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.