If all goes well in about 6 weeks from when this is being written I will be off on my first trip “overseas” and headed towards Egypt! Land of the Pharaohs, pyramids, temples, and the fabled Nile River – on which I will be cruising.
I’ll be honest, I did not expect my first trip abroad to be to Africa. In fact the dream is still to take a cross-European trip from London to Rome via Disneyland…er…I mean Paris and other points of interest along the way. In 2019, with the urging of friends who suggested that I travel with them for my first overseas adventure, I had planned to go to Greece. But, you know, COVID…
So, now that I’m fully vaccinated and ready to see the world again those same friends and I will be heading to explore a culture that pre-dates the Greeks. I thought it might be useful to others to share some of my trip prep and my decision making as I get ready for this new adventure.
Alone or With A Group?
I recall reading somewhere that famed travel guru Rick Steves said that the best way to travel as solo (never mind that he often travels with an entire television production crew). The reason being that if you travel alone you will be treated as a person. Go in a big group and you will be treated as a group. Two very different experiences – by yourself you have the opportunity for conversation and getting to know other people. In a group, you will be mostly talked at and instructed on where to go and what to do. Also, you are traveling in a virtual “bubble” when you travel with a group. Sure you’ll meet people – but they will mostly be people in your group and likely from your country. Which works against getting to know another culture.
But there are advantages to traveling with a group, especially for the first timer (me). As part of a group tour most of the details are arranged for you. I don’t have to worry about hotel, transportation, or meals. Also, the language barrier is essentially eliminated which is a plus and a minus I think.
There are, of course, many touring agencies who offer a variety of trips. In this case we decided to sign up for a trip offered by Road Scholars. From what I can tell it seems to be a fairly standard package (my alumni association offers almost the same package), but it does offer an educational component that I think some tours lack and the price was reasonable. Over the course of two weeks we will visit Cairo, see the major historical sites, and cruise the Nile.
Getting Ready – Practical Matters
Even with the big items being taken care of there is plenty for me to arrange on my own:
Passport/Visa – my passport is good for several more years and the Visa is actually purchased when I arrive.
Medications – if you are like me and a mature traveler with a couple medical conditions I bet you take a few pills each day. Don’t get caught short. Make sure all your prescriptions are filled before leaving and that you have enough to take with you – plus a few extra in case of delays. The recommendation is to take the original containers that your pills came in so that airport security and customs can better identify what you are carrying.
Other Medical Concerns – the flight over to our first stop in Frankfurt, Germany is more than 8 hours in duration and an overnight flight. I’ll need my CPAP for sure. While most modern plans have outlets I noted that our airline could not guarantee this. So I’m investing in a battery for my CPAP (good for power outages at home, too). The battery will also have to be registered with the airline’s Medical Operation Centre.
Cell/Mobile Phone – verify that you have a “global” plan for your phone. Of course, you should be able to use it with Wi-Fi whenever available but you don’t want to be surprised with unexpected roaming charges while abroad.
Electricity – oddly enough electric outlets are not universal throughout the world nor are electric supplies. Get some adapters and make sure that any electronics you take with you can handle the voltage where you are going. You may need additional transformers.
Cash – Road Scholars suggests taking a certain amount in cash and to exchange once we arrive. However my friends, who have taken a few international trips already, feel it’s best to exchange currency with your bank before heading out.
Credit Cards – Visa may be accepted everywhere but save yourself the hassle of fraud prevention turning off your card when you might need it most. Contact your card provider to alert them of your travel dates and destinations at least a couple weeks before you leave.
Join the airline’s frequent flyer “miles” club. This trip should earn me a couple!
Pre Trip Education
One other thing I am doing is reading up about where we’ll be going on our tour. I’ve started with some of the books that Road Scholar recommended and am also doing some reading on my own as well (it’s a good thing I never through out my old National Geographic Magazines!).
What other ideas or suggestions do you have when prepping for an international trip? I’d love to hear them! Comment below or on my Facebook page (@JourneyswithDave).
More on my trip to Egypt to come!
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted. Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr
Okay, true confession time. Despite all my talk of working out, my “bodybuilding journey,” my cardio, so on and so forth, the thing that has always tripped me up in my fitness journey is my diet. Despite my best intentions and knowing all the rules I have never had good control of my weight. My leanest years have not been because of strict attention to what I put in my mouth they have been due to illness and other factors. Why is this? Simple really – I cheat. I justify. I find every reason I can to bend, ignore, and trash the rules.
Sound familiar? If so, welcome to the club. It’s a big one and not just because of the collective size of the members.
I make a show of recording my meals, checking calories, and all that diet theater. But in reality, I eat things that I don’t record. Not just occasionally, but every day. Worse, I actually find ways to justify every single bite. Everything from telling myself that one treat won’t hurt to convincing myself that if the food has enough protein it’s actually good for me even if I go over my daily calorie limit.
I’ve tried every trick in the book as well: Food substitution (eat this, not that), low density and high volume foods (grapes, celery and the like), don’t eat gluten, don’t eat starches, don’t eat- well, you get the idea.
All these strategies have failed. Because the simple truth is that if you want to lose weight you need to expend more calories than you consume. That’s it. The only thing that actually works.
Food A Love Affair
Like most of us my diet efforts have been sabotaged from day one. Not just from the usual suspects like the fast food and convenience food industries (worth several blog entries in and of themselves) and a very sweet tooth combined with a love of sugary carbs (I know, sugar is a carb) but also certain emotional and habitual triggers.
For example: I always have to have – and I mean have to have – a corn dog when I visit and amusement park or fair. It’s an urge that is as strong as any other I have. If I’m at a movie theater I need a bag of popcorn and a giant Diet Coke. At home watching television? Then it’s snacking from my “snack table.” These are for some reasons part of my eating habits or emotional triggers.
It doesn’t stop with those triggers either. After lunch I feel the need to have something sweet. But, I don’t eat chocolate like everyone else – so I choose a Pop Tart and these come in packs of two with twice the calories of most chocolate bars. Worst of all regardless of how well I’ve prepped for a meal at home – if I’m running late and am hungry I’ll swing through the drive-thru to get something to “tide me over” until I get home to pop my prepped meal in the microwave. Sometimes, I go so far as to eat both meals!
Sound familiar to anyone else?
Is There An Answer?
Obviously, some people over come whatever emotional feelings they have regarding food and are able to carve out their abs, sculpt their chest, and build the body beautiful. Are they superhuman? Have they discovered the secret diet, supplement, or pill? Do they really just love grilled chicken and plain rice?
Of course not.
What they have done is make a decision that their fitness goals are more important than any transitory pleasure that they get from eating a particular food. They realized that they control what they eat and are not slaves to their taste buds.
Was it easy for them? Maybe. Is it easy for me? Obviously not. If you are still reading this it’s probably not easy for you either. But here’s the ugly truth as I see it: if you want to lose weight it’s the only thing you can do that will work.
Expend more calories than you take in. That’s the only rule that you need to follow (why does this sound familiar?).
Don’t Beat Yourself Up – Learn From My Experience
However, I need to stress something else. Though I have failed in my weight loss efforts I have stopped making myself miserable over it. I used to stare at vending machines for far too long deciding whether I’m going off my diet or not. Finally take that “forbidden” treat, scarf it down and then feel guilty for the rest of the day. In short, I was making myself miserable over not being able to lose weight even though it is something that is actually in my control. I’m an adult. If I decide to eat something it is my decision and I know what the consequences are so I’ve learned to live with that fact.
Take ownership of the fact that you are the only one who can make the change. Be an adult and admit that you have are not reaching your goals because YOU are your biggest obstacle. Stop blaming your metabolism, getting older, and the fact that Big Macs are just so good (especially followed by a cheeseburger for “dessert”).
Lean or fat – my choice. It’s your choice too. Make the right one.
The Good News
Once you’ve taken ownership of the issue – you can now take ownership of the solution. If you are your biggest obstacle you can also be your biggest champion. You have the power, you can do it! Was it easy for them? Maybe. Is it easy for me? Obviously not. If you are still reading this it’s probably not easy for you either. It won’t be easy. You will feel hungry. You will get “hangry.” But own the solution, be the solution and eventually you will lose weight.
Or so I think. I’m willing to give it another try if you are!
Technically I have been blogging since 2008 which is when I opened up my first WordPress.com account and posted a blog titled Crohn’s Attack. I then didn’t post anything until February of 2010 with a post on body size, training, and other stuff which was titled simply enough Body Size, Training and Other Stuff. In fact, the first six years of this blog were the least prolific and, not surprisingly, the least read years of it’s existence. I didn’t start posting regularly until 2014 when I reached 720 views with 427 visitors. Things kept progressing slowly after that point. I wrote more often and got more viewers ready 2,177 in 2019.
Then in 2020 something both interesting and amazing happened. I posted only once that entire year – you read that correctly – one post in all of 2020 (it was called Fitness Quest: 2019 A Year in Review if you are interested), but my viewership soared. Not by a little, but by a lot. I went from 2,177 views in 2019 to 19,879 views in 2020! All without writing more than one measly post. What happened? I can tell you in one word: Google.
Google to the Rescue
After a little research I discovered that one of my post from a couple of years earlier, When is a Man’s Arm Considered Big?, made the Google front page. All of a sudden it seemed that my little blog was getting noticed and getting noticed a lot or so I thought at the time. So like any good blogger I thought – there must be a way I can capitalize on this attention. If people like that article they’ll surely like everything else I have to say.
The Best Intentions and Well Laid Plans
So I decided to dive more seriously into the blog. I rebranded what I had been calling Dave’s World into Journeys With Dave. I had the thought at the time that I would be posting more travel related content like some other bloggers who’s work I enjoyed and admired. Most notably Jon Miksis over atMy Global Viewpoint who I also wrote a travel article on little known things to do around Lake Erie for this past year. In addition to rebranding I started a Facebook page for the blog to reach a wider audience beyond my friends. I also changed my mind set. If I was going to make this work as a little “side hustle” to pay for vacations which I could then write about I needed to get serious about posting. I committed myself to posting at least one new blog a week.
Results So Far
So everything was in place and I started writing weekly. I’m pleased to say that so far I’m managing to stick to my goal of something new each week. Sometimes I’d write more than once a week, like my series on the Grumpy Old Man Tour of Walt Disney World, and once or twice I did miss my self-imposed deadline. But this year is clearly my most prolific.
So far this year I’ve posted 32 times and I’ve written 43,876 words. This is more than twice my previous best of 15,973 in 2015 with 32 posts total that year as well.
Visits are on track to beat last year’s total easily as I’m over 18,000 views as of August 21, 2021 with 4 and a half months to go. So exceeding 20,000 vies and 17,301 visitors should not be an issue. My best month for viewing was January 2021 where I reached about 3,300 views. However, this is the month that I rebranded and switched from the free WordPress.com site to a paid WordPress.com site. The main reason for this was so that I could get ad revenue. As a result I saw a big drop in views in February but my readership is climbing again and I’m over 2,200 per month currently and trending back up.
Other interesting stats (at least interesting to me):
Most popular viewership time: Tuesdays at 10:00 PM
Most viewed day: January 17, 2021 with 138 views.
Average Words Per Post: 1,371
The Plan Forward
My main issue now though is frankly one of content. That post about When is a Man’s Arm Considered Big is still far and away my most popular blog. I’m not complaining about this, but I am trying to find a topic that will also hit that front page of Google – the holy grail of blogging – and so far I’m not having a lot of luck. I am finding that similar subjects seem to have some staying power, but when I try other topics I’ll get an immediate bump in readership but that’s it. I have noticed that other bodybuilding/fitness/workout type blog entries are moving up in viewership. This may be because my primary audience, at least according to Google Analytics, are men aged 20 – 24 who are not surprisingly interested in fitness and sports. So my plan is to keep giving this audience more of what it wants, like How do Your Arms Stack up to Other Gym Bros?, and even stories of my own fitness experiences over the years. By the way, the last blog was picked up by a website that promotes scientific research articles – so that was cool.
So my plan going forward is more of the same that I’m doing now. Post on a regular basis, see if I can build a new audience to compliment the one I have, and keep having fun exploring the world of blogging. I am also slowly working into other media as well such as YouTube and Podcasting. However, there are only so many hours in a day and as fun as all the social media stuff is it doesn’t pay the bills (so far at least).
Quick Lessons Learned
Here are a few things that I think I’ve learned which I hope might help you if you decided to start at blog or are working on a blog of your own currently:
Be consistent. Writing on a regular basis keeps your followers engaged and keeps your skills fresh and sharp, too.
Don’t expect to get rich quick. Or get rich slowly for that matter. If you do great and please let me know your secret. However, the odds are against this happening. So remember you are in this for the long haul. As long as you enjoy what you are doing I think that success will come but it will likely take years not days, weeks, or even months.
Experiment. Don’t be afraid of tackling a new subject. Your audience is looking for information. If you provide what they want, they will come back.
Check your stats. I pay attention to how each post does and try to learn from that. If you look at my first post and my posts today you’ll see a fair amount of change – for the better I hope!
Don’t be afraid to self promote. I’ve gotten better about suggesting to people that they check out my blog. I don’t know how many actually do, but my viewer counts continue to climb and I’ll get the occasional “attaboy” and “great blog” from friends and acquaintances.
So that’s it. I’ll check back in on the blogging effort at the end of this year just to let you all know how things are going. Good luck with your blog in the meantime!
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted. Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr
From the Pumping Iron song – Written by Michael Small and performed by Joey Ward
In some ways this is an easy entry for me to write, in other ways it’s difficult. I started out thinking that I would write a blog about my journey to a 350 pound (160 kg) bench press and how you could achieve one, too (short answer: go to http://www.timinvermont.com/fitness/benchpgm.htm and follow the program there. It may take a few rounds, but you’ll gain a lot of strength and a lot of size each time). But, I got to looking at old records and started to reflect on my progress over the years. This reminiscing led me to a basic question about myself: am I now or was I ever an actual bodybuilder?
Let’s review the evidence…
If you looked at me today or at any point in my life your answer to the question “is Dave a bodybuilder” would be a pretty emphatic “no.” Sure, I have some size and statistically speaking there are very few men my age who can lift as much as I can in the weight room (see my blog How Much Can the Average Man Bench Press for details and to find out how you compare). But I’m clearly much too fat to be a bodybuilder in the popular sense, my waist and hips are too wide, etc., etc. At best you might think I’ve done some power lifting in my past. But I’m no Arnold. Heck, I’m not even a Richard Simmons. But in the broader sense of the term? Maybe…
The Early Years
If you look into my past it’s clear that exercise and weightlifting in particular have been part of my life for a long time. I actually started lifting in high school using my dad’s 110 pound plastic barbell set purchased at Montgomery Wards (we called it “monkey” Wards back in the day – what a laugh that was…eh, I guess you had to be alive then). Believe it or not at that time my school did not have a proper weight room. There was a Universal Gym that lived in a store room just off the gym by the custodial office but frankly, even though I was on the on the track team, I was too intimidated the “jocks” to actually use it myself.
Despite my self image of being fat (probably a blog post in and of itself) I was a skinny teen and not even remotely considered a jock – though I did finally letter in track my junior year. The earliest records I have indicated that I had average sized 13 inch (33 cm) arms in my twenties and benched about 90 pounds (40 kg) for reps during a typical workout. My 39 inch (99 cm) was barely larger than my 37 inch (94 cm) waist.
Not surprisingly, my goal back in my teens and twenties was simple: get bigger.
And not just a little bigger, I wanted to be huge with 22 inch (56 cm) arms and to be barely able to fit into a XXXL shirt. I wanted to look like the guys on the magazine covers – Arnold, Big Lou Ferrigno, Dave Draper, and a host of others. This quest for size, by the way, had nothing to do with attracting girls. I think it was for what may be a more common reason – I didn’t want to be small or perceived as weak. I also wanted to be satisfied with what I saw in the mirror. Narcissism isn’t just for politicians.
Reality vs Expectations
So in my younger years I had bought fairly heavily into the myth that anyone could achieve a Mr. Olympia physique. The myth that the secret to size and strength was to take the right supplement, do the specific workout that Mr. Current Trophy Winner did, curl the weight with you pinky pointing up, and so on and so forth. Do these things and the muscle would come. In my naivety I didn’t realize that to achieve a champion bodybuilder’s physique took a lot more dedication than I had, to the point of making it your life, extraordinary genetics, and chemical assistance well beyond a second scoop of creatine before your workout.
So, predictably, I wasn’t very successful in those early years. At least in terms of my progress matching my expectations. However, even without having someone to guide me in the gym and to follow me around slapping pizza out of my hands, I did start to make progress. My trial and error method of training, my research skills, and overall desire to make a change did serve me better than I thought. I had the tools to at least get closer to my goal – but I kept getting in my own way so to speak. There was also, of course, my health issues. Primarily Crohn’s Disease.
Adversity, Attitude, and the Middle Years
As I mentioned earlier I had issues maintaining a consistent workout. Some were due to allowing conflicts to get in the way of my training (I’m looking at you theatre), but others were of a more serious health nature. The first being Crohn’s which is often a debilitating inflammatory bowel disease. People who are afflicted with Crohn’s can suffer from severe pain, nutritional deficiencies, and more than 75% of us end up with surgery (I’m one of the 75% in fact).
Because of Crohn’s I lost all the meager gains I had made in my early twenties during a serious and long term episode. I went from 180 pounds (82 kg) down to about 130 pounds (59 kg). I didn’t mind the sub-thirty inch (76 cm) waist. But it came with 10 inch (25 cm) arms – flexed – and no abs. To be fair, I never had abs. Even as a skinny teen I didn’t have them. They just hadn’t been invented yet.
During those two years or so before my Crohn’s came under some level of control I had trouble just getting through the day and maintaining a job let alone work out. I was having trouble eating enough food to stay alive let alone gain mass.
But, the day finally came that my appetite returned and so did my efforts in the gym. I have to admit that I actually hit my bodybuilding stride in my thirties and forties. In fact it was in my forties that I started getting compliments and comments about the size of my arms. Fun fact, today my forearm is actually bigger than my upper arm was when I first started lifting (it pays to keep records folks).
It was also in my mid forties that my strength reached it’s peak – unfortunately, so did my weight but that’s another story. It took a few decades but my 60 pound (27 kg) bench press soared to 350 pounds (not quite 160 kg) one time max rep. I stress “one time.” Only once, I never tried again, but I still claim it.
Today – A New Attitude?
In the past 3 or 4 years began what I called my period of rapid decline. Not because I was having less successful workouts. But because suddenly multiple health crises started popping up.
First came the Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clot in my leg). This was followed by the news a few months later that at some point earlier in the year I had suffered a heart attack which permanently decreased the function of my heart. Then Crohn’s decided to have another swat at my which led to a perforated bowel and an ileostomy bag for a long 6 months or so. During which time I contracted Norovirus which put me into kidney failure (see Wash Your Hands People for details).
But even after all the above, I still returned to lifting. The desire to want to be bigger and stronger has not abated over the years, but I have added a new dimension to my training.
A long time ago a personal trainer, who was a competitive bodybuilder, told me that you should never mistake bodybuilding for fitness. Bodybuilding, in the competitive world at least, is all about looks. In fact, many of the practices that professional and amateur competitors do to prepare for a contest can be harmful if not dangerous to the body. Water depletion, calorie restriction, and this is before any discussion of drugs is considered.
In my younger days, if I had the dedication and drive to be competitive, I might have followed that same unhealthy path in the quest to get big, look better and to win trophies. But today, now that the realization of how precious and rare good health actually is has become evident to me, I have changed my training. Sure, I still lift and want to have muscle to flex, but I now also work on cardio and fat loss. It may be too little, too late, but here we are.
Advice to Youth or Lessons Learned
The take-aways of my journey are simple. If you want to be a competitive bodybuilder that’s your choice and there’s nothing wrong with it. But understand that it is a lifestyle and one that will take you away from other things in life. Leisure time, outside activities, and possibly relationships. I may be over stating this as there are happy pro-bodybuilders. But they sacrificed along the way.
Here’s a few more tidbits of things I’ve learned over time:
To thine own self be true. When I first started training bodybuilding was an oddity. In fact, coaches were still actively discouraging weight training because they worried that their athletes would become “muscle-bound.” So to large degree the idea of lifting to get bigger and stronger was frowned upon. Today there is no such stigma and it’s almost expected that everyone will lift weights at some point. Just be sure that you understand your motivations for doing so. Is it to get stronger? Look better? Get bigger? Staying focused on your goal will guide your training.
Remember – you are doing this for you. No one else. Your goals are your goals and you don’t have to justify the why’s of them to anyone but your self. Keep that in mind when you are asked why you work out so much, watch your diet so closely, etc.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Likewise, don’t think that you know it all. There’s a world of information on bodybuilding out there. Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding is still essential reading, too. I actually shared a hose one summer with a grad student who was clearly an experienced lifter and we never once talked about training. A missed opportunity for sure and I’m betting one of many.
Nutrition is key. Trust me on this, you can’t supplement your way past a bad diet. Speaking of supplements, you probably need fewer than you think (I know I’ll get some flack on this point). Some extra protein when you can’t get all your meals in, maybe some creatine but that’s about it. Especially when you are just starting out. In any case, get your diet straight first. Then you can experiment with supplements – but I bet you’ll find that you can get very far without them.
Your heart is your most important muscle. I know that it’s hard to think about heart health and keeping your body fat low when you are in your teens and twenties and your metabolism is firing at full speed. No one asks about your blood oxygen levels at the beach after all. But believe me, one day without warning your metabolism will suddenly slow down and instead of being that skinny guy with a natural six-pack you’ll be that fat guy with a full keg! You’ll have trouble walking up stairs, and a couple of squats will really make you sweat. You can avoid almost all of this with a little walking and running each day. Cardio – it’s not just for heart patients. It helps keep you from becoming one, too.
Be kind. Some day down the road when a gym newbie asks you for a spot or advice, give it. Remember where you started. Also, humor that old guy in the gym who tells you that he used to lift 350 pounds. If you keep working out and stay healthy someday that old guy will be you.
There is no point of regretting the past, but I do wish that I was more focused on my training early on. However, I am happy with where my current training is taking me. Even with my prime training years behind me (I have to admit it) I still make gains. Granted, my challenges are different now. I don’t try to lift all the weights. I now have goals that involve running longer distances – or any distance – and I find I’ve become more of a cheerleader for others as they begin their own bodybuilding or fitness journeys. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. Done right, bodybuilding and weight lifting can be a life long activity.
So, Are You a Bodybuilder or Nah, Brah*?
Oh, that’s right I forgot we started with that question. I have to admit that even today, when I’ve had to begrudgingly modify my training style to focus more on cardio and cut back on the heavy weights, that I still have that old mindset of bigger and stronger is better. My training partner can confirm that I spend a little too much time flexing in the mirror and trying to find just the right light to make by biceps “pop” when I flex. I enjoy the feel of the weight as I push and pull it. I look forward to the “pump” as the workout progresses and the endorphins kick in and that feeling when even though you’re tired it feels like you could lift a Mack Truck off your chest and conquer the world. I like seeing new veins emerge and when muscle definition starts to show through the layer of fat (diet ladies and gentlemen). I enjoy trying out new exercises and figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t.
So yeah, I may not be good at it and you’ll never see me on stage in a pair of posing briefs with way too much self-tanner covering every inch of my body, but I think it’s time to admit that I am a bodybuilder. Proud of it, too.
Are you one? Leave your thoughts in the comments and let’s discuss!
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted. Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr
*P.S. – I promise never to use “brah” in a header again.
I think that it is fair to say that theatre is essential to human existence. It has been around for nearly as long as civilization has existed in multiple forms from religion to pure entertainment. In fact, most popular forms of entertainment today – movies and television for example – have their origins in live theatre.
A Public Art
It’s also fair to say that theatre is common in most communities. You may never get to be a part of a Broadway audience, you might not even get to a large regional production, but most of us have been to a local community theatre and certainly a high school, elementary, or even church performance of some kind (I’m talking Christmas pageants by the way, not the regular Sunday service). Theatre in some form or another is ubiquitous in our society. It is not, as often ironically portrayed on stage, films or television, an activity of the idle rich. It is an accessible art form with millions of participants and as such is uniquely able to serve as a public forum for thought and ideas.
How Theatres Choose Their Seasons
Now, a few of you involved in theatre may disagree with what I’m about to say. But, I have been active in theatre nearly my entire life. I was in school plays, going back to elementary, some college classes and started a Reader’s Theatre Group as a student, and a ton of community theatre for the past 39 years. My community theatre work includes acting, writing, directing, etc. and I’ve served on multiple boards of groups at both the local and state level. This broad experience has allowed me to make note of some similarities among theatre groups. Especially among smaller groups which do not have abundant resources and endowments to draw upon.
I have heard the same basic arguments from different theatre boards and members when selecting shows, especially when the bank accounts get a little low. The discussion tends to center around what shows will sell. So as a result, because of the pervasive belief that casting children in shows sells tickets, many seasons of smaller struggling groups tend to be filled with children’s theaters, musicals, or the holy grail of ticket sales, musicals with children!
The Real Question Theatres Should Ask Before Selecting a Show
A question that I think theatres don’t ask enough is what is the purpose of theatre? And, just as important, how is that purpose being fulfilled? Regardless of how you answer these questions I think we will all agree that the purpose of theatre is not to sell tickets. Selling tickets is just a tool to raise funds to help us fulfil the higher purpose of our craft. It is an unfortunate fact that all groups need funding to continue to put on shows. But has your group become dedicated to just selling tickets? I believe that the purpose of theatre is to show a slice of the human condition in a safe environment and to give the audience something to reflect on and think about long after the final curtain call. If your board’s only goal is to make money without consideration of the important voice that theatre has are they doing the right thing?
Obligation to the Community – More than Frivolity
All theatres have an obligation to their communities and that obligation is not just to present shows that are entertaining or that can be easily cast. It means that on occasion at least that your group should be doing what I would call difficult pieces. Works that are often not associated with community theatre in fact because they are too controversial or use “bad” language (gasp). Works that deal with the troubling questions of our day like gun violence, homelessness, sex abuse, inclusiveness, and so on and so forth. I maintain that as soon as a member of your theatre’s board says something along the lines of “that won’t sell tickets” or “our community isn’t ready for this show” then that is exactly when you should produce it!
A Place for Every Type of Show
Now I’m not being dismissive of children’s theatre or musicals. Both have their place and both can also be educational and thought provoking. In fact, the best scripts and productions always are. Even old standbys like The Music Man are full of social commentary and you don’t have to dig deep to find it. But if your only purpose in picking a show is because you think it will sell tickets you are missing out on an opportunity to not only help further educate your audience – and I bet your theatre is organized as an “educational” 5019c)3 – but to develop an entirely new audience as well.
Risk and Reward?
Will your risk pay off? In terms of finance, possibly not the first time or two you perform something a little more daring. But in the long run, I think your community will learn to appreciate the intellectual debate that your productions inspire.
There you have it, my two cents. I’d love to learn what you think on this issue. Am I right on or all wet? Let me know in the comments and get the discussion started!
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted. Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr
*I don’t use the word “theatre” with the “re” for any hoity toity artistic reason. I use that word to describe the act or art of putting on a play. If I’m using the word “theater” I’m talking about the performance space. I just find it an easy way to distinguish between the two.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated anyone on my current reading list or my to-be-read pile (aka TBR in the bookish lingo), so here’s a picture of what I was reading back in May:
My Reading Progress
The good news is that I’ve made some progress and have been finding more time for reading each day. Admittedly, sometimes it’s in the bathroom and almost always just before I fall asleep – I’m sure many of you understand. But in the past couple of months I managed to finish:
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green – an interesting read and easy to read in bed as each chapter was short.
So You Want to Start a Podcast by Kristen Meinzer – an excellent book on podcasting and what makes a successful podcast.
Podcasting for Dummies by Tee Morris and Chuck Tomasi – more of a “nuts and bolts” book on the mechanics of podcasting.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon – a little difficult to read because of it’s format, but very worthwhile.
Without Ever Reaching the Summit by Paolo Cognetti – a contemplative trip through the Himalayas.
A stack of National Geographic magazines dating back a year through last month – these constituted most of my bathroom reading to be honest.
Jungle by Yossi Ghinsberg – a harrowing true life tale of survival in the jungles of South America.
I ended up putting aside The YouTube Formula for now. I’m still interested in YouTube but podcasting has my attention at the moment and there’s only so much time in a day. However, I finally got my Ricoh WG-M1 Adventure Camera set up so there may be a few more hikes put up on my YouTube channel before too long.
My TBR Plan of Attack
In my current read pile you’ll notice that I’ve added a couple books which are in preparation for my trip to Egypt this October. Luxor Illustrated, is mostly pictures so that will be finished quickly. The same goes for Candy and Designing Disney. I’m reading Don’t Burp in the Boardroom at bedtime since it’s relatively light fare for management style books. I love Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series, which all take place in USA National Parks. But, if I’m honest with myself this one may not get read until I board the plane for Egypt in October. I forgot how much reading I used to get done on airplanes during the pandemic.
Since I do have a couple long international flights coming up in just a couple months now I’d love suggestions of some good fiction to read from everyone else. What are you reading that you think I might enjoy?
My taste are eclectic or at least I imagine they are so nothing is off limits!
I’d also love to hear how you are tackling your TBR pile or list, too.
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted. Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr
Note: I continue to collect data for the survey mentioned below. This post is updated as information changes.
There is an old saying that starts with “every man knows two sizes about himself” and if that man is a bodybuilder it’s a safe bet that one of those sizes is how big his arms are!
Based on the popularity of some of my earlier posts on what is the average bicep size (see When is a Man’s Arm Considered Big? and How Do You Know if You Have Big Arms? for reference) I know that this is a topic of interest for many guys out there – in fact the number one way people find my blog is because they typed “average arm size” or “average bicep size” into their favorite search engine. So, let’s presume you’ve been lifting a while now, you know how big the average bicep is and you know that you compare well to the average Joe on the street. But how big is that dude posing over in the corner of the gym and posting to his Instagram account? Do you match him? That guy looks pretty jacked…how big are his ‘guns?’
Let’s see if we can get some answers to allay your fears and satisfy your curiosity.
Does Size Matter?
The short answer to this question is an emphatic…sort of.
It all depends what you are hoping to accomplish with your training. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that when most men start lifting it’s for one of two main reasons: 1) they want to get stronger (aka the “Charles Atlas Syndrome”) or 2) they want to look better (aka the “what ‘chu doing tonight?” syndrome).
If your goal is strength then yes, to a large degree, size does matter. But not in the way you might think. In general a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle. However, muscle size isn’t necessarily a good indicator of a man’s strength. I’ve known some 175 pound men who regularly outlift guys 50 pounds heavier. But, at some point size will be a factor. For example if a 175 pound man can bench 350 pounds he’s very strong pound for pound but has likely maxed out his capacity. Whereas if a 250 pound man can bench press 400 pounds he isn’t as strong per pound, but he’s got enough mass that he may be able to put up even more weight. It’s a matter of physics – it takes weight to move weight. There’s a reason that weightlifting competitions are divided into weight classes after all.
If, however, you are going for an aesthetic look of some kind. Perhaps to model, compete in bodybuilding, or catch the eye of a certain someone across the weight room, size does matter. You want to obtain proportions which show off your hard work in the gym and stretch your sleeves just enough to look good. But depending on your height and overall basic build you might be able to do this at a much smaller size that you think.
The Big Lie (or What to Really Expect)
The first thing you need to stop worrying about is the average bicep size of pro or any competitive bodybuilders. You don’t have to look far to find claims of exaggerated arm size which can lead to unrealistic expectations among natural lifters who are just starting out. Any bodybuilder worth his salt is going to claim that he has an arm which measures 20 inches (51 cm) or more. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, claimed he had a 22″ (56 cm) arm at his peak at a lean bodyweight of 235 pounds (107 kg) and a height of either 6’1″ or 6’2″ (187 cm).
However, even for one of the greatest bodybuilders ever, an arm that size is unlikely. I’m not saying that arms this big don’t exist, as I personally know a bodybuilder who has 20″ (51 cm) arms. But he is admittedly not natural and that measurement is flexed with a pump. To be frank, arms that big usually belong to men with high bodyfat percentages so they appear flat and without shape. Which in part defeats the goal of having big arms -which is to look and be strong.
The sad truth is that despite what you see on the internet or read in the muscle magazines (do they still have those?) you are not likely to get to a true 20″ arm with out extraordinary genetics and chemical assistance (prove me wrong guys – and more power to you if you do).
So, having said all this what can you expect. That’s were my recent survey came in.
Getting some basic information on the arm size of guys who lift for non-competitive reasons was a little difficult. This is in part because apparently hanging out at the men’s locker room of the local Planet Fitness with a tape measure in hand is not only frowned upon, but can even get you a lifetime ban from the place (don’t ask how I know)! These left me to approached men I know in real life and through social media and ask them how big their arms are. To my surprise, most agreed to help out as they were curious, too.
I want to stress that my survey is unscientific. To my knowledge all the participants have lifted for at least five years and some for considerably longer. Weightlifting and bodybuilding is not necessarily their primary athletic activity at this time, but it is included in their regular workouts. A few of the participants are actively trying to build their arms up (6), some are trying to maintain size (3) and the others are just lifting to improve/maintain their health (6). My sample group, though I think diverse, currently only has 19 men in it.
For the reasons stated above, all measurements were self-reported by the participants. There was no consistency in measuring tapes or techniques. The men range in age from 21 years old to 61 years old – but age is not factored into my results. The tallest are 6’3″ (190.5 cm) and the shortest is about 5’5″ (165 cm). I did not factor in weight, bodyfat percentage or other bodily measurements such as chest and waist. However, to my eye at least, all can be considered muscular even if a few are rocking the so-called “dad bod” or, in my case, the “grandad bod.” Most are Americans, but because I was able to gather information through social media some of the participants are men who reside outside of the United States.
Most of the men had a large arm and a small arm. For the purposes of this survey I took the larger arm’s measurement. Four of the men mentioned specifically that their arms had been larger in the past but they had lost size during the pandemic or for other reasons.
Most importantly, to my knowledge, most are “natural” athletes who take nothing stronger than protein powder and pre-workout. I did not ask about the use of PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) though. These are just regular guys who lift on a regular basis. It’s intended to be a random sample of who you might meet in a typical gym and, let’s face it, in today’s culture you are likely comparing yourself to a couple of guys who are juicing but you don’t know it. Okay, I’ve got a couple ringers in my sample group who were once elite athletes and a couple personal trainers who lift for a living.
Let start with the numbers rounded to the nearest quarter inch or half centimeter:
Average Height – 70 inches (178 cm). Yes, they are a relatively tall group. Median Height – 70 inches (178 cm). Seven men are 5’10” exactly and make up the most common height. The next most common height it 5’11” (180 cm) with three men this tall.
Average Arm Unflexed – just under 15 inches (38 cm). Median Arm Unflexed – 15 inches (38 cm).
Average Arm Flexed – 16.3 inches (41.4 cm) Median Arm Flexed – 16.25 inches (41.3 cm)
Average Difference Between Flexed and Unflexed Arm – just under 1.5 inches (3.8 cm). Median difference is 1.5 inches exactly (3.81 cm)
I threw the last measurement between the flexed and unflexed arm in for fun. Remember, when an arm is flexed the volume of the muscle doesn’t change, just the shape of it does. It’s my understanding that the difference in size between a flexed and unflexed arm can be an indication of how much fat is in the arm because you can’t flex fat. This is not true with the very lean man but may be true for those of us with a more substantial BMI. I’ve noticed myself that the leaner I get the greater this difference becomes. My difference is 2 inches (5 cm). The largest difference in the survey was at 2.5 inches (6.5 cm) and the smallest at a half inch (1.3 cm) which oddly enough was on a man who I know is very lean.
So what can we learn from the above information? I think the obvious take away is that if you lift you can expect your arms to get to at least 16 inches (42 cm) at a minimum regardless of height. Interestingly enough the tallest men in my survey, who were both 6’3″ (190.5 cm) did not have the biggest arms. That honor belonged to a man who stands 6’1″ (185.5 cm) with 18.25 inch (46.5.cm) arms. Likewise the shortest man at about 5’5″ (165 cm) had arms an inch larger, at 16″ (41 cm) than men 6 inches taller than him! However, in general, the men over 6 feet tall had larger arms. This probably shouldn’t be a surprise as a bigger skeleton has more room for muscle to grow. Even though overall proportions may make that taller man look leaner at a technically larger size than the shorter guys.
And before you get concerned that a 17 inch arm is too small – go read my blog post on when is a man’s arm considered big that I mentioned earlier. You’ll find out that the average non-lifter’s arms are much smaller. By several inches!
To sum everything up, it’s better to go for an arm that looks big than one which is actually big. Especially if you happen to be under 6 feet tall. Any man who is sporting a muscular arm that measures 16″ (41 cm) or more can consider his arms to be big. And likely, so will everyone else!
Stay lean, focus on the triceps as much if not more than the biceps, and you’ll be getting second looks because of the size of your “guns” soon enough. Tall guys, the good news is that you can likely build arms which exceed those of a man who is shorter. But, bad news, if you are like most of the tall men I know at least, you’re going to have to keep pushing on to 18″ (46 cm) to look really big. And remember, the true 18″ arm is rare.
I’ve been listening lately to several podcasts and watching YouTube videos devoted to the histories and attractions of a variety of amusement parks. While I enjoy most of them I’ve discovered I have a pet peeve, or maybe just a peeve, that I didn’t really know I had before. Many of the hosts of these various shows seem to use the terms “theme parks” and “amusement parks” interchangeably. In my mind this is not accurate because although all theme parks are amusement parks not all amusement parks are theme parks. Amusement park covers a wide variety of entertainment venues which may or may not be specifically themed.
For example: Cedar Point, on the shores of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio, is an amusement park. Though it has various areas which are loosely themed, such as their Frontier Town and Frontier Trail, the bulk of the park is a collection of roller coasters, circular rides, and other attractions. I would argue that other parks like Kennywood, near Pittsburgh, and most, if not all, Six Flags properties fall into this category. Yes, they have some themed rides and attractions but no one goes to these parks with the idea that they will be transported to the wild West or Gotham City. The theme is secondary to the rides themselves.
The Disney and Universal parks are closer to true theme parks with entire lands devoted to creating the impression that you are in another place and time and attractions which stick to the theme. I think the best examples of these are Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge and Main Street USA, as well as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and even Springfield (at least in Florida) at Universal. When you go to these places the enjoyment of being surrounded by what feels like another place and time is the main source of enjoyment. The fact that you get to escape from Gringott’s is almost a bonus.
Now, from a historical perspective I think I can make the case that the real theme parks are some of the smaller places which don’t really exist anymore. A couple used to be found in the Irish Hills area of Michigan. The Prehistoric Forest which attempted to make you feel like you’ve walked into the time of the dinosaurs and Stagecoach Stop, which still appears to be operating, is the recreation of a town in the American Old West, complete with shoot outs and stage coach rides.
Anyway, that’s what I think. What do you think? Am I being too picky in my terminology or do you think that we need to be a little more precise in our use of the term “theme parks?”
Let me know if the comments!
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted. Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr
A Very Brief and Oversimplified History of Running
Running as a sport has been around a long time – at least going back to the ancient Greek Olympic games and possibly even older. Early on running served the practical purpose of conveying messages relatively quickly between communities and military forces, at least if the legend of how the marathon came to be is true, and then later it became something that people did for fun.
To my memory running and jogging as a hobby really took off in the 1970s in large thanks to people like Jim Fix, whose book The Complete Book of Running is credited by some as kicking off the entire fitness “craze,” and Thaddeus Kostrubala who wrote the Joy of Running. Because of these two men and other fitness gurus at the time millions of people discovered the health benefits of running as a way to increase cardio vascular health and lose weight. It was no longer something that only boxers did in the movies during a training montage.
Running For a Cause
At the same time that running for hobby was gaining popularity it also became linked with raising money for causes. One of the most famous causes that comes to mind is Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope in 1980. Fox attempted to run east to west across Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. And this after his own leg was amputated from the disease! Although the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometers (3,339 mi) his legacy lives on with millions of people around the world running in his honor annually while raising funds for cancer research.
Other groups followed this lead and it became a trend. Today on any given weekend you can likely find any number of 5k, 10k, half marathons, or full marathons benefiting a worthy cause near your home.
There is no doubt that running has become a powerful tool to raise awareness and funds for various causes world-wide.
So when answering the question, “why do we run?” I think that on the surface there are several obvious answers: health, sport, and fundraising. I myself participate once a year in a 5K run in my hometown which benefits breast cancer research: The Rose Run. Interestingly, this race is run both in the little City of Petersburg, Michigan (pop. 1,200 or so) and in Burbank, California (pop. a whole lot more). I get a kick out of that for some reason.
However, even though I do not consider myself a true runner by any stretch of the imagination – unless a bear or another large carnivore is chasing me so if you see me running you better start running, too – I can tell you that it isn’t any of the obvious reasons which keeps people running. It’s deeper than that and some of the reasons are conflicting believe it or not.
Here’s my list of the real reasons people run:
Alone Time: just you, some tunes on the phone, and nature. What a better way to get out doors and clear your head of the days worries and troubles or just to think.
Camaraderie: there’s a certain friendship among runners. This is similar to the instant connection most everyone has when they meet another person who engages in the same hobby/sport that you do, but it seems especially strong among runners.
The Joy of Participation: I had the pleasure of running in this year’s Rose Run with my niece. Our shared experience over that 5K has given us stories that will last for weeks and memories that will last much longer.
It Feels So Good When You Stop: not just because you can breathe easily again and your heart slows back down to a reasonable pace. Once those endorphins kick in you really do feel better and happier!
Satisfaction of Pushing Yourself Towards a Goal: there’s a certain satisfaction that we all feel when you set out to achieve a goal and then go out and do it. Whether it be 5K or a full out marathon – you can deservedly pat yourself on the back. Even if you have to soak your feet afterwards!
So that’s it. My real reasons we run. I’d love to hear what yours are – leave a comment and share!
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted. Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr
Since we are now about half-way through the year and I haven’t done a proper fitness update in a while here you go!
The big news is that my Crohn’s disease continues to be under control. The bigger news is that my heart is working better, too. There was a concern in March that my heart function had decreased somewhat so my cardiologist put me on Entresto (you’ve seen the ads if you live in the United States) and it appears to be working. My ejection fraction has gone from 35% to 43% in the first three months. Since I tolerate the drug and am responding to it we are now talking about increasing the dosage a little to see if we can do a little better. From what I understand a normal ejection fraction is somewhere between 70 and 50%. So I’m almost back to the “normal” range. An unexpected side effect is that I could tell it was working because I didn’t have so many dark thoughts about death and dying as I’ve been having since this whole thing began. I’m thinking about the future again. The mind and the body are linked. If your body works better, your mind responds accordingly. At least that seems to hold true in my case.
I’m still staying active as possible and, according to my trainer at least, I’m doing things that men 20 years younger than me can’t do. Such as bench press more than my bodyweight. My weight is down since the beginning of the year and I see veins where I haven’t seen veins before (if you don’t know why this is cool, talk to your nearest gym rat). I’ve given up on ever having six pack abs for the simple reason that two abdominal surgeries have kind of mooshed things around. I’m still working on losing the layers of fat on my mid-section but between the scars and other issues I don’t know what I’ll find when that happens. Still a long way to go but my bodyfat is moving downwards with my weight.
Current Workout and Activities
Cardio will be a bit of a challenge as usual. My tap dancing is paused for the summer (we’ll start up again in September) and I need to get back to putting in my steps each day. I’ve been falling short of my 10,000 for quite a while now.
Like men 30 years my junior I’m still obsessed with arm size. So I’m in a little competition with another friend who lifts to see who can gain the most size on his arms in six weeks. In addition to this I am working chest twice per week and am currently going with a high repetition/low weight scheme on bench press. I’m working up to 100 reps over 4 sets at 135 lbs. (61kg) with my brother-in-law. I’m about 10 shy of the goal right now. Not sure what we’ll do next. Maybe back to 225 lbs (102kg) to see how we fare at that weight. I also workout with my trainer once per week.
I’ll be running – and I use the term loosely – in the annual Rose Run on July 10th which is a fund raiser for cancer research. I’m also doing a 25 push up per day challenge for the American Cancer Society. So it’s a busy month!
If I can keep up this pace I expect to end the year in a much healthier place than I began it. And with a more positive mindset, too. I don’t expect to win any marathons or bodybuilding competitions, but I sure as heck expect to be wearing smaller pants and lifting more weight! I might even be a better tap dancer too. A long shot I know.
I hope that you are all doing well in overcoming your fitness challenges and reaching your goals, too! Let me know about them in the comment section below.