SOLO Fitness: Of Canines and Captains

Craig Ceely's picture
Submitted by Craig Ceely on Mon, 2006-08-28 04:51

Wow, the response, public and private, to the inaugural SOLO Fitness item was pretty gratifying. We have lots of ground to cover now, and all of it will captivate, I promise you that. At the risk of sounding New Age, well, the Journey is the Reward. I liked seeing comments from both sexes and from people of all ages, too. Well, almost all. That, along with the comments by the bicycling enthusiasts, sent my thoughts hither and yon...

My Favorite Martial Arts Story

In the Ancient Times (the mid-1960s), there lived a Hollywood actor who was an enthusiastic martial artist, studying with jeet-kune-do creator Bruce Lee. One day he approached his revered teacher with a problem.

"Sifu," he began, as he bowed, "When I was eighteen or nineteen I could do vertical kicks over the top of my head. Now that I'm older I can't kick so high any more. What should I do?"

Lee considered this at length for about a second, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "Don't try to kick so high."

Ten Years Old: Peak Enjoyment of Life?

Near another end of the age continuum are small children, with their seemingly inexhaustible reserves of energy, recovery ability, and enthusiasm (We see much the same thing in kittens and puppies). Remember what it was like? Tag was one hell of a fun game, even though it consisted of nothing more than chasing after each other and avoiding each other and screaming. A rope tied to a high tree limb was nothing short of fabulous -- especially if you could swing out over a body of water. More screaming! And monkey bars were just the greatest invention ever.

Where were we?

We need to get started, people. We need to go. We need to take the enthusiasm of a ten-year old, happily traversing the entire world on his bike every day, match it up with whatever prudence we've managed to scratch together since then, and harness that fusion to what we want to achieve now.

You caught that now, didn't you? Because we are going to be demanding about it, too. We won't expect immediate transformations, but this effort has to be enjoyable from the beginning. Now.

Let's be clear: we're not talking about losing five pounds, or five inches from your waist. Neither will we be lifting weights six days a week or training for the Iron Man triathlon or undergoing any variation of the Auschwitz Diet. We won't be "toning" any muscles, either.

No, no toning for our muscles: we are going to blast those puppies, blast 'em hard on workout days, and then pamper them like Cleopatra on all other days of the week. We are going to write a plan that includes hard work, we are going to implement that plan, we are going to take pains to avoid pains, avoid injury, and avoid overtraining -- and we are going to demand fun out of all of it.

We are going to build great bodies, men and women alike. We're going to learn how and we're going to do it.

Ladies: no apologies, but you'll need to lift heavy weight. Your workouts will be virtually identical to those performed by the guys. You give me the workouts I want, and you'll get the body you want.

Guys: no apologies, but you'll need to learn to cook.

We all need to read some, and we all need to learn some.

I can hear it now: Heavy weights? Cooking? Learning?! This crazy bastard wants me to be a bodybuilder!!

Well...yes. I do.

But forget Mr. Olympia and all such contests. Forget men who look like monsters and women who look like men. Think Muscle Beach, 1940s-1950s. Think strength and power and health, think vitality and virility and alluring curves. Think tight jeans and cowboy boots on guys, and short skirts on the girls.

Think: braggin' rights.

We need to feed those bodies, too, so we'll need a diet plan. There are two strict rules: there has to be plenty of food, and it has to be palatable. All of it.

Sound ambitious? Well, is. But: are we not ambitious? "The total passion for the total height." Who in the hell ever convinced any of us to settle for "toning?" I say go for greatness and be prepared for some serious tongueing as a result!

"Toning." Pfeh. Toning is for puritans. Tongueing, not toning. Now that's motivation.

Back when I tore my denim (geez, I'm still bragging about it), I devised what I called my Canine Theory. It's pretty simple (and I can deliver it while standing on one foot!):

Craig's Canine Theory of Building a Great Body:

1. Work like a sled dog.
2. Eat like a wolf.
3. Sleep like a puppy.

That's it. (I really wanted to come up with a similar Feline Theory, too, but with only 168 hours in a week I just couldn't see advocating 20 hours of sleep every day.)

Work: we're not powerlifters, but we're going to build our initial routines around the three powerlifts, with a little bit of spice from Olympic weightlifting, for those who want some variety.

Food: I think it's important to limit, but not shun, carbohydrates. Limiting means taking control. Shunning means no salads, no fruits, no breads, no beer, no wine. I say salads, fruits, breads, beer, and wine are officially part of the SOLO Fitness diet. Done.

Recovery and Sleep: Sleep and relaxation (and not from nine daily beers, either) are crucial. Growth hormone is produced during sleep. Remember what I said about pampering those muscles? Those are yourmuscles, fellow canine! And think, too, on the early descriptions of Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead: his nickname was Stretch Wynand, he was always too skinny for his height, he looked as if all muscle had been melted from him -- and he never slept more than four hours a night as an adult. You want to look like him? He'll be our model for what not to do.


So you know you'll be hoisting heavy iron, and you have an idea which movements are going to be involved. You can start by gathering and reading some resources for your efforts:

Clarence Bass and Testosterone Nation have content which ranges from fun to informative to indispensable. Bass was one who convinced me to learn the Olympic lifts. He's sort of from the Pritikin-Ornish school of dieting, but he knows there are such things as healthy fats. We canines plan to look as good in our seventh decade as Clarence does in his. T-Nation bills itself as "Bodybuilding's Think Tank," and other than that it is exactly what it is, no apologies. Great, great stuff.

Go to Dave Draper's site, and sign up for his email newsletter.
You'll enjoy it, and it's an excellent motivator. Dave and his wife, Laree, are born-again Christians, but he doesn't throw that in his readers' faces. What he does have is humor and literacy and perspective. Yes, he's the Dave Draper who was Mr. America, Mr. Universe, and Mr. World back in the day. But he's not writing for competitive bodybuilders, he's writing for us, those of us at SOLO Fitness Nation.

Go to RealAge, sign up for their newsletter, and take the RealAge Test. Answer the questions accurately and honestly (hey, nobody's looking). Then think about your results.

No joke: get your damn blood pressure checked. And monitor it.

See what you can do about food, here, and sign up for their email notificiations. Very, very good stuff. Remember what I said about palatability? Food is fuel -- but only if you eat it.

More links and resources tomorrow (Monday), as well as a bit of "Why the hell should I listen to this guy?," but meanwhile --

Ever hear of William Ernest Henley? I'm a published poet myself, but I know Henley only by this one poem, which was emailed to me a few weeks ago. I hadn't read it in years:


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Oh yes. Ohhh yes.

Let's see if I can recap: We are going to be realistic (taking Bruce Lee's advice), yet ambitious (see the examples of Clarence Bass and Dave Draper and, for that matter, Jack LaLanne). We are going to insist on having fun all the way through (think Ross and Marnee and what they said about riding bicycles). Our recovery modalities will rival Cleopatra for pampering. And we'll fuel our workouts, our lives, with no-apologies food.

Work like a sled dog. Eat like a wolf. Sleep like a puppy. Woof!

And you're the captain of your own soul.

That about right?

Yeah....Cap'n Dawg. That's me.

Until next time...I need to go howl at the moon, chase my tail for a bit, and get some sleep. Don't call it a catnap. Smiling

( categories: )

Craig, yes, the New York

PhilipC's picture

Craig, yes, the New York City Marathon. I love it and it's flat other than the Verrazano Narrows and the Queensborough bridges. One of the few experiences in life where you can be cheered by enthusiastic crowds for four hours....unless you're a Roman Emperor returning from a conquest...and even Caesar wasn't seranaded by the thundering strains of "Rocky" from boombox after boombox.

> gearing up to some heavier weights

What I really need to do is start to mix in some calisthenics, squats, pushups and situps with no weights. All of which I hate, but I really need. My legs are in great shape but my abdomen is that of the Pillsbury Doughboy or the Michelin tire man.


Craig Ceely's picture

The only comment I'd offer to any of this (beyond congratulating you on knowing what you want and pursuing it) is that I would regard marathon running as a sport rather than as a means of exercise. I'd also suggest that you think about gearing up to some heavier weights: 20+ reps per movement is kind of a lot. I'm not suggesting that you don't know what you're doing, just that overtraining sneaks up on all of us.

Is there a particular marathon for which you're training?

Robert, not just running, I

PhilipC's picture

Robert, not just running, I agree. I try to do very light weights a couple times a week - 10-30 pounds on each machine, but I prefer to do many reps, twenty or more on virtually -every- machine except for the leg presses since the weight is so light...then I swim a few laps. I love full court basketball, but I need to lose a bit more weight to run with the 17-25 year old gazelles, like I did as recently as three years ago. I like that much more than running, weights, swimming. That's my favorite sport by far.

--Mr. Basketball

Robert, I know -how- to

PhilipC's picture

Robert, I know -how- to train for marathons and build endurance, having attempted four and completed three in my life. The big hurdle is losing the weight. I'm down 15 lbs the last few months, but need to be down another 15 (hopefully by the end of the year) before I can do any serious training. As far as boring, I use headphones and am thinking of an Ipod Nano. As far as time to train, once I can run eight or ten miles easily, the time needed to run 40-60 per week for four months (I'm only training to finish, not to run under 4 hours like I did before) is really only about 7 or so hours *a week*. Not a huge time investment. And it's recommended that people do an hour of physical activity or exercise a day anyway - this is just gradually more intense. The last month before the marathon, that may increase to 10 hours, but only for that one month.

But the beauty of being in that kind of shape that I noticed before is you get the hour a day back enormously redoubled. Being in mediocre shape, my alertness level and ability to concentrate intensely (say, computer programming or writing on a high level or teaching) is 5-6 hours and a little tired or out of focus or groggy the rest, like late afternoon or early evening. When I've been on the college track team of in marathon shape, I am intensely alert from 7 AM till 11 PM, which is about 16 hours.

So the one hour is paid back with well over 8 hours of increased mental capacity, alertness, etc. Just because oxygen, blood flow, capillaries, etc. are all at their peak.

You don't understand this unless you've ever been in peak athletic condition. And I really want to get back to that...the marathon goal is just a means. It's going to be really hard though, because I'm older.


jtgagnon's picture

Actually, I haven't a clue about my BP or anything else. I spend my time running or reading...and sometimes doing both simultaneously.

Numbers, please

Craig Ceely's picture

With all the talk of gym etiquette and training for marathons and heavenly bodies, I know that we've all taken the RealAge test and without a doubt we've all had accurate blood pressure readings taken.


No need to publish your results here. But you should have a baseline for your program.

It's not second-handed

Martin's picture

But it IS cocky.

As the world turns.

Prima Donna's picture

No, it just means your world is spinning normally on its axis. Laughing out loud


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Is it second handed to think

User hidden's picture

Is it second handed to think that SOLO is at its best when I am the topic of conversation?


We've got a live one here!

Prima Donna's picture

I hear she's very good with dictation. Smiling


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

How about....

jtgagnon's picture

How about being my personal assistant? Smiling

I don't really want a job at

User hidden's picture

I don't really want a job at SOLO, but I will take one if it will get me initiation rites. I feel very left out and sulky.


Even if...

Prima Donna's picture

this is what he says:

Your initiation rites include hiking through the forests of Oregon for the express purposes of encountering and frolicking with a bevy of ill-clad blonde buxom beauties... should still run for your life.


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Oh no, John ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You didn't quite get it.

But you will, John-boy, you will ...


jtgagnon's picture

If my initiation rites include hiking through the forests of Oregon for the express purposes of encountering and frolicking with a bevy of ill-clad blonde buxom beauties, then I am ready to go!

Really, Master Gagnon?

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You don't believe me?

We'll see how sceptical you are after your initiation rites.

(Clue—they begin with our taking a hike in the forests of Oregon.)


Peter Cresswell's picture

No. I don't believe he went hiking either.

Cheers, Peter Cresswell

**Setting Brushfires In People's Minds**

**Integrating Architecture With Your Site**

Going all night

Boaz the Boor's picture

Some of us are exceptional, Herr Gagnon. Be not envious. And there's nothing rubbish about going all night -- unless it's after a long hike. (So uncivilized...)


jtgagnon's picture

I don't believe it.

Quite right, Craig!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

And Linz, no one believes you've ever had a lover for four hours!

I keep telling you, it was all night.


Craig Ceely's picture

And Linz, no one believes you've ever had a lover for four hours!

Anyway, no, the two situations (hiking and marathoning) are not strictly comparable -- although it would still, of course, depend on your level of health and fitness to begin with. Lots of things reduce test levels: chemotherapy, licorice, alcohol, and, yes, too much exercise. Aerobics is more of a culprit here (and not "allegedly," either), but too much time in the gym lifting weights will do the same.

Hmmmm ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Maybe this is not comparable, but I once hiked around some forest near Portland, Oregon, with my then-lover for about 4 hours. It was the most concerted cardiovascular workout I'd ever had in my life. Apart from what followed it. Testosterone comin' out my ears. Up all night. Smiling

Running reduces

Boaz the Boor's picture

Running reduces testosterone?

Running marathons, allegedly. Just try having sex after running 26 miles, see how that goes! There, that's my proof.

Running reduces

JoeM's picture

Running reduces testosterone?


Craig Ceely's picture

Phil, I don't regard "Mr. Bulky Muscles" as an argument, and since you don't make your case for "concrete-bound" or "intrinsicism," I'll ignore those as well.

But as to marathoning: it's your right to participate in one of the most successful testosterone-reducing programs known to science, so knock yourself out. Smiling

Oh and good luck

Robert's picture

with the marathon training Phil. I had similar ambitions a few years back but stopped because the mileage was taking up too much of my free time and the running was becoming boring.

You won't be able to do much about the former, but if you want help with the latter, Arthur Lydiard's ideas might help spice up your training. and googling his name should get you to a site where you can read his philosophy on building endurance.

He trained a fair number of Olympic champions so you can be sure he isn't talking out of his arse.

No but...

Robert's picture

I have seen people convert to running who have found that some weight training is beneficial.

Weight training helps to develop muscle groups in the leg that aren't hit hard by running. And it strengthens muscles evenly.

The muscles that surround and work the knee are a classic example. If the muscles on one side get stronger than the other then the action of the knee is effected. Doing squats and leg raises 1-2 times a week fixed this problem for me.

Running also does very little to work the upper body, yet as you get to running longer distances you will notice that you will begin to hurt in weird places, like your chest (all that breathing), shoulders (all that arm swinging) and at first you may notice problems with muscle fatigue in your gut and back due to the fact they are suddenly being asked to assume an efficient running posteur for longer and longer amounts of time. Moderate weight training can quickly cure these problems quickly and thus quickly enhance your ability to run fast for a long period of time.

There is no substitute for road work in running. But there are plenty of benefits from lifting a little bit of iron a couple of times a week.

Intrinsicism in Excercise

PhilipC's picture

There are almost as many ways to exercise as there are people. Someone who gardens or walks every day can be in better cardio-vascular shape than Mr. Bulky Muscles. The key is doing something regularly.

Find something you -like-. If you don't like lifting weights or big muscles, but do like full court basketball or swimming or jogging, then do those and you'll be just fine.

There is no one concrete-bound true way to being healthy; there are no "intrinsically" better forms of exercise or of acheiving fitness: It shouldn't be necessary to point out to an Objectivist audience that exercise -its form and intensity- is contextual. (Doing SOME form of regular exercise and staying healthy and reasonably fit is not.)

[ If Craig wants to pump iron, I will not take away his right to do so. But if I decide to get in shape to run the marathon a year from now, I will not lift any heavy weights between now and then and will be building small, lean, endurance oriented leg muscles...not big ones. Ever seen a good distance runner who is built like Ahhhhhnold? ]

Excellent, Coach Craig

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I must say the SOLO Fitness Diet sounds better than any others I've heard about.

Don't wanna end up looking like Clarence Bass, though. Pritikin? No wonder!

I'm actually getting very good results with a regime I've arrived at by trial & error. I'll say no more till I've been doing it a few more months. Suffice it to say that while building muscle was never a problem, shrinking the abdominal girth, for the past 10 years or so, has been. Now it's finally succumbing.


Prima Donna's picture

That does sound quite good. I don't need chocolate every day (not a huge fan), but sometimes nothing says "I love you" like a bittersweet bite of dark chocolate. Which reminds me, there's a pile of it right over there...

Ooh, I also met a chocolatier a few weeks ago who crafts everything by hand, including the preserves that go inside his filled chocolates. His company, Lillie Belle Farms, is certified organic, and sells chocolate covered cocoa nibs called "Lillie Rocks" that are out of this world. Do try. (We'll have them soon in our boutique, too.)


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Jennifer - chocolate

AdamReed's picture

Jennifer - giving up my daily indulgence in chocolate would be far worse than removing excess carbs from my diet. Besides, Frey "Noir Special 72% Cacao Sans Adjonction du Sucre" is very, very good....


Prima Donna's picture

Firstly, Craig, thanks for the endorsement. Smiling I think people would be amazed to find how much flavor can exist in a dish that is perfectly healthful (such as Carrot and Ginger Soup or Olive Oil Poached Sablefish). There is no need to sacrifice flavor in pursuit of health.

I'm also glad you have shunned the very idea of sacrifice, Craig. I can think of no worse motivator than deprivation, and refuse to remove one thing from my diet. Thankfully, it's not necessary to do so; rather, it's understanding that foie gras should not be a daily indulgence (or chocolate or whatever tickles your fancy).

Though my entire body aches from kicking off the regimen, it is a happy ache, and I look forward to rewarding myself with a new wardrobe in the coming months.


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Ok. I'm in.

Ross Elliot's picture

Ok. I'm in.

As long as there's lots of cycling, and since spring's around the corner, there *will* be Cool

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