BOOK REVIEW: Ageless Intensity by Pete McCall

Ageless Intensity: Effective Workouts to Slow the Aging ProcessAgeless Intensity: Effective Workouts to Slow the Aging Process by Pete McCall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars Page

Know thyself. If you’re getting up there in years but have maintained a high level of fitness via a well-rounded fitness program throughout your adult life, this book is an excellent reference and you should definitely give it a look. However, if you kind of let yourself go a bit during your working years and – approaching retirement – want to increase your quality-of-life and lifespan through fitness activities you never had / took time for when you had a full-house and were climbing the corporate ladder, this isn’t a good starting point and probably won’t work for you. McCall successfully argues that older people can (and should) safely do high-intensity fitness activities, but the book doesn’t offer much in the way of modifications and adaptations to transition people who might have limited range of motion, bone density issues, or atrophied muscles. It presents a lot of solid information on aging, exercise, and the confluence between them, but the workout guidance is largely the same as would be offered to a twenty-something athlete.

The organization of the book is typical of workout manuals: background information (including on aging), chapters describing exercises for various types of high-intensity workouts, a chapter on sequencing, and a chapter about various approaches to building a routine (i.e. home v. gym, etc.) [I will say the book’s approach isn’t minimalist / cheapskate friendly, and presumes access to a wide range of weights, machines, and gear. (As one whose fitness regimen is built around three items – 1.) a pair of running shoes; 2.) a single pull-up bar / dip apparatus; and 3.) a yoga mat – it was more complicated / expensive than I go for; but I understand most have other preferences.) It does offer some guidance for budget exercisers, but not many of the exercises discussed use bodyweight.)

As I say, know thyself.

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BOOK REVIEW: Zen Mind, Strong Body by Al Kavadlo

Zen Mind, Strong Body: How To Cultivate Advanced Calisthenic Strength--Using The Power Of Zen Mind, Strong Body: How To Cultivate Advanced Calisthenic Strength–Using The Power Of “Beginner’s Mind” by Al Kavadlo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amazon page

This book discusses issues related to a calisthenics-centric approach to fitness. The first thing that one should be aware of is that the book has no such unifying theme as would be suggested by the title. Really, this is a sort of “best of” collection of Al Kavadlo’s blog posts, but—of course—that makes for a really unsalable title. The title is a take-off on Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, which is quoted in the front matter. Don’t expect Zen or the mind to formally enter the picture in a major way. I will say that Kavadlo has a Zen approach in that he emphasizes simplicity and paying attention to what one is doing throughout (so many people try to drown out their workouts with music or entertainment.)

I had mixed feelings about this book. On the pro side, Kavadlo is clearly knowledgeable and has a sound and pragmatic approach to fitness. Not only is he not trying to sell you on supplements and fitness fads, he tries to discourage such profit-driven nonsense. You’ll get some good information and sound advice from reading this book. You’ll find out why Kavadlo eschews dietary supplements, how he prepared for a marathon and a triathlon, what advantages calisthenics hold over other strength building activities, and how to avoid injuries.

So what’s the problem with the book? The first problem is rooted in the fact that I paid full price for the book soon after it came out, and–at said price—it’s overpriced for what it is—a rehash of blog posts. It looks like Amazon has dropped the Kindle price. As I said above, I respect Kavadlo’s approach to fitness, and think that he offers some useful insights, but the question is whether you couldn’t get the same insights for less–I think you can. At half the price I paid for this book, I would have been much happier with it. Alternatively, if they had beefed it up a bit—particularly with useful graphics—I might have found it a good buy at the price I paid. The bottom line is it’s a thin book of blog quality material.

My second problem is that they waste too much space with pictures of Kavadlo standing around shirtless in front of random minor NYC landmarks. I understand that a cut, muscular body is the ultimate resume for a personal trainer. However, I suspect that even the ladies and gay men will at some point say, “Enough with the standing around shirtless photos, Al.” For us heterosexual males, the number of these shots is way over the top.

Now, I’m not saying that the number of photos is excessive. They could have used some of that photo space for instructional photos of how to better do the exercises, or to build up to the more challenging exercises. Kavadlo has an excellent YouTube channel, so I know it would be possible to get more photos of him actually doing exercises. (They do have some pics exercise pics, particularly in the sample workout section at the back.)

The book’s 26 chapters are arranged in four parts that deal with background information, calisthenics, cardiovascular workouts, and diet respectively. There is a section at the back that presents a series of sample workouts divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.

As for my recommendation, I’d say that if you are interested in fitness and see this book at a price of around $4, buy it. However, if it’s at $10, it’s overpriced for what it is. Of course, your views of a fair price may vary. (I should note that I purchased it in Kindle e-book format.)

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DAILY PHOTO: A Walk in the Park

Taken in the summer of 2008 in a small park in Beijing's Central Business District

Taken in the summer of 2008 in a small park in Beijing’s Central Business District

Beijing has workout equipment all over the place–mostly in parks, but sometimes just by the side of the road. One sees the same sorts of things in Bangkok, and even Phnom Penh has exercise equipment on the river front strip of park.