Archive for September, 2009

Some Famous Celebrities’ Chests

I keep bumping into impressive upper bodies…there is even a list of the 10 best male chests. It’s got to be partially tongue in cheek—check out some of those who used their influence to somehow make the cut. I also included a mixed martial arts fighter identified as Stephan Bonnar. Now he really has some abs to inspire guys like me.

mixed-martial-arts fighter stephan bonnar

mixed-martial-arts fighter stephan bonnar


will smith

will smith


christian bale

christian bale


daniel craig

daniel craig


jesus luz

jesus luz


bill clinton—needs to work on his abs

bill clinton—needs to work on his abs

sacha baron cohen—is he wearing a V for virility?

sacha baron cohen—is he wearing a V for virility?

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Playing My Best Tennis After Weeks Of Terrible Tennis

In spite of my injured right arm and shoulder, I have continued to play tennis and practice squash. In the last two months, my game steadily deteriorated to terrible, and then recently it became (for me) sensational. I am ecstatic today, after playing the best tennis of my life. How did this happen? Here is a little account of my journey from awful to fantastic.

I was doing real well in July, until I injured myself I believe in the gym. That month I played and practiced tennis 14 times and squash once.

August was busy and sore, although I played/practiced tennis 10 times and hit squash balls (no games yet) with a friend twice. September has seen me on the tennis court 12 times and the squash court three.

My tennis game had suffered enormously, and I was very discouraged. I guess the injury had some influence, but I didn’t feel any aching while playing (just after for a bit) and wasn’t aware that it was affecting my performance. But I constantly hit the tennis balls long or into the net. My serve was weak, and I had a negative attitude. My team lost more sets than I could accept easily. As relaxed as I am about losing, I was really fed up.

Then a number of things changed, so that in the last week, I have played the best tennis ever. My team has won six out of seven sets: 6-1, 6-0, 6-1, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. I must confess that I have had three different partners in those three matches. But my playing has been superior…for me, and compared to my previous results.

My net game is vastly improved and the backhand volleys are often powerful instead of dinky. Many of my volleys are gentle, finessed at side angles that are impossible to return. My forehand strokes are harder and IN THE COURT. I was always hitting the ball too long, over and over. And my backhands are better, although there is still plenty of room to add power.

So what happened? Read the rest of this entry »

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Exercise Update

Since July 30th, I have only been to the gym once, because my right arm and both shoulders started aching. I thought it might have been “tennis elbow” or that I had hurt myself doing pull ups. The orthopedist said it was a mild case of whatever it was, and that nothing appeared torn. I needed rest and time. In spite of that advice, I continued to play tennis and practice squash, noticing that the aches were minor after each match.

ira balancing on one foot on the trampoline—9/23/09

ira balancing on one foot on the trampoline—9/23/09

I have also been to a physical therapist five times for two hours each visit. In addition to arm exercises, I am now doing lat pull downs there and working a lot on my right ankle, which has not healed completely since I sprained it on May 12th and interrupted my racket sports for over a month.

One exercise requires me to stand on my right foot for two minutes while throwing a five-pound ball to the therapist who throws it right back to me…but I am standing on a trampoline! This is very hard. It stresses and strains the whole leg. Amazing how much I improve with each session as the muscles strengthen. The therapists can hardly stay up on one foot when they try it, and they are on the solid floor.

During this injured, two-month period, I lost my momentum with exercise workouts, became lazy and undisciplined and basically stopped almost everything. For no physical reason, I eased up on my abs workouts, which could have continued without any problem. I only did crunches four times in all of August. Pretty sad and really bad. I had been doing a minimum of eight times a month.

September has been better. Disgusted with my inaction, I started the crunches again and have actually set records. I worked on the abs eight times: Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Positive Thinking Just Doesn’t Work

After writing about the effects of thinking positive on my tennis game the other day (September 22nd), I was amused by an article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/russell-bishop/why-positive-thinking-jus_b_278572.html)by Russell Bishop, Executive Coach, and Performance Improvement Consultant that refined the concept of how to improve your performance. Below are some excerpts that express the author’s specific point of view:

My experience has shown me that no matter where you are, what you have endured, or what your current level of circumstance, you can almost always do something to improve the quality of your experience, even if you can’t do much about the quantity of it…

Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work

…Positive thinking alone is unlikely to change much of anything in the physical world. You can sit there and hope, pray, project, imagine, fantasize, visualize, make up great affirmations and just about any other kind of positive thinking idea you can imagine, and not much will change —at least not without actually getting involved, without taking some form of action towards what you want more of in your life… Read the rest of this entry »

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Buzz Cohn’s Humorous Ski Racing Adventures

Buzz Cohn loves to ski and wrote the following:

My 45-year passion for skiing continues with at least annual trips out West—the last being to Copper Mountain in February 2009. In the 1980’s I attended a ski racing camp which sparked my interest in NASTAR racing & culminated in my receiving gold medals at 3 major resorts at the age of 52. [NASTAR (NAtional STAndard Race) racing is a program where recreational skiers of all ages and abilities can test their skills on courses set up at resorts.]

Ira asked me to write about some ski racing adventures. Since it’s more entertaining to hear about someone’s foibles than triumphs, I’ll relate three experiences under the categories of: My most embarrassing moment, The dumbest thing I ever did & Best unintentional put-down.

buzz cohn racing—1992

buzz cohn racing—1992

Most Embarrassing Moment: I was at the starting gate at the top of a NASTAR course. Wanting to achieve the shortest possible time, I decided to do what the “real racers” do in leaning forward, with my shins & feet most posterior so that they would be the last part of my body to trip the wand. The wand in turn would start the clock. An additional maneuver you’ve seen the pros use is to jump out of the gate to start acceleration. In performing the jump-start, I did it so forcibly that my boots came out of the ski bindings. I landed several feet from the starting gate, flat on my face in the snow with my skis still remaining in place behind the wand.

There were 15 to 20 racers in line behind me who were polite enough not to cheer or laugh. I quickly reconstituted my equipment & reduced self esteem, re-entered the starting position & began the descent through the course – this time being more than happy to sacrifice the 1-1.5 seconds a more aggressive start might have gained me.

Dumbest Thing I Ever Did: I was in Taos, NM during midweek & the only racer at the top of the NASTAR course. It was laid out in such a way that I could not see the course from the lift, nor the whole course from the top. I disobeyed the tenet of taking a slow, non-timed run beside the course to check it out. Every course I had been on before or since (& what you see on TV) levels off after the finish line or even goes uphill a little.

As I was feeling especially aggressive, I did a regular timed run initially, at full speed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Think Positive

I want to explore what it means to be positive…in Life, and especially when one is playing sports. The other day at tennis, I was discouraged, because my partner and I were losing 2 games to 5. Then Frank said to, “Think positive.”

His words reminded me of my father, who had been president of the Miami Beach Optimist’s Club. I was raised hearing constantly about the importance of good thoughts, how they really influenced your behavior, your actions and the results. If faith can move mountains, if visualization helps you reach your goals, certainly there might be power in positive thinking.

So Frank and I came back to win 7-5. And the next set, when we were behind 1-4, we “got” positive again and achieved another victory from behind.

I am always hearing how so much of competitive sports is based on confidence, on self-belief, on the player’s attitude. But I always wondered how you get a good attitude and acquire all that confidence? Don’t you have to have the success first, and then again and again, and then that gives you the confidence and good attitude? I asked the same questions about some of my successes in life—I often had the upbeat attitude—and the best answer I worked out was that I was just lucky. I acquired some of that attitude from genetics and the rest from favorable upbringing or life experiences.

When people say “Relax” or “Stay calm” in stressful situations, I am not sure that really works. Read the rest of this entry »

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Josh Sobel Eats Scorpions, Snakes And Sea Horses While Getting Fitter And Losing 20 Pounds

To put it simple, I felt like shit when I got up in the morning. My back ached, my legs hurt and my body didn’t feel like it belonged to a 21-year-old. After I reflected the obvious, I concluded that being overweight and out of shape would become a thing of the past! I had never been on a diet, and I knew that it would be hard to change my eating habits, but I was committed to feeling healthier. That’s how it started. After talking with some friends, some of whom were personal trainers, I was told that the most important thing would be transforming from ‘Static Josh’ into ‘Active Josh.’

Static Josh—1/09

Static Josh—1/09

I started simple: I changed my eating habits and started exercising. I became a man of habit. I tried to eat the same meals over and over again, and made it a point to exercise every day. My diet was boring, and I struggled to stick with it, but I started feeling better after Day One. Every morning I started the day with an egg white sandwich, followed by some turkey and salad for lunch, and had fish or chicken for dinner. I would often allow myself to cheat and have something sweet at the end of the night; I don’t think I would have been able to live if I
didn’t.

Active Josh 20 pounds lighter—8/09

Active Josh 20 pounds lighter—8/09

The diet wasn’t that hard to stick to. After I was able to shake my diet-coke habit (aspartame is highly addictive), no one could stop me. I began climbing the stairs of my 17-floor apartment building and playing basketball in the park. I recalled how well I used to play basketball as a kid, but when I tried to play this summer, I realized how out of shape I was. A game to 11 would leave me gasping and limping for water. Fortunately, I had my roommates who would soon double as my personal trainer and nutritionist. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mountain Biker Susan Georgia Struts Her Stuff At Case Mountain In Manchester, Ct

Sue is still biking away and recently sent in another photo of herself on the trails of Connecticut. This time it is at Case Mountain in Manchester, Ct. Check out her story posted below on August 25th: https://www.irasabs.com/?m=20090825

Susan Georgia pausing on the trails at Case Mountain Ct—8/09

Susan Georgia pausing on the trails at Case Mountain Ct—8/09

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Extreme Sports—Jumping Without a Parachute

People are sending me examples of sports enthusiasts who are really over the top and on the edge—of killing themselves. Here is the first one:

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The Truth About Getting Flat Abs—It May Be Impossible!

Here is an article a friend sent me from Singapore that suggests not only how hard it is to make a six-pack, but that it may be impossible to lose enough belly flat to reveal your abs if you don’t have the right genes—no matter how much exercise and diet you do. The article also has many other links that are useful.

By Paige Waehner, About.com
Updated: April 3, 2009
http://exercise.about.com/od/abs/a/flatabs.htm

I get many questions about getting flat abs, but one email stands out. This reader wrote: “I’ve been working on my lower belly pooch for about 2.5 years and it still won’t go away even though I have a good diet.” That email made me realize how long many of us persist with these types of goals, even in the face of failure.
Despite the facts, many people still think they can get flat abs if they do enough ab exercises. They think, if they’re not achieving that goal, they must be doing something wrong. The truth is, getting six-pack abs is hard and, if you haven’t seen yours yet, maybe it’s not what you’re doing that’s the problem.

The Myth That Wouldn’t Die

If you’ve been doing crunches forever and are wondering why you still don’t have flat abs, you’re no doubt operating under what I consider the biggest myth of weight loss: That you can do an exercise for a certain area of your body and get rid of the fat there. Read the rest of this entry »

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After Two Hours Of Physical Therapy

Working on strengthening my right arm and right ankle, both of which were injured and still ache. This picture was taken after two hours of therapy—my third visit in the last week. Last night I did 650 ball crunches (150+150+150+200), which was the 4th time crunching in the last 8 days. I’m trying to make up for lost time. Only went to the gym once in the last 6 1/2 weeks—lots of discomfort there. Anyway, the abs didn’t disappear.

abs after physical therapy—9/15/09

abs after physical therapy—9/15/09

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Rudy’s Muscles

When Rudy Kellerman is not playing jai alai (see his story on August 31st https://www.irasabs.com/?m=20090831), he likes to do other things involving muscles…oops, I think he means mussels. He actually sent me this high-protein recipe:

Ira, I thought I would share my recipe for mussels with you. This is a quick and tasty meal, all protein. You can have it over a bed of pasta or on it’s own as a soup to dip your favorite bread. It should take you less than 15 minutes to make and you can impress your significant other. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Reader Writes:

On Aug 28, 2009, at 3:42 PM, Michael Bluejay wrote:

Hi Ira. I always think of you when I use the crunch machine at the gym. I still don’t have visible abs but I think I’m close. My first problem was that I had a lot of weight to lose, but I lost nearly 20 pounds in the last 2.5 months, so I’m close.

On Sep 11, 2009, at 4:12 PM, Ira wrote:

Hi Michael–Congratulations on your progress and thanks for the kind words. Is it OK if I post them on the site?

You should write a story of your own about your fitness efforts. You know it doesn’t have to be a before and after tale…it can be a work in progress just like mine.

On Sep 11, 2009, at 9:23 PM, Michael Bluejay wrote:

Sure, feel free to post my comments. Read the rest of this entry »

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I Can’t Believe It!

Just did some bicycle crunches: 100+75+75+75=325 followed by 225 ball crunches= 600 total. My record before was three sets of bicycles, 100 each time, plus 200 ball crunches after a two-minute break. This is the third day in five that I am crunching. Good progress. Could have done more on the ball, but don’t want to hurt myself. I’ll get there…

The most amazing fact is that it only took 16 minutes. I should be able to knock these out like crazy. We’ll see.

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Tennis Report Since My Injury

At least I didn’t quit playing sports while I was avoiding gym workouts: I was on a tennis court 12 times and a squash court three times. The aches and discomfort were definitely bearable. However my tennis game suffered, and I became very discouraged.

Unfortunately this weakened fitness period coincided with two doubles tournaments I entered and did poorly in. In the September 4th effort, my team lost all three matches and came in 17th out of 18 teams. A slight consolation is that two of the teams we played ended up in first and second place, the tournament winning duo including a tennis coach, and the runner up had a player who’d been ranked high in New England 40 years ago. The third competitor also boasted one of the top club players in the area who competed successfully in high school and college.

The best news was being told that my serve was the weakest part of my game—a total reversal of the earlier praise by others that my serve is my best weapon. So I will put more effort into improving it—should I make Andy Roddick my serve hero?

This particular competition was very interesting. Called a Court Prive, it is played on nine different private courts. After each match, which is concluded after one team wins eight games, you drive to the next location. The organizers spend quite a bit of time arranging for the courts, the players and the teams, which were mostly mixed. But they were out of women by the time it was my turn for a partner, so I was one of the three teams comprised of two men. All great fun, and a joyful sunny party afterward. The warm weather is greatly appreciated, because this has been among the wettest summers in recorded history. One black cloud was that I heard some of the losing players were a bit gruff at times. I want to talk later about the importance of winning at amateur sports.

One of the major happy distractions recently is the hours I have spent watching the US Open. Very exciting. I am totally addicted. Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m Back After 40 Days and 40 Nights

That is how long since I went to the gym. What an intermission. Lots of excuses, soreness, travel, family responsibilities, and my own ordinary human nature. As I confessed in the posts about my background (see “my background” posts on April 4th), I have a history of not being disciplined about exercise, never went to a gym before two years ago and rarely played sports regularly.

I did injure myself (I think it happened when I was setting personal best records doing pull ups), went to a nurse, took anti-inflammatory pills, met with an orthopedist, and now a physical therapist. I’m told it could be a lot worse than it is, and I am almost sure to heal with a few weeks of special exercises for my right forearm, elbow and shoulder. (I did tear my right shoulder in three places back in 2006).

There is really no physical excuse for not doing abs work like crunches. There has been nothing wrong with my abdominal area. Nevertheless, I did crunches just six times. Three of those efforts were during the first two weeks of August (max of 750), and the latest was today, when I ground out only 350, mostly the more difficult bicycle type.

During this 40-day period in the workout desert, I could have lifted weights with my left arm. But I basically stopped. It was all mental. Too pressured and too lazy. And then too guilty. Could barely even write on this site. As much as I quote that “two steps forward, one step back” mantra, it’s painful to accept it. I hate it. Thinking about the Nadals, Picabo Streets, and a thousand other top athletes who get injured and push through their setbacks to return to their game and shine should be an inspiration. Well I am trying to be inspired.

Here’s the breakdown of my limited home crunch exercising: Read the rest of this entry »

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