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My Book Reading


The Word Is Murder - Anthony Horowitz

Star of the North - D.B. John

The Sinners - Ace Atkins

The Outsider - Stephen King

Spymaster - Brad Thor

The Other Woman - Daniel Silva

The Man Between - Charles Cumming 

Operation Mincemeat - Ben Macintyre 

Berlin: Caught in the Mousetrap by Paul Grant 

Berlin Game - Len Deighton (for the Spybrary book club)

Desolation Mountain - William Kent Krueger

Forever and a Day - Anthony Horowitz

MI5 and Me: A Coronet Among the Spooks by Charlotte Bingham

Second Strike: A Thriller by Peter Kirsanow

The Fourth Protocol - Frederick Forsyth

Agent of Influence - Jeremy Duns

The Middle-Man by Olen Steinhauer

Handsome Johnny by Lee Server

The Company by Robert Littell

Podcast Favorites David Craggs and Shane Whaley hold a no-holds-barred talk with the outspoken Charles Cumming. Conversation ranges far afield from his new novel, The Man Between, to classic spy novel influences and even some current political commentary tidbits. Valley talks with Tim Hall, who served in the US Army in Germany, specializing in Morse Code signals -- collection and transmitting. Tim was at Teufelsberg, a special listening station used by the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) and NSA during the Cold War. As all episodes of The Live Drop display, Valley brings his unique military and intelligence background to his conversations.  Rukmini Callimachi covers ISIS for The New York Times and is the host of Caliphate. This 90-minute conversation is phenomenal, superior even to her fine Caliphate podcast. 

Behind the Bookshelves - The AbeBooks podcast - Ian Fleming's Lecacy June 1, 2018. This episode is a wonderful, detailed 22 minute interview with bookseller Jon Gilbert about Fleming's writing career, WWII Intelligence work, short stories, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and more. 



Louie Simmons is the Master

Years ago I used to see Simmons and the Westside gang enjoying breakfast during the Arnold Classic weekend. I'm glad to see they still get together like that. Looking forward to seeing Louie this coming weekend at Powerlifting at the Arnold Classic. Always interesting.


Squatting With a Band

For today's squat workout I thought I'd try a session using Mark Bell's Hip Circle. I've long used the Hip Circle during warm-ups, but today I thought I'd wear it for an entire session. Result:  it felt good, I had no problems or aches or weird pains. 

I've lifted weights for 48 years, and somehow this was the first time I'd tried this! Never stop experimenting. Keep an open mind and always be open to learning.


Walking in the Sunshine - Today's Workout

It's early October here in central Wisconsin. Fall this year seems superior to the summer we just enjoyed. Whether it's global warming or the western U.S. on fire or just unseasonably warm weather, today the temperatures was near 80 when my scheduled workout rolled around, and I decided to hell with being indoors, it's a great opportunity to be outside in the sunshine! No walking on a treadmill inside; no cycling indoors. No, not even any weight-training today!

Within a 50 yard walk of the gym I work in is a long (probably quarter mile) figure-eight crushed granite walking path in a huge field. It was built and is maintained by the factory next door, for their employees, none of which I ever see out there walking. I've used it for years.

Today I slapped on a baseball cap (sunburn on my shaved head isn't funny), fired up the headphones and my Podcast app, and walked at a pretty quick clip, in the sunshine, shirt off, for 45 wonderful minutes. Call it an active rest day. Or call it good mental health hygeine. Considering I get in 5 or 6 weight-training sessions weekly, I'm feeling damn good about today's session.

#walkingisunderrated, @marksmellybell


Flattery in the gym

Yesterday in the gym a couple of young, new members asked me how they could build biceps like these 62-year-old arms! 

First, I told them I'd been consistently training for decades. After I asked how often they work their biceps, and they answered "three or four times weekly," I delivered the news they didn't want to hear.

My advice (to anyone who wants to build bigger arms) is to train biceps specifically only once every week or two! All workouts should be based around lifting heavy weights, all the time:  deadlifts, squats, presses, cleans, rows, etc. Every truly strong person I've known works out their entire body, and they always have big arms!

I didn't even touch on nutrition with these two relatively skinny guys, or I'd probably still be talking...



Training Outdoors in the Wisconsin Summer

It's an understatement to say our season for sunny, warm, outdoor training is brief. Take advantage of cooperative weather when you can, get outside, feel the sunshine and honest sweat.

Bodybuilders should work on the muscle groups lagging behind the others. Often this means less bench pressing and bicep curling, and more squats or rows or hamstring work. Powerlifters sometimes need to add a greater variety of assistance work to their program, and not spend so much time on the big three of bench, squat and deadlift. Competitive CrossFit athletes hammer themselves through a dozen or more primary movements, and an almost endless number of assistance and secondary exercises. These athletes run out of time and energy to fit everything in.

I'm fortunate. I'm a gym rat with extensive experience in all three of these areas, making my living in a large, well-equipped commercial gym. Two different CrossFit gyms are part of my protocol, so I have access to all manner of weight-training toys and devices.

When it's hot outside and the sun is shining, I'm happiest if I can get out there and sweat, moving dragging and lifting heavy stuff. Yesterday was a great example:Pushing my old standby, the Prowler, was enjoyably taxing. Dragging a sled for a couple of hundred yards at a time was grueling. Switching from walking backwards to forwards, I found the longer drags to dig deeply into some mysterious area of my hip. Tough stuff. The cherry-on-top was taking an Assault Bike out into the sunshine. An interval session to begin my workout, and more intervals to end, made for a tough workout.

I rotated between the Prowler and the Sled a whole bunch of times, for an hour, probably. Afterwards, the finisher was joining a group of Olympic lifters carrying a fat bar across the gym, made challenging with kettlebells dangling from bands. Always fun and interesting with a supportive group.

At age 62, I'm overjoyed with my varied, outdoor sessions, and happy to be able to handle the workload.