to check in with on a regular basis to review form and monitor progress.

So the question is two-fold: 1) do you need a trainer and 2) how do you choose a trainer?

Why Have a Trainer?

A good trainer can help you to feel super!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m a proponent of personal trainers for the most part and have had a couple now. It took me a long time to put aside my ego and realize that maybe I wasn’t the best person to judge my own form when lifting and that learning from reading books and watching the big guys at the gym really wasn’t cutting it.

But once I made the decision to work with a trainer I really haven’t gone back. My preference is to find someone you can work with in person, but in a pinch an online trainer can be helpful. I’ve tried both ways and for me the in person experience is just more useful.

Photo by Timothy on Pexels.com

The big question I think most people have is “how do I choose a personal trainer?” and this is an important one. Just because someone has a million followers on Tik Tok, Instagram, etc. and abs that could cut glass doesn’t mean that he or she knows how to train someone else. Especially if that someone else may be fighting years of poor diet and exercise.

Remember, choosing a personal trainer is not a decision to make lightly. This is someone that ideally you’ll be relying on for years to come and who will have a huge influence on the only thing of value that your really have (outside of personal relationships): your body and health!

Though I’ve been happy with the trainers I’ve worked with I have to admit that I could have been more methodical in my search. My experience in finding trainers has been haphazard at best – I found my first trainer at an amusement park of all places. Hey, you have to talk about something while waiting a couple hours in line for a roller coaster, right?

So, realizing my limitations I turned to my current trainer, Matt Elvey, who also happens to be an instructor in Exercise Science at Owens Community College and teaches future personal trainers.

Here’s the advice he shared with me about finding a trainer who you can work with.

What to Look for in a Personal Trainer

  • Certification- NSCA/ACSM/ACE are examples of the big name certifications in the field.  
  • Experience training the clientele you would classify yourself as. Example-if a trainer has almost exclusive experience training bodybuilders and you are looking for fat/weight loss.  This probably isn’t a good match.
Contrary to popular opinion, your trainer shouldn’t leave you like this after a workour!

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

What Questions to Ask Before Working with a Trainer

  • What is your training philosophy? Ex-my approach to training is to manage the minimums of every client, assessing left/right asymmetries and bulding a program off of that.  
  • If you have injuries/health issues, do they have experience with these. Ex- chronic knee pain, diabetes, heart attack etc.  
  • Price per session/availability 

What Qualities Make a Good Trainer

  • Knowledge base, a trainer has to know muscles, different training techniques and when to implement them. 
  • Having a “gauge”- knowing what your client can handle and when they are ready to progress etc. 
  • Managing “downtime” in a workout. We do stretches for opposite muscles we are working in between sets of muscles we are working. Example-Pec fly machine/T-spine mobility with PVC pipe. 
  • Probably just as important as any other factor-being personable and building rapport. 

My Two Cents

In addition to the good advice Matt gives above I’d like to add a couple items you need to consider before working with a trainer:

  • Are you ready to commit to your goals? There’s no sense hiring an expert if you aren’t ready to make training a priority in your life.
  • Be honest about your goals. Do you really just want to be healthier or do you want abs? Believe it or not these goals are not as similar as you might think.
  • Be honest about your time and other commitments when discussing availability.
  • Be honest about your previous exercise experience.

On-Line vs In-Person Training

I’ve done both and personally, I get a lot more out of in person training so that’s what I would recommend. But if you choose to go with an online program, which frankly can be less expensive, be aware that you will need a very high level of discipline to make it work. You won’t have that extra motivation which comes from knowing that someone is waiting for you to show up.

Conclusion

So, there you have it. Advice from an expert and from me. Ultimately the choice is yours of course and the important thing is that regardless of whether you have a trainer or not that you start today to get moving!

Do you have any hints and ideas on choosing a trainer? I’d love to read about them in the comments!

Just me showing off my latest gains – thanks Matt!

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr

My T-Shirt a Day Project

If you read my earlier post on how Marie Kondo’s method saved my life then you know that I feel like I’m always fighting a battle against clutter. The good news is that for the most part I’ve learned how to declutter and I don’t feel so suffocated by stuff any more. However, there are a couple areas in my decluttering efforts that are still lacking. One is books (duh) the other is clothing.

Like most people in my socio-economic class I have too many clothes. Especially t-shirts (or tee-shirts, or Tshirts, does anyone know what they are really called?). I seem to collect them where ever I go as souvenirs, keepsakes, free hand-outs at conferences and event, etc. As a result my closets and drawers are overflowing.

But so many of these shirts bring back good memories – but what good is this if they are just sitting at the bottom of a drawer or in a container under my bed where I never see them.

Many solutions have been offered to me, make a quilt/blanket out of them, throw pillows, and so on. But these ideas which do have a certain appeal to me just mean that I’ll have quilts and pillows to deal with. Then my brother suggested perhaps take a picture of them and store the pictures instead of the shirt. Not bad and likely the way I’ll go.

So I’m taking my brother’s idea and the KonMarie method and my interest in social media and smashing them all together. Each day I’ll post a picture of me wearing a different t-shirt and perhaps sharing a bit of the story behind it. Then I’ll determine if it brings me joy or if it still has a utilitarian purpose. If so, I keep it. If not, it will thanked for it’s service, archived in some manner, and then either donated or tossed depending on the condition of the shirt.

Here are the shirts that I’ve featured so far (below). Follow me on Facebook (@journeyswithdave) or Instagram (@davewahr) to see others as I post them. We’ll see how long I can keep it up!

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr

Meet the Green Room Groupies!

Photo by LUCAS PEREIRA on Pexels.com

So anyone who is following this blog has certainly noticed that my posts have grown infrequent over the past few months. Certainly my trip to Egypt was one of the interruptions though ironically it is potentially fodder for many, many posts (so keep watching for more memories and lessons from that adventure). There are also the usual excuses about the holidays, I was in a show (theatre people get this one), and there’s just so much to watch on television these days (via various streaming services).

But part of the reason is because some of my creative “itch” has been scratched by my latest project – a podcast!

I get it everyone has a podcast these days. But I like to think that the one I’m working on is just a little different. It is, not surprisingly, sponsored by my theatre group – the Monroe Community Players – and the focus is on the art and business of theatre. With a particular emphasis on community and amateur theatre.

I’m joined on this podcast by 3 other like minded theatre enthusiast and other occasional guests. We call ourselves the Green Room Groupies and we like to think that we give you a little information, a little humor, a little food for thought, and a whole lot of fun each episode.

As of this writing we’ve got 16 episodes “in the can” with no end in sight!

So if you’re tired of murder mysteries, Joe Rogan, or just really like all things live theatre give us a listen! You can find us right now on Apple Podcasts with more channels to come.

I look forward to seeing you in the Green Room!

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr

Egypt!

This series of posts have taken me a long time to start writing – not because I didn’t want too, but because I have so much to share about my trip to Egypt. The good, the bad, and everything in between. In fact, I’m still not sure where to begin so instead of just offering a chronological travelogue of my trip lets start with a summary and go from their. By the way, you may want to review my earlier posts on trip preparation if you haven’t already (Trip Prep: Egypt parts one and part two).

The Good

Abu Simbel
  • The historical sites – you want old structures? Egypt has some of, if not THE, oldest in the world.
  • The people – on the whole everyone we encountered was friendly and enjoyed meeting Americans.
  • The Nile – cruising on the Nile and watching life along the banks was a highlight of my life for sure.
  • The culture – it was fascinating to see how people lived. So similar, yet so different.
  • Road Scholar – the trip was well organized and we had no major issues.
  • Our guide – knowledgeable and friendly.

The Bad

Me at the Sphinx
  • The vendors – I was warned about how aggressive vendors could be but nothing really prepared me for the onslaught everywhere we went.
  • Traffic in Cairo – I will never complain about driving in the USA or Canada again. I’ve driven in some of the worst traffic North America has and it doesn’t hold a candle to Cairo. Sorry LA and NY but as long as your drivers at least nominally pay attention to the stripes on the road Cairo is worse!
  • The food – too many places we stayed tried, and I emphasize tried, to replicate North American food. I think it would have been better if they just made what they were used to and stay away from the “chicken Kentucky” and the oddly bright pink lunchmeat. Plus, there is a world of sausage that they are missing out on. I get that you aren’t really going to find pork in a nation which is 90% or more Islamic, but there’s turkey, chicken, and all sorts of delicious alternatives. Mini-all beef hotdogs really aren’t “breakfast links.”
  • COVID – this is sort of a gimme I suppose. But travel with COVID is a little more difficult. Especially by air. However, I followed all precautions and came home without getting sick.

Favorites

The crowds and columns at Karnak.

Here, in no particular order, are the favorite things I did:

  • Rode a camel at the Giza Pyramids.  Cliché and touristy but still an experience I enjoyed. Did you know that they stand with their hind legs first? Be sure to hang on!
  • Went inside two pyramids – and lived to tell the tale. The first was very hot and stuffy and the lights didn’t work. It turned into a real “Indiana Jones” type adventure.
  • Cruising the Nile (see above).
  • Abu Simbel – I have wanted to see this since I was a kid. I literally wept when I first lay eyes on this both ancient and modern marvel.
  • Discovering sites that I didn’t even know existed.
  • Karnak – simply amazing.
  • Discovering that graffiti is as old as tourism. And that it was a popular thing to date your signature when you defaced an ancient temple.

Over Hyped

The Great Pyramid of Giza. The only wonder of the ancient world still standing!
  • The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx – Vendors nearly ruined this for me with their aggressive sales tactics. I’m trying to enjoy and take in the majesty of the site and they want to sell me trinkets. My feelings on this are complicated because I know that most Egyptians are relatively poor compared to the average North American and everyone has to make a living. But still…
  • King Tut’s Tomb – everything in it, except Tutankhamun himself, has been removed to museums. The tomb itself is unremarkable as far as royal tombs go.

Biggest Concerns

  • Finding a clean toilet when I needed one – to be fair this is one of my biggest concerns anywhere. It comes with having Crohn’s.

Biggest Surprises

  • No Diet Coke – I learned to drink Coke Zero, tea and coffee.
  • Germany has more choices in McMuffins than we do in the United States!

So that’ it the first of I think several posts on this trip. Have you been to Egypt? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

No Diet Coke, only Coke Zero!
Breakfast in Germany

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr

Fitness 101: The Basics

Congratulations! It’s a new year and you have made the resolution to finally get into or back into shape. You have your new workout clothes, joined a gym, and are motivated to eat better. You’ve checked with your physician and she says that there is no reason why you should not exercise more and, in fact, encourages you to do so. In other words, you are ready to go!

Now what?

Here are a few quick tips to help you get off to a great start and be successful in your new quest.

The Workout

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Start slowly: the biggest mistake most people make when starting out is being too ambitious. No one walks into a gym never having lifted weights before and starts pumping out reps of 225 lbs. on the bench press. It is best to start out slow with a lower weight than you think you can handle. You need to learn to feel the movement and get used to using the equipment.

Stay Consistent: the secret to getting into shape is basic. Find a routine and stick to it. Make working out a regular part of your day and you’ll succeed in the long run. This means working out when you feel like it and even when you don’t – which is the tough part.

Don’t Get Discouraged: it takes time to see and feel results. You didn’t get out of shape overnight and you won’t get into shape overnight either. Don’t expect to notice change for several weeks. The good news is that progress is addicting. Once you notice the positive benefits of exercise you’ll find that you want more and it will get easier.

Move everyday: I’m willing to bet that you spend too much time sitting around. Learn to move more. Even if it’s just walking a few extra steps by parking farther away at the store, work, whatever. Being able to move is a gift and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Today’s walk around the block might lead to next year’s marathon!

Fitness trackers: I’m a big believer in them. If nothing else they help you to better understand how you move through the day. 10,000 steps may just be a number but most people don’t get half of that. I say again – move more!

The Gym

There will be crowds: gyms are most crowded this time of year with all sorts of people who have made New Year’s resolutions. Sadly, most will be gone within the month. You don’t want to be one of them.

Gym Etiquette: just a few basics. Check your gym’s rules for details.

Photo by Anthony Shkraba on Pexels.com
  • Rack the weights when you are done using them. This especially important as you get stronger – what might be light for you in a few months will still be heavy to someone else.
  • Wipe the benches and equipment off when you’re done – we all sweat.
  • Keep your stuff with you, don’t leave it on an empty bench while you workout across the gym – gyms have lockers for a reason by the way.
  • Mirrors are for checking your form. If you have to flex do it quickly – and in this age of “fitness influencers” and Instagram “models” everyone has to flex.
  • Speaking of influencers – some gyms forbid the use of recording equipment. If you are keeping a video log or whatever be sure to check.
  • Don’t hang around the equipment talking with your new gym buddies. Socializing is fine, just don’t hog stuff other people may need to use while you’re doing it.
  • Don’t be a creep – eyes on your own form guys and focus on your workout. Gym attire by it’s very nature is tight and often revealing. But that doesn’t mean the lovely lady on the treadmill wants you to stare at her for the entire workout.

Don’t be intimidated: everyone starts somewhere. Even the biggest, baddest dude in the gym was once a scrawny kid struggling to pick up a 2 pound weight to curl for the first time and the most bodacious booty started out as a flat or shapeless blob. Plus, these folks are focusing on their own workout. No one is paying much attention to you and most are applauding you for starting your fitness journey. And if they aren’t well who needs them? You are doing this for you and no one else.

Personal Trainers: do you need a personal trainer to get fit? Of course not, but many people find the extra accountability motivating. Plus, if you’ve never worked out in a gym before a trainer can really help you understand how exercises work together and the proper form to avoid injury. They also help get over some of that initial self-consciousness. I have a personal trainer who I meet with once a week and am still learning from him. If your budget allows it, I would recommend you try to work with one. If you can’t afford a trainer another option is to find a friend who already works out. See if he/she is willing to help you get started. Chances are they’ll be flattered you asked.

How Not To Diet

You just have to glance at me to realize that diet and nutrition are not my fortes. I’m pretty good at lifting heavy stuff but not at watching what goes into my mouth which is unfortunate because any bodybuilder will tell you that changing your shape is about 20% gym work and 80% nutrition. So, here are my top errors. Don’t emulate them:

Don’t clean out your refrigerator and cupboards by eating all the “bad” stuff first.
Don’t think you can lose weight and still eat fast food every day (or twice a day, or three times a day for that matter).
Don’t starve yourself in an effort to lose weight. You’ll only binge later.

Now for me, a lot of the usual tricks about eating don’t work and I’ve reached the point where I know why I overeat, when I overeat, and what I should not be eating. I’ve accepted that fat loss is in my hands (or mouth) and don’t feel guilt or remorse anymore when I miss goals. That’s why I’m still too fat. But, c’est la vie. Enough about my problems. I know that you can do better.

Oh, and by the way, I’m sorry to inform every nutritionist out there but if you really think that a bagel is a substitute for a doughnut you are missing the point. Granted they are both round and have holes but the similarity is only superficial!

So, Get Started Already

You have the basics – don’t be too ambitious, find a routine you can stick to, watch your diet. But the most important thing is just to get started!

Happy New Year and let me know how your fitness quest progresses through the year!

Photo by Cats Coming on Pexels.com

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr

Advice to Youth – Part 2: So You Still Want to Get Big…

Timo before and after. Photo courtesy of Timo Eherer.

If you read part one of this blog, The Matter of Size, you already know that as much as we like to get big that lifting, bodybuilding, pumping up, whatever you want to call it, is much more than the quest of always having to turn sideways to enter a room. Through weightlifting and bodybuilding you have already gained confidence, better health, focus, and discipline (or you are about to).

But as someone who has always chased those fabled 19″ (50 cm) arms – I get it. Strength and flexibility are fine but sometimes you just want to be able to flex and watch your sleeves start to rip under the strain of your massive arms to the amazement of onlookers. Intimidate or attract others with your Thor like physique.

Okay, fine. So how do you achieve this? Well, I’ve covered it to some degree in earlier blog posts including The Secret to Building Big Arms. But why should you listen to some fat old guy who doesn’t look like he could find a gym let alone bench press more than his bodyweight?

First of all, I can bench more than my bodyweight which, yes, is considerably more weight than it should be. But I get your point – you want to hear from some juiced up 300 pound genetic anomaly or the latest Tik Tok influencer. Someone who looks how you want to look.

So let’s compromise. Let’s hear from someone who is about your age and has achieved a great deal of size and strength.

Meet Timo Eherer who is a young German bodybuilder who I somehow befriended on Instagram (find him @new.teemo). He’s been at the iron game for a little over 5 years and is a natural athlete. From his before and after pictures (above left) I think he’s clearly learned a thing or two about how to gain mass over the years. Agreed? Good, keep reading for a few tips on how to grow.

Eat Big, Get Big?

Curls for the girls – and bigger biceps! Photo courtesy of Timo Eherer

There’s a saying in bodybuilding circles that to get big you have to eat big. This has led to many a young bodybuilder stuffing himself with all sorts of food and not necessarily healthy food. So the result is a lot of fat strong guys out there (I say looking in the mirror and pointing at myself). While it’s true that in order to gain mass you need to increase your caloric intake, it’s not true that you can eat anything you want because it’s “bulking season.” Though calories per se don’t make you fat, eating extra fat seems to do the job pretty well. This is because fat is calorically dense. It doesn’t take much to deliver extra calories but the volume will leave you less than satisfied with your meal causing you to eat more than you plan. And where do all the calories your body doesn’t use go? That’s right – fat.

As Timo says:

“Do not dirty bulk! It’s just a waste of time. You won’t build more muscle with a caloric surplus of 1000kcal compared to 200-300. in the end, you just get fat.”

Trust me on this one – he’s absolutely right. I have spent a lifetime essentially dirty bulking (see Confessions of a Junk Food Junkie for details) and the results are not pretty.

So what to do? It’s pretty simple actually. Here are Timo’s 5 top lessons – so far – from his bodybuilding journey:

Do not dirty bulk
It’s just a waste of time. You won’t build more muscle with a caloric surplus of 1000kcal compared to 200-300. in the end, you just get fat.

Always train harder is bull****
You also need breaks! Sure, Training hard is very very important. Going close to muscle failure to damage your muscle for growth is necessary. BUT you still need breaks. Deloads. Essential when you want to grow in the long run.

Protein is overrated
More protein means less carbs and carbs are the main energy source. You DONT need more than 2-2,5G of protein per kg bodyweight. Everything else is junk. Better get those carbs.

Alcohol won’t kill your gains
Sure, alcohol is bad in general. But you should not fear it. One drink here and there won’t do anything to your gains or performance. Just don’t consume it on a regular basis. That’s bad and a waste of money.

The weight you lift doesn’t matter
It is what it is. I had to mention this at the end now. Mind muscle connection and technique is EVERYTHING. If you have to drop your weights for a better feeling and technique then always do it! Progression is important. Doesn’t matter what’s the base weight. 100kg doesn’t mean it’s better than 80kg. It matters how effective your training is!

But I Want Big Arms!

Camera angles can help you get big arms, too. I’m no Timo but I’m still trying. Here’s me in 2022 showing off the gains.

Don’t we all? But okay, arm development is something that Timo has clearly figured out. As he says:

“I told you guys, 3x arms per week is the key. Arms can’t be big enough, right? Destroying arms one time per week might be fun but it isn’t effective at all. Also, don’t use too much weight, go lighter and maintain control. Train them 3-4x/week, use lower weights and get a good pump due to a good feeling and you’re fine. Watch them grow and thank me later.”

No Magic Potion

So there you have it. Some advice from a peer. In the end I think it’s most important that you learn to listen to and learn from your own body. Record workouts, take measurements, figure out what you respond to and more importantly what you don’t respond to. I’m all for learning as much as you can about proper technique and even at my ripe old age I check out various YouTube videos, blogs, etc. on how to lift. But, you also have to learn to separate the hype from the facts. The more you know about basic anatomy and muscle structure the better you’ll be able to avoid injury.

There is no magic serum, vitamin, pre-workout, or protein mix out there. In fact, my suggestion is to get your nutrition figured out before you resort to trying any of that stuff – and yes, I have some protein supplement in my kitchen right now. But I don’t depend on it for my basic needs.

I think that you will gain a lot from your bodybuilding journey. Do it right and the weight room will be your home from a long time to come.

Good luck – and don’t be afraid to let me know what you’ve already discovered works and doesn’t work for you. It may help someone else along the way someday!

Onward!

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr