Laughing Out 2010

Laughing is as good for us as fresh green vegetables. No joke. :-)

Sometimes the pursuit of health and fitness can get excessive, manic, narcissistic, compulsive, over the top. Especially when the commercial side kicks in -- performance supplements, health and fitness secrets, exotic equipment, promises of the perfect body, be like... (write in the name of your sports/fitness hero).

So let's end the year with year with a big laugh. Listen to this song called "You're Still Gonna Die" by the Old Dogs.  A classic!


These great lyrics, by Shel Silverstein, don't describe TOJs do they? Ha, ha!

So you're takin' better care of your body
Becoming more aware of your body.
Responding to your body's needs.
Everything you hear and read about diets,
Nutrition and sleeping position and detoxifying your system,
And buying machines that they advertise to help you exercise.
Herbs to revitalize you if you're traumatized.
Soaps that will sanitize.
Sprays to deordorize.
Liquid to neutralize acids and pesticides.
Free weights to maximize your strength and muscle size.
Shots that will immunize.
Pills to re-energize you.


But remember that for all your pain and gain
Eventually the story ends the same...
You can quite smokin', but you're still gonna die.
Cut out cokin', but you're still gonna die.
Eliminate everything fatty or fried,
And you get real healthy, but you're still gonna die.
Stop drinkin' booze, you're still gonna die.
Stay away from cooze, you're still gonna die.
You can cut out coffee and never get high,
But you're still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.


You're still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.
Still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.
You can even give aerobics one more try,
But when the music stops playin', you're still gonna die.
Put seat belts in your car, you're still gonna die.
Cut nicotine tar, you're still gonna die.
You can exercise that cellulite off your thigh.
Get slimmer and trimmer, but you're still gonna die.
Stop gettin' a tan, you're still gonna die.
You can search for UFO's up in the sky
They might fly you to Mars where you're still gonna die.


You're still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.
Still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.
And all the Reeboks and Nikes and Adidas you buy
You can jog up to heaven and you're still gonna die.


Drink ginseng tonics, you're still gonna die.
Try high colonics, you're still gonna die.
You can have yourself frozen and suspended in time,
But when they do thaw you out, you're still gonna die.
You can have safe sex, you're still gonna die.
You can switch to Crest, you're still gonna die.
You can get rid of stress, get a lot of rest,
Get an AIDS test, enroll in EST,
Move out west where it's sunny and dry
And you'll live to be a hundred
But you're still gonna die.


You're still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.
Still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.
So you'd better have some fun
'Fore you say bye-bye,
'Cause you're still gonna, still gonna, still gonna die.


So have some fun in 2011. Run, bike, jump, pump. Breathe hard, sweat, do that last mile or rep. And laugh.
 
Happy New Year!

Blue to Green

On Christmas Day, I woke up feeling blue. Hard tell why. Maybe it was lingering frustration over unsolvable  PC-to-Mac technical problems that happened when my wife and I tried to Skype a holiday puppet show to our grand kids the night before. Or separation from family. Or seasonal affective disorder (SADS). Who knows?

But I got cured. I was moping around and my wife asked what my exercise plan was for the day, which I usually have figured out mid-first cup of coffee. I said I didn't know. She said let's go snow-shoeing. At first I balked -- have to find the shoes (easy, hanging the the garage), my fleece pants (easy, folded in the closet), the dog's leash (easy, by the back door where it always is), plus, uh, there might be noisy snowmobiles. She gently quietly insisted: Let's go, it's a beautiful day, and the snow should be good.


So we drove up to Sunlight, a nearby ski area with a nice trail system, and, after minor equipment adjustments, off we went on a steady climb to a favorite meadow.  The air was a crisp 28 degrees, quiet, and the sun breaking trough the bare aspen. The snow glittered with large crystals. Deeply breathing the cold air, within just a few minutes, less than half a mile, my mood completely changed. My funk had vanished. I felt elated to be out there and be alive in such a beautiful place.



A little over a year ago, I put a video on YouTube, called "Running, Shakespeare and Zen," which talks about a Harvard psychiatrist's research on exercise and depression. New research conducted in the UK shows that exercising in the "green" outdoors improves mood and self-esteem. And the benefits happen very quickly, within the first 5 minutes, and just get better from there.

In the winter, when the days are short and it's cold outside, a lazy part of our nature tells us, like bears, to overeat and hibernate indoors. But there's another part of us, more like wolves, that leads outside, into the cold, onto the trails, where you'll feel like howling with delight.

Happy Holidays to All and to All a Good Hike!

Yanking Your Kinetic Chain

The human body has over 600 muscles. Each time you take up a new type of exercise, you feel muscles that have always been there, but you maybe never noticed - especially the second day when DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) sets in. I just enjoyed that experience of forgotten muscles.

On a trip to Chicago to visit my family, my daughter-in-law took my wife as a guest to her health club, where they got a great workout, and my wife used a Bosu Ball. If you don't know what one is (I didn't because I don't go to health clubs), imagine the upper third of a large ball cut off, sitting on top of a sturdy plastic base. She returned tired and enthused and, knowing I'm always looking for ways to keep exercise interesting and challenging, suggest we get one. We made it our Xmas present to each other.

Although the Bosu Ball is marketed as a device to improve balance, it's much more than that. If you go to any good website, like the Bosu inventor's BosuFitness, you'll find an array total body exercises. I find it fun and plenty hard. It's one of those devices that if you slam it hard, it slams you hard back because the top is an inflated, heavy rubber bladder that easily holds your body weight and rebounds when you compress it, a little like a trampoline.

My legs, especially my ankles and calves, are pretty strong from trail running, where you have to constantly adjust to rocks and ruts. But after twenty-five minutes on the Bosu Ball while following three expert instructors on a DVD, my legs burned and my balance started to break down. I noticed that instead of relying on my legs to lift me on and off the ball, I was wildly swinging my shoulders and my ankles became wobbly.

I thought about an article at SportsGeezer.com that highlighted research conducted at the University of Indiana about the relationship of running injuries to fatigue. The article discusses how as fatigue increases, it causes small changes in running form. A small group muscles starts to fail first, then other muscles compensate to keep the runner going forward. As you tire more, you lose muscle control, causing instability and poor form. Your body loses its natural balance, placing additional stress somewhere else, which eventually causes an overuse injury becaused physical forces are transferred to muscles not normally enlisted in the activity.

All the muscles in the body are connected, head to toe, through what kinesologists and exercise physiologists call the kinetic chain. Most rigorous activities engage almost every muscle to one degree or another. However, training in a particular activity increases the strength and endurance mainly in the muscles enlisted for the particular activity. When the primary muscles used in an activity start to fail, the secondary ones come to the rescue.

So when you start exercising in a new activity or with a new apparatus, new muscles are being engaged. I'm in good shape for what I do a lot, and not for things I don't. Because you are a strong runner will not translate that you will also be a strong bicycle racer. Psychologicallly, cross-training has great benefits to keep from getting bored, but the actual performance benefits are limited.

What the Bosu Ball reminded me is that you have to remember you're a beginner and slowly build your muscles and reflexes for the new activity. I was having a great time and going hard, but it was new to some of my muscles, and they tired faster than usual and lost coordination.  Ironically, if you are exercising hard, you can actually be slightly hypoxic, which means your brain becomes short of oxygen and you don't think straight or recognize you've entered the potential injury zone.

One advantage of being a TOJ is you're (usually) smart enough to stop because injuries happen when you start to tire. You've been in various states of fatigue many times before, and understand physical success takes time and persistence. Skills only come with repetition.

I jumped back on the Bosu today and felt those forgotten muscles again. But they already were learning what to do. And I was on it for several more minutes then the first time before my kinetic chain started to breakdown. Ah, progress.













Brain Candy

Stimulating stuff :

Exercise and Stem Cells
Doing research on rats, the University of Tel Aviv made another small step for mankind towards understanding the miracle of exercise.  In this case, they found that endurance exercise (likely it would be true of resistance exercise as well, but guess it's hard to get rats to lift weights) increases muscle stem cells, which might be key to preventing or slowing sarcopenia, the wasting of muscles that occurs with aging. What's interesting is the researcher dreams of finding a pill people can pop. How about just exercising more?

More Is Better
Speaking of pill popping, the credible Institute of Medicine has released the results of their research on Vitamin D. In the past few years, an alphabet of vitamins has been touted to do all kinds of wonderful things for us; first it was C, then E, and lately Vitamin D. While all these vitamins do play important roles in our health, somehow when we hear something is good, we think more must be even better. Often the "more" message is supported by the supplement industry. Read what the IOM has to say. Contrary to rumors, most North Americans get enough Vitamin D, so crucial to bone health. Remember Vitamin D shortage is what causes rickets, a disease with skeletal deformities.  The IOM confirms Vitamin D is important to bone health, but other claims about cancer prevention and heart health are questionable. There's a nice chart with recommended levels by age.

Getting Vitamins the Good Old-Fashioned Way
Dr. Mercola has a concise collection of info on vegetables, which is the preferred way to get our nutrients (see the Becoming a Lean, Mean, Eating Machine last month). Especially useful is a chart showing which vegetables are worth the premium to go organic. Mercola sells supplements, but to his credit, his article concludes that the best way to get your nutrients is by eating vegetables.


Why Wii Fit?
Gretchen Reynolds has an excellent article in the NY Times about exercising via video games like Wii Fit. No surprise, studies find the games are not physically demanding enough to for most folks to get the health benefits of real exercise. However, they did find that the technology worked well to improve the balance of older folks in their 70's. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the exercises might not help TOJ's of all ages, too. Balance is completely overlooked in many exercise routines.

Olga's Telomeres

If you've followed TOJ for awhile, you've seen an increasing focus on the importance of doing intense exercise, not just light aerobics. The evidence that hard exercise pays health dividends, regardless of your age, continues to mount.

Read this illuminating article by Bruce Grierson about a record breaking, 91 year-old athlete named Olga Kotelko. What drew my attention wasn't her athletic accomplishments, but what exercise physiologists in Canada believe is responsible for them. Grierson writes:

"EXERCISE HAS BEEN shown to add between six and seven years to a life span (and improve the quality of life in countless ways). Any doctor who didn’t recommend exercise would be immediately suspect. But for most seniors, that prescription is likely to be something like a daily walk or Aquafit. It’s not quarter-mile timed intervals or lung-busting fartleks. There’s more than a little suffering in the difference.

Here, though, is the radical proposition that’s starting to gain currency among researchers studying masters athletes: what if intense training does something that allows the body to regenerate itself?"

The source of our physical energy is in our cells, which reproduce themselves many times during our lives. Scientists believe a significant cause of the visible effects of aging (wrinkles, muscle loss) is the aging of our cells. One theory is that cells age because what are called telomeres at the end of our chromosomes, containing the code to replicate the cell, grow shorter, thus losing some genetic information with each cell replication that happens 50 or so times during the average lifetime.

What intrigues the physiologists about Olga is that she still has long telomeres, which may be giving her the lung and heart capacity and strength of a much younger person. It might be that intense exercise induces the production of an enzyme called telomerase that enables telomeres to maintain their genetic code (DNA) and thus produce healthy mitochondria inside cells that fuels human performance at all ages.

Every TOJ knows intense exercise makes you feel good. Now there's another reason to go hard. It helps you stay healthy and strong for much longer.

Thanksgiving Trail Run Poem

Minus two degrees,
snow ankle deep,
up we go.
The frozen air
burns our lungs
as Zorro and I put
one foot in front of another.

A squawking flock
of black ravens lifts
off an elk's rib cage,
bloody red, glowing
against the white.

I'm certain this mountain
gets a degree steeper
each year it ages.
Deer and elk tracks
criss-cross everywhere.
We are all cold,
on the move, alive.

Fast Twitch

Many folks (me included some years), trying to stay healthy and active by running 10Ks and marathons,  developed a high maximum oxygen uptake and low pulse rate. However, exercise science has discovered that we were exercising only half our muscles. Likely to our detriment.

Our bodies have three types of muscle fibers: slow, fast, and faster. These descriptions have nothing to do with how fast they contract, but the amount of time it takes for them to fatigue. Slow twitch are mobilized during aerobic exercise -- jogging, rowing, cycling -- and rely on oxygen. The fast twitch are mobilized in the transition from aerobic to anaerobic -- sprinting and intense weight lifting -- and rely on both oxygen from your blood and glycogen, stored in your muscles. The fastest fibers, which are mobilized for only a few seconds of the most intense exertions and called white muscle fibers, rely solely on glycogen.

Unfortunately, if you only do aerobic activities, your fast twitch fibers sit idle and unused. You might wonder so what? Because you are compromising your long term health and well-being. They play a vital role in your health by helping your body naturally produce human growth hormone (HGH), which is especially important to a TOJ. 

Once we pass our twenties, our bodies start to produce about 14% less human growth hormone per decade, a process that is called somatopause. This leads to a host of potential long term health problems. The most visible one is the tendency to carry more fat in your belly and hips. But the less visible ones are more serious, including loss of muscle mass, cognitive decline, decreased bone density, decreased totally body water, and insulin resistance, to name a few.

Watch this informative discussion between Dr. Joseph Mercola, a burnt-out runner, and Dr. Phil Campbell, trainer and author of Ready, Set, Go! Synergy Fitness. Campbell provides an insightful explanation on the role of intense exercise and natural production of human growth hormone. The good news is that very intense anaerobic exercise give you the same natural HGH boost as an injection.

Campbell has a training system that relies on extreme exertion. He often uses sprinting because he professionally coaches athletes who want to run faster, but his technique can also be applied to exercise bikes and other training apparatus. It is very simple: you go all out for 30 seconds, rest for 90 seconds, then go all out again for 30 seconds. Until you have done 8 reps. He says if you can do more, you aren't going all out. Mercola says in the last few seconds of these reps he was "nauseous" and "almost unconscious."

What Campbell advocates is at the root of all types of anaerobic training and has a sound physiological basis. It might sound extreme, but it's really not. You might feel very uncomfortable, but it's only for a short time, and there's a big payoff. You cannot stop the body changes that come with aging, but you can slow them.

So an aerobic/anaerobic balance is good for you. Yesterday, I enjoyed a leisurely trail run. The weather was clear and beautiful. I always run a few days a week. It releases endorphins giving me the runner's high, and my slow twitch muscles love it.  

Today, it's snowing. Perfect for a fast twitch day.

Becoming a Lean, Mean Eating Machine - Part 4

In case you missed for forgot the first three parts, a quick refresher: Part 1 was about the relationship of good food to fitness. Part 2 talked about how to substitute industrial, processed food made of poor ingredients with more carefully processed foods with better ingredients. Part 3 described how to substitute individual food items with bad fats and bad carbs with better fats and carbs. (Go here for 1-3)

So, on to Part 4...

This TOJ is no food purist. A Twinkie or Big Whatever once in a while won't kill you. However, I do believe (and plenty of scientific evidence validates) that a good diet of mainly fruits and vegetables (often raw) and some lean, grass fed, organic meats or wild fish helps you train and perform better, stay healthier, and maybe live longer. This mix of foods is similar to the popular Paleo diet.

There are two reasons to eat large amounts of fruits and vegetables. The first is that these foods provide crucial phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Many should be eaten raw because they are more nutrient dense and easily digested (bioavailable).

The second is that consumption of fruits and vegetables help the body remain in a slightly alkaline state, which is its optimum state most of the time. However, intense exercise can induce metabolic acidosis in which the body becomes slightly acidic. It can also be caused by a diet with too much meat, dairy products, starches, and grains.

The problem with metabolic acidosis, especially for physically active TOJs, is that the body will attempt to restore its natural state of alkalinity by removing glutamine from muscle tissue causing muscle breakdown, and removing calcium from bones, weakening them. Fruits vegetables counter this by restoring alkalinity, not to mention replacing vital vitamins and minerals lost during exercise.

Raw fruits and vegetables support fast recovery because of their bioavailability. Raw does not mean you take them out of the grocery bag and start munching. With some preparation and seasoning, raw vegetables are tasty and satisfying. Try the recipe at the end of this blog!

Meat also is included as a TOJ food because intense exercise leads to muscle breakdown, and to build them back (which is how you build strength) requires amino acids from proteins.

Proteins are also available in vegetables, as any vegetarian or vegan will tell you. And there are some very successful athletes who do not eat meat. Herschel Walker, the former Heisman trophy winner and mixed martial arts fighter at age 48, trains and maintains his incredible strength on one meal a day -- a salad! Successful triathlete Brendan Brazier, author of The Thrive Diet, is a vegan.




However, meat provides protein density that is just not adequately available without eating, say, five bags of spinach. So I eat meat, mostly poultry, a few times a week. If you do lots of catabolic exercise like heavy weight lifting several days a week, you may need to eat more.

When you buy meat, go organic and grass fed. Avoid the hormones and antibiotics widely used in industrial agriculture. Avoid farm grown fish for the same reason. The cost difference is worth it. Studies have show that there's a higher incidence of cancer and heart disease in meat eaters; it's likely what they put into meat, not the meat itself, that's the culprit.

Cashew Cheeze Dip


3/4 cup raw cashews. soaked overnight
6 TBS. canola oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 TB tahini
1 tsp. sea salt
2 TB to 1/4 cup water
paprika to taste

1. Drain cashews. Place in food processor or high speed blender. Add oil, lemon juice, tahini, salt, and 2 TB water.
2. Process until smooth and creamy. This could take up to 5 minutes.
3. Sprinkle on paprika.

Use as a dip for veggies or spread on crackers. Refrigerate.

Here are some good resources:

Brazier - The Thrive Diet
Davis, Melina and Berry - Becoming Raw
Cordain and Friel - The Paleo Diet
Larsen - Vegetarian Sports Nutrition

Run Hard, Forget Perfect

There's a fascinating article about running in, of all places, the New Yorker. It's about the former great marathoner, now Nike coach, Alberto Salazar and his obsession with discovering THE perfect running form to win marathons. While watching slow motion videos of the great African distance runners Kenensia Bekele (world 10K champion) and  Haile Gebrselassie (the world's top marathoner), Salazar noticed that their biomechanics is similar to sprinters. (I won't go into this, read the article - it's very good.)

The article describes how Salazar used his theories to train Dathan Ritzenhein, a promising, but injury plagued, American distance runner prepping for the New York marathon (which was run today). Salazar basically retrained Ritzenhein to run more like the storied Kenyans and Ethiopians. Americans have had a 20+ year plus dry spell winning against the Africans in distance running. I guess Salazar figured if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Or copy them.

But that's easier said than done. By the time a runner makes it to an elite level, the way they run is already deeply embedded in their muscular memory. And their biomechanics, the way the body works when s/he runs, is literally hard-wired with bones, ligaments and tendons. A runner will not easily change this. Salazar, to his credit, knew if Ritzenhein would risk injury during the transition. There's a video with the article that shows Ritzenhein running - sort of like an African. It's thing of beauty. The major changes that Salazar coached were how Ritzenhein moved his hands and arms and how his foot struck the ground. Ritzenhein had to relearn how to land on his forefoot rather than his heel.

Running magazines are full of articles and tips about how to train, eat and run like elite runners. For most of us, these tips are a waste of time and, sometimes, even risky. We are not anatomically equipped to run like these runners, nor do we need to be. Remember that elite runners (including Alberto Salazar during his career) frequently suffer serious injuries.

The next time you run a race, look at the people in your wave as you run and those you finish with. You run much like them. If you want to run faster, lose a few pounds, train a little faster, run intervals more frequently, strengthen your core, learn to relax. But don't monkey with your biomechanics. You are not a Gumby. Run like you've always run and have fun.

In today's New York Marathon, Dathan Ritzenhein finished a respectable 8th. Haile Gebrselassie, the runner with perfect form,  dropped out at mile 16 with a knee injury and announced his retirement. The race was won by Gebre Gebremariam -- another African.

Wise, Dumb, and Lite

Wise
I was at the Walnut Brewery in Boulder, Colorado, sitting alone, drinking a Devil's Thumb Stout, when I spotted a review by Anna Maria Basquez of a book called "Halfway to Heaven: My White-knuckled and Knuckle-headed Quest for the Rocky Mountain High" by Mark Obmascik. It recounts how he went from middle-aged couch potato to climber of all 54 of Colorado's mountains over 14,000 feet high. He said something very wise:

"I overcame the fear that my body was just in decline. I overcame the fear that I can't do certain things, physically, mentally, emotionally. Once you hit that time in your life when your body's best days are behind, you start to doubt yourself. It's hard because you remember what you used to be able to do. My mindset and first instinct was, 'I can't do that, that's new. I'm not up for it.' Now I start to look at things as possibilities. One of the biggest things I learned was that one of the keys to getting older is to keep doing new things because then you can't remember how good you were at the old things. If you're trying everything for the first time, you've got no benchmark. It changes the way you look at yourself and at your life."

Look at things as possibilities...a great insight for all TOJs!

Dumb
Then there was this inane filler disguised as a tip in November's Runner's World: "When you're establishing a performance goal not tied to times, make sure it's measurable, so you can tell if you've met it..."

What if your goal is to be done with measures and just enjoy running?

And here's another real gem from the same issue: "Running is a free-form activity; we alone determine how fast, how far, and how long we run. The empowerment of running is open to anyone, at any speed. Your definition of "slow" may change as you grow more fit, and will change again as you grow older."

Yeah, well, you may be empowered to change the definition of slow, but you better not look at your stopwatch.

Lite
Enough heavy thinking. Time to lighten up. In the past couple of blogs this TOJ has talked about squeezing out the empty carbs in your diet to become a lean, mean, eating machine. So what am I doing having a carb-rich stout right in the first paragraph?  Actually, just as often these days I have a lite beer found on this useful list of "The 25 Least Fattening Beers," which originally appeared in the Daily Beast.

Here's lookin' at you, kid!

Becoming a Lean, Mean Eating Machine - Part 3

Last blog we explored how to take the first step towards eating foods that help keep us strong, lean, and resilient by substituting heavily processed foods made with poor ingredients with more carefully processed foods containing more nutritious ingredients. Remember the goal is to recondition our taste buds and end up craving healthier food choices.

What we eat is life or death (our choice) by a thousand cuts. It's not so much the one time a month that we might eat a sugar rich desert or prime rib marbled with saturated fat that undermine our fitness, but the day in day out food ingested over and over again.

The next step is to substitute individual foods that are high in bad fats or simple carbs with foods rich in good fats and complex carbs. Try to substitute something new every week. Time goes by fast. In a matter of weeks, you'll start to see and feel changes.

Start with some of these substitutions (from >> to):

Whole dairy products >> low or no fat dairy products
Red meat >> fish, grilled skinless chicken or turkey
Tuna packed in oil >> tuna packed in water
Boxed cereals >> oatmeal (rolled or steel cut)
White rice >> brown rice
Desert with sugar >> fruit
Potato chips/tortilla chips >> raw carrots or celery, or a handful of almonds
Ice cream with sugar >> plain yogurt with fruit
White potato >> sweet potato or yam

You'll notice some common themes hinted at in this list. The first is a move away from protein sources that are high in saturated fats, especially corn fed red meat. The other is that the carbs of choice are vegetables and fruit, not carbs heavy in high fructose corn syrup and white sugar.

A couple of good references to look at with more ideas is Tom Venuto's (he's a body builder, but don't be put off by that -- knows his stuff) ebook "Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle" or Paul Goldberg and Matt Fitzgerald's "The Lean Look."

Another good way to adopt the substitution strategy is just to watch the space on your plate. More and more of the space should be taken up by vegetables and fruit. It's that simple.

What's your reward? Speed, endurance, clear thinking, strength, energy. A TOJ's pot at the end of the rainbow.


Spicy Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

3 to 4 Sweet Potatoes
3 TBs melted coconut oil
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Chipotle Chili Powder or cayenne
salt to taste

To prepare the sweet potatoes wash and scrub them thoroughly. Cut in half and then into strips. For thinner fries cut those strips into halves again. Toss in melted coconut oil and sprinkle on chili power and salt.

Bake in preheated oven at 450 degrees. Turn with a spatula after 20 minutes and bake until crispy, about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the thickness of the potatoes.








Now we'll take a look at how to

The Centers for Disease Control just announced an alarming study that, if current trends continue, by 2050 as many as 1 of 3 Americans will have diabetes.

Becoming a Lean, Mean Eating Machine - Part 2

In my last blog I introduced the idea of taking the first steps on a journey away from foods that are not very healthy to those that are healthier, then to those that are healthiest.

Because our taste buds are so habituated to fat, sugar and salt (maybe even addicted if Dr. Mark Hyman is right), changing what we eat can be challenging. However, if you are patient and methodical, you can make food substitutions that better for you and retrain your taste buds to actually crave better foods. I can speak from experience - 30 years ago I religiously ate two Twinkies before cross-country ski races, but today that would make me feel sick and tired.

The first step is to begin the elimination of heavily processed, industrial foods that are riddled with bad fats (saturated and trans fats), sugar (sugar and fructose corn syrup), and unrefined carbohydrates, not to mention all the strange chemicals that are mixed in for color, taste, or to bind ingredients together or add shelf life. Most fast foods and food in mixes, though quick and convenient, are also degraded by cooking processes that destroy enzymes and key nutrients. Many claim to be "fortified" - that's because chemical nutrients need to be added back in because they have been destroyed during the manufacturing process.

Many people will find it easiest to begin the journey to better food by substituting processed foods with poor ingredients (especially high glycemic refined carbohydrates, starches and sugars) with those with that are more carefully processed and contain low glycemic, complex carbohydrates and minimal sugar or sugar substitutes.  

A book by Jorge Cruise, entitled "The Belly Fat Cure," offers a great approach of how to take this first step because it describes tasty substitutes (he calls them "do-overs") for many of the most popular fast food and chain restaurant menu items, which are making millions of people fatter every day and spreading the epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. What's cool is his substitutes taste as good as the originals, but are healthier. Most of their healthy ingredients are available in supermarkets and not much more expensive. Cruise has had tremendous success helping people lose weight.

His food substitutions don't worry about fats and protein. The focus is on eliminating unrefined carbohydrates and sugar. Physically active people need plenty of carbs because it provides the glucose needed to fuel muscle cells. Truth be told, almost any carb in any form can fuel a workout or race. But much more important are the type of carbs you consume day after day because they will have a much bigger impact on maintaining your overall health, without which you won't be working out or racing, especially TOJs.

I did a variation on one of Cruise's pizza recipes. I love pizza, but most of the big chain pizza has a crust made of white, unrefined flour (which spikes your insulin just like sugar), and there is even more sugar in the tomato paste. Cruise's recipes substitute whole wheat pita bread and  commercially available pasta sauces made of natural ingredients, but no sugar. I used Santini Sundried Tomato Pesto. 

Carb substitution is not just about reducing calories, which good thing too. Sugars and unrefined carbs (which behave just like sugar once digested) cause an insulin spike because insulin is required to carry the glucose in the carbs to the cells to act as fuel. The excess insulin also triggers the liver to create and a release triglycerides (fat in the blood) which is delivered to and stored in fat cells. 

Next blog we'll talk about more food substitutions. They work. You can have your cake and eat it too. Better yet, you get healthier with each bite.

Becoming a Lean, Mean Eating Machine - Part 1

On the road to fitness, food becomes as important as exercise. Maybe you want to haul less pounds on your runs, recover faster from resistance training, or just feel better.

Changing eating patterns can be a challenge because the older you are when you start the changes, the harder they can be to make because what you eat is the result of habit, convenience and social pressure. Through the years, you have conditioned taste buds to crave a certain mix of sugar, fat and salt. Your family has traditions like deep  fried chicken and fat laden gravy over mashed potatoes. Or your best buddy likes to eat fast food. Maybe (like me) you love the taste of a carb loaded, cold stout.

But once you realize that whatever you put in your mouth affects your exercise and your overall health, you naturally start trying to figure out how to change. A sure way to succeed eating better is to start gradually. Many diets fail because they demand too many changes, too fast.

A much better approach that is guaranteed to work is to start slow and easy and gradually substitute poor food choices with a better ones. You don't do it all at once, but a little at a time. As you do, you learn about food and how it makes you feel and perform. No matter how old or out of shape you may be, you will discover that better food choices steadily improve your strength and endurance, help you think more clearly, and feel more energetic, whether to exercise or work.

The truth is that our bodies are amazingly resilient, and we can live on almost anything that provides enough protein, fats and carbs. Fast food and heavily processed industrial foods (canned, boxed, some frozen) will keep you going, but not over the long haul. But poor food will totally undermine your efforts to get fit. Similarly, good food will get you fit faster.

Over the next couple of weeks this TOJ, speaking from first hand experience, will discuss how to make those food substitutions, starting with how to begin the journey away from heavily processed foods. Here's a warning: once you become a fitness fanatic, you'll become a food fanatic.

____________________________________________
Below is a great recipe sent to me by my daughter. She made these, ate a few, then went to her CrossFit and dead lifted 235 lbs., over twice her body weight.

Easy Coconut Pancakes


1/4 c coconut flour
1/4 c coconut milk
4 eggs
1/2 T agave nectar (or to taste)
1/4 t vanilla extract
dash cinnamon
dash nutmeg

Mix all ingredients with whisk. Let sit for 5 min. while melting butter or coconut oil in pan on med. heat. Cook until light brown on each side.

Three Good Ones

The October issue of Trail Runner magazine had three articles that caught my eye. Although the magazine focuses on ultra-trail running racing (distances 50K plus), often the articles are germane to all endurance sports.

Ibuprofen (aka Nurofen, Advil, Motrin)
The first is called "Pill Popping" by Elinor Fish. It tells the cautionary tale of a 27 year old man who won the 100K National Trail Championship in Eugene, Oregon, then almost died of kidney failure a few days. Doctors suspect the cause was ibuprofen, a class of over the counter drugs called NSAID, an acronym for non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug. Ibuprofen is frequently used for symptomatic relief of fevers and minor muscle aches due to colds and flu.

It is so commonly used in the running community that it's called Vitamin I, and taken both before and during races to relieve the muscle pain that occur in tiring muscles during races. The idea is that if you can put off the pain, you can run faster. However, some recent research has shown that actually ibuprofen does nothing at all to relieve the inflammation which occurs during exercise.  In the case of this ultra-runner, it actually clogged the kidneys.

The moral of the story? Don't use it to reduce the normal pain that happens during exercise.

Barefoot Running
There's a good article on the advantages of barefoot running by Michael Sandler, a guy who used it to recover from a serious accident after which he was told he'd never run again. He's definitely got the religion, i.e., wrote a book about it and runs a company to teach it. He says it's easier on the hips and knees than running shoes (he cites research to prove it) and will also help you run faster on trails -- your stride length shortens but your stride is faster.

I haven't bought a pair, so I can't speak much about this. As I've said in earlier blogs, I can't imagine them providing adequate protection on the rocks where I run. My hunch is they are a fad fueled by the popularity of Born to Run. But I could easily be wrong. I thought Crocs would flop. Now I own two pair.

Pre-Race Eating
The last page of the issue is a light-hearted piece by Bernie Boettcher, a very accomplished 49 year old ultra-distance runner. He faithfully follows a healthy food regimen of stuff like oatmeal, raisins, walnuts, chicken, spinach, black berries - you get the picture - the day before a race to optimize his performance, Recently he came in fourth to a guy he saw stuffing his face with pizza the day before the race.

He's a smart guy and obviously knows that what you eat the day before any kind of physical challenge will not have a big impact on your performance. However, it does have a big influence on your ability to train hard day-in-day out and stay healthy. Hard exercise has an inflammatory effect on your body. A good diet provides plenty of phytonutrients and anti-oxidants to help the body heal quickly and support your immune system.

The more likely reason Boettcher lost to the pizza eater was that the winner was younger. A TOJ understands why he might blame his loss on food. It's a lot easier to find a Domino's Pizza than the Fountain of Youth.

Food, Fitness and Fat

"The experts are always telling us to 'Listen to your body!' But if I listened to my body, I'd live on toffee pops and port wine. Don't tell me to listen to my body...It's trying to turn me into a blob!"
                                                                       -- Roger Robinson, New Zealand Masters Runner ***

I guess lots of Amercians are listening to their bodies. Recently the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a study which projects that by 2020, 75% of Americans will be overweight or obese. The OECD is concerned about this because obesity has a direct impact not just on the individual, but on rising healthcare costs. Overweight has a causal connection to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a host of skeletal problems. In fact, obesity can shorten a life by 8-10 years.

The obesity epidemic is occurring mainly in the industrialized world. The causes are well known. Too much poor quality, cheap fast food, too much sitting in cars and subways, too much sitting in front of computers and school desks, too much eating.

The flip side of these "too much's" is too little -- too little exercise, too little eating of more nutritious foods, too little eating of smaller portions, too little rest, too little suport in the workplace for wellness. It was disappointing to see a NY Times article this week reporting that after two decades of federal programs to encourage Americans to eat more vegetables, only 23% of Americans eat even one vegetable with their meals when french fries are excluded.

Luckily, once you get on the path to fitness you start to realize that years of brain-washing by our culture and advertising make it necessary to reconsider all our assumptions about food and our cravings. The food industry, indifferent to the effects of their industrialized products on your body (they leave it to the healthcare system to deal with it), has made it necessary to become more picky about exactly what your body does listen to.

Most Americans are addicted to sugar and fat before they are teenagers (I speak from experience). Our bodies are the product of evolution. Not that long ago, when our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, fat and sugar were rare commodities. Our body needs both, but not in the amounts and forms heavily marketed nowadays. We crave them naturally, and the food industry stands ready to satisfy our cravings at a nice profit.

But once fitness becomes a focus in your life, so does food. Strength, endurance, reflexes, balance, ability to rest and sense of well being are all affected by food choices. For a TOJ, food is even more important to ensure muscles receive adequate nutrients to repair and grow and to maintain a strong immune system as the body is subjected to the stress of exercise.

When you exercise frequently and hard, you also begin to rewire your cravings. You become less satisfied by consuming empty calories with few nutrients. Soda pop, burgers, fries and soft serve ice cream pass into history like your youth.


*** Quote from "The Quotable Runner" edited by Mark Will-Weber

Food for Fitness

Emil Zatopek, the great Czech distance runner in the 1950's, once said, "If you come to think of it, you never see deer, dogs and rabbits worrying about their menus and yet they run much faster than humans." (This is from The Quotable Runner edited by Mark Will-Weber, a great book.)


He could have added neither do bears and elephants that are stronger than humans, nor kangaroos that jump further than humans, nor eagles that can see better than humans, nor whales that swim better than humans.


Yet we do. Right now this TOJ is reading a book entitled Power Eating by Susan Kleiner, which packed with references to studies, recommendations, recipes, do's and don'ts, lists, and eating plans. Wow, there's a lot to worry about -- nutrient timing, food combinations, right mix of carbs, fat and protein, hydrating not too much, not too little. You will not find an exercise magazine that doesn't have promise nutrition secrets inside the cover to make you better.


No doubt there's some truth among all those facts and opinions, but you have to be your own ultimate guide when it comes to deciding what you will eat and drink because we are all the same, but we are also different.
I found I felt weak and spacey on a vegetarian diet although Brendan Brazier has developed the endurance and strength to successively compete as an elite triathlete while eating a 100% vegan diet.


Science is uncovering as many mysteries and contradictions as it is certainties. For instance, check out the article by Gretchen Reynolds about "What Exercise Science Doesn't Know About Women" in which she reports a study that made a surprising discovery. The conventional training wisdom is that you can hasten recovery after a hard workout if you eat a mix of carbs and protein. However, the study discovered that is only true for males. Women, in fact, recover faster with straight carbs.


This TOJ likes to stay abreast of current thinking on these topics, but figures it's best to discover what's true for you. I appreciate all the hard work and time intelligent people put into finding some truths about food. But for most of us, nutrition will have a much bigger impact on our health than it will our performance, no matter what physical activities we prefer.


Another quote I really liked was by Don Kardong, an American marathon Olympian in the 1970's: "Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos." Now that's wisdom.


CINNAMON CHOCOLATE BANANA ICE CREAM

5 large frozen bananas broken into chunks
1/3 cup cocoa  or carob powder
1/4 C. agave nectar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 to 3 Tbs. water

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend into a thick cream adding water if needed. Serve immediately or place in freezer.

Closing the Fitness Gap

When I'm not TOJing, I work at a community health center in the rural resort area of Colorado. Last week a radio reporter called me to talk about childhood obesity. Colorado has the lowest obesity rate in the U.S., but in the past few years, state health officials have noted an alarming trend -- the rate of obesity among children is rising fast, especially in poorer Colorado families.

The reporter asked me why this is happening. I offered several reasons: poorer families don't always have the health education to make good food choices; fresh food is less affordable than mass produced food loaded with fat, salt, and fructose corn syrup; less affluent kids don't have as many opportunities or encouragement to exercise because  fewer PE courses are offered in schools and there are fewer affordable after-school exercise opportunities (many schools now charge money for varsity sports); and cheap sugar and fat laden fast food is heavily marketed and available everywhere.

The day after the interview, I was dismayed to read that basic training of U.S. Army recruits has been altered to eliminate long runs and sit-ups because too many are so obese and unfit that these basic strength and endurance exercises pose a serious risk of injury. Army officials speculated that the causes of this sorry state of affairs were similar to those I guessed: too much junk food and video games, as well as high schools reducing gym classes.

Last Friday I was in Fort Collins, Colorado, for a meeting. Fort Collins has a well-developed trail system for running, hiking and biking. Early in the morning I went to a trailhead at the foot of the hogback just to the west of the CSU football stadium. The sun had just come up and I figured that early I'd have the trail to myself. But, surprisingly, the parking lot was jammed with cars even though I could see nobody out on the trail.

I took off running on a rolling single track for about a mile, then started a zig-zag climb up the rocky face of the hogback. As I neared the top, I saw one, then two, then a long line of runners making the tight hairpin turns down, headed my way. When the first got close, I stepped off the trail to let them pass. There were about thirty of them, mostly men and a few women. They looked lean and fit. The men all had close cropped hair and were clean shaven. As each of them passed, they said, "Good morning, sir." The way they each said "sir" left me with the distinct impression that they were a university ROTC unit out for a training run. It was good to see such a fit group of twenty-somethings out on the trail.

I thought about the difference between these young men and women and the recruits showing up for basic training, many of whom are less affluent young people without the funds to go to college and hoping to pick up some work and skills in the military. My guess is that the young university students had the advantage of mom and dads with the time, income and values to encourage them to participate in gymnastics, soccer, karate and other sports when they were young. This is not to take anything away from their excellent physical condition and discipline to be out on the trail when most of their college buddies were probably still asleep, but these gave them an advantage when they grew up. Most likely, many of the enlisted recruits did not have similar experiences growing up. 

A recent study from the transportation department at Rutgers University discovered that people in countries like Switzerland, the Netherlands and Spain are generally leaner than the average American because they walk and bike more. We need to import more of their lifestyle and city planning to make this possible for Americans, especially children.

We should expand our "inalienable rights" to include life, liberty, justice and fitness for all. And we should walk-the-talk by ensuring, first and foremost, that every child in American has access to a healthy diet and regular exercise. Children who can do sit-ups aren't just stronger, they're smarter. They will develop into adults who can protect our country and compete in the global market. Everybody wins.

Food Fight

You'd think for as long as humans have been around, we'd have the optimum diet for health pretty well figured out.  Yet, here we are in the Twenty-First Century still arguing about food - low carb, high fat versus high fat, low carb, Paleo versus vegetarian, vegetarian versus vegan, corn fed versus free range beef, beef versus buffalo, farm-raised salmon versus wild salmon, gluten or gluten free, vitamin supplements versus nutrients from food only, and so on.

For thousands of years, people ate food based on where they lived and what was available. Our ancestors discovered a lot about food, such as what's poisonous, how to plant and harvest crops, animal husbandry, and how to use heat to kill dangerous bacteria. Most of them still died before they were 50 due to infectious diseases.

But science changed that. We stopped infectious diseases, and new tools and techniques were developed to measure the impacts of food on human health. Strangely, while we've advanced in our understanding of the biochemistry of food, based on the number of obese people and rise in diseases of civilization like cancer and heart disease in our society, the positive impacts on how we actually live well for our investments in food research are mixed,

And, unfortunately, the science can be bought, or strongly influenced, by conglomerates in the food industry. It's very possible the entire FDA food pyramid was built as much by political lobbying by the dairy and cattle industries as it was by bona fide scientific discoveries. Read T. Colin Campbell's The China Study or Howard Lyman's The Mad Cowboy.

This situation makes it hard on a TOJ who's a student of food as it contributes to health and fitness. Some people fuss over food to help them improve athletic performance. Most of us don't need to worry about that and, instead, should focus on what makes us feel good, controls our weight, and gives us the energy to follow our exercise passions.

I think maybe the one-size fits all food plan doesn't exist because our dietary needs vary based on how much we exercise and our body types. Whether ancient Ayurvedic medicine or modern day metabolic body typing, some theories hold that food affects each of us differently - what's good for one person may not be as good for another. Usually, your body let's you know. My wife's a vegan, healthy and follows her TOJ routines fine. I, in contrast, need some dairy and meat to feel satisfied, lucid, and ready to hit the trails or weights. I tried to eat like her once and felt I was starving.

Like you, what I eat is a mix of science and religion. The science is what I've read and observed in my own body, and the religion  just means there's an act of faith involved - I eat (most of the time) what I hope is good for me and probably many others as well.

Here are some food basics In which I believe:

-- Eat lots of fresh veggies and fruit, much of it raw or minimally cooked to keep the nutrients and enzymes intact and     bio-available.

-- Eat only lean cuts of red meat or poultry, and only a few times a week. It should be hormone and antibiotic free.

-- Eat organic foods as much as possible. Some pesticides here and there are unavoidable, but don't ignore them.

--  Focus on nutrients, not calories. When you follow a nutrient rich regimen and exercise, your weight takes care of itself.

-- Avoid fast food. It has no redeeming qualities other than to  temporarily satisfy your hunger.

-- Minimize your consumption of processed food, including so-called "natural" foods. The industrial processes required to produce and preserve them lower their nutrient value.

Over the years, I've changed how and what I eat. I used to be a meat and potatoes guy. I've learned there's another and better way. Now I eat foods that taste good, but also have a strategic health advantage. There was a time I thought healthy food like kale had to taste like grass clippings. Not so. Below this blog is a recipe for kale chips, which taste great, even with beer. And kale has a very high rating for anti-oxidants, imporant to a TOJ recovering from hard exercise.


One of the big questions related to the good fight is this: Is the body a garbage disposal or a temple? Adovocates of the garbage disposal believe that the disgestive tract is such a hostile chemical environment that it can take whatever you eat and will convert it to fats, carbs or protein. It doesn't care if the food came from a discount warehouse or Whole Foods. Young people who frequent fast food joints consider themselves living proofs of this.

A TOJ doesn't go into temples very often (too sweaty), but his or her body has to last to run the next trail, ride the next pass, lift the next kettlebell, ski the next hill, and there's plenty of evidence if you make poor food choices year in, year out, it won't.


CHEEZY KALE CHIPS

2 bunches Kale
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
juice of one lemon
1 cup sunflower seeds ground in a coffee grinder
1/4 to 1/2 c. nutritional yeast (gives it a cheezy flavor)
1-2 Tablespoons Tahini

Wash kale well and remove stems. Pour on olive oil, salt, and lemon juice and massage into the kale using your hands. Sprinkle on sunflower seed and nutritional yeast. Mix in thoroughly. Put on parchment covered dehydrator trays. Heat at 115 for 1/2 hour, then turn dow to 105 degrees and leve overnight. Remove from sheets onto mesh and dry until crispy.

If you don't have a dehydrator, can be dried in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes. Watch carefully.

Sweaty Innovations

We humans are driven to newer and better. Fitness seekers are always right out there on the innovative edge. Entire industries -- bikes, water bottles, exercise equipment, running shoes, recovery beverages, heart rate monitors, wet suits, supplements, clothing -- compete to help make us faster, stronger, more comfortable, look better or improve endurance. (Confession: This TOJ is no exception with an entire rack of running shoes in the garage and exercise do-dads all over the place.)

It's like we're always waiting to see what's next. With Internet, word spreads fast. Witness the meteoric rise of Vibram's FiveFingers, which are back ordered at retailers like REI. A couple years ago, Chris McDougal wrote Born to Run, a book, in part,  about the incredible Tarahumara distance runners in Copper Canyon Mexico, who knock off hundred mile runs in primitive huaraches, basically a piece of tire tread with some leather thongs to secure it to the foot.

Part of the book was also about barefoot running, but most yuppified runners don't have tough enough soles to really do it (including me), so Vibram introduced a weird looking substitute for huaraches that promises all the benefits of barefoot running and works well for weight-lifting, too.

Standing in a line to use the porta-potty before the start of the Bolder Boulder last May, the guy in front of me had on a pair and he couldn't say enough good things about them for running.  Next thing I know, my daughter has a pair she's using for CrossFit  workouts and trail running. Though I'll resist the urge, I bet I own a pair within a year.  

This TOJ isn't big on gym machines, preferring basic, cheap equipment, and exercising outdoors as much as possible. But that doesn't mean that there aren't  worthwhile ways to exercise and improve fitness and health for people who enjoy gyms and apparatus.

A track coach at Linfield College in Oregon (he's also a big fan of Bill Bowerman, the great track coach Nike co-founder)  has invented a new way to exercise in water. Originally, it was developed to help people recover from serious injuries, but has caught on with professional athletic teams, too. The coach designed wetsuit that is buoyant and has webbed feet, sort of like the creature in the old horror movie "The Thing." The person puts it on and runs around the pool, propelling the their floating body with feet and arms. The resistance of the water provides at whatever level of strenuousness is desired; the harder the person goes, the harder the resistance. People who've tried it say its a great workout. Google AQx Sports to learn more.

Another interesting exercise invention, soon to be product, is called the NeGator. Developed at the University of Florida, it relies on what is called eccentric resistance. The system is based on a little known fact about the human body -- surprisingly, we are able to hold up and lower more weight than we can lift up. The NeGator, through a system of cams, pulleys and motors (this will definitely be an expensive device like Nautilus once on the market) actually increases the weight as you lower it and decreases it to a range you can handle as you lift it. What is really unusual is that the machine is designed to have you do only one set per week! In just one set, you take your muscles to full exhaustion. The UF orthopaedists and exercise physiologists claim it provides the shortest, most efficient workout possible. (I guess this has been designed for people who hate exercise -- I'd like to exercise longer.)

I always try to observe TOJ's Fifth Rule: Respect all exercise religions, even those you don't believe in.

Positive Side Effects

After his narrow victory in the next to the last stage of the Tour de France, Tour champion Alberto Contador commented that he had not been feeling too good, had not slept well, and had a stomach ache. In fact, he'd had physical struggles over the entire 2,200 mile race. He commented to reporters, "Cycling is not like mathematics." He might have added, "because our bodies, no matter how well trained or fed, are unpredictable and complex."

Some days when you go out exercise or compete, you feel and perform just the way you hoped. You've got the groove. But sometimes you don't. You're not sick or injured, you just start into your run or ride or lifting routine and your strength or energy just isn't there. Don't feel bad -  this happens to elite athletes as often as it does to the rest of us.

Sometimes you know the cause. Yesterday I did a kettlebell workout and jumps, leaving my legs tired (the squats were a killer). Today I went for a post-work trail run, with temperatures in the mid-90s under a blazing sun. Ttwenty steps up the trail, I knew each step would be tough going. 

Just as often you don't know why your bio has no rhythm. Maybe you haven't recovered enough from your last exercise session (which is what happened to me) so the glycogen levels are low and your system is busy repairing micro-tears in your muscles. You haven't allowed adequate time for recovery. Or maybe you have some stress at work or in your life that is running you down. Or you are not eating nutritious food.

It's very normal to have days like this every now and then. Just because you don't feel your best doesn't mean you shouldn't proceed with your workout. You might start feeling better after your warm-up. Even if you never feel great that day, you still get the benefits from the exercise. Years ago I read an interesting book called Maximum Performance by a UCLA physiologist who had worked with many elite Olympic athletes. Once he did a survey of people who had set world records, asking how they felt minutes before their event that day. Surprisingly, many complained that they had trouble sleeping the night before, had indigestion, and felt weak. Yet, like Contador, they won. 

However, you want to be on alert if this lethargy or "just ain't got it feeling" occurs on several consecutive days. You might be over-training. A good way to find out is to know your normal resting pulse in the morning an hour after you've gotten out of bed when you've been feeling good. If it starts drifting up over a period of days, say 4-6 beats more per minute, you know you've been pushing too hard and need to take more time off before your next workout or lower the intensity of it. An exercise journal is useful to see if something is changing and what might be the cause.

Most times on days when you don't feel so great but go ahead and continue your workout, you're glad you did. 
Even if you're slow and struggle, you still feel better afterwards. Exercise is a drug with very positive side effects.

Cool, Cool Water


This afternoon I skipped rope and swung a kettle bell outside for about an hour. It was a beautiful, hot summer day - 95 degrees. Though most times it's smarter to do workouts earlier in the day during the summer to avoid the added stress to your body from the heat, sometimes it feels good to exercise and get really hot, sweaty and exhausted.

Today was one of those days. Dripping with sweat and breathing in the hot air, I kept thinking about my favorite country and western song, "Cool Water" by the Sons of the Pioneers. Although it's about cowboys herdin' cattle out in the desert, not exercise, it perfectly captures that special feeling we have towards water, especially on a hot day because the human body is over 70% water. When at rest, the human body is at thermal equilibrium when the outside temperature is at 82 degrees F.

Dehydration is a side effect of exercise because our body heat rises with metabolic rate. Most times dehydration is no big thing, as it wasn't to me today because I could get to water in a matter of seconds - I working out on a deck right outside outside our kitchen and had a water bottle nearby. (But I've gotten in trouble in the heat; see "The Self-Made Road to Hell and Back" in a 2008 blog.)

Our bodies have an incredible system of controls to maintain our core body temperature at a normal 98.6 degrees F. Just 8 - 10 degrees above this, we are delirious or dead.

The body cools itself by routing blood to 3 million sweat glands that use a fine network of vessels near the surface of the skin to give off heat via sweat. If you're interested in learning more about all the processes, pick up a copy of "Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the body and Mind at the Limits of Human Endurance" by Kenneth Kamler, M.D., who has been a physician on several expeditions into hostile environments. He explains in detail the body's response to heat in an incredible story of survival of an ultra-marathoner who got lost during a race in the Sahara Desert.

As long as we have the fluid in our systen to sweat, everything is fine. However, when you add intense exercise with hot ambient air, you begin to loose body fluid fast and start to be unable to dissipate your internal heat fast enough. Assuming you have been drinking enough water before you exercise, most times dehydration is not a major concern if you are working out, or even racing, for less than an hour. Longer than that, replacing fluids becomes more critical and challenging.

The key indicator of dehydration is loss of body weight. When you lose 1-2% of body weight, which is typical of a hard workout or run on a summer day, you're usually fine. At 2% loss you will start to feel some discomfort and performance is affected because dehydration begins to interfere with the utilization of glycogen (needed to produce physical energy) in skeletal muscles, the ones that lift, run or turn the crank on your bike.

Between 3% and 4% you start having severe cramping, and even dizziness or nausea. At 5% is the danger zone for heat exhaustion or sun stroke. Again, this is more likely to occur when you exert for more than an hour. Most of us don't get to this stage

As long as you're sweating, that's a good sign, but your body is still under stress. As you dehydrate, your blood plasma decreases, causing the blood to thicken which then causes your heart to beat harder. Your brain also dilates (opens) your blood vessels as wide as possible to help dissipate the heat, which also taxes the heart further to deliver blood to the muscles that need oxygen and nutrients. You see how this can lead to a vicious cycle.

Remember that as you exercise, you cannot replace all the fluids that are lost at the same rate. It takes time for anything you drink to get through your gut and into your bloodstream. But adding fluids as you exercise to offset losses works, especially if it's hot.

Thirst lags dehydration. For this reason, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends 1/2 to 1 cup of fluid for every 15 minutes during exercise, whether you are thirsy or not. You can speed the transit time from gut to bloodstream by adding a small amount of sugar. If you are working out or competing for more than an hour, you can also add some electrolyte like a little sodium or potassium, which is basically what's in sports drinks like Gatorade. Below you'll find a recipe for a rehydrating drink that works and tastes great.

Note that drinking fluid will not lower your core body temperature. Research shows that even drinking ice cold water has no impact, though it tastes good. The only way to lower your core temperature is to lower your metabolic rate, which means you either slow down or stop altogether.

A TOJ knows that as time or intensity of exercise goes up, along with the outside and core body temperature, so must fluid intake. Summer, heat, sun, sweat -- and cool, cool water.


Electrolyte Rehydrating Sports Drink


2 cups coconut water

2 tablespoons sweeter of choice (alternatives to cane sugar include agave nectar, honey, stevia, and medjool dates)

Juice from 1/2 lemon

Juice from 1/4 lime

Sea salt to taste


Blend all ingredients in a blender until well mixed.














































TOJs, Runner's World and Glamour Girls

I've read "Runner's World" for a long time. I've read it so often that with each new issue my brain sees a predictable pattern in the content. I probably started reading it for the same reason that a pudgy young woman reads in a glamour magazine - that someday I can be like the person on the cover. But that was then and this is now.

I'm convinced the same late twenties/early thirties man or woman body is featured on the cover of every issue. They just Photoshop on a different face, stick it on a different background. Every month you can expect that skinny, lanky runner's body, originally shot by a photographer who was crouched down and shooting slightly up to make the body seem longer and larger than life.

That cover photo is not by accident. It's the perfect runner's body described in the book Runner's World Runner's Body: How the Latest Science Can Help You Run Stronger, Longer and Faster by Ross Tucker, Jonathan Dugas and Matt Fitzgerald. Of course, almost everyone who runs will never look like the people who grace the covers because, as the book points out, elite runners look like that largely because of genetic factors that influence both their shape and the mix of slow and fast twitch fibers in their muscles.

The headers on the cover tease with the same false promises you find in a glamour magazine, too. That inside you will find the secrets of how you can do lots of things faster - run, lose weight, train in less time. You will be able do lots of things more easily and with less pain - train for a marathon, strengthen your core, run your personal best. But, what any athlete knows, there is no quick and easy way to do anything. Real progress takes a long time time, constant discipline and some discomfort. No way to escape it! And, after all that work, you still may not ever break 2 hours in the half marathon.

"Runners World," like all magazines, is formulaic. There are always the magic tips - "7 Ways to Avoid Indigestion as You Run" or "12 Tips to Beat That Lazy Slacker in Your Mind." The diet advice is always the same: eat carbs, proteins, and fats, with very minor proportion changes before, during, and after running. I'm pretty certain for years I've seen the same same recipe for skinless chicken breasts with the only change being one is sprinkled with basil and the other with curry. To their credit, they find some variety with all the different places you can go to race and the stories of people who run.

I guess I continue to read it because it sometimes has an inspiring story or tidbit of information, but "Runner's World" seems less and less pertinent to my interests as time goes by. You don't see many TOJ's in its pages or articles about the challenges of aging runners. Plus there's a lopsided emphasis on race performance versus the sheer joy of running.

Most importantly, more and more evidence from exercise science points away from distance running as the gold standard of a healthy lifestyle. To this TOJ, distance running is just another aerobic option to be included in a well-rounded approach to exercise and fitness. Contrary to a recent best-selling book, we weren't born just to run, which is why most of us don't look like skinny distance runners any more than we do sumo wrestlers.