In the past 24 hours, I’ve learned a good deal of things. Between last night and this morning, I’ve learned some life lessons, some health related tidbits, some some things that are insignificant but I’ll include for fun.
Starting with the most recent, I just watched No.4 ranked Jelena Jankovic lose in the 3rd round of the US Open to No. 31 ranked Kaia Kanepi. Not exactly an upset that you’d expect, right? Jankovic had some issues with the wind, as it’s pretty gusty in Queens. Jankovic was recently in a New York Times Magazine photo essay that documented that combination of athleticism and aesthetics prominent in women’s tennis. The sport’s evolved to be more and more powerful, and I find it more and more interesting because of this. As a golfer, I see that equaling the difference between a 75 year old man hitting his driver 150 yards, compared to Jaimie Sadlowski who routinely drives 400 yards.
While both sports are considered lifetime activities, as they’re popular among all age groups, both sports have evolved on the professional level with increased demand for strength, power, speed, and stamina. For amatuers and weekend warriors, there is still a relaxed feel for both; because of the variety in participation, players of all skill and fitness levels can enjoy these activities. Personally, I golf far more than I play tennis, but that’s about to change due to a tennis methods class I’m taking this fall. If you’re looking for a way to get outside and exercise without being bored out of your mind running, try some tennis or golf. (Before your smarmy remark about people drinking beer and riding around in golf carts, trying playing 18 holes and carrying your own bag. While for many young people this doesn’t require intense exertion you’ll burn between 622 – 688 more calories while doing so. I’d suggest you try it.)
Prior to watching Tennis today, I read the Summer 2010 issue of Kettlebell Magazine, which I picked up last night in Penn Station. It’s a short read (17 articles) but a tremendous body of information is presented, and I’m going to be subscribing to this quarterly publication. (I’ll complete a full review later in the week.) Now, I’ve only had my kettlebell for a few weeks now, but I’ve immediately recognized it’s significance as a tool for developing fitness. While no one piece of equipment is can stand alone, the kettlebell packs a tremendous value per pound. The fitness benefits are amazing, and I’m becoming interested in kettlebell sport competitions. One of the 4 “Iron Sports”, along with powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and strongman, I believe that the kettlebell events offer the most direct carry over to real life fitness. Outside of certain strong man events, they include cardiovascular demand that the other events don’t require. A 10 minute set might not seem like it’s very long, but swinging a ‘bell for that that long can be very demanding. I’m excited to learn more about kettlebells and the related events.
I learned three important things last night while I was in the city. I joined some folks over at Jules Bistro on St. Mark’s Place in NYC to see Charlie Apicelli and Iron City. There were two important things that I learned during my three hours at Jules. Most importantly, I learned that I need to go see more jazz live, as well as play more jazz. I felt like I was grooving along the whole time, and it felt good. For dinner, I had Escallopes de Veau “Mama Bruna”; Sauteed veal scallopini, mushroom sauce, fresh gnocchis with Gorgonzola and truffle oil, then for dessert I had their Creme Brulee. I knew I couldn’t pronounce anything in French, but I now know that I need to eat more French cuisine. I’d recommend you check out Jules Bistro for dinner and entertainment.
After the set, I headed off to Penn Station on my own; the folks I dined with were driving back to New Jersey. I love walking around New York City; there are always entertaining people to see and the hustle and bustle is electrifying. I opted to walk back to Penn instead of taking the N or R subway lines, as I had the time and wanted to explore, but I did far too much exploring; I headed further south instead of north, and an hour later decided I’d rather not wander around the Federal Reserve and South Street Seaport and took the 2 line back to Penn. There I discovered friends from home and picked up Kettlebell Magazine. What did I learn? Maybe even I need to check directions sometimes.
**I had a discussion with a colleague on Thursday discussing the content of my blog, and she brought up her concern that my sarcasm can be a turn off to those who aren’t on the up-and-up in the fitness field. She made a great point, because it’s tough to over-ride the flawed information that the media machine puts out there, with behind the scenes business deals and corporate influence. Instead of jumping straight into my last thought, I’m adding this ‘spoiler alert’ about toning shoes. If you wear them, or you think they’re a good idea, read no longer; here comes the judgment.
The last thing that I’d like to address today is footwear. I’m a huge fan of barefoot training in the weight room. Just don’t drop anything on your feet. There are numerous benefits to freeing your feet from shoes. I’m training only in low-support Nike Frees and Vibram Five Fingers, and I’ve never felt better. Excluding special cases where people require orthodics, I’d recommend progressing to these shoes for the majority of your lower-body training and for standing exercises. Now, there have been a number of shoes released lately that claim to provide additional benefits during exercise, from Sketchers, Reebox, and MBT. I’ve seen a few people wearing them, because they claim to help you tone your muscles, increase your metabolism, and make you stronger. A recent ACE study challenged the claims of these shoe marketers, and sure enough, they discovered that the shoes are NOT as effective as they claim. (You can read the study HERE.) I’m not sure how these companies have been fooling many of women and men, but we should have the common sense to know that any product that claims to increase your results without requiring more effort will most likely not do what it says it will. Did the cute, slender model in the Reebok commercial make you think that she made her body look like that just by wearing those sneakers?
Or did you see the voice of Joe Montana in the Skechers Shape Ups commercial trick you into thinking that you can walk around and get in great shape? As if doing so in these special shoes is magically going to really make your butt look that great. You want nice glutes? Go squat. Go deadlift. Don’t use “those thigh machines” that ladies flock to after they hop off the elliptical. If you want to look good you have to train for it, not walk around the block. How do people fall for this crap?! Sure, this is some tough love, but it’s simple logic. In other aspects of life, we understand that good results requires hard work. Why do we trick ourselves with exercise.
Even if you still don’t agree with the ACE research, and the numerous coaches, trainers, and therapists who know better than to use these shoes, think from a fashion standpoint. You look absolutely ridiculous with those big round sneakers on your feet. Exercise fail, Fashion fail. Put on some shoes that will truly help you, and then do some real training.