Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Looking At Fitness Calculators: One From Norway, Another From FitnessGram

My 10-year-old son actually came home from school with a P.E. report card that estimated his VO2 max. This is a rather complex cardiovascular measurement that usually comes out of a sports lab for runners, cyclists, and nordic skiers.

Naturally, I had to research where that calculation came from. There are actually lots of sophisticated attempts to calculate heart health and "fitness age" with equations that are based on study-derived data.

The one for his P.E. class came from an outfit called FitnessGram that provides health-measurement approaches for P.E. classes. That's all I'm going to say about FitnessGram because I don't have time to research it, but here's the equation for maximal oxygen capacity or VO2 max (basically, how strong and efficient your lungs and overall cardiovascular system is):

.21(age) – .84(BMI) – 8.41(run min) + .34(run min2) + 108.94

The inputs include age, body mass index (BMI), and how fast you can run a mile in. Here's a BMI calculator; there are many of them on the web. Whenever a fitness equation includes numerical anomalies like ("take everything and add 108.94…") I wonder about their accuracy.

I pumped in my numbers, assuming I can run a mile in 7:12. (I can go faster than that, or slower, I just haven't run a mile lately and am guessing). The result I got was 58.6, which seemed high for me right now.

Another "fitness age" calculator comes from a well-reported study out of Norway.

This calculator takes different parameters, including how hard you train, how often you train, your age, your waistline, and your resting pulse rate.

It is based on a study conducted with thousands of Norwegians between the ages of 20 and 90. It found a very high correlation with VO2 max and metabolic health or disease (the lower the VO2 max, the more likely the person had or was headed for the metabolic syndrome.)

The Norway calculator gives you an estimated VO2 max and a "fitness age." The VO2 max estimate for me was 53; probably much closer to the truth than 58. But this shows how the estimates can differ widely for the different calculators, despite the reams of data they have used to build their equations.

For comparison sakes, Bjørn Dæhlie the great norwegian nordic ski racer had a VO2 max in the 90s, and Greg LeMond the U.S. Tour De France cyclist had one that was around 92, and the great late runner Steve "Pre" Prefontaine clocked in at 84.

All the calculators assume that higher VO2 max and low heart rate is always better, and I'd like to see more sophisticated assumptions built into them that take into account the damage you can do with excessive training, and driving your heart rate down to absurdly low levels, like 35 bpm.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Little Fitness Gem: B-B-B…the Bosu Ball Burpee

How many fitness techniques can you easily fit into six and a half minutes, but they seem to hit every muscle?

One of them is the Bosu ball burpee, which combines that weird half-inflatable ball thing you see at gyms with the venerable burpee from Marine bootcamps. The reason I believe they are effective is that they are all-body, reasonably high-intensity training sessions that you can fit into narrow time slots and do outdoors.

You get a lot of bang for the buck.

Here's how to initiate a typical session:

Do three sets of 10-20 reps with short rests in between them, of 20 to 30 seconds. A rep consists of:

(1) Pressing the ball over your head while gripping its sides, as depicted in the image.

(2) Squat down, hold the ball by the sides the mushy end down, thrust your legs out, and do one pushup.

(3) Pull your legs in, stand up, still gripping the half-ball, and push it over your head again (to begin another rep).

High Intensity

The exercise strengthens the arms, shoulders, lower back, hip extensors, abs, and legs.

It is high intensity. I did sets of 15, 20, and 15 reps. The sets of 15 reps took me about two minutes, the 20 reps about 2.5 minutes. The routine pushed my heart to over 140 beats per minute, which for me equals about 81 percent of maximum. You really don't have to do anything else the rest of the day.

Now before you jump all over me for making the prior statement, consider this: you don't have to overdo it and kill yourself every day to efficiently obtain fitness. Efficiency and getting the most bang for your buck is the key.

The Numbers

A Bosu ball weighs around 15 pounds. So let's say you complete three sets of burpees; 15 reps, 15, 15.

* You just managed to do 45 difficult (wobbly) pushups;
* You lifted 675 pounds over your head (15 reps X 15 pounds X 3);
* You just did 45 squats;

Put it all together, and that's why it feels like a complete six minute routine (about 8 seconds per rep). Do it outside on a nice piece of level grass, and you're getting some sunshine to boot.

If you want to have some fun on the mushy side, then do some jumps before or after!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Second Karl Standt Crime Novel In A Series! Gone On Kauai

::Available on Amazon Kindle::

Gone On Kauai is the second novel in a series, with Barbarous Coasts.

Amanda Wilcox is a beautiful young GMO activist who disappears paddleboarding on Kauai. Her plight becomes fodder for the tabloid media, especially in Manhattan where her father is a prominent lawyer.

A famous actress pledges to spare nothing to help find Amanda. But it falls to the retired NYPD detective and private investigator Karl Standt, at the urging of the desparate father, to go to the Hawaiian island and fix a botched, seamy investigation that has gone nowhere. The detective finds a web of murky connections in the tropical paradise, hints of corruption that exposes the island's drug- and agro-financed underside.

Joining Standt on Kauai is Katie Hudson, a girlfriend and reporter for Slate magazine.  The hacker Church leaves his own girlfriend "iz" back home on the lower east side to help Standt break the case. Yep, everyone is looking for Amanda. That includes  "Chris K," a surfing, pot-loving local investigator, as well as Vereen, a gonzo helicopter-tour pilot who used to fly missions in Iraq.

Vereen takes them into "Cambodia," the tangled, torpid island interior, where drug entrepreneurs thrive.

A burned-out ex-cop named Bruno Reilly is also looking for Amanda, or is he? He has a suspicious relationship with a pampered crew of GMO execs partying on a yacht off-shore. They don't mind that Amanda has disappeared-her anti-GMO crusade is bad for business.

Is she dead, a shark fatality, or still alive, somewhere, on or off the ocean? Church hacks into phone, web, and bank records, unearthing new threads. Church and iz have their own problems with Ecstasy-the pervasive drug culture hangs over everything like a fog that won't dissipate. The hacker, Katie, and Standt are afloat in an ocean of "equatorial noir" as they try to find out what happened to an All American girl.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Two Chapters From the New Crime Novel "Gone On Kauai"

Gone On Kauai is loosely based on the notorious 2007 case of a female tourist who mysteriously disappeared on Aruba. After Barbarous Coasts, it is the second installment of the Karl Standt crime novels.


Reilly was about six foot two inches, with thick sunburned forearms, what looked like a surfing t-shirt, and shaggy, graying brown hair stuffed into a Boston Red Sox hat.

He walked on to the terrace at the St. Regis and Standt knew it was him, by the way a cop's career can work over how you look. He waved Reilly over.

Bruno awkwardly weaved through the cocktail crowd, shook Standt's hand gruffly, then took a seat on the couches across from the detective and Katie.

“Ah,” he exclaimed, impressed by the surroundings. “I don't get the chance to come up here that often.”

Then he took his Red Sox hat off in the heat, and Standt noticed that he had a big bald spot on the crown of his head. He had the flushed look of a drinker, but otherwise didn't seem older than about forty-five.

Immediately his hand was in the air, summoning a waiter. The man who was working with Carla looked up, seemed to get a disappointed look upon recognizing Reilly, and came over.

"Chivas, on the rocks," Bruno said curtly. His reputation precedes him, Standt thought.

"Pardon if I put on some sunglasses," Bruno said, leaning back in his chair. Standt had the impression that the sunglasses were there to permit Reilly to leer unbidden at Katie.

"So you two are from…"

"New York," Standt said. Then Reilly's Scotch arrived. He immediately took a greedy gulp, the ice cubes tumbling down the shear angle of the glass on to his upper lip. He put the glass down.

"Welcome to Kauai. Best island in Hawaii. What can I do for you?"

"Amanda Wilcox."

"Surprise, surprise. You're working for her Dad Sam?"


Bruno paused a moment and seemed to size Standt up.

"So you worked the streets in the old days?"

"Manhattan. Midtown. You?"

"Boston, BackBay. The South End."

"I think I kind of know it…" Standt commented offhandedly.

Reilly looked like the kind of cop you did not want to run into when he was tired, demoralized, and you were acting belligerent. The brief introduction was over.

"I need to know what your evidence is," Standt said.


"Yeah, forensics. And who are the suspects in Amanda's disappearance?"

"There are no suspects in an accidental death," Reilly said matter-of-factly. "She was killed by a shark. In all likliehood."

He told this story like he had told it four hundred times before, and the tone suggested that he didn't believe in it anymore. Maybe never did. He spoke quickly, by rote.

"The paddleboard had bite marks all over it. Tear marks, like a thrashing shark. Terrible to think about."

"Did you find a tooth?"

"No tooth."

"Did you have a shark guy look at it, a biologist?"

"Yeah, she's at the University of Hawaii. I'll give you her cell phone number. Email, whatever."

"Did you pursue any other angles, such as any men close to her?"

Reilly was a little red faced and one sip later, had reached the bottom of the Chivas. Up went the hand to order another one. He flared at Standt under the surface.

"Who you been talking to, Chris?"

"Chris K, yeah. We spoke yesterday." We actually got high together, Standt thought to himself.

"That's what I thought. Chris is a good guy, but in this case, he's talking out of the side of his mouth. He has a big imagination. And he likes to smoke the funny stuff a lot. You get that here in Hawaii, fun in the sun. Goofy stuff under the sun.

"People don't go out on paddleboards and get mugged here. They get swept out to sea, drowned, smashed by a big wave, or sometimes, attacked by sharks. Don't go out in the ocean myself. Gives me the creeps."

"Yet you moved to Hawaii?"

"I like the weather, the people, the food. And the drink…"

Then he picked up the scotch, winked, and sipped it again.

"What did Chris say, exactly? I could guess. The shark attack was faked. That's his favorite story."

"You worked with him a lot?"

"Yeah. It's a small island, population-wise."

Then he seemed to move on from Chris.

"As I said, we found no evidence of foul play. No marriage gone bad, crazy boyfriends.

"We don't have very much crime here in Kauai. Only about a dozen, sometimes twenty, people drown per year. Amazing given the thousands of people who are in the water every day all year. It's paradise compared with…New York."

Bruno's second Chivas arrived and he wasted no time launching into it.

Katie hadn't said anything and seemed to quietly sit back. She disapproved of Reilly in a way she couldn't mask. She leaned forward.

"…Or Boston."

Reilly laughed in a phlegmy way. The scotch was doing it to his throat. The heat of Kauai that never went away…
# # #


She had her sunglasses on and she looked out the aircraft window. She let her eyes linger on the Pacific Ocean. It was a shade of blue lighter than the stratospheric ski blue. The sun made shadows of the clouds on the sea, which was empty except for frothy wavelets that broke along its surface.

She had two first-class seats. She sat in the one by the window. She kept the other one empty so no one would pry. So no one would tip off the paparazzi, or tell her how they idolized her, or even pretend not to know who she was, but in a conspicuous manner that was annoying and intrusive in its own way.

Her golden blond hair was tied back in a blue scarf. Brian Caleb, "Steam" they called him, was a personal bodyguard who sat reading a magazine across the aisle.

Amanda Wilcox was gone and she was flying out to Hawaii to lend a hand. She would do anything she could. She considered Amanda a dear friend in the friendless world of the famous. No expense would be spared.

She hadn't been able to get Amanda and her plight out of her mind. It wasn't just the awful tabloids and their salacious tastelessness. Absolutely nothing was sacred to them.

It was the ambiguity of "disappeared." The unknowns. Amanda had vanished into thin air. There was something impotent about the efforts to find her, a giving up on the case. It was in all the papers.

She'd always looked up to Amanda, even when strangers grew to idolize Scarlett.

She'd joined Amanda at one of her GMO protests, and the experience was exhilarating. Her presence had a potent effect on the media coverage and what people thought about food contamination. For once, she'd felt like she was making a difference, not just another movie.

Ironically, she wanted to be like Amanda, even as her own status skyrocketed to the stars. She wanted people to accept her for her brains, not just for her beautiful body.

She had a magnetic sexuality that came across not only on the screen but in person. But it blocked out everything else she thought was important.

People listened to Amanda, were moved and inspired by her. People watched Scarlett; they wanted to glide like her. She had a certain eye-catching sway in her arms and hips. A life force that originated in her eyes and travelled down her curvaceous body.

There was that body. They wanted her beautiful olive eyes, her thick lips, and her large prominent breasts. They hung on the sound of her voice. She felt consumed.

She wanted to be taken seriously, but secretly knew that she wouldn't ever have the automatic respect people had for Amanda.

Actors and directors respected her, coveted her stardom. Even though other performers obsessed over that form of acceptance, it was almost becoming tiresome. Scarlett felt like Amanda was the real thing. She was Amanda's friend and benefactor.

Scarlett couldn't yet hold a candle to Amanda's brand of modern femininity. She was jealous of Amanda's narrow activist fame, and imprisoned by her own actress' fame.

She was terrified of paparazzi and what they can do to your life. She thought of Princess Di. She ordered another tomato juice from the steward.

Amanda was just as good looking as she was in high school. But she was taller.

Scarlett knew men, all too well. She has her pick of them. She thought what had happened to Amanda had to do with a man. Or men.

She was going to spend the better part of a week on Kauai. She had some phone numbers, of an investigator and a reporter who were on the island. She was determined to get to the bottom of this calamity. She would want Amanda to do the same thing, if Scarlett disappeared.

She took off her glasses, and leaned her head back against the soft seat back. She closed her eyes. She wondered if anyone was staring at her.
# # #