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Fr. Kenneth Allen

I’ve been reading up on some tech issues involving security, website issues, and a host of other things. I’ve found some great things.

While its always been a nagging feeling that I should do more for security, famed whistleblower Edward Snowden recently said that professionals, and he mentioned priests, should do more for the security of their Parishioners.

The NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, has urged lawyers, journalists, doctors, accountants, priests and others with a duty to protect confidentiality to upgrade security in the wake of the spy surveillance revelations.

Snowden said professionals were failing in their obligations to their clients, sources, patients and parishioners in what he described as a new and challenging world.

“What last year’s revelations showed us was irrefutable evidence that unencrypted communications on the internet are no longer safe. Any communications should be encrypted by default,” he said.

And:

He added: “If we confess something to our priest inside a church that would be private, but is it any different if we send our pastor a private email confessing a crisis that we have in our life?”

This led me to consider our Parish resources. I’ve learned a lot from The Lawyerist, regarding paperless offices, redundant backups, cloud storage, and encryption at rest. That led to a simple investment in Crashplan.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress here. Stay tuned.

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Somewhere in the Holy Land, around 1885, via Wikimedia.

Somewhere in the Holy Land, around 1885, via Wikimedia.

I don’t know why I changed my blog over to this web address instead of keeping it at fatherallen.net. What was I thinking?

Well, I was thinking that it’s far better for me to have a dedicated blog, rather than a website that’s half photoblog, half anything and everything else. The things I do to evangelize!

But anyway, here we are at my silly little blog, as opposed to my silly little website. It’s a change in scenery if nothing else. Though remarkably devoid of any and all content, so far, we’ll have to work on changing all of that.

And we’re going to get to work on changing all of that very soon! “Why,” you might ask, “is it going to change very soon?”

Because I’m leaving for a whirlwind trip through the Holy Land starting next Wednesday, and will no doubt have lots of things to post. And zero time to do it. But when has that ever stopped me! I post at least once a quarter here, despite the regular allotment of my business allowances which get sunk into this remarkable adventure in Evangelistic outreach.

So, we’ll be in the air some 15-16 hours, in Bethlehem a few days then in Galilee a couple of nights, with a Mass said by the Holy Father somewhere right in between all of that activity. It’s a non-stop, whirlwind kind of trip, and should be completely exhausting.

But, oddly enough, I’m looking forward to it.

I’ll keep you posted.

PS – If you have any Mass intentions you’d like me to pray for in the Holy Land, leave a comment! Send me a note! Let me know!

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Well Hoo Boy, have I been busy! In the midst of moving, riding, walking and lifting I also suddenly developed a knee pain while out hiking one day, which the good doc says doesn’t seem to be anything at all. (Good thing of course.) Still, it led me to start reading through An Athlete’s Guide to Chronic Knee Pain, which I have to say is both informative and helpful.

The book lists several videos to help with form, which I list here sheerly for my own ease in watching them later on. The book is very helpful, and recommends (surprise!) squats and deadlifts. It’ll be in my “preventative workout” for the time being.

Romanian Deadlift

Box Squats

Squat Stance and Semantics

Bottom Stretch

Paused Isometric Squat

Weighted Squats

RDL Hops

Ankle Depth Jumps

RDL Jumps and Landing

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(I’ll apologize right here to the younger generations who are offended by the use of the word “stupid”. Growing up when I did, it’s a completely normal, unstigmatized expression of frustration with no horrible connotations, or life changing judgments involved.)

I’ve long suspected that I know the answer to my physical issues. And that’s because I do — it’s all in the diet. Sure I can find the time to exercise, and have been doing some good strength training. And I’ve been learning a lot about the aging process as I get more serious with that once again. But it all comes back to paying much more attention to my diet. Once again.

A friend recently asked if I’d ever heard of the Paleo Diet. Boy have I!

See years ago when the internet was a kid, I belonged to a low carb diet list. I was attracted to it since as an overweight teenager I lost a lot of weight on the Atkins diet, and wanted to get back into it. I had my highs and lows, but overall found a lot of success with a low carb way of living. A problem is that I don’t always have much control over my diet. I studied ketogenic dieting, and found great success with a targeted ketogenic diet, which was nicely outlined in The Ketogenic Diet.

Even back in the day, the low carb list vied with attention from the paleo list, which was essentially low carb. THe big difference both have made in their evolution is the attention to the broader range of hormones and chemicals in the modern food supply. So, they’ve both more or less gone organic, with Paleo dieting leading the way in that regard. And all of that fits in nicely with the “back to the land” movement of buying local, choosing organics which are better for the environment. And all of it is ultimately, to my mind, very Catholic to boot.

A Facebook friend (who grew up in France,) put it this way: “Just eat the French way. It’s basically paleo with a little bit of cake here and there.”

That I can handle. To a degree. I have some revamping to do.

But, a paleo diet, as outlined and explained by Mark Sisson at least, is a ketogenic diet. High (healthy) fat, high protien, lower carb, no refined carbs. A targeted ketogenic diet is a ketogenic diet in which you intake a certain amount of carbohydrate before exercise (I still use Smarties candies for that.) Not that I’m doing a ketogenic diet on a regular basis… yet. But, I do believe that’s the route I’m going. And if not explicitly ketogenic, then definitely lower carb for a good while. On the 80/20 principle at that. (Which could, you know, be considered a cyclical ketogenic diet if one planned better than I do…)

But that’s the latest on the diet front. Off to read more on hormones at some point today.

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Squat Every Day

Squat Every DayRecently I read the book Squat Every Day.

As a musician, with years of practicing every day for hours on end, the idea of practicing physically everyday makes a lot to sense to me. So I’ve started doing this. Let’s face it, I’m not breaking records with my lifting, and as long as I’m practicing solid technique, it’s entirely sensible. I can’t see how it’s much different than any other physical activity pursued on a regular basis.

Here are some search results for the growing trend of pursuing this practice:

We’ll see how this goes.

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Team Powertec athlete Ian Lauer CSCS talks to you about shoulder development incorporating compound movements for maximum results.

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Exercises to Avoid

…but especially for older lifters. via Brooks Kubic

This is a lot of exercises to avoid. #winning

Anything that makes my life a little simpler, I tell you….

  • Barbell or Dumbbell Pullovers
  • potential should wreckers

  • Behind the Neck Pulldowns
  • Shoulder wreckers, use Pulldowns to the Chest instead, and don’t stretch shoulders at top of the movement.

  • Behind the Neck Pull-Ups
  • Use Pull-Ups to the front instead, don’t fully extend arms, or stretch shoulders at beginning of each rep.

  • Press Behind the Neck
  • Bad idea, and too much stress on the shoulders.

  • The Bradford Exercise
  • The military Press is a much better and much safer option.

  • Dumbbell Flyes
  • Lowering the dumbbells to far to the side stresses the shoulder. OFten enough and heavy enough will guarantee shoulder issues.

  • Parallel Dips
  • A deep stretch at the bottom is far to stressful for the shoulders. Don’t go too low if you choose this one. Smae with rings and V-bars.

  • One-Arm Barbell Presses or Barbell Side Presses
  • D’oh.

  • Bench Presses w/ a McDonald Bar
  • Stick to regular bar for Bench Presses, and don’t go too low.

  • Dumbbell Bench Press w/ too much stretch
  • Use the same range of movement as with Barbell Bench Presses.

  • Preacher Bench Curls
  • Tremendous stress on inner elbow in the extended position.Use regular barbell or dumbbell curls instead.

  • Supine Dumbbell Curls
  • Lots of stress on shoulder and elbows. Use standing barbell curls and dumbbell curls, and 45 degree incline dumbbell curls.

  • Elevated Stiff Legged Dead Lifts
  • Elevated Deadlifts
  • Elevated Rowing
  • Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
  • Not everyone is built for this move: To play it safe, stick to bent-legged deadlifts, Trap Bar deadlifts, power cleans, power snatches, and high pulls.

  • T-Bar Rows
  • Usually done with too much weight and a rounded back.

  • Zercher Lift
  • Good Mornings
  • Always risky, so sticking to the same recommendations for Stiff-Legged Deadlifts is the way to go.

  • Seated Good Mornings
  • Triceps Extensions and French Presses
  • Well deserved reputation as elbow wreckers; stick to close-grip bench presses (w/ hands no more than 6 inches apart.) Can also do close-grip bench presses on an incline bench.

  • Straddle Lift
  • Great way to hurt the lower back. Stick to Squats, Front Squats, deadlifts and Trap Bar deadlifts; much more effective and safe.

  • Jump Squats
  • Just No. Build explosive strength with squats, front squats, power cleans, power snatches and high pulls.

  • Box Squats and Bench Squats
  • Not good for older lifters. Do bottom position squats w/ a power rack if you wish this type of training.

  • Decline Barbell of Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Older lifters have been known to have strokes or heart attacks doing these moves!

  • Sprints and Hill Sprints
  • Great for younger, but not older lifters, due to Achilles heel fragility.

  • Plyometrics and Depth Jumps
  • Not great for older lifters.

  • Yoga
  • For the heavily muscled over forty, this can cause severe strain and injury.

  • Leg Presses on a Vertical Leg Press Machine
  • Going too low stresses the lower back and spine.

  • Any sort of Pullover Machine
  • Pec-Dec
  • Useless and bad for shoulders.

  • Round Back Squats
  • Always squat with a flat back.

  • Sit-Ups w/ Straight Legs
  • Always w/ knees bent.

  • Bench Presses w/ Thumbless Grips
  • D’uh…

  • Bench Pressing w/out Safety Racks or Spotters
  • Hello….

  • Quarter Squats w/out a Power Rack
  • Not a good idea…

  • Jogging
  • Bad on back and knees for lifters, seek other cardio or use lifting as cardio.

  • Power Cleans / Snatches if done Wrong
  • Flexibility and joint mobility is key, or it can lead to disappointment. Squats, front squats, military presses, bench presses/incline presses, and bent legged or trap-bar deadlifts are the way to go.

  • Any Exercise that Hurts!
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A Culture of Life

March for Life

(A number of people commented and asked for reprints of this bulletin column, so I share it here for future reference.)

“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.”

These immortal words of Sacred Scripture help to define us as Christians, and should also help to articulate our spirituality amidst a world given over, ever more, to new spiritualities based on the rebirth of ancient pagan ways. Even a few decades ago a ‘new paganism’ was noted. The original paganism awaited the revelation from God, which came in the fullness of time; the new rejects the entirety of Revelation, and almost rabidly rejects Jesus Christ.

Hence, we often find ourselves today amidst those who reject Jesus Christ and his Church. “I don’t have to go to Mass.” “I don’t have to go to Confession, I can go directly to God.” “God loves me, He knows I don’t need to do all of that.” “I don’t believe that the Church is right regarding birth control.” And the famous lines from the 80’s which were always leveled against Pope John Paul II, “Keep that man out of my bedroom!”

Such statements highlight the ignorance which many people have of the Faith, and bring pain to the hearts of those who live it valiantly, witnessing that a light has shown on those who dwelt in the darkness. Many people learn their Faith as children, but then never again engage their intellect as they age, considering that what they learned as 8 year olds is as intelligent as the Faith gets. And as we know that’s entirely wrong; the most brilliant minds in history have been Catholic, have grappled with the Faith at every level, and have come out victoriously witnessing to the Light of Jesus Christ. Many more people of great mind have entered the Faith after setting out to disprove it entirely.

lights in st. matthew

As I write up this bulletin note I’m sitting in my room in Washington D.C., ready to head outside for the March for Life. It’s 11 degrees at the moment outside, and yesterday we had 8 inches of snow. But nothing is deterring the witness of Faith which is happening all over the world in regard to life itself. We live in an era which values the right to death more and more. We’re seeing euthanasia being touted as the new norm for people tired of living, even for adolescents. We’re seeing a growing trend towards sex changes being done at any age, even being ‘recognized’ in children. Abortion has become so commonplace, that many of a liberal mindset consider that the ‘battle is over’, and tell pro-lifers to quiet it down (to put it lightly.)

But, given the great treasure of knowledge and reason which we have in our Faith, we can never pipe down, and we can never quiet down. We may all well end up being martyrs for life at some point, but God calls us to witness to the Truth, and not to witness to a comfortable, unchallenged life.

“And the light shines in darkness, a darkness which was not able to master it.” We read this in the Gospel of John, and it used to be read at the end of every Mass. It’s a reminder that we have a great light in our spirituality, which is the person of Jesus Christ, who will guide us onwards to eternity. Many in our generation are, literally, hell bent. Be courageous and be a witness to the light of Jesus Christ. Learn your Faith more, and drag as many people to Heaven with you as you can.

Fr. Kenneth Allen

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Cycling

the bikeI love cycling, and back in ‘ought 6 (2006), when I was being treated for asthma after inhaling post-Katrina black mold and flood dust, one of my doctors told me that if I didn’t swim or ride a bike regularly I’d be on oxygen by the time I was 70. That was all I needed to hear. I miss being able to do laps in the pool, and even more so collapsing into the hot tub afterwards, but living right along a major bike route cannot pass up the opportunity to ride often.

Today the ride was pretty un-compelling. For lack of any motivation at all, I just got on the bike and rode to the lake and back, so I could chalk it up as done, and to reap whatever benefits I might reap. I’m at the point where I can ride 20 miles without thinking about it, 30 with some prep, and 50 with trepidation but not alarm. The weather was cooler than the thermostats read, gloomy, overcast, with a heaviness in the air, as if the sky might burst open at any moment or, as if rain drops might just materialize directly from the heavy humid air itself. Silently wishing I had never left the comfort of home and simultaneously giving thanks for being in the great outdoors, it eventually did start to rain about 3 blocks from home. Saturday was 10 miles, Sunday was 20, today was 20. Stretch time.

Still, excessive aerobic training without strength training can lead to a high body fat percentage, which is where I am overall. Hence the renewed focus on strength training. But that’s another story, for another time.

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Redbuds Abloom

redbud's abloom

There is soooo much going on around the Parish, and in my life in general, that I cannot find the time to write about much of it at any given point in time. And I have a few personal projects which need wrapping up this spring, which will take quite a bit of said time.

Be that as it may, keeping a weblog is sort of a necessity in this day and age, so I will need to devote at least some time and energy to it. I’ve put up a few links to others I’m in contact with, and will have to be adding some as time goes on.

Also, I don’t write about Church life (i.e. the Universal Church), as a rule, but am tempted to start commenting on that as the year progresses. #We’llSeeAboutThat

Splash, out.

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One of (at least one of) the Priests interviewed here I stayed with last week during the March for Life. He runs marathons while I worry about finding the time to exercise.

Great video.

#WINNING

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On Sleep

Sleep is something which occasionally eludes me. Take last night for instance, I was awake, and anxious about many things, most of which were unfounded.

Historically I’ve never been one to stress about sleep, and for the most part still am not. But a few years ago, which was a few years after Katrina, I had occasion to visit a specialist in sleep, who taught me about Sleep Hygiene. At the Mayo Clinic they talk Cognitive Therapy instead of pills. And in more general cases, offer great and simple sleep tips.

Most of them are common sense, and the rub comes in actually trying to make better habits regarding sleep. A big issue I was having at the time is, that after Katrina one of my physicians offered me mild tranquilizers, which made me drowsy. I offset that drowsiness with caffiene, and as a result ended up chronically caffeine toxic.

Things I remember fairly often are:

  • Most people wake up ten – eleven times per night. And the thing is to just stay in bed and nap, more or less, until sleep arrives again.
  • It’s not necessary to look at your clock or watch during the night to see what time you woke up. Just set an alarm for the last possible moment it needs to be set, and never worry about it again.
  • More than 16oz. of caffeine per day is considered too much.
  • I still break that one, fairly often.
  • Proper bedtimes, proper beds, proper diets, ect., all the usual suspects are rounded up in the Mayo Clinic handouts.

I’ve also been reading through Gray Hair and Black Iron, which is specifically for those over 40, 50, 60, 70, even 80 (I don’t think he mentions those over 90…)

The advice and technique is right up my alley, because it’s more or less what I was doing when I was last training regularly with free weights (as opposed to machines). Keep it simple, use the big lifts, warmup, stretch, cooldown, and allow for plenty of recuperative time. Growing older, this kind of happens naturally, still having it spelled out is always a good thing.) A lot more there, which I’m looking forward to working on regularly.

But recuperative time, of course, comes back down in part, to sleep. Which leads us back to the point and origin of this entire post.

With that…

Splash, out.

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One of the bike routes I’ve been training (straining is a better word here…) to do, is a simple ride around Lake Pontchartrain. Google has a great map of the route, put up by Joey Brooks.

I would link to Joey’s site, but it’s not there any more! His Vimeo page is still there… He used to run a great, informative site on every aspect of riding in and around new Orleans. But, since I spent years doing just that and no longer live in New Orleans, I didn’t venture over too often.

I guess cycling for a living doesn’t always pay the web hosting bills.

That being said… how difficult is it to figure out a way around the lake? The most difficult part is just doing it. At 140 miles, if I’m already doing 50, this should not be a terrible process.

Joey Bike Route

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Genuine Strength

via Breaking Muscle

Saxon Bent Press

Heavily Photoshopped picture of Myself doing the Arthur Saxon Bent Press Several Years Ago


Here’s a quote from Arthur Saxon’s The Development of Physical Power that regards not just strength, but endurance, and health:

Genuine strength should include not only momentary strength, as proved by the ability to lift a heavy weight once, but also the far more valuable kind of strength known as strength for endurance. This means the ability, if you are a cyclist, to jump on your machine and ride 100 miles at any time without undue fatigue [yes, that is actually what I have been working on]; if a wrestler, to wrestle a hard bout for half an hour with a good man without a rest, yet without becoming exhausted and reaching the limit of your strength. Apart from sports, enduring strength means that the business man shall stand, without a breakdown, business cares and worries, that he shall be capable, when necessary, of working morning, afternoon and night with unflagging energy, holding tightly in his grasp the reins of business, retaining all the while a clear mind and untiring energy, both of body and brain. The man who can miss a night’s rest or miss a meal or two without showing any ill effect or without losing any physical power is better entitled to be considered a strong man than the man who is only apparently strong, being possessed of momentary strength, which is, after all, a muscle test pure and simple.”

Indeed.

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deadliftsI’ve been out of town for a week and boy are my arms tired. And my legs. And my mind and my spirit. But it’s been a great week in so many other areas. Still, despite lots of walking, planking, some resistance band workouts, body weight exercises and stretching, there was not a lot of time or space to really feeling worked out.

Add to that the fact that several of the Priests I was staying with are exercise nuts as well. I felt good about that, and an affirmation to take the time needed for fitness and good health. In fact one of them is a Bishop who decided when he turned 50 that he could no longer simply run marathons, he needed the physical diversity of triathlons. #WINNING

A lot of my friends workout, some big time, some just to keep fit. Only one keeps a blog about it (that I know of at this point,) and his strength training regimen is driving me nuts. In a good way though, as in it motivates me to take it more seriously and to truly just get back into it for the sheer enjoyment it brings. deadlift form (And I say that in full recognition that the enjoyment it brings only comes after some hard work and commitment.) Since I started chatting with him online he’s put on 20 pounds of lean body mass, while I’ve walked all over creation, ridden my bike everywhere else, and have been slowly working back into proper form with gym lifts, and then this week feel like I’ve put on a few pounds. So, I’m feeling like a couch potato tonight, despite all the good thats been going on around here.

Which brings me to the point of this post, which is simply to post a link to an article on deadlifting, which is linked from Dan John’s site.

And then there are the top Google hits for deadlifting…

How to Deadlift
Deadlifting via Lean it Up
Via Men’s Health
Via Muscle and Fitness.

(The program I was using that got me started on the deadlift years ago is the Tall Man’s Ultimate Workout, which basically emphasizes the big lifts, Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift.)

Splash, out.

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Let’s Face it

Gray Hair and Black Iron
I am not out to become the strongest man on the planet. (A Given.) Still, aging well does require a commitment to health, strength and all around fitness. (This is an ongoing theme here.)

So, as I’m working on stabilizing some shoulder issues before moving forward to a more august strength training regimen, one of my friends recommended Indian Clubs, which led me to start perusing the Old Time Strongman site. Which led me to want to order one of everything, which is the same thing that happens when I head over to Rogue Fitness. I’m already interested in one of their Utility Racks.

Still, I’m adding this book to my collection, along with an inexpensive set of Indian Clubs.

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If you’re wondering if this is going to be mainly a repository for videos I’m looking at/researching, the answer is “yes”. It doesn’t mean I endorse or intend to use the information presented, but it means I’m looking at it, and taking it into consideration in the big scheme of things.

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Excellent project by a third grader on organic vs conventional foods…

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Why Fitness?

To tidy up this ‘fitness’ thing, which is not a New Year’s Resolution at all, I’m currently working through, here are a few more thoughts to ponder.

  • Most of my life has included rigorous excercise.
  • Priesthood can be one of the most sedentary professions on earth, for many reasons: schedules get busy, emergency calls come in all the time, people need appointments for various things, reading is a constant.
  • At various assignments it’s been difficult to truly maintain a program, for various reasons.

So, while walking and cycling have been able to remain more or less constants, what’s gone out the window is strength training. I was doing a lot of swimming, and just getting to the point of building a garage gym of sorts when I was transferred yet again, though this time as Pastor, which provides more stability of life.

One of the most successful “programs” I’ve ever worked out and followed is a Targeted Ketogenic Diet, from the Book by Lyle McDonald, which I made time for my first year in seminary, after years of being in the memorable Low Carb and Exercise List back in the day of UseNet. It’s nothing I can keep up with on a long term basis (obviously, or I would not be typing up this post.)

starting strength

But as the old saying goes, to lose weight you need to

  • eat less
  • move more
  • and lift heavy things
  • It doesn’t get more simple than that. I’ve been doing pretty good with the first two, it’s the third one, the “lifting heavy things part,” where I’ve been truly a slacker. And to go beyond that, if it’s possible to avoid loss of strength through some simple habit changes, it’s well worth the time and effort.

    Which leads to this book I’ve been reading again: Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe; which is great to simply focus on form.

    rippetoe
    The picture of Mr. Rippetoe pretty much sums up the point of strength training: relaxing on the veranda with a whiskey. Strength helps you to enjoy life. I hope to be hiking and biking well into my later years, God willing.

    A few years ago I joined the Adventure Cycling Association, when I realized that I needed to re-prioritize for a more active lifestyle, and bought a touring bike. I’ve been doing a lot of cycling… but there’s something missing.

    But to that point, after several years of being away from free weights, I’m back in the weight room like a toddler, making sure my form is correct and my programs are lined up so that I don’t end up with any easily avoided injuries. And as ever, I go to the gym when I figure no one will be there. There were times I’ve felt like I was king of the hill, and walked around the gym doing whatever I wanted (well, that’s another story and not necessarily for this blog.) But a simple, sober routine for building strength is great for having a solid basis to work with.

    I’m not out to impress anyone, or to relive any past “glories” (mostly since I’m a late bloomer and the glories are all about us throughout life.) I’m just out to grow in strength, to better plan for future health so I that can fulfill my Priestly duties better, and to age with enjoyable habits.

    Other things in the mix…. hopefully we’ll get around to that in the not too distant future.

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Priestly Fitness

A large part of my life has been devoted to exercise, trying to eat right, and fitness in general. I’ve been striving to get that balance back, and have been doing well for the most part in that I went backpacking 84 miles a few months ago, my cycling mileage is getting better (“better” being a relative term of course. Better than what? You may well ask. Better than nothing! Heh… But I’m doing 20-30 mile rides with some regularity, and even a 50 miler right before Christmas.) 7 Minute Rotator Cuff Solution

But what’s been missing is an intelligent strength training routine, to round this all out. I’ve been playing around with various weights and machines at the gym to sort of build a base from which to work (i.e unintelligent routine,) and have been reading and sorting through some things to build strength.

First up is something in my shelf for years, the “Seven Minute Rotator Cuff Solution”, which is actually now available for free PDF download.

But the plan is to build strength in my shoulders to better handle workout stressors. It’s a start… And we’re off.

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