Paul Midler wrote a good book about China and I loved reading it. (Full disclosure - Paul is a friend since we first met in Taipei in the late 1990s and he sent me a copy of his book as a gift.)
This book is about how to use calisthenics and bodyweight to develop strength and build muscle. The program requires no equipment, only the will to do the exercises and attention to detail. As one video blogger noted, pen and paper are the only tools you need to do convict conditioning, and that is exactly why I wanted to learn about this program of strength training.
Last year, I decided I wanted to gain weight so I started researching how to gain muscle mass. At the time, I was 47 years old and weighed 132 pounds. I am 5' 8.75" tall, so this put my BMI at 19.5, near the bottom of the healthy BMI range of 18.5 to 24.9.
When I was 20, I ran track and lifted weights and hit a peak weight of 143 pounds, putting my BMI at 21.1. Eleven years later, drinking beer pushed me to an all-time peak weight of 148 pounds, all in the gut, pushing my BMI to 21.9. I stopped drinking beer years ago, part of how I lost the weight, but figured exercise could at least get me back to 143 pounds.
One key finding in my research was that men lose muscle mass as they age due in part to declining levels of testosterone, so I decided that it was also important to do what I could to raise my testosterone. For me, this meant getting more and regular sleep, drinking less alcohol, drinking nettle tea, and finding ways to further avoid and ameliorate exposure to BPA, an estrogen-mimicking pthalate common the food supply.
Avoiding BPA is something that I was already doing by avoiding food that touched plastic. This means no plastic cups, straws, or packaging. But because it is impossible to completely avoid plastic, I also began taking activated carbon to absorb BPA and other toxins in my gut.
In the first 6 months, I only gained 2-3 pounds and was disappointed in my progress. Then I met an Army medical officer who told me that the key to gaining muscle is protein and if I wanted to gain weight I should consume more protein, a lot more protein. To do this, I began consuming more kefir, like 1/2 a gallon to a gallon a day, as well as other high protein foods like eggs, cheese, fish, tofu, tempeh, rice bran pasta, oatmeal, hemp nuts, and chia seeds.
You can see a list of my favorite super foods below, with links to Amazon.
As a result of increased protein intake, my weight increased another 6 pounds over the next 5 months. This was double the weight gain I experienced before and in less time. But at 141 pounds, BMI now at 20.8, I was hungry to gain more muscle.
This is when I started researching exercise equipment I could use in my home and thinking about adding exercises to my routine, without going to a gym and lifting weights. There is a ton of different equipment out there and I was especially intrigued by straps, like the ones from TRX. The only problem was that the more I learned about equipment, the more confused I got.
You see, I am a minimalist, so it was important to me that if I bought equipment, I buy only the right equipment, not too much and not too little. The struggle to do this is what lead me to then look at books on bodyweight training to see what the experts recommended.
The great thing about Convict Conditioning is that it requires no equipment. This means I can save money and avoid cluttering my life with more stuff.
Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is a fun, sci-fi adventure that may be the ultimate literary mashup of Eighties pop culture references.
They All Discovered America is one of the books I read while doing research for The Last Generation.
World-class sailor and author Henk de Velde provided invaluable advice on North Atlantic sailing for The Last Generation