Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Still Hanging Around

August is coming to a close and that means my 'duties' looking after my niece and nephew this summer are ending as well.  It's been great spending so much time with them, even if that means tolerating occasional tantrums and such.  We formed a bike 'gang' and cruise the streets of Beaverton most days, sometimes racking up 12 or more miles.  We stop at stores, parks, the library, we're all over the place.  They dig it, and I'm super glad to have instilled in them a love for biking.  

Next up is a trip to Europe in early September.  I've been keeping an eye out for international flight deals and finally found one to Copenhagen.  Just after I booked my ticket my mother asked if she could come along, so we are now in the process of planning our trip together.  We're going to spend a few days in Copenhagen, then Paris, Salzburg, Munich and back out of Copenhagen.  I'm really looking forward to it as I've never visited mainland Europe.  And traveling with my mom, who has similar eating habits, is going to make things that much more fun.

A few updates:
  • I'm still doing the Farmers Walk once a week.  I loves it.  I'm currently carrying 120 lb in each hand for, oh, about 100 meters. I think.  That's just a guess on the distance, but it matters not.  I do it twice, then maybe once more with a little less weight before I call it good.  After realizing that I didn't want grip strength to be the failing point of the Farmers Walk, I fashioned myself some fabulous looking wrist straps made out of an old road cycling tire (see pic).  These work amazingly well with a wristband.  Now I end the Farmers Walk because of exhaustion and not my sissy grip strength.
  • I've been tinkering with eating most of my food in the evenings between 5:30 and 7:30 ish.  I skip breakfast as usual, but now sometimes I skip lunch as well.  Some days I'll have sardines and eggs for lunch, but nothing big.  I think I've discovered the cure for EVERYTHING here!!  Just kidding.  I'm tinkering because I can.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Probably the most interesting thing is to feel what it's like to be really good and hungry before a meal several times a week. *
  • I've literally been 'hanging' around on monkey bars at the playground and here at home on a pullup bar.  After hearing Christopher Sommer talk about it on a podcast some time ago, and seeing my niece and nephew swinging effortlessly on bars, I decided to practice one and two handed hangs and swings.  They've been great for strengthening the tendons and ligaments in my shoulders and arms, but it's a slow process.  If someone were to just jump into doing one arm monkey swings without first doing some prep work, it would be bad.  Total protonic reversal bad.  I'm not trying to connect with my inner monkey or become a gymnast or anything like that, I'm just playing around with movement because I can, and it's fun.

* I think I've mentioned this before, but one of the most impactful quotes I've ever heard about nutrition keeps playing back again and again in my mind.  It was uttered by Sir Bradly Wiggins in an interview during the 2012 Tour de France (which he won).  He said, and I'm paraphrasing: "It actually doesn't take a lot of food to keep in top form.  Surprisingly little, in fact."  This from someone competing in and winning, arguably, the top endurance event in the world.  Imagine how 'little' food a normal person might well need.

Now, to be fair, he had to be leaner than he 'likes' to be in order to win.  Riding fast up mountains is all about your watt to weight ratio, but still, this point is glaring right at me every time I think about it ... It really doesn't take that MUCH nutrient dense food to keep us in top form.   Sure, most people's problems go much deeper than merely overeating, but there is that too.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dear Vibrams

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Vibram company for helping to:
  • Strengthen my foot muscles
  • Reduce my potential foot injuries
In case you haven't heard, Vibram USA just settled a Class Action Lawsuit against them for $3.75 million stating that they made false and unsubstantiated claims about their footwear.  Specifically, the two claims that I'm writing to thank them for.

I'm not going to dive into the discussion of how crazy and absurd a litigious society we've become.  This is nothing new, nor the most egregious, wackadoodle example out there (remember that case where McDonalds was sued for putting toys in their happy meals).   However, it's a fine time to illustrate my favorite theme here lately:  take ownership of your own health.  Apparently this is a bit of a stretch for a lot of people out there.

I want to make this much clear ... I understand the lawsuit.  Don't make false claims.  I get that.  But I'm left scratching my head on this one.  If you wear Vibrams or even go barefoot, how can you NOT strengthen your foot muscles?  Especially if you're coming from what passes for shoes in this day and age.  And if you strengthen your foot muscles, won't you be less likely to get a foot injury?  Hmmm, not really rocket scientology in my mind.

Anyway, I'm just wanting to give Vibrams some love when they may be feeling a little perturbed.  I've owned at least 3 pairs and so has my mother.  She uses them to walk on the beach while I use mine every chance I get, which is a lot more now that I live in a warmer climate.  I sprint in them (the best!) and as you can see from my pic in the last post, I Farmers Walk in them as well.  Interestingly, just yesterday I had a mother stop me in order to show her little daughter the Vibrams I was wearing.  I'm pretty sure most people are familiar with them by now, but the little girl was fascinated.

If you recall my tale of transitioning to barefoot running (and walking) you'll remember that I caused a stress fracture in my 4th metatarsal on three separate occasions.  This was before Vibrams had started up and I was using those old school Puma's you can see in the link.  If I had Vibrams back then would've I prevented the stress fractures?  Probably not.  I just did too much too soon.  Successful transitioning to walking and running midfoot for people that have worn regular shoes since childhood is a slow and deliberate process.  If you persevere though, there are many benefits to be had.  Unfortunately, I can't tell you what those benefits might be, otherwise I could get sued. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go actually DO something to improve my health and fitness.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

DIY Farmers Walk

Since moving to Oregon I've wanted to build some Farmers Walk implements for use here at the house (I don't go to a gym).  As the weather has been getting nicer, and after much deliberation, I finally got motivated and have done the deed.  I had several criteria that I considered while addressing my build:
My brother

  • Cost effective 
  • Weather proof
  • Safe and sturdy
  • Adjustable weight

Cost effective:  Most people build Farmers Walk implements to hold weight plates ... usually 45 lb size ones.  I don't own 45 lb weight plates, nor do I plan to.  Weight plates generally cost a dollar a pound and that can add up quickly for a heavy load situation.  Since this is the only thing I will need heavy weight for, I looked for other options.  I finally settled on plain old bricks.  They were 49 cents apiece and weigh 6 lbs each.  In addition to being cheap, they lend themselves to easily making the weight adjustable. 

Weather proof:  Since there is no room in the garage, these will be sitting outside all year.  The eight foot long 2x6 I purchased is pressure treated, I got lids for the buckets, and most of the hardware is galvanized.  The exception are the four 2 ft. threaded rods, which are zinc, and I will end up brushing or spraying some sort of coating on those to make the whole thing weather proof.

Safe and sturdy:  I made the handles tall so that I don't have squat down too far to pick the up the load from the ground. The handle height is also adjustable ... a nice feature.  The buckets are 'notched' and bolted into the 2x6's to make them sturdy.  The threaded rods holding the handles look 'skinny' in comparison to the whole unit, but they are more than adequate for the task, especially considering that the vast majority of the force they take will be vertical and not shear.  

Adjustable weightBricks are easy to add or subtract for the load.  If somehow I ever need even more weight, I could add sand or dry quickrete to each bucket as there is plenty of space 'around' the bricks.

The parts

Once I decided on the final design and purchased the items, the assembly was fairly straightforward.  The hardest part was drilling the holes through the handles.  Our neighbor has a small, portable drill press that I used for this situation.  I went with 1 1/2 in. diameter pipe (1 ft in length), which is pretty thick and a great way to work that grip strength!  Another nice thing about the design is that if I want handles of a different diameter I can cheaply purchase more pipe and cut the same size holes in them for an easy swap out.

1:  I came up with a bunch of ideas for how to build Farmers Walk implements.  I was literally loitering around hardware stores looking at everything on their shelves as pieces to a puzzle.  The concept I came up with is by no means the 'best' way to do it.  It was merely the one that met MY criteria the best.  If anyone is considering making some of these and needs someone to bounce some ideas off of, I'd be more than happy to help. 

2:  As I've said before, safety is a top priority for me while exercising.  I generally don't lift heavy weights because there are safer methods to achieve strength and conditioning that are just as effective and efficient. With that said, the Farmers Walk is heavy weight.  There is no way around that.  BUT, I'm not going to be doing this exercise for weight (or time or distance), if that makes sense.  I'm doing it for the effect, with as light of a weight I can get away with to achieve that effect (without it taking forever).  No need to go all macho taco.  I simply see a benefit to adding a loaded carry back into my routine.  Perhaps I'll post more on how I go about the details of this as I figure things out.  Actually, I can already tell you that, like my regular training, it's just going to be by feel.  I suspect some days will be heavier with less distance and some days the opposite.  Anyway, weird as I am, I look at this kind of stuff as fun
notched with holes to attach to the 2x6
3: Each bucket can hold 9 bricks with the lid on and 11 with it off  (and the bricks still being secure from the bucket lip).  At 11 bricks a bucket the total for one whole side is approximately 160 lbs (bricks vary slightly and the 2x6 and handles add some weight). 

4: While living in Aspen, there was a time when I carried a big rock around as a way of doing a loaded carry.  The great thing about that situation was that I left the rock on a ledge where I could pick it up and set it down at chest height.  It's probably still in that very same spot on that ledge to this day.  I wonder if I'll get as many strange looks carrying my Farmers implements around the neighborhood here as I got carrying that rock up and down the sidewalk?

Finished product 
Yep, grip strength was the limiting factor

Good height and did not rub against the legs
Rock in Aspen

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Picture Post III

I was in an Asian grocery store the other day and spied these 'health cookies'. You probably thought it was some other factor of their diet or lifestyle that made them healthy, didn't you?

I found a chocolate that I'm not exactly in a hurry to try   What a waste of good chocolate!
You can always pick out the type of car you learned to drive on ... I spotted this Toyota Celica in a nearby parking lot.  Ours was a 1977 silver version and my dad was very patient with me in that Rite Aid distribution parking lot all of those years ago.  When I was learning, I couldn't compute how hard it was to drive and yet how many people could do it.  Only after I drove a car other than a 1977 Celica did I realize how cruel my father had been to me. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to peel a green banana

I've been eating green bananas the past couple of months, usually one or two a day.  I'm after the resistant starch in them there greenies.  Potato starch (aka tooty juice) was fine, but I'm all about whole foods these days. 

Stores seem to be pretty hit or miss with having green bananas out on their sales floor, but I'm pretty sure if you just inquired with a produce clerk at most places they could go in the back and grab you some.  I know we usually had green ones in the back of the store where I worked in Aspen.  

I did happen to find a place here that sells green bananas bagged up and they are super green, as you can see in the video.  Those two in the bag are the last of a bunch of 10 and they are still that green.  I do place them in the refrigerator though.

Most people that hear I'm eating green bananas cringe at the thought.  To be sure, they are not like the ripe yellow ones.  But in all honesty, they really are not bad.  You just have to get in the mindset that you are not eating the type of sweet bananas you're accustomed to.  Think of them as a different food altogether.  

Anyway, green bananas are a little tricky to get open and I've found a good method that I'll share with you in the video below.  Please note that it is not kid safe.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ownership of your health

This is a quote from an article I read in the paper today written by Doctors Oz and Roizen.  It's titled 'Link between a jelly bean and brain drain'
"Say 'no' to palm and coconut oils.  These tropical plant oils containing saturated fat have been at the center of debate for several years now, but a new study settles the spat.  Lose them.  They promote body fat in the worst possible spots:  your abdomen and your liver."

'but a new study settles the spat'  

Imagine for a moment it was in fact that easy.  New studies just settled things.   Things like what foods are healthy and which ones are bad.  Things like what exercises are good for you and which ones are not.  Sure the hell would simplify things don't you think?  I believe people would mostly choose the healthy options, becoming and remaining healthy in order to get on with doing whatever it is in life that makes them happy.  Done and done.

Except, of course, it doesn't work like that.  For like a gazillion reasons.  It would be easier if it did, but life ain't so generous.  You have to take ownership of your own health and well being, and that means you actually have to make TIME to do it.  How much time, where you look for information, which advice you choose to follow ... that is all up to you.  There are no perfect answers, surely as there are no single nutrition studies that 'settle spats'.

PS  Having purchased my first gallon of coconut oil from the Philippines in 2001 and not looking back, according to this new study, my liver and abdomen should have exploded by now.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Old Times and Spry

 My grandfather
While I was visiting my mom in Florida a couple of weeks ago she pulled out a disk my uncle had made a few years ago with some information regarding my paternal grandfather.  Mom had forgotten about this so it was new viewing for us.  I never met my grandfather as he passed away several years before I was born.

Most of it was a lengthy and mildly interesting FBI and Immigrations file on him (they tried to deport him several times), but what caught my eye was some food related information in letter correspondence from his relatives in Scotland.  

Just a quick background here:  My grandfather had come over from the UK to Canada in 1925 and quickly (and illegally) found his way to the States.  It wasn't until early 1948 that he tried to contact his family from abroad again.  On the disk are these first contact letters, saved by my grandmother, from my grandfather's sister, brother and sister in law.  

They, of course, start out with excitement that my grandfather is still alive and well, then get into some catching up, mostly about their families.  It was fascinating reading, basically eavesdropping on my family goings-on in 1948 (in Scotland).  That it was in their own cursive handwriting made it even more special.

One more tidbit here before I drop a few quotes.  My grandfather sent over some 'food' packages to his brother and sister in Scotland for the Xmas of 1948.  They were overwhelmed with the generosity and it was telling:

'The Spry we haven't seen since before the war, and it is such an excellent fat'
'The spam was marvelous - it costs too many 'points' for us to buy it here'
'The ration of 1 egg each per week we keep tenderly for Sunday's tea'
'I think the lack of meat and fats over the last 8 years is now beginning to tell on us all.  We are all becoming easily irritable, and the least effort tires us out.  However, as each year comes along we hope it will be better than the last!  We must not grumble - or is that an Englishman's privilege?!'

I didn't realize they were still rationing food in England in 1949.  That's crazy.  In the letters they were also elated over some sugar being sent.  

Spry* I had to look up.  It is the equivalent of Crisco.  For some reason it surprised me that vegetable oil was not only used, but considered 'good fat' even before WWII.  I knew that Crisco was brought to market in like 1911 or something, but did not realize how quickly it must have surpassed butter and lard.  At least in some areas of the world. 

Spam costing too much?  In my mind Spam is synonymous with cheap.  Apparently not back then.

And then there is the whole lacking meats and fat quote.  It didn't take a rocket surgeon back then to figure out what gives people energy in their diet.

Anyway, this post is not to make a point or anything, I just found it interesting.  Two more for you:

'I baked the 3-tier wedding cake in early February, and marzipaned it late March, and had it Royal-iced by a local baker, who finished it very prettily'
'Aunt Maggie is much frailer and has to spend much of the day on her back owing to a groggy heart'
Now, I don't know what about what in regards to wedding cakes, but I suspect if I take a cake I baked a couple of months ago to a local baker and asked them to Royal-ice it, well, they would probably think I'm Scottish or something.

Although it could be worse.  You could have a groggy heart like poor old Aunt Maggie.  Yikes! 

* I asked my step-dad if he had heard of Spry while I was down in Florida.  He was born during the depression and, indeed, remembered his family using it.  Happily, Mom has Kerrygold in their house these days!