1.03.2016

A good exercise for swimmers and photographers. 50 push ups per day. In two sets of 25.

World class butterfly swimmer at the 2008 USMS Short Course Nationals.

I've been reading about aging. It's not a very pretty subject. Left to its own devices the body loses muscle mass every year --- unless you do something about it. Less muscle mass means vital stuff to most of us because it presages slower swim times, and less endurance in holding up heavy camera and lens combinations for long periods of time. Both situations that we want to (actively) avoid!

I do aerobic exercise almost every day, rain or shine, but until recently I didn't pay as much attention to muscle mass and weight training. I never want to join a gym and hang out with people sweating and messing around with machines but, on the other hand, I want to preserve, or even build, muscle mass as I hit middle age.

I talked about this to one of my coaches at the pool. I asked him what I could be doing to swim faster. He answered that the only way to swim faster, once your stroke is as perfect as you can make it, is to get stronger. Which means building or re-building muscle. He recommended one thing specific to swimming (Finis swim cords --- surgical tubing that allows you to practice the arm movements of swimming, on dry ground, with plenty of resistance) and one thing all of us can do to build power and endurance = good, old fashion, push-ups; and plenty of them.

Why do I believe coach, Tommy Hannan? Well, there is that gold medal he won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and those three NCAA national championships that his college team, UT Austin, won while he swam there....

But mostly I believe him now because, since I've incorporated his suggestions into my daily routine, my swim times and swim endurance have incrementally improved, and my ability to hold silly-heavy camera and lens combinations steady has also improved.

The basic push-up is pretty wondrous. If you keep your body perfectly flat while you do them you are also getting good "planking" exercise which tightens your core abdominal muscles. The push ups put the most pressure on your chest muscles and your triceps (swimming muscles) but also puts pressure on your shoulders as well. The benefit of good shoulder muscles is the ability to carry camera bags without as much risk of injury. Good shoulder muscles also reduce the risk of injury in highly repetitive swimming motions.

Building and maintaining muscle also burns fat quicker and helps one maintain optimum body mass.

I worked up to my 50 per day gradually. I started by doing sets of ten. At first I broke them up and did ten in the morning, then ten in the afternoon. Then I added a set before bed time. After a week I changed to two sets of ten in the morning and two sets of ten in the afternoon. After another week I added in the final ten before bedtime again to get a total of 50. Now I just get it done quicker and do 25 in the morning, after swim practice; and then 25 in the late afternoon, in the studio, before I call it quits on the workday.

I am intent on getting to 100 per day, and also varying the angle of inclination at which I do the sets. I use an "apple box" from my stash of movie gear, to get my toes up about a foot off the floor, which changes the angle of my body to the floor and changes the range of muscles that get used.

When I look through various blogs I note that an alarming number of photographers are....tubby, soft, pudgy, or some permutation of fat. Being out of shape isn't something aspirational. The mind, body and eye all work together, like three legs of a stool. Fat photographer = slow, tired and ponderous photographer. We can do better. We should do better. To really enjoy our craft we need to be in good shape. Hell, to enjoy life we need to be in good shape. A few push-ups won't hurt.

Next up? Either sit-ups or an article on video codecs; I can't decide.

If you are overweight but bitching about the weight of camera systems I remember what my cyclist friends say about wealthy (out of shape) newcomers to cycling: Before you invest a fortune in a super light bike frame take some time to lose that extra 25 pounds. It's much cheaper than a great, new frame and it's the most cost effective thing you can do to go faster....guaranteed.



18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would say that the squat is an even more important exercise for overall fitness. There are many variations of the squat. I also do gardening and lift heavy stuff around quite a bit. It's great exercise for "Grown Man Strength" which is different, and superior to gym rat strength. Finally, I have a 5 minute yoga workout every morning. It's amazing what those simple exercises can do for your fitness and well-being.

David said...

Forget the sit-ups, they'll ruin your back. Do sit-downs. Works the abdominal muscles without nasty side effects.

Fred said...

Cyclists and swimmers can also lose bone mass, not a good thing at any age. Weight bearing exercises prevent this and build bone mass. As you illustrate in this post it is important to be able to do the tasks of daily living. I agree with anonymous above about squats. I wouldn't worry about sit ups, the planking involved in 50 push ups a day and flip turns would take care of that.
Besides I need to know more about video codecs :-).

Dave Jenkins said...

I read once that Paul Newman drank a lot of beer. But he also did 500 sit-ups every day.

John Camp said...

I agree with anonymous -- squats can be done quickly, and are a great full-body exercise, especially for people who need to take a break from a computer or other sedentary job. I do mine with a 20lb dumbbell in each hand -- squat, stand up, curl, uncurl, squat, rinse and repeat. I can do more squats than curls, and when I'm all curled out, I just continue the squats with the dumbbells hanging down.

One thing about these exercises -- pushups and squats -- is that you don't have to do them all at once to be effective. That's just gym training. I can take a five-minute break from the computer and do my squats, with time to spare. Later, take another break and do pushups. Don't break a sweat, don't need to change clothes (use a Yoga mat to keep your clothing off the floor.) In addition to the strength benefits, your body really does need a break from the computer...

Mike Rosiak said...

Having just completed physical therapy after a knee replacement, I can second David's "Do sit-downs." Kitchen chair. Sit straight, both feet on floor. Stand up, but do NOT hold onto anything. Sit down, without holding. 3 sets of 15 will tell you a story about your core strength, quads, and glutes. For more of a challenge, set your feet at uneven distances from the chair. Alternate.

My ailing knee knocked me off my routine for almost three years. Now that it's fixed, I can see how much I lost in that time. New Year's resolution? You bet.

Mister Ian said...

I suggest the hook, Body by Science by Dr. Doug McGuff. Otherwise there's too much bro science out there about effective (and safe) strength training.

Anonymous said...

What John Camp says is important. Squats are the single most complete exercise you can do. Curls are for girls, but squats are for studs. Holding extra weight with squats is great for further resistance and BALANCE. Balance is really important. That's what "Grown Man Strength" is all about. If you do things like working outside you'll know what I'm talking about. That's what makes the 180 lbs., 6-foot tall, 32 inch waist ironworker such a specimen. So this type of exercise, to supplement your cardio/swimming, is a great idea. Body Weight exercises are highly advised for you...20 -40 minutes a few times a week. Jump rope, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine ball, yoga mat exercises, run, walk, push ups, pull ups, back bends, deep knee squats, etc. It's all good and, most importantly, there's no trendy/expensive gym required.

Racecar said...

25 push ups is really a good start. I’ve been doing sit ups and push ups for about a year now with good results (I can only do 20 push ups at a time though.) I got a fitness mat for the sit ups b/c the floor’s too cold in the winter, and it’s better on my tail bone. I do the regimen when I get up, and before I go to bed – it’s become a force of habit now. Lately I’ve added jumping jacks into the mix just for the heck of it.

John Krumm said...

Lately (for a few months) I've been using weights, maybe three times a week, and I've noticed some very good changes in my 50 year old body. The arm strength is great, but the increased leg strength is wonderful since I have a tendency towards what is medically termed "chicken legs." It makes me more hopeful about the aging process, that I at least have a bit of a counter weapon even if we all lose in the end.

Neale MacMillan said...

Kirk -- your post is right on, and applies not just to swimming but to lots of sports, including cross-country skiing. Upper body power contributes hugely in both classic and skating styles. Over the holidays on our third ski outing in Gatineau Park (Quebec), my daughter was complaining about sore arms from all the double poling we'd been doing. I suggested to her that when she's back at university, sitting studying at her desk, to take a break every so often and do 20 push-ups.

Your swimming posts are motivating for this masters athlete in another discipline. Happy swimming, shooting and blogging in the New Year!

David said...

FYI: Sit-downs:
Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet sitting under a couch or similar as a counterweight, and hands behind the head. Lean back and lower yourself slowly to the floor. Works the tummy without straining the back.

Jerry said...

After decades of biking, running, swimming, aerobics, and weight training, I started crossfit 16 months ago. Best thing I've ever done. At 61 I'm usually the oldest at the classes, but working out with women and men 1/2 my age (or 1/3) is a hoot.

amolitor said...

Well, it's been 6 years since I was racing sailboats competitively and knocking out a couple hundred pushups a day (guess how old my eldest daughter is!)

But I can still do a set of 25. The 25th is pretty slow and not silent but with decent form.

Time to start doing more of them. Thanks Kirk.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirk. Ever try the slow push up? Start with a 30 count (15 up and 15 down). Do one continuous exhale going down and one continuous inhale going back up. Increase time as you get better at it.

A clearer view said...

Stairs. I do 10 storeys x 3 every other day.

A clearer view said...

Do push-ups increase blood pressure in your head/brain, risking a burst blood vessel?

Stephen Greszczyszyn said...

I agree with the commenters here. Small "snack breaks" throughout the day consisting of bodyweight exercises and movements like squats, pull-ups (I have a folding bar that I mount in my home office doorway), planks, push-ups. Those movements will engage and strengthen the whole body, including the abdominals.

My grandfather is 100, and spent his life walking and moving daily. He still uses his treadmill, walks the stairs, does a daily weight routine but gave up his gym membership a year or so ago. Here is a 90-second short that I made about him as he approached his 99th birthday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTx5zMDfVlk

I work in IT, but have the same sedentary challenges as those in photography or video post-processing. I've learned a lot from these sites:

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/bodyweight-workout/
http://www.fitnessinpost.com/
http://nutritiousmovement.com/blog/