Archive for February, 2010

In my last post, I forgot to mention another point the author of the book spends a lot of time on – namely, “a runner’s high“.  This is vaguely described as a feeling of euphoria during or immediately after (and a result of) physical exertion.  The author says there is a vast range of experiences and intensities to this “high”.  I have felt it numerous times, but would point out a more addictive form which I would label (borrowing from StarTrek) the “temporal shift”.  In this state, the person is “in the zone”, that is, time appears to slow, experience (colors, sounds, tastes and textures) is intensified and you genuinely feel “alive” and in the moment.  It is a sensation of perfection.
One example of this occured while I was taking an Aikido lesson several years ago.  The person was throwing me and as I entered (attacked), I had the sense of being caught in the wind.  I could not feel the opponent, but I was so caught up in his energy and movement I followed a natual path into my fall and roll.  When I got up I asked him if he felt it too, and strangely enough, he did not.  He did not feel I was particularly easy or  difficult to throw, but he did not “experience” the throw in the same energy flow I did.  This seemed strange to me because I assumed if you felt the shift with another they would also feel it.  On reflection, though, it made perfect sense as I’ve had numerous other similar experiences where time appeared to slow – or stand still – and others seemed completely unaware of the experience.
A similar experience (for me) used to happen every once in a while when I was a programmer.  I would be concentrating so hard for so long, I seemed to have 15 or 20 variables in my head and the cloud of the application running simultaneously in my brain (with the cpu).  In a strange way, although time seemed to slow, it was actually racing along, as I would look up and hours would have passed and it would be time to go home.  Obviously, there is a different mechanism which produces the state of euphoria, but makes the experience of time variable.

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Last night I went out to run in the school yard across the street.  Hil and I drove back from Mom’s and got a rough estimate of the mileage/distance – a little over 11 miles if I go via Ygnatio Road from Clayton to Walnut Creek.  Hil objected that it was too far to do as a first run and I would have to get out and try some other street runs first.  I countered that I should be able to do it in the 4 hour time limit I’d set in my 5 jogs during January.  She responded it’s not the same when you’re on the street and doing hills.  I said, I know.  That’s why I was allowing 4 hrs to do 3 hours distance.  I believe my school yard jogs are about 3.5 mph, so 4 hours is about 14 miles – more than enough to cover the distance.
Anyway, I ended up going out on the road.  I jogged up to the North Concord BART station and then down to Salvio, up past the main library and then back home along Esperanza.  I was still short of 90 minutes, so I did two laps in the school yard to finish up the 90.  In all, I estimate about a 5 mile jog.
I felt real good afterwards.  I was trying out my new shoes and they were very comfortable.  I got them for 50 bucks.  About half the price of the running store I went to last weekend.  At the moment, I believe the difference between a great running shoe and an ok one is a $3 footpad insert to increase the cushioning under the balls of my feet.  Since I’ve adopted this “new” running style, that’s where most of my pain seems to be.  I also noticed that adding the small hills to my jog last night has made a big difference in my Achilles heal not hurting at the end of my jog (or today).
Saturday, I went out and did two of my favorite things – I bought books and a new pair of running shoes.  I must have gotten about 15 books for under $75.  I got a dozen off the clearance racks, so they were $1, $2 or $3 each.
One of the books is: “Ultimate Fitness” (2003©), by Gina Kolata.  The author was/is a science writer for the New York Times.  The book is a review of the science and history behind the fitness industry.  The book was eye-opening for me because I’ve always assumed the “basics” fo fitness were grounded in solid scientific research.  As it turns out, very little of what I’ve thought was “true” is, in fact, proven.
Fundamentally, there is substantial scientific evidence that going from no exercise to four or five 30 minute sessions of any moderate exercise are enough to move a person to significant health improvement over the complete non-exerciser.  After that, there is little or no evidence of any improved benefits to health or longevity.
The author makes a key point that health is not the same as fitness and one has to do a lot more exercise to become “fit” than one needs to do to gain health.
The author makes the same claims about strength training.  A moderate amount builds you up to your natural base, but after that, you need to do a lot more and a lot more specific training to make substantial gains.
On consideration, these statements just make common sense (as uncommon as that may be).
One very interesting discovery the author relates is to do with why 220 beats per minute is considered the maximum heart rate for humans.  It turns out this was not based on any “vast and thorough” research study.  It appears the two scientists who “discovered” the rate found it by examining 10 papers on maximum heart rates.  The sizes of the individual studies is not provided, but the author states they were small samples.  She goes on to add they were limited in that they were all men, white, under sixty-five and predominantly young.  She implies the studies may have had their own internal biases because the samples were taken at cardiac centers and not from a random sampling of the population.  The stated bias is (at least) the two most likely people going to a cardiac center for testing are cardiac patients (who will not represent the general public) and young athletes, seeking to find out the limits of their fitness training.
Because the two researches were US government employees at the time and were presenting their findings at a symposium, they had the imprimatur of truth/fact.  Over time, the “findings” were repeated enough they gained the status of gospel (“urban legend”).  I think the story is particularly interesting because I’ve seen posters with the 220 number on walls at my gym and at my cardiologist.
Other than establishing that most of what I thought about exercise is marketing and misunderstood science, the author spends most of the time discounting the hype-sters of the fitness movements/fads.  Again, this is pretty much just more common sense…
All in all, a very interesting book and I highly recommend it.

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Another week’s gone by…

My jogging has picked up again this week without all the overtime at work. I jogged at least 2 miles everyday at the gym in the morning.  I had two of my best times (including a personal best, which I subsequently tied 26min8sec).  The other good time was 2 miles in 27min57sec.  When I finished that run, I felt I’d done really well until I looked up my previous best – which was 27min27sec, set back on 15Feb09.  The thing was, I was 30lbs heavier!!

Anyway, the new PB was set without intervals – I just started out walking for a minute, 3.6 until 5 min, 4.6 until 15 min and then 5 until I hit the 2 mile mark.  The second time was with two 6’s thrown in for 2X220.  I felt my right knee twinge a little when I was decelerating after the 6s.  I think that’s how I must have hurt my knee last year (and again on Monday), by doing intervals at too fast a pace and then cutting the gas too quickly.

I just finished another book about running: “Jog, Run, Race” by Joe Henderson, copyright 1977.  Basically, it’s a primer on enjoying running as a end in itself.  The author wants you to become and “addict”, just like he his.  The tone is very friendly and conversational.  The book is loaded with tables providing well structured training plans for runners of all ages and stages.  The author has a fairly arbitrary division between milers and marathoners which he says is – from his experience – a natural divide.  Some runners want to go a little ways, fast (milers) and some prefer to go a long ways, slower (marathoners).  I guess if I were younger, I’d be a marathoner.  As it is, I’m an ultra and I want to go extra long and extra slow.

I didn’t do any long jogs last week – my longest was 90 minutes and, in fact, I was only out twice.  That’s why this week felt so much better – I had 5 jogs at work and 4 at home.

On the diet side there is more mixed news.  Last week I gained 2.4lbs.  I reckon it’s with all the OT and no night runs and then all the sugar and salt during the Super Bowl.  Anyway, this week I hope to do better.  I at least want to lose the 2.4lbs I put back on.

I’m thinking about trying to spruce up my image at work.  I may start wearing pants and a tie for a while…!  That should shock everybody.

This week should be good.  Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and Monday is President’s Day – so I have the day off.  Wednesday I have the dentist and the rest of the day off to kick it around.  That makes it a three day work week.  Next Saturday is my training on Wilson Reading Method.  After that, I may get assigned a student reader of my own.  I’m seeing Megan on Wed afternoon to discuss a potential student.

The last two weeks at work I’ve been in training for 1/2 day each day.  It’s been on IT stuff, so it’s been very interesting even if much of it is refresher stuff.

James may be working for the rest of the school year!  Rebecca seems to be settling in to UCLA a lot more.  That’s good.  I want her college experience to be a good memory – and all work would not seem to me to be a “good” memory.  Sarah is off to Sacramento today for another band trip.  Hil is going to pick up Mom (to get her out of her house for a few hours).

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Well, January has gone and we’re now into February.  I did five 4-hour jogs in Jan.  The last one was on my toes the whole time.  My forefeet are a little sore, but other than that, I feel very good.  Jogging “normally” (with a roll over my heel), I’d usually be hurting most everywhere – feet, knees, back, elbows – just about everywhere.  So, this must be a “better” method if hurts less.
I got a new personal best (PB) on the StairMaster at work.  I did 104 floors, yesterday.  That’s up from my prior best, which was 100 floors, and was just set the prior week.
Before that, my PB was 74 floors.
The diet is still going…  I’m down to 295 lbs – which is 34 lbs lost.  I was hoping for more by now, but I’m making progress, so I can’t complain too much.  For any British readers, that’s 2 – 1/2 stones lost.
I finally got my netbook to play DVD’s with sound.  It turns out the external disk drive I bought has a DVD player, but it doesn’t play Dolby sound.  They want an extra $14 for that.  It turns out that I have my own DVD player that does come with sound.  So, I’m able to use my notebook as a little video player.

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