Frank Strona
January 14, 2009
Category: Health

Every so often I think about sexual health and how, as gay men, we have become so focused on STDs that we forget that as we age other things happen to our bodies, and specifically our dicks, unrelated to STDs.

A few that I’ve spent some time looking into recently are Peyronie's disease and Priapism, both of which affect our dicks and can be a rather uncomfortable and perhaps embarrassing conditions. Yet I rarely hear about them, so until I started reading up on it at the request of a pal I was pretty much in the dark as well.

Since I’m not a medically trained professional, I certainly can’t diagnose and these are just my personal thoughts  but I figured I’d share some highlights that I found and a few links to that I thought useful.

Peyronie's disease

Peyronie's is essentially a tissue condition that involves an abnormal curve upwards in the penis. Now, before you all start looking at your dicks, many of us have some slight curve in one direction or the other as a normal condition. What is distinguishing for Peyronie’s is that it can cause pain, and an extreme abnormal curve when erect. In some cases a shortening of the length can occur. During the early stages of Peyronie's, pain is often reported, some erectile dysfunction can occur as well. For most men, the ability to have sex can be maintained with...

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January 9, 2009
Category: Health

It doesn't require too much imagination to think of situations where greater flexibility would confer a great advantage. (I'm thinking of myself on my back with my feet next to my ears, for example…) Men often avoid flexibility training either because they hold the ridiculous notion that it is just for women (Remember Jane Fonda in tights?) or that it is just not as sexy as pumping iron or sweating on a treadmill. Stretching does involve a certain degree of sustained discomfort, however slight, and without the sex appeal of cardio and weight training flexibility training is all too easily skipped over.

This is unfortunate because one cannot claim to have a complete fitness program without doing some flexibility training. This kind of training is important for everyone to speed recovery from other forms of exercise, reduce the duration and severity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and improve your versatility in a variety of situations. It becomes especially important as our bodies age because greater flexibility means less likelihood of injury in even normal, everyday activities.

We used to think that stretching should be done before weight training as part of a warm-up routine. However, research has shown that deep stretching of muscles actually reduces their ability to contract strongly, and this effect is definitely not desirable when you are trying to build some lean tissue.

In my...

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December 26, 2008
Category: Health

Winter holidays invite us to gather with friends and family for unusually sumptuous meals. Even strict dieters can and should take holidays from eating "clean," bodybuilder lingo for maintaining a relatively low-fat, controlled-carbohydrate, nutritious diet. Some foods are good for your body, but some holiday foods are especially good for the soul. A single meal or day of meals alone need not derail a fitness program as long as you don’t let overindulgence become your regular dietary style after the holidays.

Mature men tend to put on more body fat more quickly than younger men, so overindulgence can produce undesired effects more quickly than when we were younger. The main two reasons are lower levels of activity and of testosterone. Assuming you don’t have a physical ailment or disability that prevents you from vigorous exercise, your activity level is largely a choice.

Some people "pay" for their overindulgence by feeling guilty. This can be an insidious, unconscious way to avoid doing anything really effective about getting back in shape. The unconscious dialogue goes like this: "If I feel guilty enough, I don't have to think about a diet or exercise."  Ditch the guilt and just return to healthier habits.

The components of physical fitness—maintaining a sensible, sustainable diet along with regular exercise—are well known and widely acknowledged by experts, yet people seem to be looking perpetually for some secret diet, supplement,...

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Frank Strona
December 19, 2008
Category: Health

Editor's note:  Frank got such a great response to his post on STDs that we decdided to let him answer one of the key questions people asked in a new post.

A reader asked me about syphilis. It appears he is having a debate with a couple of people about it and is hoping I can settle it for them.

One person thinks that if they catch it early, then only one penicillin shot is what is needed. Another says that it doesn't really matter WHEN you catch it. You should get all three, especially because there is no way of knowing WHEN you actually got it.
This is a great question actually, especially with syphilis rates increasing in many major cities in the United States.

The reader hit on a complicated and confusing area of syphilis.

According to Dr. Jeff Klausner, who heads up the San Francisco DPH - STD section, you are both in the right area, but here is the simple explanation.

If someone finds out they have an early case of syphilis, then the treatment is one dose of medicine given by two injections in the butt (one in each cheek).

If they are unable to tell if it is an early case, then the recommended treatment is 3 doses of medicine given out over three weeks.

This is why it is pretty important that sexually active gay men, have a routine syphilis test every 3 – 6 months. It can help catch the infection early and reduce the treatment discomfort as well as reduce the chances of infecting anyone...

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December 11, 2008
Category: Health

We used to think it was enough to spend some time on a treadmill or something similar to keep fit. But cardio-vascular exercise alone will not preserve bone density and muscle mass. As time passes without adequate stimulation, aging bodies lose both, and these changes can result in falls, broken bones, back injuries, and decreased resistance to disease in our golden years.

Cardio is important, no doubt, but to achieve total fitness we need to lift some weights one way or another. There is an old mistaken notion that men with well-developed muscles will have all that “turn to fat” if they don’t' keep lifting. Muscles will atrophy if they are not regularly and sufficiently stimulated, and men who eat more calories than they burn will store the excess as fat. But if you have ever built muscle at any time in your life, the foundation will remain, and rebuilding will be easier through a process known as “muscle memory” than for those who never lifted a finger.

Whether you are new to weight training or returning from a break in training, it is wise to start out your weight-training program slowly and carefully, allowing plenty of time for your body to adjust to the new level of exercise. Before you lift anything heavier than your gym bag, however, you should start out with five-to-ten minutes of a warm-up exercise such as a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or stationary bike. The idea here is simply to get blood flowing, warm up stiff muscles, and break a sweat. We used to think that stretching before lifting was a good idea, but we...

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Frank Strona
December 3, 2008
Category: Health

I’m always amazed at the way sexually active gay men want to ignore any talk about STDs. More often than not they think having an STD is a dirty nasty thing. I see profiles online all the time that say “clean”, or “ looking for STD Free”.  What I find is that most of the time when guys think having an STD is a dirty thing, they lack a basic understanding of STDs, including the ways to protect themselves and what to look out for.

I think that’s why in some cities we are now seeing increases in syphilis, as well and chlamydia and gonorrhea.  And remember, you can get these STD’s in your butt as well as in your throat. (Yeah – you can get them in places other than just your dick!)

So I decided to share a few of my personal Do’s & Dont's on sexual health and STD prevention.

DOs:

- If you are sexually active (that means having sex with more than your monogamous partner) think about making a routine testing commitment to yourself. Every 3 months for common STDs is not too frequent.

- Ask your local STD clinic or medical provider to swab your throat, ass and take a urine test. If your provider doesn’t offer throat & butt swabbing for chlamydia and gonorrhea, ask why! You need to take an active part of your own health care.

- If you are HIV positive – make sure your medical provider makes this part of your routine blood work up. Don’t expect that it’s already...

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November 28, 2008
Category: Health

Those of us 50 or older have seen fitness trends come and go. I, for one, used to jog the entire length of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in the late 70s (about five miles). When I moved back to Los Angeles in 1980, I started training for 5K and 10K races in Griffith Park. Jogging morphed into running, and then aerobics in all its various forms consumed the fitness world. It is fitting that so many have devoted so much time to cardio-vascular training as these heart-pumping exercises form the base of the fitness triangle, with weight training and flexibility training as the other two sides. Nevertheless, motivating ourselves to do these often-repetitive (i.e. boring) exercises can be a challenge, despite loads of studies showing how regular aerobic exercise can reverse or reduce the risk of heart disease and Type II diabetes, lower blood pressure, eliminate unwanted body fat, lift our spirits, and even keep Mr. Happy perky.

Our understanding of how best to perform cardio, as we’re calling it now, has changed as we’ve learned more about the human body’s response to different kinds and different styles of cardio training. Joggers and runners, for example, discovered that running on hard surfaces or with the wrong shoes could lead in time to join degeneration and injured tendons and ligaments, so wise runners choose their shoes and running surfaces more carefully nowadays. A visit to a store that...

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November 21, 2008
Category: Dating

Most American men around my age (over 50) attended schools in which physical education was a required part of the curriculum. This was John F. Kennedy’s innovation to education in the 60s to help young Americans get strong and stay fit physically as well as academically. The idea was that a sound foundation in physical culture acquired at an early age would create a habit of fitness to last our whole lives.

Well, it sounded good at the time.

Many of us participated in extra-curricular sports or leisure activities that involved plenty of physical exercise in those halcyon days. A few hardy souls even might have maintained that high-school weight-training routine and laps around the track into adulthood. But, most American men at some point, and for any number of seemingly good reasons, put aside regular exercise for other compelling activities like working for a living and operating the remote control on the television.

A Long Walk With a Friend is a Good Way to Start Exercising Again

Many of us may recall with a chuckle the first time we heard the saying, “Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until it goes away.” Actually, this saying is only really funny to younger men just starting to neglect themselves who do not yet experience the genuine feeling of loss that comes with diminished physical fitness and the unpleasant changes in the way we look and feel as we avoid physical exercise over time. Those of us who...

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November 11, 2008
Category: Health

”Aging is not for sissies,“ said Bette Davis.

As I approach my 55th birthday, I can relate more and more to her sentiment with each passing year. However, it is helpful to remember that age by itself is not a disease.  It's not something to be feared or avoided. I have known men in their 60s in better shape than men in their 20s.

While aging is a natural part of spending time on this planet, keeping fit and healthy into our mature years is to some degree a choice. Time and again I’ve heard much younger men tell me how attractive they find an older man who takes care of himself. (I personally find men who take care of themselves at any age more attractive than men who neglect their health, but I certainly understand how a man with the experience and knowledge that maturity can bring is even more appealing when he’s physically fit.)

It is important both for our own personal wellbeing as well as for our social and sexual lives to keep our aging bodies healthy and fit. But it is not always clear just how to do this safely as we come to realize that older bodies require some special care to maximize our fitness gains without risking injuries that can interrupt training, not to speak of other enjoyable activities.

Physical fitness at any age consists of three chief components, strength, flexibility, and endurance. A complete fitness program will include workouts that target each of these areas of fitness along with a...

Read more
November 11, 2008
Category: Health

”Aging is not for sissies,“ said Bette Davis.

As I approach my 55th birthday, I can relate more and more to her sentiment with each passing year. However, it is helpful to remember that age by itself is not a disease.  It's not something to be feared or avoided. I have known men in their 60s in better shape than men in their 20s.

While aging is a natural part of spending time on this planet, keeping fit and healthy into our mature years is to some degree a choice. Time and again I’ve heard much younger men tell me how attractive they find an older man who takes care of himself. (I personally find men who take care of themselves at any age more attractive than men who neglect their health, but I certainly understand how a man with the experience and knowledge that maturity can bring is even more appealing when he’s physically fit.)

It is important both for our own personal wellbeing as well as for our social and sexual lives to keep our aging bodies healthy and fit. But it is not always clear just how to do this safely as we come to realize that older bodies require some special care to maximize our fitness gains without risking injuries that can interrupt training, not to speak of other enjoyable activities.

Physical fitness at any age consists of three chief components, strength, flexibility, and endurance. A complete fitness program will include workouts that target each of these areas of fitness along with a...

Read more