We eat too much, often the wrong kind of food—and move around too little. Most people neglect their bodies to the degree where the body can’t take care of itself anymore. One day, it gets out of shape so badly it goes into a tailspin, and then only the most strong-willed of us can put it back on track.
Burpees lower the threshold back to salvation more than anything else. I hate burpees and I love burpees—for three reasons.
1. It’s simple
You can do it everywhere: in your bedroom, at the roadside, in a hotel room, even at the back of the plane on transcontinental flights. And you need no trainer to teach you the technique.
2. It’s effective
Burpees is your ticket to the Hell of Anaerobic Exercise. This is the place for lazy bags like me who hate wasting time on unproductive things like exercising. Just a few minutes of pain and sweaty misery sprinkled throughout your daily/weekly routine will burn your calories and build your muscle mass like nothing else.
3. It’s scaleable
Even if you’re extremely out of shape, burpees are scaleable enough to accommodate you.
The founder of the Soviet state Vladimir Lenin was amazed to discover the magic of burpees when he was grounded in a police lock-up. Being an atheist vigilante, he called the variation of this exercise “prayer bends”. In one of his letters, he wrote of his “50 prayer bends challenge” (В.И. Ленин. Полное собрание сочинений. Том 55, стр.72).
The key to success is to use your heart rate for steering the exercise. You’ll need an HR measuring device that shows you the HR continuously while you’re torturing yourself.
I always include the anaerobic self-torturing at the start of every training session. I’m pushing 60, so my safe anaerobic range is between 142–160 BPM.
I do 5 anaerobic sets that take me about 10 minutes.
I spurt (or use the elliptical) to push my HR to 150.
Once my HR gets up to 150, I keep up the effort so that it stays between 150 and 160, and do this for 1 minute.
After 1 minute, I cool down to get the HR to under 130.
Once under 130, I spurt again up to 150, take 1 minute, then cool down again.
These 10 minutes are usually the most miserable ones of my day. But that’s exactly what they are supposed to be. I take these minutes as a reasonable penance for enjoying myself the rest of the time.
No pain, no gain is exactly what’s at play here.
However, the heart rate according to the table above is something you shall never, never, neverchallenge. Even with a strong heart, there’s always a risk you can push it too far if you go beyond the hot red zone.
This is why you must progress slowly, and always have the HR displayed in front of you. Talk to your doctor, start in humility, observe your body’s reaction, stay safe. Best of all, find yourself a good PT for the first few sessions: it gives you both better motivation and builds up a safe routine that you can start tweaking to your heart’s content.
For measuring your HR you can use any belt device you fix to your chest. For example, this cheap Wahoo thingie can pair with the iPhone you keep in front of you.
The Covid pandemics and the recurring lockdown let my inner conservative spread his wings like never before – and rucking and burpees have become a very prominent role in my body’s maintenance routine.
Historically, these two are very conservative exercises.
Below, me bathing in sunset shines in my gym this summer. Over the last year, despite certain overconsumption of red wine and chocolate, I went down in weight from 86 to 78 kg. (My height is 182 cm).
What I did was taking into use two basic body exercises known to the pious and God-fearing for thousands of years.
Rucking is a heavy-duty, lower-intensity workout that consists of walking or slowly running with a weight for a set distance. Usually, it happens with a weighted rucksack. I use a weighted 30 kg vest:
I pace the walk to keep my average heart rate at about 80–85% of my maximum HBM for 30–45 minutes. Almost the entire body working under the pressure of additional kilograms makes me break in sweat during the first few minutes of the exercise. Usual walks bore me to death. Rucking at about 6 kmh with an additional 30 kg is the opposite of boring, I assure you.
Saint Peter was the most known practitioner (albeit involuntary) of rucking. In his time, people used chains for weight. St. Peters device is kept on display in the reliquary of San Pietro in Vincoli.
Many Christians have been practicing this ever since. Some of them even made it a lifestyle item. Below is a part of a large painting “Boyar Lady Morozova” with a fool for Christ sporting a massive metal cross with an industrial chain over his shoulders.
Below, a modern-day Russian lady in an Orthodox procession disciplining her body and spirit with a similar device.
Burpees are ground bows extended to lying down flat on the floor at the low point and jumping jacks at the high point. You can take burpees at your own tempo. Fast or slow, they are taxing anyway.
The classic of Marxism-Leninism Vladimir Lenin discovered the magic of burpees in Tsar’s lock-up. This illustrates one major great advantage of burpees. You can do them whenever pandemics, angry parents, or court orders ground you in some cramped space.
Once you start doing burpees, it doesn’t take too many of them before you find out how much you hate them. I hate them, too. But my inner conservative is merciless. Millions of Christians, Muslims, and others who practiced the deep bows through centuries — and the founder of Soviet rule is also among them —can not be wrong. I abide.
Below, a woman in old-era Russia performs deep bows in the small living room of a peasant cottage in front of her mother-in-law. Combining your burpee routine with relationship-building with your in-laws, how about that?
Vacationing in the USSR was an inexpensive, but in many ways challenging adventure.
I have mostly sunny memories from my holidays in 1970s and 1980s. I was young, I was mostly lucky, and I didn’t know better.
Holidaymakers in the Soviet Union had to grapple with three sad facts:
The country was enormous. For most people, the closest of the warm resorts was very far away.
Resorts were few and located at the Baltic coast (sandy beach, cloudy days, cold surf, seaside towns looking like Europe), or Black Sea (sand or pebble, sun assured, crowded beaches, lousy food and accommodation, warmer bathing temperatures)
The entire infrastructure of travel and leisure was shaped not by the eternal laws of demand and supply, but some suits in Moscow. These suits had their own ideas how Soviet people should spend their off-time. These seemed to hold a Communist conviction that people at work are good, and people who relax are not as good.
Every holiday was for us in so many ways a pinnacle of the year, emotionally, logistically and financially.
For most, it meant a challenge of spending many hours, or rather days, in transit. Imagine taking a train from the middle of nowhere in Siberia to a sunny beach in Crimea. This is how the majority of holidaymakers traveled at the time:
This image may help you better understand why Russia has produced the best cosmonauts and tank personnel. We excel in making the best packed in a barrel-sized space with a bunch of strangers without shower for days and even weeks: think the Trans-Siberian transit by train.
Some could opt for first class (only three other strangers to share your body odors and life stories with, not the entire carriage), or a plane. To my recollection, a single 2nd class train ticket Moscow-Crimea was about 10% of an office clerk salary, train compartment about 15%, and plane 25%. Scalpers’ margin was about 50–100%, but as with the right connections could provide you tickets at the nominal cost.
For many, the travel was the ultimate escape bubble. A strange mix of anonymity and proximity on the Sardine Express turned even the darkest of introverts into gregarious party birds. People shared life stories, lunch packs and drinks with their new bunk buddies. You would meet most incredible people and learn life-changing stories in a way that were unimaginable before the Internet came around.
But the worst challenge was not the hardship of moving across the largest country on earth. It was getting the tickets. Standing in line for hours, a known substitute for the Capitalist yoke of demand and supply, often didn’t help. During the red season the most popular destinations were already booked long in advance by people with the right kind of jobs or connections. In the USSR parlance, a dismissive answer from a ticket clerk “There’s never been any tickets there” didn’t mean physical absence of transit to the destination. It just meant no booking had been available for retail distribution.
This is how I remember getting my holiday tickets:
The choice of the destination was defined not so much by your preferences, rather by the place where you worked. Resorts were owned by the government, its enterprises, or the trade unions. If you were lucky–or rather had the right job or friends–you could get a subsidized, or even free tour to one of the places.
This is a decent abstraction of what our resorts were expected to look like:
A cursory look at this picture may tell you some curious things. The body distance and the excitement of the couples on the photo suggest they are not married. Which is correct, those places were not family friendly. Only the most exclusive places could accommodate couples. (You got a separate room, but the marital requirement was on par with the modern Saudis: you were expected to document your relationship). And no kids! You had to find a place to stow away your kids. With some luck, in a similar place, but almost never close to your own resort.
And yet, the places were not particularly conducive to carnal pleasures. The holiday makers had to share room with strangers. Up to four persons usually shared a room. If you or your roommates scored a date with a view to the third base, an arrangement was needed to rotate the room for appropriate privacy.
At the same time, you got five decent meals a day, all inclusive (no alcohol), and often a kind of spa offerings. Think massage, mud baths, salt inhalation, therapeutic body exercises and other wonders of 19th-century convalescent and preventive treatment, with no extra charge. It all may sound like very high-class, if it weren’t for its typical echoing dungeon setting:
If you didn’t have access to established resorts, you still had an option of “wild vacationing”. This Soviet expression didn’t imply drug use or promiscuity. This meant renting private accommodation. Someone could arrange it for you in advance, but many simply rented a room on arrival. It was more expensive, and quite substandard. Yet, it provided one of the most sought-after things so sorely lacking in our Soviet lives: privacy.
Going “wild”, you also had to think harder about provisioning. Restaurants and diners were few, expensive and greatly varied in quality. Buying groceries and cooking at home was a budget option, if you were prepared to make the most of the scarce supply in the Soviet-era retail. To my recollection, sausages was the best I could find of processed meat. In order to buy milk, I had to get up early and stand in a line for half an hour or more.
And then there was seaside camping. Contrary to what you may think, in the Soviet Union, this was the utter manifestation of affluent libertarianism. First, this required a car, which marked that you belonged to a small minority. Second, your banger needed to be decently tuned and maintained for the long haul. In the USSR, car maintenance was a real challenge, very expensive. Any breakdown along the thousand-mile route to the sunny beach in the private-car-averse Soviet was an outright emergency. And third, hitting the road with friends and heading to a place where we could find a solitary cove and luxuriate in the surf miles away from maddening crowds made us feel not only young and free – it made us feel almost American.
Here’s a short video about what “wild vacationing” in the USSR looked like. Soundtrack is in Russian, but from 0:20 and onward you can see a lot of happy Soviet faces.
President Putin keeps his body fit, the face tight and perky. But is his head really as young as his face looks like?
President Putin defies his old age by practicing a lot of activities that are claimed to rejuvenate brains and bodies. He swims for hours in his private swimming pool, spends quality time with pretty women, goes hiking in Siberian wilderness, learns to play the piano.
In 2011, he publicly pledged to learn how to skate. Which he did. Ever since, he was a regular at the plays of so-called Night Hockey League, where select luminaries of certain age gather after hours for casual ice hockey plays.
Recently, they had a gala play for public. President Putin scored ten times (or, according to the opposition, eight). After the show, he took a victory lap, but carried away by the moment failed to notice a ceremonial carpet rolled out on the ice and took a fall (see below).
The reaction of Russian public focused on three things:
The organizers that forgot to take away the carpet before Putin took the victory lap, have messed up their careers big time, irrespective of our President’s reaction to the mishap.
The way President Putin fell and bounced back to his feet, has demonstrated an impressive core strength of his torso, considering his age.
For a Master of Russia, taking a victory leap for scoring goals against play-along opponents before the public and the cameras, demonstrate a strange detachment from reality and possibly an early onset of senility.
Squatting with heels on ground, the weight distributed on both legs allows for prolonged seating without blocking blood circulations in the legs. But not this position called Slav squat is often unavalable to overweight people and seniors with bad backs and troubled knees. President Puting seems to be one of them.
The photo below reveals a puzzling revelation. When squatting, President Putin does it in a regular European fashion. As a matter of fact, there’s no photos except photoshopped fan memes where our President does a Slav squat.
Since Putin spends hours working out and in the swimming hall, almost certainly in the company of competent PTs, flexibility in the joints and muscles shouldn’t be a problem. Neither has he the kind of pouch that pushes him too far back out of balance.
At the much-profiled bare-chested photo-op, Putin also does a regular squat. His weight is all on his right leg, which blocks blood circulation below the knee. This means he can’t sit this way longer than a few minutes, which is unacceptable for a Slav squat.
In the photo below, Putin seems to have what it takes of the stretch in his hams and gluteus.
This leaves a hip/knee/foot joint injury, which is understandable for an old practitioner of martial arts and downhill skiing. However, the most likely cause is the back condition that often impacts his gait.
Rich people leave Russia. And if they don’t, they send away their money. Rich people voting with their feet for the best country to live in, give an important insight into where the world is heading.
We have a proverb in Russia about “no place like home” that has a uniquely Russian twist to it: “Every wader boasts of her marshes” (vsyák kulík svoyó bolóto khválit). I’m one of these waders. However, in order to get to what people really think you need to weed out opinions dictated by the crowd mentality and the thirst for belonging.
Here in Moscow, the most vocal proponents of Russia as the best country in the world are people on the top—who also typically stash their money in Western offshores, buy property in Florida and around the Mediterranean, and keep their families in London, Paris, California and New York.
Which is why I put more trust in people voting with their feet, and placing their money where their mouth is. I look at the simple stats: where do people who can afford to move wherever they want, choose to live. The picture is rather straightforward: the Anglosphere and their globalized affiliates outperform the rest of the world hands down.
History has taught Russians the value of sticking with their clan, for better or for worse. It’s also important to know for sure who you really can trust.
In Russia, we have a proverb, “trust but verify”. I live in Moscow, and at my place it’s a very important piece of wisdom.
Flocking for survival
Lives of Russians are typically built around a tight-knit network of trusted friends and family. No man is an island—that’s the existential principle at our place. As the great proletarian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky once said: “A single creature, who needs it? / Its voice is a tiny mosquito’s peep / Who’ll hear it—maybe the wife / Just pray she’s not out shopping”.
This need for mutual trust involves a lot of testing each other. Ladies are more proficient at doing it continually. While guys tend to rely more on the last time the relationship test was successfully performed (typically the last stag party), and the general feel-good feeling when spending quality man-time together.
If you like numbers, here are some about trust.
In Moscow, just about 1% of people think people generally deserve trust. About 85% distrust people they personally know beyond their closest friends and family. In the high-rises and multi-story condominiums that define the residential market in Moscow, more than 80% don’t know their neighbors (proof link in Russian), because they don’t feel either the need or capacity to build a relationship with those people.
It looks like the hammer and anvil of Russian self-doubt and imperial despotism kept weeding out the kindreds of Trump, Sarkozy, and Berlusconi in our neck of the woods. If you insist on putting your head high above the parapet, sooner or later the wrath of Russian gods takes you down. That’s the wisdom most Russian babies absorb with their mothers’ milk.
Stalin, for decades living in the sweetest spot of unrestrained glorification, never seemed to be relishing the moment. He just used it as a torchlight for spotting hidden enemies—those who either admired him too much, or too little.
The same is true for Putin. Watch Putin’s facial expression when someone tries to dissolve themselves in humility and awe before the Russian President: “Was that Judas’ kiss?”.
The brilliant Germa philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously said: “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” It seems, in Russia, you don’t need to stare into the abyss to get noticed. All it takes is to be full of yourself. If you bask in your own impossible awesomeness long enough, at the end of the day the abyss will find you.
In a recent Russian TV series about Trotsky, his alleged narcissism is shown as one of the major reasons he lost the power game against Stalin. The creators of the series also hold his narcissism agaisnt him as something that revealed his uncompatibility with Russia’s culture and hate of our country.
Mini skirts were all the rage in the USSR in the late 1960s and early 1970s
The early 1970s in the USSR was the unique era in the history of universe when women’s clothes were shrinking from top and bottom at the same time. During these happy years, no fashion police would call the girls in the photo cheap, tasteless, or trashy. I caught the tail end of it, and looking back it all feels like a party.
The best place to live in Russia according to people with highest IQ, is Moscow, St Petersburg and the areas with petroleum extraction
Depending on your priorities and lifestyle, there are thousands of good answers. But whatever is your preference, consult this very useful map.
It shows different regions in Russia, ranked after the IQ of the locals in the “younger than 30” age bracket (approximately). The way it was done, they took PISA measurements and converted them according to the IQ scale. Where 100 is the general OECD school age average, 98.8 being the Russian one.
As you can see, if you like to rub shoulders with the smartest guys and girls, Moscow would be your top pick with 106.8, followed by St. Petersburg with 104.7, and Tyumen oblast—this is where we pump our gas and oil—with 103.6. On the other side, if you want to dazzle the locals with your superior brain capacity, the best places is North Caucasus, Mary-El on the eastern bank of Volga River north of Tatarstan, and Zabaykalsky krai on the border with Mongolia.