Category Archives: My Fitness

OMG I’ve Got PFP

My daughter and I at Tom’s Thumb on June 3. She got her good looks from her mom, obviously.

I posted this here a couple weeks ago:

I’ve developed over the last month some bothersome pain in my right knee. It’s not interfered much with my actual hiking, but I pay for it over the subsequent day or two. I’m starting to think this may put the kibosh on my Humphries Peak trek next month.

The pain is mostly anterior (front part of the knee) and is most noticeable after I’ve been sitting for a while with the bent knee, then get up to walk. The pain improves greatly after walking for a minute or less. It also hurts a bit when I step up on something using my right leg. If I sit with my knee straight (in full extension), it doesn’t hurt when I get up. The joint is neither unusually warm nor swollen. Ibuprofen doesn’t seem to help it. These pain characteristics seem classic for something, but I don’t know what, yet….My twice weekly hikes always include a fair amount of elevation gain. I suspect an over-use syndrome, basically a training error. I plan to take an entire week off from hiking and Bulgarian Split Squats, and taking ibuprofen 600 mg three times a day.

The view looking south from the base of Tom’s Thumb

I did some research in the literature and think I’ve got patellofemoral pain, aka PFP or PFP Syndrome. Can’t say I’d heard of it before. Sounds more like a description than a diagnosis. Like saying someone has fever.

This guy posed for my daughter

I got most of my info on PFP from, but you probably don’t have access to that. You healthcare professionals, click for a 2007 article at American Family Physician. Mayo Clinic has info for muggles. So does American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

I hope she thinks of this hike when she sees Tom’s Thumb from Hwy 101

I may have some age-related osteoarthritis in both knees, but that’s not causing this pain.

My PFP was caused by over-use. Too much hiking with elevation gain and  accelerating my program too rapidly. Also, prior experience taught me that using trekking poles helped take strain off my knees, and I have not been using them.

The newest resident at the Parker Compound. He’s eight weeks old.

I took a week off from hiking while taking ibuprofen 600 mg three times a day, when I could remember it. The combo helped, probably the rest more than the NSAID. Then I did two six-mile walks on the flat without much trouble. On June 3, I hiked Tom’s Thumb trail with my trekking poles, 4 miles round trip, and only had mild discomfort. Most importantly, I learned that I get relief from icing down the knee for 30-45 minutes after I get home.

I’m disappointed I can’t climb Thompson Peak in preparation for Humphries Peak. It would probably kill my chance to summit Humphries (right now I put those odds at 50:50).

Steve Parker, M.D.



Hike: Marcus Landslide Trail at McDowell Sonoran Preserve


Yesterday I started my training in preparation to tackle Arizona’ Mount Humphries in June. I and about 20 people from my son’s Boy Scout troop hiked the Marcus Landslide Trail. Near the end of that trail we created a loop by hitting the Boulder Trail, Pemberton Trail, and Rock Knob Trail. Total hike was 5.8 miles in 60-68° F weather.

It’s a mostly flat course and an easy walk. It was no physical strain at all at the time. But I had some muscle cramps in bed last night and some soreness around my hips and thighs today. The soreness is a good sign. I’m embarrassed I’m not in better shape.

The scouts are doing a 20-mile hike in March for the Hiking merit badge. I’ll be right there with them, Lord willing.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Cholla cactus

Cholla cactus

That vertical rock formation in the center is called a mushroom

That vertical rock formation in the center is called a mushroom

Testing Your Fitness When You’re Hungover is a Bad Idea

"Good job, maggot!"

“You can do better, Parker!”

It’s been 23 months since I last tested my fitness level in February, 2013. So on New Years’ Day I re-tested. My standard is the Army Physical Fitness Test, which is required for U.S. Army soldiers to pass every six months. I’ve never served in the military. The other military branches probably have their own fitness standards, but my dad was in the Army, so that’s what I use.

Unlike 23 months ago, I didn’t pass this time. I don’t like to exercise but I’ve been pretty good about doing it for 60–70 minutes a week, a combination of weight training and HIIT on a stationary bicycle.

My performance:

  • 2-mile run: 21 mins, 16 secs (FAIL; need 19 mins, 54 secs to pass)
  • military sit-ups: 25 (FAIL: need 27 to pass)
  • push-ups: 31 PASS
  • chip-ups: 7 (not part of the Army test but something I monitor)

My run, if you can call it that, was pitiful. I know I gave it my best effort because my thighs were sore for 48 hours thereafter. At one point I wondered if I could “speed walk” just as fast as I was jogging.

Military sit-ups are done with hands behind your head or neck. Doing sit-ups with my arms folded over my chest, I can do 30.

Yes, I’m disappointed. Why did I fail? I’m almost two years older, probably six pounds (2.7 kg) heavier (at 176 lb or 80 kg), and missed too many workouts.

My remedial plan to pass: Miss fewer workouts and lose six pounds of fat, then re-test. I don’t know if it’ll work.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Just kidding; I wasn’t hungover.

How to Prevent Macular Degeneration

Remember...peanuts aren't nuts, they're legumes

Remember…peanuts aren’t nuts, they’re legumes

I saw an optometrist recently for a new eyeglass prescription and mentioned that age-related macular degeneration (ARMD or AMD) runs in my family. ARMD is the leading cause of adult blindness in the West. Thank God, I don’t have it….yet.

The optometrist suggested I start taking eye vitamins to help prevent ARMD. Popular eye vitamin preparations around here are Ocuvite and I-Caps. He said a multivitamin like Centrum might be just as effective., a source I trust, says that supplements for prevention probably don’t work and are not recommended. Which means Centrum would be just as effective: i.e., none of them work.

Instead, UpToDate recommends regular exercise, not smoking, and relatively high consumption of leafy green vegetables, fruits, fish and nuts. Although they didn’t mention it by name, the traditional Mediterranean diet provides all of those.

On the other hand, if you already have macular degeneration (wet or dry), UpToDate recommends these supplements (probably based on the AREDS-2 study):

  • vitamin C 500 mg/day
  • vitamin E 400 mg/day
  • lutein 10 mg/day
  • zeaxanthin 1 mg/day
  • zinc 80 mg/day (as zinc oxide)
  • copper 2 mg/day (as cupric oxide)

An reasonable alternative for non-smokers and never-smokers is the standard AREDS formula. It’s the same as above except it substitutes beta carotene for lutein or zeaxanthin. You can buy both formulations over-the-counter in the U.S. pre-mixed so you don’t have to swallow a handful of pills, just one.

I was in a supermarket yesterday checking out eye vitamins and noted that Bausch and Lomb’s AREDS-2 formula costs about $10/month.

I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll take the optometrist’s supplement advice. Probably not. But I’ll go the diet, exercise, and non-smoking route.

Steve Parker, M.D.

I’m Still As Fit As a U.S. Army Soldier

"Good job, maggot!"

“Good job, maggot!”

I took the Army Physical Fitness Test last week, and passed.  I’m only working out for 35 minutes twice a week, with a combination of weight training and high intensity interval training on a stationary bicycle.  (The weight training is much like this program.)

U.S. soldiers, at least those in the Army, have to pass a physical fitness test twice a year.  I wondered how I, at 58-years-old, stacked up so I self-administered the three fitness components.  I didn’t run in army boots, nor carry a rifle or backpack!  Soldiers need to score a minimum of 60 points on each exercise.

The Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) performance requirements are adjusted for age and sex.

My Results

  • two-mile run: 19 minutes, 20 seconds (65 points)
  • consecutive military sit-ups: 41 (75 points)
  • consecutive push-ups: 32 (76 points)

Compared to my performance in August 2012, my run took 102 seconds longer, I increased my sit-ups by 9, and my push-ups held steady.

I purposefully “held back” on running because I remembered how bad I felt after the run last August.  Even this time I had a little hamstring strain.  Nevertheless, I suspect my aerobic endurance is truly less now since I’m riding the stationary bike instead of running the treadmill.  The bike exercise is more enjoyable.  My knees will thank me over the long-run.

I’m satisfied with this level of fitness.  It’s a good base for some strenuous hiking I’ll be doing over the next few months.  With a little luck, I’ll be hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim with my son’s Boy Scout troop in May.


Fitness Experiment No. 4: Results

For the last six weeks I’ve been working out twice weekly.  Twenty minutes of man-makers alternating with Turkish get-ups, followed by 15 minutes of high intensity intervals on the stationary bike.  So 70 minutes a week.  Click for details.

I re-tested my fitness today and compared with my numbers of July and August:

  • weight: no change (170 lb or 77.3 kg)
  • maximum consecutive push-ups: 36 before, 28 after
  • maximum consecutive pull-ups: 9 before, 8 after
  • maximum consecutive sit-ups: 34 before, 39 after
  • time for one-mile walk/run: 9 minutes and 30 seconds in August, down to 8 minutes and 30 seconds now
  • vertical jump (highest point above ground I can jump and touch): 276 cm in July, 277 cm now
  • toe touch (wearing shoes, stand and lock knees, bend over at waist to touch toes: 22 cm in July, 20 cm now

lessons learned

It’s not fun.  I’m glad it’s over.  It’s harder than Experiment No. 3.  The program significantly improved my 1-mile run time, but I did just as well with the more enjoyable Hillfit plus treadmill intervals (Experiment No. 2).  Total work-out time per week is about the same for all three programs.

I do sit-ups with my arms folded across my chest, hands on my shoulders

I’m disappointed in my big drop in total push-ups.  The increase in sit-up performance is cold comfort.

I’m enjoying the intervals on the bike more than the treadmill, and they’re probably easier on my lower limbs.

Although I can’t see myself doing this regimen long-term, I can imagine going back to it periodically just to mix things up, to avoid boredom.

Working harder doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get better results.  Work smarter, not harder.

Steve Parker, M.D.

My Fitness Experiment No. 4

And now for something completely different….

Push-ups are one of Chris Highcock’s favorite exercises

If you’re new here, let me fill you in.  I don’t like to exercise.  But I want the benefits of exercise.  So I’m experimenting with ways to gain the benefits with minimal time involvement.  I want to keep my costs down, too.  I’ve already demonstrated I’m fit enough to be in the U.S. Army while working out only 70 minutes a week.

The guys at Whole9 had a series of blog posts on “the five best exercises.”  That’s where I heard of Turkish get-ups and man-makers (see links to YouTube demo videos below).

Everybody has their own ideas as to the Big Five exercises, the ones that are critical to any well-rounded strength training program.  The finalists typically are squats, deadlifts, bent-over rows, bench presses, push-ups, overhead presses, and chin-ups (or pull-ups).  The Big Five aren’t necessarily the Five Best exercises.

Turkish get-ups and man-makers incorporate many of those big five moves.  For instance, the man-maker incorporates a squat, row, overhead press, and push-up.

I’m also interested in maintaining what I’ll call aerobic endurance: the ability to maintain a steady workload at a relatively high heart and breathing rate over a significant length of time.

Heres’ my new plan:

  • Alternate man-makers (MMs) with Turkish get-ups (TGUs) for 20 minutes twice a week, with 1-2 minutes of rest in the middle of the session
  • Finish the sessions with high-intensity intervals (HIT) on a stationary cycle:  easy warm-up for 3 minutes then 1 minute of hard and fast cycling alternating with 1 minute easy coasting while I catch my breath, for a total of 6 fast/slow cycles (15 minutes on cycle)

I did my first session yesterday and it kicked my butt.  The MMs are the most vigorous; at some point I just couldn’t do any more due to breathlessness and weakness, then I switched to TGUs.  After I got my breath back, I returned to the MMs, then alternated back and forth.  I did both MMs and TGUs with 15 lb (6.8 kg) dumbbells.  I’ll increase my weights as able.  I’m not sure the stationary cycle HIIT adds much to this regimen.

Here are YouTube examples of man-makers by SEAL Fit and Travis, and Turkish get-ups by Max ShankGray Cook, and Till Sukopp.  Some man-makers incorporate one push-up, others do two (one before each renegade row).  Here’s an video example of HIIT on a stationary cycle.

MMs and TGUs are scalable for most folks who are starting out in poor condition.  For instance, man-makers require a push-up but many people can’t do even one.  In that case, do a knee push-up.

Again, if one is starting out in poor shape, burpees could be substituted for man-makers; they’re similar.  Burpees can be done with knee push-ups or regular push-ups.  As fitness improves, you graduate to regular push-ups and man-makers with kettlebells or dumbbell weights.

I’ll admit I have some trepidation about hurting myself with this program!

Steve Parker, M.D.

Update August 25, 2012

Not pertinent, but a cool picture

I dragged the old Schwinn Airdyne in from the garage, dusted it off, and replaced the batteries.  Worked like a charm even though no one’s ridden it for eight years.  This war horse is at least 15 years old; we got it used, like my set of dumbbells.  My natural “coasting” speed is around level 2.4; my “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” speed is about level 5.5.  I burned 200 calories over 15 minutes, which is about what I did with my treadmill HIIT.  With the MMs, I stuck with 15 lb (6.8 kg) dumbbells.  For the TGUs, I increased to 20 lb (9 kg).  The MMs and TGUs are tough; I’m breathing fairly heavily for the entire 20 minutes.  Not fun.

Update October 6, 2012

This thing is not fun.  But I haven’t missed a session.  I look for excuses to postpone the workout.  After the hellish man-makers and Turkish get-ups, I look forward to the 15 minutes on the bike.  I can’t see keeping this up for the long run unless it pays off big, fitness-wise.

I have to guard against slacking off on my bike performance.  On the treadmill, by comparison, I dialed in the treadmill speed and had to keep up or I’d fall off the back.  No such risk, or motivation, on the bike.

A couple weeks ago I increased the man-maker weights to 20 lb (9 kg) and the Turkish get-up weights to 25 lb (11.4 kg).  I don’t think I’ll be able to increase those weights any time soon; already I’m so short of breath at times that I have to stop and rest for a minute.

My body’s holding up OK.  At one point, however, I developed some mild pain and swelling in my left knee that I thought could be a problem.  It cleared up after a few days and hasn’t recurred.

I’ve completed six weeks of Fitness Experiment No.4.  After resting a few days, I’ll retest my fitness.