Friday, May 27, 2005

Fitness tips for people in a hurry


Lynn Swann and author Judith Evans Thomas

Today's Washington Post features Sally Squire's Lean Plate Club column with some great fitness tips.

I am on a diet and going to physical therapy twice a week to recover from shoulder and bicep surgery. I've lost eleven pounds so far by cutting portions in half and going low fat and low carb.

The effects of post polio on my legs means I have to get my exercise using my upper body. This limits my exercise routine a lot.

One reason I need to lose weight is so my post-polio weakened legs will have less burden to bear. Another reason for weight loss is the fragility of my shoulders. Since I have used a manual wheel chair outdoors for aerobic exercise, I need to seriously use my shoulders, biceps, and back muscles to get the kind of exercise I need. If I weigh less, I need less strength from my upper body to get a workout.

Another idea to to get a super-light wheel chair, but they are expensive. The one I have now is a Action Patriot, a portable, fold-up manual wheel chair which is moderately heavy, and originally cost about 1200 dollars ten years ago. To get a superlight wheel chair which comes apart enough to get into our van would probably cost over 3000 dollars, and would not be covered by medicare.

Hear is a generous portion of the WP article to whet your interest:

To most of us mere mortals, elite athletes often seem to eat right and stay in shape with an effortless grace. It's hard to imagine that they ever struggle to work out or are tempted to overeat and add unwanted pounds.

But former Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver Lynn Swann, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, is here to set the record straight.

At 53, Swann maintains his playing weight of 185 pounds. These days, he juggles work and family, including two sons, aged 7 and 8. In addition to performing his council duties, a voluntary, presidentially-appointed position, Swann is an on-air college football commentator for ABC, which keeps him traveling six months of the year. It's the kind of routine that often makes healthful eating and regular physical activity difficult to sustain.

Here's what Swann suggests -- and practices himself -- to stay fit and to maintain a healthy weight:

Energize with exercise. "People who don't work out kind of wake up and just float through the day," Swann said. "They never get to the point where their body is revved up . . . and functioning at 100 percent. They don't have the same kind of energy or stamina" as those who stay active.

Something is better than nothing. When Swann finds his motivation lacking, he forces himself to get on a stationary bike. "We all have those moments where we don't feel like working out," he said. "Just going through the motions for 30 minutes a day is better than not being there."

Do double duty. Swann watches college game tapes while riding the stationary bike or using the elliptical trainer. "Exercise doesn't mean you're not working in other areas," he said.

Whittle waistlines slowly. Eat 1,800 calories daily, burn 2,200 calories daily and you'll create a "a gradual reduction in your weight," Swann said. How gradual? About three-quarters of a pound per week.

Have a Plan B . While waiting to go on the air, Swann is often surrounded by tempting, high-calorie food. His remedy: He packs himself a plastic bin marked "Swann's Healthy Food." "Some of the guys on the crew laugh at me," he said, "but it has Clif bars, cashews, raisins, protein bars, things that are transportable and will last for a long period of time."

Play the queen of hearts. Swann learned this trick from Navy Seals, who use a deck of cards to stay in shape in small quarters. Make each suit a different exercise. So hearts could be abs; diamonds, push-ups; clubs, core exercises; spades, squat thrusts. Draw the five of hearts and do five reps. Tens and face cards count for 10. Aces count for three sets of seven, so draw the ace of hearts and do seven crunches, seven full sit-ups and seven leg raises. "Anybody can do it," Swann said. "You can decide whether to make it cardio or how many times to go through the deck."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Democrats Cave

Well, the Democrats in the Senate have given it almost their all, now have decided to blink first, and still call it a victory. I don't think so. By giving in to threats of the "nuclear option", the Senate Democrats have bought the Brooklyn Bridge. An extraordinary deal based on the definition of extraordinary.

By not insisting on excluding (for the second year in a row) right wing loose cannons from the Apellate Courts, the Senate Democrats have lost their ability to invoke "extraordinary circumstances" if Bush nominates them soon for the Supreme Court.

As today's Noam Scheiber's New Republic blog (written today by T.A. Frank) remarks: "Republicans will allow Democrats to keep the filibuster as long as Democrats never use it. This way, both sides win (except for the Democrats). "

The rest of this comment on this bad deal is worth reading, so to save you from going over to the New Republic web site, here it is in its entirety:

CENTER FOLDS: So a deal has been struck on the filibuster. Republicans will allow Democrats to keep the filibuster as long as Democrats never use it. This way, both sides win (except for the Democrats).

Once again, the Republicans have shown their skillfulness when it comes to resetting parameters. Until recently, the perception had been that Bush had consistently filled the courts with extreme conservatives, with only a handful of truly batty nominees failing to meet the standards of Democrats. Now, facing the threat of the "nuclear option," Democrats have backed down on these as well. Thanks to the "finest traditions of the Senate" (Robert Byrd's words yesterday), there's a new agreement under which, presumably, only the certifiably insane can possibly be blocked--or, to put it as the senators did, nominees can "only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances." That way, if Bush's pick for a judgeship finally goes too far even for Republicans--if he nominates, say, an Irish setter who, during confirmation hearings, runs up and bites Orrin Hatch in the leg, then Democrats will be allowed to play the bad guys and employ their filibuster. Otherwise, they'd better hold off, since, if they don't, Republicans might have to take the filibuster away for real.

Of course, if Democrats had been filibustering half of Bush's 200-some nominees instead of only a handful, or if, for example, they had spoken endlessly of "maintaining balance on the courts" and insisted that Bush also nominate some "centrists" and not only "extremists," then a compromise position would have looked very different. But by bracketing the debate between two right-wing extremes--confirm every nominee except for a handful or confirm every nominee through use of the nuclear option--the Republicans had won before they'd even begun.

Meanwhile, skilled negotiators that they are, Republicans have been wise enough not to gloat over their victory. "It has some good news and it has some disappointing news, and it will require careful monitoring," says Bill Frist, admirably feigning disappointment. Meanwhile, Democrats, who must now back down and allow the confirmation of some truly radical judges, don't feel humiliated. In fact, they speak as if they've won. "In a Senate that is increasingly polarized, the bipartisan center held," Joe Lieberman proudly announced. And here's Assistant Democratic Leader Richard Durbin of Illinois: "There is nothing more exhilarating than being shot at and missed."

Exhilarating indeed. Can somone please resurrect the Whigs?

--T.A. Frank