An OCPD, almost-40 engineer's approach to fitness

They say hitting 40 is when most men start losing the battle of the bulge. On one hand our bodies start losing the ability to add muscle as easily as before, while on the other hand it becomes easier for us to pile on the kilos as our metabolism starts to slow down.

So earlier this year I decided to take firmer control of my fitness. And staying true to my OCPD, DIY, engineer mind, I approached it logically and progressively.

If I had to break down my fitness goals I'd say they were:

  1. Build muscle & strength (60%)
  2. Stay nimble & free of aches/pains (20%)
  3. Build stamina (10%)
  4. Lose weight (10%)

My bias is to select programs that deliver results that are lasting and don't require hours in the gym or in the pool/on the road. I just don't have the patience for that. Also, it should be easy to do without access to a fancy gym or personal trainer (I detest being "assisted" in performing any task!).

This post captures the programs & philosophies that I've incorporated (and possibly discarded later) into my regimen. It is also designed to be a reference point for me, so I'll revisiting it now and then.

With that context, let me outline the current elements.

New Rules of Lifting At the top is a long-term strength training program to help me build muscle and strength. My guide there is the wonderful "New Rules of Lifting", or NROL as you'll see abbreviated around the web by fitness enthusiasts. The book eschews fancy routines or new-fangled gym machines in favour of six basic moves that use & build our major muscles - squat, deadlift, lunge, push, pull, and twist. I'm currently on week 33 its 52-week beginner training program.

Harvard Medical School-recommended Core Exercises Next are a set of core-strengthening exercises I do because I've got a weak lower back. I've selected a cross-section of about 30 exercises comprising planks, bridges, crunches, twists and extensions that I run through on my strength training off days. The exercises are from the Harvard Medical School's book on core exercises and another one on 50 of the best core exercises for your abs.

Tabata About a month or two ago I added a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) element into the routine as I realized I wasn't burning enough calories to get rid of some persistent fat around my stomach. I chose the 4-minute Tabata routines for their simplicity (each 4 minute routine is composed of 8 segments of 30 seconds - 20 seconds of high-intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest) and sheer intensity. I try to do a few rounds of Tabata the days I do core exercies.

Trigger Point Therapy The most recent addition to my regimen is Self-Myofascial Release, or SMR. Essentially a fancy word for giving yourself a massage targeting various "trigger points" (what many of us call muscle "knots"), I've added this to address various aches & sorenesses that keep popping up. The most pressing need for me was my decision to switch to a standing desk for working, which intensified a dormant pain in my calf muscles (not to mention my perenially weak lower back). I'm currently relying on a foam roller (the TriggerPoint Grid, if you're interested) for SMR.

So that's that. Like I said, you can see OCPD and engineer written all over that :)