Thursday, June 30, 2011

The No Excuses Workout - Day 11

There are three phases to this workout.  Phase One is 2/3 of the way complete.  If all I did was follow Phase One, I'd lose weight, develop a reasonably high level of fitness, and have a much healthier lifestyle.

But you know me, I'll push through and do Phase Three.

Once all of the pieces are in place, I can start picking and choosing what I want to do.  For now, I'm still building the habit and making fitness part of my life.


This morning's workout went like this...

Table Top - three times (from Day One)
Hug and Release - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Three)
Elevation - three times (from Day Four)
Lift - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Five)
Tic Toc - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Six)
Plank - three times (from Day Eight)
Tiny - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Nine)
Hang - three times (from Day Ten)

And a new exercise - Bend.

Bend is another yoga move and is very simple to do.  Standing with my feet a comfortable distance apart, I lean slowly to my right and simply allow my body's weight to "pull" in that position for a count of thirty.  Then I do the same thing to the right.

That's one repetition.  I did three reps this morning (right, left / right, left / right, left).


Exactly the same as yesterday - twenty minutes of Walking With Purpose.

PM Workout:

Once more, I'm increasing the repetitions on each exercise, moving from yesterday's twelve reps to today's fifteen repetitions.

Twist (No Shout) - one time, fifteen repetitions (from Day Two)
Bobble Head - one time, fifteen repetitions (from Day Three)
Too Sexy - one time, fifteen repetitions (from Day Four)
Popeye - one time, fifteen repetitions (from Day Five)
Kick Back - one time, fifteen repetitions (from Day Eight)
Flight - one time, fifteen repetitions (from Day Nine)
Pump - one time, fifteen repetitions (from Day Ten)

...and Chair.

Chair is essentially a squat (with no weight) but it's done correctly - something that very few people who are familiar with squats actually do.

Step One: I keep my back straight (angled, but flat) throughout the entire movement.

Step Two: I look upward (tilting my chin up) throughout the entire movement.

Step Three:  My feet are approximately shoulder-width apart and my toes are pointing forward.

Step Four:  I don't "squat" but I imagine that I'm trying to touch my bottom to the seat of a chair that's just behind me.  (I learned how to do this movement properly by starting with a chair just behind me so I had something to aim for.)

Step Five: As I perform chair, my knees naturally move forward but never go beyond the toes of my feet.  If I glance down, the moment my toes disappear is the moment that I come back up.

With those pieces in place, I'll slowly lower myself for a count of four and then slowly raise myself for another count of four.  That's one repetition.  I'll do one set of fifteen repetitions.

Another day closer to reaching all of my goals.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Family Indoctrination: Lesson 1

We have some dear friends who are moving out to Oregon later this year and, to spare them the culture shock of being plopped into the middle of the insanity that is The Pierce Family, I've decided to offer them a series of short lessons to indoctrinate them into our life.

See, there are many things that you simply have to be aware of that you would never consider until it was much too late.  For instance, it is generally not considered safe to say the number "Eleven" out loud around most members of our family.  Doing so will typically be met with a chorus of odd pronunciations of the number followed by baritone shouts of, "SCOTLAND! FREEDOM!"

For instance.

Let’s say that there were a dozen doughnuts on the counter and you ate one.  Someone saw you eating the sweet and exclaimed, "I didn't know we had doughnuts!  Are there any left?"

To which you innocently respond with, "I only ate one - there should be eleven doughnuts in there."

Broad smiles.  And then it comes.

"Eeee-lev-un.  Uh-lev-in." Other family members join in.  "Eee-LEV-in.  Scotland. SCOTland!!  Freedom!  FREEDOM!!!"

Which would leave the average person very dismayed.

We watch very little television in our home and the few shows that we do watch tend to come from Japan or the UK.

The following video is the origin of our strange response to that seemingly innocent number.

The No Excuses Workout - Day 10

One of the great things about this workout is that each day is a little harder than the day before.  It's not just the adding of an additional exercise, but the fact that I'm getting stronger.  Let's say I'm capable of lifting ten pounds with my arm.  When I flex that muscle through a range of motion, it offers me ten pounds of resistance.  So I work out and get a little stronger.  Suddenly that same movement is offering twelve pounds of resistance.  Then fifteen.  Then twenty.

Each day not only adds an additional exercise but it makes all of the previous exercises harder than the day before.  It may seem simple, but this workout actually hits your body and promotes fitness from a half-dozen different directions at the same time.

Not bad for something you can do at home without any equipment.


This morning's workout went like this...

Table Top - three times (from Day One)
Hug and Release - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Three)
Elevation - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Four)
Lift - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Five)
Tic Toc - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Six)
Plank - three times (from Day Eight)
Tiny - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Nine)

...and a new exercise: Hang.

Hang is a yoga move and marks one of two transition points in the morning workout.  The second will come a bit farther down the road.  Standing up straight with my feet and legs together, I bend at the waist, point my fingers at my toes, and simply relax or "hang" there.  It's done for a count of thirty.

Strength is only one component of fitness.  Weight loss is another.  Flexibility is a third.  There are more.  When I designed a workout plan, I wanted one that incorporated all of the various aspects of fitness into one daily plan.

The No Excuses Workout does just that.


It's reached the point where counting blocks is a little crazy (I think I'm up to sixteen) so now I go for time.  Today I Walked With Purpose for twenty minutes - ten minutes out, ten minutes back.  I was scheduled to walk sixteen blocks this morning, so walking ten minutes out and then walking home doesn't seem so bad.

PM Workout:

Tonight's workout will add one workout and increase the repetitions of all the exercises from ten to twelve.

Twist (No Shout) - one time, twelve repetitions (from Day Two)
Bobble Head - one time, twelve repetitions (from Day Three)
Too Sexy - one time, twelve repetitions (from Day Four)
Popeye - one time, twelve repetitions (from Day Five)
Kick Back - one time, twelve repetitions (from Day Eight)
Flight - one time, twelve repetitions (from Day Nine)

And Pump.

Making two fists and placing my thumbs together (like I was holding a single pencil between both hands) I place my hands in front of my pelvis allowing them to hang at arm's length.  I then pull my navel toward my spine.  For a count of four and flexing through the entire movement, I focus on my shoulders and pull my hands up to my chin.  Shifting my focus to include my chest, I push my hands back down to their starting point.  My hands never pull apart at any point throughout the movement and I flex through the entire thing.

That's one repetition.

Tonight I'll do twelve.

Another day - and I can really see and feel a difference.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The No Excuses Workout - Day 9

Today was Click Day for me.

There's a point when a workout starts to "click."  You no longer go through a motion; you feel your muscles as they move through the motion.  Walking is no longer a chore; you find yourself walking faster than you normally would and your body is hitting a comfortable stride and eating up the pavement.  You're still soft in places you don't want to be soft, but they no longer jiggle.

It's Click Day.

Not bad for Day 9 of the workout.


What was once a handful of random exercises seemingly cobbled together is rapidly becoming a fairly intense circuit training workout.  There's also an intentional pattern to the exercises that goes like this:

Static core (abs/back held in place) for 30 seconds.  Do it three times.
Fluid "other" muscle group, one time for ten repetitions.
Static core (abs/back held in place) for 30 seconds.  Do it three times.
Fluid "other" muscle group, one time for ten repetitions.
Static core (abs/back held in place) for 30 seconds.  Do it three times.
...and today, a new fluid "other" muscle group, one time for ten repetitions.

The only break comes in the static core exercises where I give myself a three to five second breather between sets.  All of the other exercises flow from static to fluid to static without pause.  The farther that this workout is extended, the greater the intensity that builds throughout the entire group of exercises.

This morning's workout went like this...

Table Top - three times (from Day One)
Hug and Release - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Three)
Elevation - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Four)
Lift - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Five)
Plank - three times (from Day Eight)

And a new exercise, Tiny.

I call it Tiny because the movement is really small - between four to six inches - but it's a muscle group that is rarely asked to do anything on its own.

Tiny is performed by me laying on my left side (still on the mattress) and crossing my right leg over my left.  I place my right foot on the mattress in the general vicinity of my left knee for stability.

Keeping my left leg (the one resting on the mattress) straight, I lift my left leg off the mattress as high as I can for a count of four, a distance of only four to six inches.  I hold it at the top before lowering it slowly back to the mattress for a count of four.

That's one repetition.  I did ten and then switched sides to do ten with my right leg.


Fifteen blocks at a pace faster than Walking With Purpose.  It wasn't intended that way - my feet just took off, it felt good, so I went with it.

PM Workout:

The evening workout is following a different pattern than the morning workout, taking a muscle group and working it from numerous different directions before moving on to the next muscle group.  For instance, the first three movements - Twist (No Shout), Bobble Head, and Too Sexy - all work my core.  The next two that I've done so far - Popeye and Kick Back - work my arms.  Our body looks for the easiest path between Point A and Point B, generally by finding a pattern, maximizing efficiency, and then not moving things any farther.  By altering the patterns in the workout, I'm not offering my body an easy path.  From the perspective of my muscles, I keep calling on it to do different things - the morning pattern, cardio, and the evening pattern.  Rather than slowing progress, it keeps adapting - adding lean muscle, burning fan, increasing strength and endurance - as it searches for the "easy" way through its challenges.

The secret?

My body will never find that elusive pattern.  I'm calling on it to do too many "different" things (three different patterns throughout the day) and so it keeps evolving to meet the demands placed upon it.  That's one of the reasons why this workout is so effective.

This is what I'll be doing tonight:

Twist (No Shout) - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Two)
Bobble Head - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Three)
Too Sexy - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Four)
Popeye - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Five)
Kick Back - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Eight)

And a new exercise, Flight.

Starting with my elbows at my sides (as in Popeye and Kick Back), I bend my arms so that my upper and lower arms form something between a 45 and 90 degree angle.  Focusing on my shoulders and keeping that bend in my arms, I lift my elbows as high as I can get them for a count of four - like a bird's wings flapping up.  Then, still keeping my shoulders flexed, I "flap down" for a count of four until my elbows are at my sides once more.  That's one rep.  I'll do ten.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Shadow Dance

Several years ago, I had the honor of going backstage with my camera while a modern dance company warmed up for their performance. The stage was dark, I had no special lighting and no experience taking photographs in low-light situations. Not wanting to miss the opportunity, I simply started playing with camera settings and taking pictures. This is one of the photographs that I took.

You can download desktop wallpaper of this photograph (and a half-dozen others) by visiting...

The No Excuses Workout - Day 8

The first day of week two - and things get taken up a notch.  A small notch, but it's noticeable.

And so are the results.  My appetite has dropped considerably, which makes weight loss even easier.  The concept is simple:  if I shrink my food container (my stomach) I have less room to fill up when I eat so I feel fuller faster.  Not only does pulling my navel toward my spine in every exercise strengthen my core and reduce the risk of injury (both during the exercises and during play) but it strengthens a set of muscles that have gotten soft and allowed my stomach extra room.  Strengthening those muscles naturally pulls my stomach in, reducing the amount of room that exists to make me feel hungry. Cool, huh? :)

Since all of the exercises build lean muscle, those newly developed muscles are burning fat like crazy.  Every day I increase those "fat burners" a little more, burning even more fat.  At the same time, since my body is being hit with exercise twice a day, it starts evolving to meet the demands I'm putting on it - dropping weight, adding lean muscle, burning fat, and increasing stamina and lung capacity.

This workout starts simple so that I have no excuses not to do it.  At the same time, I'm building a fitness foundation and helping my body evolve.  I've done this workout before with exceptional results and will post before and after photos at the end of this journey,


There's a lot of the same - just more of it and the introduction of the dreaded Plank.

Table Top - three times (from Day One)
Hug and Release - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Three)
Elevation - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Four)
Lift - one time, ten repetitions (from Day Five)

Plank is performed by getting into a modified push-up position.  The modification is that, instead of being supported on my hands, my body weight is supported on my elbows and forearms.  My navel is pulled toward my spine, my abs are engaged, and my back is straight (not curved) throughout the exercise.

Much like Table Top this is a static exercise - there's no movement, I simply hold it for a count of thirty (or as long as I can, whichever comes first).  This morning, much like Table Top, I did three sets.

And I was sweating by the end of the third set.


I'm up to fourteen blocks, but this morning, I started Walking With Purpose.

Up until now, I've simply been strolling along.  Walking With Purpose is a little faster.  I'm trying to get somewhere.  I'm not late, so I don't have to really hurry (yeah... that comes next), but I can't meander either.  The idea is to say to myself, "I won't be late as long as I walk with a purpose."  It's brisk, but not decidedly fast.  You have to sort of do it to understand.

PM Workout

This is Sunday's workout with an extra exercise thrown in.

Twist (No Shout) - one time, ten repetitions (from Day 2)
Bobble Head - one time, ten repetitions (from Day 3)
Too Sexy - one time, ten repetitions (from Day 4)
Popeye - one time, ten repetitions (from Day 5)

And Kick Back.

Continuing from the same position as Popeye (the whole workout flows from one exercise to the next), I keep my palms facing forward and my elbows at my side.  This exercise starts with my right arm slightly bent and alternates arms in the same way as Popeye.  Instead of flexing my arm in a forward motion (curling it up toward my shoulder), I extend it backward until its straight, focusing on my triceps (the back of my upper arm) and flexing through the entire movement.  When my arm is completely straight, I flex my triceps muscle and hold it for a full count.

I did ten repetitions.

The No Excuses Workout - Day 7

Since it is Sunday, there is only a PM workout today.  Although I did do the cardio anyway, increasing things by one block.

The PM Workout is exactly like Friday's (there was no PM Workout on Saturday as that's part of the 24-hour break in the workout, stretching from Saturday evening to Sunday evening).  However, all of the repetitions have been increased to 10.

Twist (No Shout) - one time, ten repetitions (from Day 2)
Bobble Head - one time, ten repetitions (from Day 3)
Too Sexy - one time, ten repetitions (from Day 4)
Popeye - one time, ten repetitions (from Day 5)

Tomorrow, I start to sweat.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The No Excuses Workout - Day 6

Who would have thought that something so simple would already be turning into a fairly challenging workout?

Each day I add another exercise and a couple of repetitions to the workout.  That doesn't seem like much - until a week has passed.  Or three weeks.  Or a month.  Each day simply pushes things a little farther - and before I know it, I'll be back in shape.

It doesn't make sense that something so simple could be so effective until you're able to see it in the rearview mirror.  The first week or so builds foundation and makes exercise a habit.  Each and every day builds on that foundation.

Simple and effective.  My favorite approach.


One additional exercise and a couple more repetitions...

Table Top - three times (from Day One)
Hug and Release - three times, ten repetitions (from Day Three)
Elevation - three times (from Day Four)
Lift - three times, ten repetitions (from Day Five)

And the new exercise - Tic-Toc.

Still on my back (from Lift) I stretch my arms out from my sides and draw my feet up to my body (so that my knees are bent like I'm kneeling and sitting on my heels and at a 90 degree angle from my torso).  I pull my navel toward my spine and, keeping my shoulders and upper back on the bed and my thighs perpendicular to my torso, I slowly lower my knees toward my right side, like the hand of a clock moving from 12 to 3.


Keeping my navel pulled toward my spine, my abs engaged, and my shoulders flat on the mattress, I roll my knees back UP through the same arc, going from 3 back to 12.


Then I do the same to the left side, from 12 to 9.

When my knees travel that same arc from 9 to 12, that's one repetition.  I did five this morning.


One more block, bringing the distance up to fourteen blocks.  On Monday, I'll mix things up a little.

PM Workout

There's no PM workout tonight since it's Saturday night.  I give myself one 24-hour break each week.  In my world, if I take an entire day off, I'm tempted to break my building habit.  So instead, I take a 24-hour block off, skipping a Saturday evening workout and a Sunday morning workout.  The next workout is Sunday night - and then things begin Week Two.

In one week, there's been a noticeable increase in my fitness level.  After two weeks, those changes - lean muscle, more stamina, additional strength and flexibility - will be more noticeable.  If I extend things out, looking down the road, I can already see all of my fitness goals coming into view.

It's really just this easy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The No Excuses Workout - Day 5

Years ago, I took a weightlifting class at the local community college.  The instructor, a gentleman of about fifty, looked like he had jumped off the cover of a bodybuilding magazine.  While I had no interest in increasing the size of my muscles by a factor of twenty, our teacher (who had won his age group in countless bodybuilding competitions) gave us an excellent fitness tip.

"All of you in here are going to focus on how much you can lift.  That's not how you build muscle.  Do you know the heaviest weight I workout with?  Forty pounds.  Muscles develop when they're stressed.  It's about keeping the muscle under tension, lifting slow, and maintaining control of the weight."

That's why every movement in my No Excuses Workout is done for a count of four.  Muscle develops when it's under tension.  It's why I don't have to kill myself to get in shape.  To burn fat, our bodies need lean muscle as fat-burning factories.  The more lean muscle, the more fat our bodies burn.  Each movement in The No Excuses Workout does exactly that - it builds what our bodies need to burn fat.


Today was much the same as yesterday, just a gradual increase with the addition of one exercise.

Table Top - three times
Hug and Release - one time, ten repetitions
Elevation - one time

And then the new exercise, Lift.

Laying flat on my back (the position I was in at the end of Elevation) I draw my feet up about half-way to my body (about where my knees are) and allow them to spread apart a comfortable distance.  I pull my navel toward my spine, engage my abdominals, and with my shoulders on the mattress, I slowly lift my hips (for a three count) as high as I can comfortably lift them.  I keep my lower back as straight as possible throughout the movement, rather than allowing my pelvis to tilt upward.  At the top of the movement, I hold my hips in place and tighten my buttocks for a full count, and then slowly lower them again.

That's one repetition.

I felt crazy this morning and did ten instead of the scheduled five.


The morning walk went one block farther.  That brought things up to twelve blocks total (one across, five up, one across, five back) for a distance of a little over a mile.

PM Workout

Exactly like the day before (I can't watch TV and workout if I have to think too much) with the addition of one exercise.  The Popeye.

Twist (No Shout) - one time, five repetitions
Bobble Head - one time, five repetitions
Too Sexy - one time, five repetitions

And Popeye...

Still standing, I move my elbows to my side.  Beginning with my right arm, I slowly curl my arm, moving my hand toward my shoulder as if I were "making a muscle."  The key is to flex my bicep through the entire upward motion, which continues for a count of four.  Once I reach the top (I don't actually touch my shoulder, I just go through the range of motion), I relax my right arm and repeat the movement with my left.

Once I've done the movement on each side, I've completed one repetition.

Tonight I'll do five.

It may not seem like much, but each day I add two new pieces.  Each day I workout a little harder, walk a little farther.  If you were to imagine this workout a month from now, the average person wouldn't be able to simply jump into the middle of it.  That means that simply adding a little bit each day, I'm getting in shape.  It's not a race - it's a journey.  Taking things slowly, adding regularly, and making fitness a habit is the best way that I know to reach my goals.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The No Excuses Workout - Day 4

It's Day Four - also known as the, "Hey! I Do Have Muscles 'Cause I Can Feel Them!" day.

Getting in shape requires dedication.  My "No Excuses Workout" helps with that a great deal.  Even though I'm working out twice a day, I'm still only working out for a few minutes at a time.  That will slowly change.  When I have the full BASIC workout in place, it will take approximately twenty minutes (not counting cardio) twice a day.  The key is that it builds slowly.  It's never "too hard" to add one additional exercise or a couple of additional repetitions.

The second half of the workout is designed so I can do it while watching television.  One half-hour show - even on DVD (with the commercials removed) - is typically long enough to encompass the entire evening workout.  There's no special equipment involved - just my own body.

That said, the hardest part of any workout plan is sticking do it.  That's why this one builds slowly.  If I stop and think about it, even on an unmotivated day, it's hard to find an excuse to skip a five minute workout or go for a short walk.  If I don't finish it in the morning, I can do it later in the day.  The key is to simply do it.  Remember, this isn't a workout where I burn "x" amount of calories for "x" amount of minutes.  I'm strengthening my core and telling my body's natural systems, "I need you to adapt to the environment you're in.  No more squishy.  I need you strong." And I accomplish that by creating an environment where my body is regularly asked to walk and demonstrate its strength.

It's not the typical approach to getting in shape.  I'll readily admit that.  All I know is that it works.


Once more I completed the Table Top (from Day One) three times.  Then I performed Hug and Release (Day Three) once, but this time for ten repetitions instead of five.  And then it was time for the dreaded Elevation.

I assume the position for Elevation by rolling onto my back and putting my hands (flat and palms down) under my butt to very slightly tilt my pelvis upward.  Like every exercise in the morning workout, this one begins with pulling my navel toward my spine and engaging my abdominal muscles.  My legs are together and held rigid and straight as I raise my feet six to twelve inches off the bed.

And hold them there.

The goal is to hold my feet elevated (hence the name) off the bed and motionless for thirty seconds or as long as I'm able - whichever comes first.  About three seconds in I started rocking like my body was being hit by an earthquake.  My abdominal muscles have not been asked to do this for a very long time and began shaking like crazy.  That's normal at this point.  Trust me - we did a variation of this back in my special ops days and you'd see and entire group of extremely fit elite soldiers doing the same thing as their abs hit the point of fatigue.

Being a slacker for the last stretch of road, my abs just fatigued very quickly.

That's it for the morning workout: three sets of Table Top, one set of Hug and Release for ten reps, and one set of Elevation.  Just think - a few days ago I wasn't doing anything; now I can feel lean muscle beginning to form over large stretches of my body.

And it's only taken a couple of minutes each day.


Once more, a morning walk.  I'm enjoying the scenery as I go through my morning.  What's more is that I'm discovering little pieces of my neighborhood that I hadn't seen from behind the wheel of my car.  This morning I walked four blocks instead of yesterday's three.  in other words, I walked about a mile without even really thinking about it.  How cool is that?

PM Workout

Tonight's workout will begin with five reps of Twist (No Shout) (from Day Two), five reps of Bobble Head (from Day Three) and a new exercise, Too Sexy.

Keeping my hands behind my head (where they were for the previous two exercises), I keep my navel pulled toward my spine and my abdominal muscles engaged.  Holding my upper body in place, I slowly rotate my hips in a circle to the right, counting to slowly to four.  If I assign four compass points to your hips, with North facing forward, it should take a full second to move from North to East, another from East to South, a third from South to West, and the fourth from West to North.

The key to this exercise is to perform it slowly, to keep my navel pulled toward my spine, and to keep my abdominal muscles engaged throughout the movement.

Tonight I'll do five circles to the right and then reverse direction and do five circles to the left.

That's it for Day Four.

Just think, after three days I can feel muscles developing all over my body.  Where will I be in three weeks...?  Getting in shape doesn't have to be some insane process.  It just takes a few minutes, twice a day.  Remember, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  Whether we walk or sprint, that journey has to be completed one step at a time.  Me?  I prefer the easy way.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The No Excuses Workout - Day 3

There are two key mileposts in every workout program - and both begin with the number three.  Both have to do, not with the workout itself, but about how our mind works.  Continuing a habit (such as a workout) for three weeks makes it part of your lifestyle.  The third day is almost always the toughest from a mental aspect - for much the same reason.

I like to think of Day Three as the extra pounds reacting to my new choice of partner in my new, fit body.  It's as if Squishy is saying, "What?  You don't want me anymore?  Well, what if I don't want to leave?"  So I show it that I'm in charge, knowing that Day Four will be smooth sailing and another step closer to my goals.


It's the Table Top again - a foundational exercise that is so gentle on our body I've even performed it without pain when I injured my back.  Along with the Table Top, I'm adding a new exercise, one I call, "Hug and Release."

In exactly the same way that I did it yesterday, I performed the Table Top three times this morning.  Then, still on my mattress, I rolled over to lay flat on my back.

It's time for Hug and Release.

First, I extend my arms out to my sides so that they're at a 90 degree angle to my body.  Then I slightly bend my elbows, as if I was preparing to hug a barrel.  I pull my navel toward my spine (THIS IS KEY IN ALMOST EVERY EXERCISE I DO) and gently tighten my abdominals (not as hard as in Table Top, but enough so that the muscles are engaged throughout Hug and Release).  Then, counting to four, I slowly hug the air in front of me as hard as I can, flexing through the entire motion (which is a four count movement).  I stop after my hands have passed each other and end up close to my elbows.

That's the Hug part of Hug and Release.

Now, without relaxing anything, I pretend that I'm breaking free of chains that bind my wrists.  I slowly reverse the movement, flexing throughout the entire range of motion until my elbows touch the mattress.

That's one repetition.

I did five.

That's the morning's exercise.


This morning's walk extended to three blocks.  That may not seem like much, but if you count the sides of the rectangle that I walked (three there, one across, three back, one across) and consider that each is approximately 1/10 of a mile, the morning walk is now up to 0.8 miles.  Just think, four days ago I wasn't walking at all.  Now it's almost a mile.

PM Workout

The evening workout tonight will start with another five reps of Twist (No Shout).  Then it's time to introduce a new exercise, one I call Bobble Head.


Keeping the same starting position as described for Twist (No Shout) which was described in yesterday's workout.  I bend to the side, keeping my hips motionless.  First, I bend toward the right, keeping my abdominals tight for a count of four.  Then four counts back to the middle.  Then four counts down to the left.  Then four counts back to the middle.  I don't keep my back perfectly straight throughout this exercise, but kind of gently curve (or "crunch") in the direction I'm bending.  This is totally personal preference as I feel the movement in those muscles more this way.  When I hurt my back, I was VERY CAREFUL and tended to keep my spine straight throughout the movement.

That's one repetition.

There are two keys to this movement.  The first is to pull my navel toward my spine and keep my abdominals engaged throughout the entire motion.  Just as important is where I put my focus.

In the down motion, I focus my attention on that side of my body.  For instance, if I'm bending to the right, I focus my attention on my right side.  In the up motion, I focus on the opposite side.  So when I bend to the right, my focus is on my right side.  When I straighten up, I focus on the left.  I keep my focus on my left as I bend to the left and then shift it back to the right to straighten back up.

Tonight I'll do five Twist (No Shout)s and five repetitions of Hug and Release.  Each portion of the movement will be done slowly with my navel pulled toward my spine and my abdominal muscles engaged.  When done continuously with no break between the two exercises, that brings my evening workout to almost three minutes.

That's three days of exercise in the books - and three days closer to my goals.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The No Excuses Workout - Day 2

No excuses is just about right...

I spent a good chunk of time in the Emergency Room at the local hospital yesterday.  After a couple of days of what I thought was a low grade bladder infection that the usual treatment of cranberry juice and lots of water refused to touch, I got hit by a runaway truck.

In the midst of hours of excruciating pain accompanied by non-stop vomiting, it was announced that I had the honor of passing a kidney stone.  It was large enough that had it been 0.3 mm larger, it would fall into the range that was extracted via surgery.

Hooray for me! I get to expel and asteroid on my own! ;)

The pain passed (we're waiting on Stage 2 and it's fond farewell from my body), I completed the No Excuses workout this morning.

If I can do the workout after hours at the ER (and some really wonderful narcotics), there will never be an excuse worthy of me skipping a day's workout.


Once again, I'm performed the Table Top described in yesterday's workout.  The only difference?  I did it three times (a brief, two to five second break between each) instead of just once like yesterday.


Today's walk went two blocks instead of one.  My walk is now up to 0.6 miles without even blinking.

PM Workout

This is where the real payoff begins.

I have a theory that our body is constantly going through a process that I call micro-evolution in response to what we do with it.  For instance, if we sit in an office chair all day, our body evolves to meet that - no sense wasting energy on things like muscle tone and lung capacity if all we're going to do is sit!

The secret is breaking exercise into small pieces throughout the day.  Working out a minimum of twice a day is key to convince our body, "Yes, we really need you to tone the muscles and lose some fat.  Look at how frequently you're called upon to do something."

But who has time to work out twice a day?

So the PM Workout has been designed so it can be done - in its entirety - while watching TV.

If I'm going to watch a show anyway, why sit around and tell my body "slack off" when I could be telling it, "Get in shape," you know?


I call this exercise, "Twist (No Shout)."  Like all exercises in the PM workout it's performed SLOWLY through a full range of motion with the corresponding muscles tight.

First, I stand up tall, imagining that there is  string coming out of the top of my head that is pulling me erect.  My feet are a comfortable distance apart.   I clasp my hands behind my head and pull my navel toward my spine, just like in the Table Top.  Then, counting silently to four and keeping my hips pointed forward, I slowly turn toward the right, keeping my stomach tight the whole time.  Then four counts to the front.  Then four counts to the left.  Then four counts to the center again.

That is one repetition of Twist (No Shout).

Tonight I'll do a total of five repetitions - a little less than two minutes of exercise when performed properly.

I'm not sure where I can find an excuse to NOT do less than two minutes of workout.

And that's it for Day Two.

Monday, June 20, 2011

All My Books Are FREE!!! :)

As a way to thank our men and women in uniform, I'm offering the ebook editions of my novels free of charge now through July 4th.  You can find all of the details at...

Even if you aren't a past or present member of the armed forces, feel free to pick up a book and say, "Thank you," the next time you see someone in uniform.  The reasons why we send our armed forces into harm's way can and should be debated and questioned at every turn; the sacrifices made by the individuals called to serve is undeniable.

More Free Wallpaper

I'm a little behind in posting (I've been fighting a really nasty summer bug), but here are the latest free desktop wallpapers that I've created from my photography.  Enjoy!

You can find links to download the wallpaper for your personal computer at (my personal site).

The No Excuses Workout - Day 1

It's time for me to get back in shape.  I don't know about you, but I'm pretty freakin' unmotivated to workout.  There are countless, "Get In Shape In 30 Days," exercise plans out there that I look at and think, "Yeah... right.  Like I'll actually do that."

To be honest, I've been in excellent shape for years at a time.  Then life got in the way.  I know how to get where I want to go to reach my fitness goals.  I know all of the tricks. And I take a very different approach to it than everyone else does.

So here's my "No Excuses Workout."  I'm not suggesting that YOU should do this, just that it's what I'm doing.  Feel free to follow along at your own risk.  (Ah, the joys of living in a litigious society...)

I call this the "No Excuses Workout" because that's the hardest part about getting in shape - excuses.  We find all kinds of reasons why we can't workout - lack of time, lack of energy - and the first step in getting in shape is eliminating those excuses.

My approach?  I start with a workout so simple that it's impossible to find valid excuses NOT to workout.


I call this exercise The Table Top.  What I do is climb up on my bed and get on my hands and knees.  I position myself so that my thighs and arms are at 90 degree angles to my body and I make sure that my back is completely flat.  Holding that position, I pull my navel up toward my spine and hold it there.  As many abdominal muscles as I can find, I also pull them up toward my spine (one at a time if necessary) and hold them as well.  Then, I hold all of those muscles in place until I can't do it anymore or for 30 seconds - whichever comes first.

That's the entire workout.

Don't worry, it builds a little each day.  The most challenging aspect of any exercise plan is finding the motivation to do it.  I use the, "Really? You're serious?" approach as in, "Really?  You're serious?  You don't have time to do one exercise today?  C'mon! Do it!"

Even I can't find a way out of that one.


What exercise plan is complete without cardio.  Today, I walked around the block.  Just once.  Seriously.  That's it.

Run a mile?  That I can make an excuse about.  I can't find time to walk around the block?  C'mon!  I can totally do that!

And yes, this was really my workout today.  I'm writing this having completed it.  The blog is just an extra way to kill those excuses.  It's called "accountability."


It may not seem like much, but I began today's workout by slowly strengthening my core - which I define as your torso (front and back) which excludes your arms, legs and neck.  The Table Top focuses on my core - which creates strength and stability for every exercise that follows and is critical to solid physical fitness.

While walking around the block may not seem like much, the average block is approximately 1/10 of a mile.  If I tell my brain, "Go walk 40% of a mile," my brain is most likely going to respond with, "Get bent!"  If I tell my brain, "Go walk around the block," it replies with, "Yeah... I really don't have an excuse for that one."

That's it.  Lao Tzu once wrote, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," so that's all I took this morning.  One step.  Tomorrow?  I'll take another step, maybe a step and a half.  It's not a race.  What's important is that I reach my goal and removing all of the excuses from that journey makes in much more likely I'll succeed.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Pretties

My blog has been fairly quiet lately (I've been up to my eyeballs in several projects that are all reaching the finish line at about the same time), but I wanted to give all of you a small piece of my world as thanks for following the blog and reading my novels.

I've been slowly (at the rate of one per week) turning some of my photography into desktop wallpaper.  My camera is rarely out of reach and, as an avid backpacker, I tend to find myself surrounded by natural beauty. Rather than just sitting on my hard drive, I thought it would be a nice treat to share some of my life with you as I see it through my lens.

This trio of wallpapers is presented in common resolutions for both standard and widescreen monitors.  You can find the wallpaper on my site and I'll share the new wallpaper here as they post each week.  Enjoy!  And thank you for sharing this journey with me. :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dividing By Twelve

One of the issues that we're facing here in the United States is the perception that our system of taxes is unequal.  One talking head states that taxing the rich will hurt the economy; the other says that the problem with the economy is that the rich aren't being taxed enough.

I have a very simple solution to this entire debate.

Let's stop talking about annual salaries.

How many of us work with a yearly household budget?  I never have and can't imagine a scenario where I ever will.  Talking about income as an annual amount is like referring to the amount you're charged for milk in a year.  "Can you believe I spent $120 on milk last year?"  No one in their right mind would spend $120 for milk, yet it's a reasonable annual amount for a household of four when you spread it out over a twelve month period.  Annual amounts don't mean anything.  We don't live in an annual world when it comes to finances.  It's simply outside of our normal perspective.

Instead, let's talk about taxes as it pertains to our monthly salaries.

The median annual income in the United States (according to 2009 numbers from the US Census Bureau) was $49,777.  That doesn't seem like all that much.

If you divide by twelve it comes out to $4,148 and change per month.  For many of us, that represents a comfortable (or substantial) raise; for others, a bit of belt-tightening.

The poverty threshold for a family of four in 2009 was $21,954 - which seems potentially do-able until you divide by twelve.  That's $1,829 a month to support four people.  Imagine trying to pay rent, utilities, transportation costs, and buy groceries for a family of four on $1,829 a month.

Yeah, right.  Like that's even possible.

That amount doesn't take into consideration clothing, toiletries, or gifts for the holidays.  It doesn't accommodate car repairs or emergencies.  It doesn't even cover a trip to the doctor - even for those with insurance who only have to pay a co-pay.

And yet 39.8 million Americans were at or below that threshold last year.

To put that number in perspective - 39.8 million people - if you gathered all of the impoverished Americans together and tried to house them in one place, you couldn't do it.  Comparing impoverished people versus current urban populations, you'd need the thirty-two most populated cities in the United States to house the current number of impoverished in our country:  New York City (8.2 million), Los Angeles (3.8 million), Chicago (2.7 million), Houston (2.1 million), Philadelphia (1.5 million), Phoenix (1.4 million), San Antonio (1.3 million), San Diego (1.3 million), Dallas (1.2 million), and San Jose, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Austin, Columbus, Fort Worth, Charlotte, Detroit, El Paso, Memphis, Baltimore, Boston, Seattle, Washington (DC), Nashville, Denver, Louisville, Milwaukee, Portland, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque.  That's the amount of urban landscape needed to house 39.8 million people.  That's the number of people who are living on less than  $1,829 a month for a family of four.

I think we have a problem.

Senator Orin Hatch, who is the Ranking Member of the Congressional Finance Committee and part of the Joint Committee on Taxation agrees.  In an interview with CBS News on Tuesday, Senator Hatch said, "The fact of the matter is that you raise those taxes, and see what you're going to get. You let them go up, like the Democrats (want to) let them go up, and we'll more quickly become a second rate nation."

Ask 39.8 million impoverished Americans if they feel they're living in a first rate nation.

In 1955, the tax burden for the top 400 wealthiest tax payers was 51.2%.  For the median family?  7.4%.  As of 2007, the tax burden for the top 400 wealthiest tax payers dropped to 16.6% while the median family's tax burden climbed to 13.6%.  Let's recap.  Wealthy?  Your taxes went from 51.2% to 16.6%.  Everyone else? Your taxes went from 7.4% to 13.6%.  Based on these numbers, how is increasing the taxes for the rich clearly the wrong choice?

NPR ran a story earlier this week about a group that wants to raise the taxes on those making more than $1 million a year.

Sure, $1 million a year seems like a lot.  Who wouldn't want that amount?

But let's put it in perspective and divide by twelve.

One million dollars a year is a bit over $83,000 a month.

If you would be willing to be paid $83,000 each and every month but pay higher taxes than those who make less than you, please raise your hand.

I would.  In a heartbeat.

We hear these numbers flying around, but they don't frame the issue with any accuracy.  Take $120,000 a year.  That seems like a comfortable salary.  It breaks down to $10,000 a month.  I'm not sure I know what to do with $10,000 a month.  After a house, a car, maybe an extra car... then what?  And yet the money keeps rolling in.  At what point is the line crossed where I become comfortable saying, "Hey!  You nearly 40 million fellow Americans!  Yes, I'm talking to you.  I know you don't have enough to eat, but all of this extra money is mine." How do you do that and still sleep well at night?  Is that line drawn at $10,000 a month?  $83,000 a month?  What has to take place inside a person to know that others are starving and you have so much money that you don't know what to do with all of it?  That simply returning to what your tax bracket used to pay in taxes could assist the impoverished, but you need to hold onto every tax break you've received since 1955?

There are enough impoverished Americans to fill our thirty-two most populated cities, the rich are paying less in taxes than at any point in history, and the solution is to cut spending?  Yes, we need to be fiscally responsible.  Certainly there is a great deal of waste that needs to be cut.  But it isn't a numbers game.  39.8 million seems like a lot of people to be living in poverty.  It seems like a whole lot more if you're one of them.  Ask the family of four who is living on $1,829 where that line should be drawn.  When people like Senator Hatch say that we will have a second rate country if we raise taxes for the rich, they aren't talking about you and me.  They're talking about the rich.  The wealthy have it better than they have at any point in modern American history and they want to keep it that way.

The next time you hear something about taxes on the news, or this dollar amount or that dollar amount is tossed around, divide it by twelve.  Once you've done that, compare it to your monthly budget and ask if the position the person is holding is reasonable or if they need a heavy dose of reality.  This country has vast piles of wealth, so much that there is no reason for anyone to go hungry because their cupboards are bare.  And yet millions of Americans do just that, each and every day - enough to fill a substantial list of American cities to the brim.