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 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.