Category Archives: Health

My Bedeviled Angel

A lot of people persistently struggle when it comes to personal fitness, and in recent days I count myself among their ranks.   On one shoulder I have the ripped Angel with the 6-pack abs sipping the kale smoothie and on the other shoulder I have the pot-bellied Devil chugging malt liquor.  In my world Angel typically wins out in the war on workouts; Devil has a better chance asking me to not shower then asking me not to work out, so instead he contents himself with sabotaging my shopping list and convincing me that the 2g of protein in the Peanut Butter Crunch, twice that of most breakfast cereals I’ll have you know, is a healthy source of protein for growing muscles, so thank you captain.    Angel, satisfied that I’m at least eating my vegetables, settles for a palm slap and a guilt inducing head shake whenever I have a chocolate chip cookie to “cleanse my palate” after dinner.  Left to my own devices I manage to keep them both in check and come out on the healthier side of the scale.  It is, however, a fragile balance easily disrupted by outside influences.  I once dated a girl that newly discovered you could order French fries with a side of gravy, providing a slice of Thanksgiving any day of the week.  Needless to say Devil was giddy with delight and Angel almost passed out while frantically Googling cardiologists.

One of the more serious external threats comes from the wee folk,… not the leprechauns pushing brownie bits samples at Costco but my precious offspring with narrow diets and youthfully unclogged arteries.  These little Devils have no problem feasting on the “bacon platter” for breakfast (that would be a platter stacked with only bacon).  They suck through Otter pops faster than a chain smoker.  They refuse to touch any food tainted with the smallest fleck of green down to trace amounts of dehydrated parsley found on the wildly unhealthy garlic bread.   They are the demon spawn of Domino’s pizza forsaking colorful vegetables and unprocessed proteins.  Worst of all is the fact that the little Devils require so much nit-picky care for the preparation of an acceptable meal that it leaves little time for alternative arrangements and just a bitter choice between choking down dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets with everyone else or working on a healthier alternative through dinnertime and scarfing it down between doing the dishes and chasing down little Devils for bath time.

Parental time management takes the greatest toll on the Great Expectations that is self-improvement.   Most successful workout routines fall into the time range of 45-90 minutes.  Trying to ease your P90X fitness guilt with a handful of sit-ups and a vigorous dash to the mailbox doesn’t fill the void.  I need extended activity; A prolonged cardio burn like running the bleachers at a football stadium which is problematic in the limited circumference of my current dwelling.  Inside this apartment everything is literally a 10ft radius from my desk.  When I had my Fitbit functioning in the previous house I could easily hit my goal of 10,000 steps just from multiple round trips up and down the stairs and delivering laundry to the four corners of the homestead.  It’s hard to make up that difference when time and space are so limited.  I need to either fill all free time with additional gym trips or multi-task when little ones are around, doing speed rounds of sprint tag with alternating pull-ups on the money bars between pursuits as lava monster.  Maybe I can install a giant hamster wheel out on the balcony.

I know some of it is inevitable; we grow up and then we grow out.  Our metabolism naturally slows down over time regardless of how much spice we spike our foods with.  Diets have to adjust to accommodate changes in our aging body and our fading activity levels.  At some point we have to realize our food intake no longer aligns with our daily calorie burn.  Continuing to eat like we’re teenage athletes makes as much sense as keeping those size 30 jeans believing that one day we’ll once again have the waist of a 20-year-old.

By this point my personal Angel, who was meant to be the model of health and virtue, is on the verge of surrendering.  When the Devil upends Angel’s kale smoothie and pokes him the belly like the Pillsbury Doughboy he no longer seems to mind.  I suspect his becoming a little too chummy with his devilish counterpart and the temptations being whispered in his ear.  It’s only a matter of time before he’s stretched out on a recliner during 8oz curls and using the devil as his serving wench.  Time for more stretchy pants.

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Dry Run (fiction)

I remember lining up for my first race beneath dark clouds with the promise of rain. “Piano Man” played over the sound system mixing with the energetic announcer who counted down the time until the next wave of runners. I was corralled near the inflatable starting gate with my fellow participants bouncing and stretching to ward off the chill. There was a buzz of nervous conversation and eager anticipation. The annual Folsom Lake “Mud Run” attracted crowds from all walks of life, eager to get down and dirty. I looked around at the faces of strangers and felt a sense of kinship as we shuffled towards the starting line waiting to begin our adventure. Everyone joined in for the final countdown that ended with a long blast from an air horn. We were off.

Twelve years later, there is no place to go. All here is quiet and still. It would have been race time and already the temperature is in the low 80s, promising to be well above the October average of 84. If we hit the 90 degree mark they probably would have issued an evap warning, and cancelled the race anyway. That was just one of the many reasons the race might have been cancelled. I knew the chances of having one last race was slim but I was hoping to end on number 12. I always liked ending things on an even number. It just felt right.

That first race was in 2010 (I liked starting things on an even number too). The Mud Run wasn’t the longest or most difficult race out there. The emphasis was more on fun with a few challenges sprinkled in to keep things interesting. This was more my speed having not competed in anything since high school swim team, and never being a big fan of running in the first place. I was so nervous when that air horn sounded that my mouth ran dry and I almost hyperventilated before the first obstacle, a cargo net climbing structure.   Once I powered through that, putting aside any fear of heights, I was able to settle into the race and set a better pace going forward. Next up was the first of three mud crawls; vast pools of chilled chocolate colored water. I spider walked through the waves it to protect my knees from the gravely bottom, but still emerged dripping wet and coated with a thin layer of diluted mud. I remember feeling uncomfortable with the weight of the water on my clothes and the sticky mud caked to my shoes.

I would grow to miss that feeling more then I knew. The oil based mud they started using in the pits were predictably slimy but were meant to be easily absorbed by the skin leaving just a residue of colored dust. More often than not though perspiration would prevent absorption leaving it to clump in oily rivulets that were difficult to wash off and contaminated what was left of the lake water. Eventually the pits were lined with a gel bottom to simulate the texture of mud though without the muddy mess, or oil slicks in the lake.

If nothing else we knew eventually the Mud Run would have to be moved. After just my second year racing they had already started affectionately referring to this as the Folsom Puddle. The lake levels started dropping quickly as the drought worsened. Each year there was optimism that the rainfall would come to fill the lake and the snow packs would return to keep it stocked. But even the consecutive El Nino years in 2015 and 2016 weren’t enough to make up for the dry years and rising temperatures. By my third year they stopped bringing in the water tankers for the post-race rinse-stations. I remember the decadent use of water prior to that; miles of hoses snaking from a network of pipes, big inflatable structures set up like old car washes that you walked through to get clean under constant streams of liquid water. By my fifth year even the water cups they hand out along the race required purchase of premium wristbands, as well as a deduction of rations two years later.

My friend Luke started running with me on my fourth race. Though he was an avid runner he pretended to “bow to my experience” and let me set the pace. It was good to have the company after my previous solo runs, having someone to playfully mock and challenge along the way also pushed me beyond my own sluggish pace. I fared better with some of the more physical obstacles, such as the sandbag pulley or the medicine ball carry, but he was quicker over the walls and, of course, running between obstacles. Ironically the one destination Luke dreaded the most was the lake crossing. Having the lean runners build he was left with no defense against the mountain snow melt that filled the lake, and back then late October mornings would be chilly in their own right. As we descended down towards the lake shore Luke would begin his ritual of psyching himself out and sprinting in little circles trying to raise his core temperature. It made no difference in the end though, he would still squeal like a little girl as soon as he took that first deep step that submerged him past his private parts.

Each year, the course would adjust as the distance to the lake shore got further and further away replaced by fields of cracked earth broken up by the occasional tire tracks. The boat ramps once filled with recreational speed boats and jet skis were replaced by quads and dirt bikes.   On my 10th run the lake was officially dry. The lake crossing obstacle became the last real mud pit, however since it was covered in plastic to prevent evap it wasn’t much different from the gel bottoms in the other pits. It seemed fitting to make that my final race, and mark the passing of Folsom Lake.

Ironically Luke had a different reaction to the news and after a four-year absence he decided to run again the following year as a way to thumb his nose at the lake crossing that used to taunt him. He was convinced this would make everything better and I felt compelled to join him as long as he promised to do it the following year so I could end even. It was a rather poor performance for both of us as we were feeling our years. My unexpected entry hadn’t left me much time to train properly and Luke’s health issues had degraded his runners’ physique.   This left us with ample opportunity to laugh at each other as we struggled with even the easier obstacles; floundering over the short walls, getting stuck in the crawling tubes and drunkenly stumbling across the balance beams.   We got a better work out from belly laughs then from anything the course had to offer. We had fun doing backstroke in the gel pools and dancing over the fire strips, one of the new obstacles added to replace the mud. It was all well worth the price of admission.

Today was to be our last run. Tickets were just about to go up for sale when we heard about the plans to renovate Folsom Lakebed. They promised the event could continue, though probably by a different name, once the construction was complete. It made no difference; Luke’s doctor didn’t green light him for another race anyway, he thought it would be too much of a strain on his kidneys. Maybe it’s for the best though. The memories we made last year would be hard to match. Maybe that’s a more fitting end to our Mud Run days; to remember the better days of joy and prosperity and be optimistic for the rain to come. An optimism that would be easier if hadn’t ended with an odd number.

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Three Step Diet

I marvel at the staggering number of diet programs that drape the book shelves and appear as rotating installments on the Dr. Oz show. It seems like the perfect money-making opportunity; you come up with a catchy theme or title, create a few healthy recipes and get a notable doctor or nutritionist to lend an air of credibility. I’m tempted to create one for the sole purpose of proving just how easy (and therefore ridiculous) it is. The only problem is my diet idea is so simple I can break it down into three simple steps just like they do on Disney Junior. It’s a challenge for me to fill an entire page explaining it much less an entire book, but for those of you who might want to save your money on all the other fads I’ll give you this one for free;

Step 1Eat Clean: You can also think of this one as ‘eat simple’. The closer to raw or natural something is the better it probably is for you. The more processed or chemically infused an item is the less of it you should be consuming. In general when you walk through the grocery store the clean and simple foods are those along the outer walls; meats, eggs, produce, dairy, etc. Of course there are also canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, as long as there are fewer than 2 ingredients on the label and the only process involves vacuum seal and flash freezing you’re good to go.

Step 2Eat Color: The rules are cumulative here, so the color has to be clean, simple and natural. Anything labeled “blue raspberry”, for example, doesn’t count. This means eating a pretty spectrum of actual fruits and veggies. When I was just out of college my roommate prepared a meal consisting of chicken nuggets, tater tots and barbecue beans,… the entire plate was shades of brown, and the thought of it still creeps me out and keeps me on the lookout for the rich greens, reds, yellows and oranges that occur in nature.

Step 3 – Eat Protein: Specifically eat more protein than carbohydrates. This one may be a more subjective point, but for me at least, an admitted carb-whore who wants to keep and build muscle I know I need to get in more protein. Since I seem to have no problem finding plenty of carbs to eat the challenge becomes making sure to end up with an equal amount, if not more, of protein then I do of carbs. And again being cumulative steps if I have a beige chunk of chicken or turkey I still need to make sure I find my color sources with other foods. Bonus points if I’m eating something like ahi that has its own rich color.

That’s it. A three-step diet in less than a page. Now I just need to fill about 100 more pages with nonsensical crap justifying the steps and touting their merits, search the internet for a weeks’ worth of meal planning, and find some lonely PHD to write me an impressive introduction and jacket endorsement and I’ll be set. I am so gonna be rich!

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