Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is This Stereotyping or What?

This weekend, famed physicist Stephen Hawking rocked the residents of this world with his declaration that aliens are likely to exist but should be avoided at all costs.
Whose world did he rock?
Certainly not mine.
I have seen all the movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, The Twilight Zone, Body Snatchers, we stereotype the poor extraterrestrial.
Only in ET did we make the alien seem like a decent sort, just befuddled and lost.
Now a famed scientist who should know better adds to the furor.
“Aliens are most likely microbes, fungus or dangerous.
The one clarifier is that the term microbe can also include fungi and even viruses.
Well I couldn’t let this one go.
Athletes Foot is a fungus and we don’t panic over it, what about Candida, another common saprophyte that likes to live on the human skin, that doesn’t send people screaming into the streets.
We use fungus to make cheese and a lot of people eat fungi sautéed in white wine.’
So if an alien fungus shows up it best beware as it may end up stewed in white wine and butter on the Iron Chef.
Microbes on the other hand can be bad news especially if they invade a human and cause pneumonia, sepsis, or other infections.
These babies sometimes kill.
But in general microbes are advantageous to man such as the ones in the gut that break down foodstuffs, the ones that ferment alcohol, the ones that long ago became mitochondrion and supply our bodies with energy, the ones that digest leaf liter and help make soil.
In fact wasn't it a microbe that saved mankind in War of the Worlds?
Finally he suggests that an advanced civilization of “Nomadic Humanoids” might show up, steal our resources and/or sauté us.
I am much more worried about earth bound humanoids and the evil deeds we inflict on each other.
Your chances of being killed by a careless driver 1 in 85, your chances of being murdered 1 in 210, of a nuclear explosion 1 in 400.
Global violence accounts for 14% of all deaths.
The chances of discovering intelligent alien life is about 1 in 30 million.
The chances of running into an alien on the street that wants to cook you, infect you or steal your stuff has to be about 1 to many billions.
So I for one am appalled at the idea of snubbing our noses at potential “buddies” in this rather large universe and see no benefit to hunkering down in this backwater galaxy and beating each other up; it will ultimately come to a bad ending
Maybe some intelligent aliens have a better way; but please, before you land, leave your weapons and large stew pots on the moon.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spinning With The Bear

“Do you love it”?
“You bet I love it”.
I don’t know why, it “hurts”, an all over kind of hurt that somehow feels good.
I am not always sure I can make it but I would rather die than give up, unfinished.
At least if I died I would have a good excuse to quit pedaling.
Sunday comes early this week, Spin Class, the Bear shows up.
I don’t know if he has ever been in Spin Class before but Sparta helps him set up his bike in the semi-darkness of the room and he is off and riding.
He starts all out.
The room is like a Brazilian Jungle, both heat and humidity are at or above 100%.
I am actually surprised it isn’t raining.
I guess bears acclimate easily as he pedals on, no let up.
About 15 minutes into the Spin, Sparta announces we should be warm by now.
In fact we (I) are (am) “burning up”, the sweat is pouring down the forehead, arms, back, chest in full streams.
The towels are soaked.
The music “screams” until the drums begin and set the rhythm, “Keep the pace, enjoy the flat, the hills are ahead”.
Bear continues to pour energy into it, keeping pace with the experienced riders; me I keep my head down, eyes closed trying to find some sugar, fat or even some precious protein to burn for the next climb.
This is where I usually ask an Angel, any Angel, to lend me some divine intervention.
The experienced riders are doing “crazy” levels of RPMs.
I am trying to keep pace but falling behind with each revolution.
Then salvation, I can barely believe it.
Fleetwood Mac, the song, “Big Love”.
Hey this one doesn't play until we are close to the end of the class.
I guess the Angels heard me.
We are closing in on the finish line, I can make it.
Fresh adrenaline pours into the bloodstream.
I use the beat and the adrenaline to pick up the pace.
Then it is over.
No way, that can’t be an hour.
But it is, the big hand on the clock says another class is in the books.
“Thanks to all for the good work”, Sparta intones.
“Do you love it”?
I wait to hear The Bear’s assessment.
“You guys are all crazy”.
Sure, I agree, but for me it beats electricity and/or medicine and I love it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bench Pressing, Dead Lifts, Chin-ups and Weight

Last night after Boot Camp I decided to lift following the advice of exercise Guru Rick Kampen.
Mr. Kampen has a web site devoted to health and longevity.
Frequency of exercise trumps all else according to Mr. Kampen.
(That could apply to a lot of things beyond exercise)
As he says, who wins a Marathon training once a week?
Dedication and discipline are required.
So I decided to take another dose of discipline.
His other caveat, if it hurts (my Parentheses’ and quotation marks) “I assume, real bad” don’t do it.
Since it always hurts, he must mean “real bad”.
(That could also apply to a lot of things not exercise.)
He stresses mixing it up, body weight exercises such as chin-ups can be very effective in creating strength and endurance.
Same thing with push-ups, crunches, planks and other forms of exercise that utilize gravity and your own body weight; these same exercises become easier as you become lighter so this is an added boost to stick to the diet.
Next he recommends when you do go to the gym, vary the routine.
He recommends three splits a week instead of exercising each muscle group once a week.
The most I can do is two splits since Boot Camp keeps me fairly well tapped out three days a week and spinning wrecks me on Sunday.
In the gym, high reps low weights, then moderate reps with moderate weight and then low reps with the really big guys; varying the activity keeps the body guessing.
My question, how big is big; is seventy big enough or should you try to get to 80 and 100 on the heavy days; me I am stuck at seventy or seventy-five on heavy days and that is with a strong following wind.
I personally don’t believe you can ever do enough crunches but then you will cause an imbalance with the back muscles and this is where the dead lift comes into play.
This is supposedly the Master exercise of all exercises.
You need to use feet, legs, (quads and hamstrings), arms, shoulders, hands, forearms, hips, abdomen, neck, shoulders and even the lowly platysma.
For some reason this exercise takes your breath away, not like a spectacular sunset, but like I can’t breathe, pillow over your face, drowning, kind of shortness of breath.
I think it has to do with all of the muscles especially the accessory muscles being recruited to lift the weight off the ground ten or fifteen times.
These are the same muscles that keep air moving in and out of the lungs.
Thus if they are lifting weight they can’t very we’ll breathe.
But if you keep it up, you will get better assuming you don’t pass out and crush yourself.
I was watching a youngster dead lift 415 pounds.
I don’t think I could roll 415 pounds but I will keep trying.
When I weighed in excess of 250 pounds I could barely lift 5 pounds, so the paradox, as my weight approaches 168 (still a ways to go) I can now lift over 160 pounds.
So maybe if I get to 100 pounds I’ll be able to lift 300.
Makes sense to me.
Wonder what Mr. Kampen would have to say about that?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

An Escape Plan

I exercise almost every day.
I feel better than I have felt in the past 25 years.
But then last night, sitting with a group of friends at a restaurant, I listened to the issues of aging and aged friends and relatives.
That is going to be me, I thought, I will be 80 in the short span of 17 years.
What is my future going to look like?
Are there escape routes?
How long can one defer the fragility of growing old with exercise and diet?
How long can faculties be held together with vigorous activity and Sudoku puzzles?
I was thinking about this as they delivered my Rigatoni Lucchese.
I ate the white beans and the few pieces of chicken, but the “guilty” pasta, I stirred it around in the tomato broth as I absentmindedly let a thought materialize, “we need a pre-formulated escape plan; it has to involve bicycles (maybe motorcycles), long road trips and possibly tents with survival gear”.
I could already feel the wind blowing over my “bald wrinkled scalp” as the caravan sped toward destinations not thought of by many octogenarians.
(Tierra del Fuego, the vast Australian Outback, the trans-Canadian highway, the route of the Orient Express, all by bicycle)
Everyone looked at me, wondering what strange paths my mind had wandered down but then as recognition began to dawn, someone else agreed, “We do need an escape route”.
“I would just as soon exit this mortal coil on a high plain in the mountains or beside an ocean”.
What a poetic way to say, “Sure beats a hospital bed or extended care facility”.
The real question, can it happen”?
The “starvation diet part” is easy, go on a calorie restricted diet, eat healthy and you will live longer according to most studies.
Cardio and weight training every day lead to longer lives according to most studies and have a very positive effect on brain function and brain cell renewal.
Do all three on a routine basis and who knows, possibly long term health?
Next leave the possessions to posterity and hope to carry enough aspirin or acetaminophen to ease the pains of the journey.
The one thing I haven’t totally figured out is how to stay in “touch” with the kids and grandkids
Unfortunately I think the wandering life might affect your outlook, attitude and appearance so you may be less welcome at the Thanksgiving table or the Christmas dinner since homeless may be a better descriptor than adventurer.
Maybe frequent Skype Wi-Fi video calls could be the answer (Skype Video Phones are available).
Also the spouse may not buy into this adventuring, making the decision even more difficult.
But in the end, the search for empty spaces and transcendent meditation should make all “boomers” consider the road less traveled.
Finally, if you exit while on the road, be happy, you will re-“cycle” faster just like in Spin class, “Everybody up and keep the pace”.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Sometimes Lie

Wow! What a statement.
Spinning Class 4/14/2010, two extra bikes so tonight I get to play.
The trainer trusts that I will give it my all and put the tension where I am challenged.
Anybody can ride for an hour with no resistance.
I have grown to trust the trainer who by the way is the timer, she lets us know how far we have to go, sets the pace and pushes us to our limits if we are trustworthy in our effort.
This trust thing goes all across the exercise spectrum, (i.e.) “Hey, I’ll spot you” and then as the muscles fail the weight comes crashing down bouncing off of the chest or the floor and the statement, “Man I have always wanted to see acute muscular failure”.
So tell me that before I bounce a weight off of my chest.
You can bet I will never trust that spot again.
So tonight, “One more minute and we are finished, everyone up and give it your all.”
The minute ends and the statement, “Really we have three more minutes; I guess sometimes I lie”.
Don’t say it is so.
I have placed you on a pedestal beyond mere humans and you are telling me you sometimes lie.
Well I will rationalize this one for you. Sometimes you have to lie because you can see that we are like Pavlov’s Dogs and begin coasting thirty seconds before the end; the mental bell has gone off.
But here is a better suggestion, I know for a fact that the count is always more than stated, I know the minute turns in one and one half or two and there really is no end as there is always one more set of heel punches or at least one more set of side planks.
So don’t say, “I sometimes lie” instead say, “you certainly didn’t hear that from me”!
Who in their right mind will ever question that, at least out loud?

That Was Then This Is Now

Last week may have been one of the best “feeling” weeks in my life.
I had energy.
In fact I was exploding with energy.
Boot Camp was fun, the music was great, the running was “easy” almost a “lope”.
The Stair Master was my friend; the weights just didn’t seem all that heavy.
I was “eating clean” the whole week. No fat enriched snacks, no extra helping of anything except for three large bowls of cooked spinach on Wednesday.
No red meat, only fish and four ounces of chicken with large amounts of L-Glutamine in between and whey protein shakes.
The brain and the muscles were on “fire” or as “on fire” as a sixty three year old muscles and brains can be on fire.
To the younger set it may have looked like smoldering rags, but to me, I was at the top of my game.
Even the trainer commented on it but attributed it to mental instability.
What a great way to feel; I didn’t want to let it go.
Then the reality of Mexican Friday, wedding Saturday, too much Tai Sunday and suddenly as if someone turned off the power, it was gone.
It hasn’t been the same this week.
My steps are slower and the Stair Master is no longer friend.
The “fire” is now just smoking embers and I think more about sleep.
I am clean again but it takes a few weeks to get “starved down”.
Each week I re-commit to the new lifestyle and even went so far as to look up foods that have a low glycemic index (less than zero is better) and high anti-inflammatory properties (closer to one thousand is ideal).
I come up with the following menu:
Breakfast: One scrambled egg (whites only) smothered in Salsa or one half cup of oatmeal.
Mid day snack: Protein Bar or Go Lean cereal, 12 grams of protein and lots of fiber
Lunch: Bag-o-tuna smothered in Salsa with pickled beets or even more desirable asparagus.
Mid afternoon snap: Hand full of Almonds or possibly 12 to 20 Blackberries (no sweetener)
Dinner: 4 ounces of Salmon or a Black Bean Burger, Brussels sprouts or spinach and 3 to 4 ounces of Red Wine preferably Merlot or Pinot Noir.
The next thing I need to remember, leave the caffeine behind and hydrate with water all day long.
I am wondering, can I can finally stick to the above diet or something very close and achieve my goal weight of 168 pounds or is it only the “dream” of an aging mind that is not quite, as “on fire” as it believes it is?
Oh, could you please pass the chicken fried steak?