How Exercise Helps us Tolerate Pain

The NYTIMES ran a health article about this admittedly small sample research project today.

How Exercise Helps Tolerate Pain

I don’t need this study to include more than a meager sample of 12 to know it’s the truth.

At this point in my life I regularly engage in a level of exercise that pushes me right to the pain zone: mountain biking, backpacking, hiking, snowshoeing, or snow biking.

My wife tells other people, “Everything Tom does for sports has to have suffering in it”.
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It’s pretty simple. If I am going on a challenging hike, I want to experience it as easier that other activities that I have suffered through. For example, I’m headed up to Katahdin for a week of backpacking. I have prepared by carrying a mass of iron chain that pushes to weight in my back pack to 23 pounds. I train on steep trails, where I m pushing to 3.5 mph.

Hurting helps.

The Workout – Video

I really like the looks of this workout .  I plan to take some of the exercises and work it up.  Great time to do it right now, with the full bloom of summer in Maine beckoning me to be outside. I Don’t miss the YMCA gym at all! 

The Workout | Becoming Rocky Balboa – Video – NYTimes.com.–<  Open up the brief video!  I’m not sure we’d get such a crowd up here.

What’s Your “Fitness Age”? – 2014 version

The first “fitness calculator” I learned about was Dr. Oz’s Real Age.  It became popular several years ago.  Real Age is an online calculator that is based on the results of answering questions about 125 factors related to a person’s overall health, including health, feelings, diet, and fitness ( i.e., How often you eat fish versus red meat to exercise and sleep habits, asthma, smoking, aspirin use, cancer history, parental longevity, and conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.). I took it once but didn’t get too worked up over using it more than once, even though my ” real age” was about 10 years younger than my actual age.

Now there appears to be a much briefer method of determining your relative fitness that is based on just 5 factors.

This 2013 study, from the  Norwegian University of Science and Technology,  reveals a more efficient, low-tech means of precisely assessing how well your body functions physically. It culminated in each of the 5,000 participants in taking a treadmill test assessing peak oxygen intake (VO2 max), or how well the body delivers oxygen to its cells. From the study, “VO2 max has been shown in large-scale studies to closely correlate with significantly augmented life spans, even among the elderly or overweight. In other words, VO2 max can indicate fitness age.”

The real value of this study is it’s apparent ability to establish one’s own VO2 max without the cost and inconvenience of paying for the medical procedure.  The researchers found that  just five measurements — waist circumference; resting heart rate; frequency and intensity of exercise; age; and sex — into an algorithm allowed them to predict a person’s VO2 max with noteworthy accuracy, according to their study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

The researchers have used all of this data to create a free online calculator that allows you to determine your VO2 max without going to a lab. All you need to establish is your waist measurement and your resting heart rate.  You plug these numbers, along with your age, sex and frequency and intensity of exercise, into the calculator, and you’ll learn your fitness age.

From the NYTime article, “The results can be sobering. A 50-year-old man, for instance, who exercises moderately a few times a week, sports a 36-inch waist and a resting heart rate of 75 — not atypical values for healthy middle-aged men — will have a fitness age of 59. Thankfully, unwanted fitness years, unlike the chronological kind, can be erased, Dr. Wisloff says. Exercise more frequently or more intensely. Then replug your numbers and exult as your “age” declines. A youthful fitness age, Dr. Wisloff says, ‘is the single best predictor of current and future health’.”

I have been recording my heart rate on a daily basis for the past two months with an iPhone app called Cardiio .

Cardiio app on iPhone 5s

Cardiio app on iPhone 5s

While there are manual methods that don’t rely on a watch, the program’s charting features give you the ability to aggregate and share data. I  sent the summary results to my doctor, as I am concerned about my occasional heart rate drops into the high 30’s.  While heart rate is one of the five measurements in the Norwegian study that drove my “fitness age” to 38, I want to stick around to enjoy my fitness.

She referred me to a local sport-aware cardiologist for a screening after my own office EKG results were normal.  I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, I’m going to try and drop another inch off my waist line, continue hammering the backpacking and bicycling, and doing my TM twice daily, which I feel has resulted in a decreased resting heart rate after practicing it twice daily for 42 years.

What’s Your ‘Fitness Age’?. <<- click here for full New York Times article.

 

 

 

40 sticks of butter and the vitamin D blues

Here's hoping!

Here’s hoping!

Summer is not official yet, but already it’s easier to get out and do things-walk around in shorts, forget concerns about taking a jacket, and what about those extended hours of sunlight where walks and rides are possible after dinner ?

The good news is that I feel I’m in better shape this year.  I have more stamina for biking and hiking up hills even though I didn’t renew my YMCA  membership in the fall. Instead, I have reclaimed those same hours driving there and back and am engaging in more authentic, functional movement-walking, backpacking, bike riding, lifting logs and rocks, hauling wood around in a wheelbarrow, doing pull ups on a tree branch, digging in a garden plot, and now pushing a lawn mower.  I have also cut out french fries, and reduced my intake of bread.

I just had a mini-checkup at my doctor’s, where I heard good and bad news.

The good news is that I am a full 10 pounds lighter than usual as I am going into the summer-I like to visualize a pound of fat as 4 sticks of butter, which is not far from the truth. So It’s immensely rewarding to think of 40 sticks of butter shaved from my mass.

The bad news is that I continue to be deficient in Vitamin D.  I have been checking my level of D since 2012 when my mom alerted me that she was deficient, and she is outside all the time.  What’s particularly troubling is that I have been prescribed 50,000 units of D2 a week since December.
My readings, with treatment, have been decreasing the last 3 years:  4/12 = 34 ng/mL , 10/12 = 28, 10/13 23, 5/14 22.

My doctor has just ramped me up to 100,000 units weekly-two pills of 50,000 a week, via prescription.  She’s not as concerned as I am.  She feels that my other bio-markers are fine, and that all the backpacking and walking that I do are protective factors, particularly for osteoporosis.

Nevertheless, I have been doing my own research . I have learned that Vitamin D is fat soluble, and that its best to be taken with fat. I eat the same thing most every day for breakfast except Sunday. Low fat yogurt, blueberries, home-made granola-a bowl full that’s not heavy on fats and that’s the meal I’ve used for taking the D pill.  I have also cut out pouring half and half into my morning coffees.  I just switched to taking my vitamin D intake to correspond with my dinners, which include salads with olive oil-more fat.

I am also going expose my skin to sunlight, and plan to be outside in shorts and no shirt for a half-hour in the middle of the day, when I can. Research indicates that  going outside for 10 minutes in the midday sun—“in shorts and a tank top with no sunscreen”—exposes the body to radiation that produces approximately 10,000 international units of vitamin D.

Here’s hoping.

Anyone else out there who has been successful at raising their D levels, or not?

The Walking Man

Who is the walking man?

It’s me, it’s you, it’s everyone, as it has been for millions of years. But we don’t do much anymore, unless you live in a city, where parking spaces are sold to the highest bidder. People who live in rural areas walk the least, because we have to drive so far to get milk, drinks, or even a cup of coffee. I can walk a few miles to a rural convenience store from where I live in coastal Maine, but have to ford a couple of streams, and walk through a tangle of under and overgrowth on an abandoned town road to get there. If I want to head back home, there’s 400 vertical feet of ascending to do so. 99% of the time, I crank up a vehicle to get there.

But, you can’t deny the effectiveness of “the walk” to keep one’s weight down, prevent our range of motion from deteriorating, and from triggering our bodies into a mode that can ward off or even reverse prediabetic biomarkers, improve heart function, and reduce the negative effects of bad cholesterol and subsequent heart disease.

Here’s a story of a regular guy who turned things around by just walking—>>  The Walking Man ( from NYTimes)

It’s so much easier and safer to walk here now that the winter’s ice is gone. Maybe this story will inspire you, too.

Sky Blue Trail/ Camden Hills State Park

Sky Blue Trail/ Camden Hills State Park

 

Exercises to Strengthen Bones – NYTimes.com

 

Exercises to Strengthen Bones – NYTimes.com.

I’ve added three sessions of jumping into my weekly training for hiking and biking. Running works too, but I’ve had the cartilage removed from both knees, and at at around 200 pounds now, it’s a dumb option for me.   It’s easy for me to do this.  Just outside the house we have a short railroad tie retaining wall that’s a couple of feet high, with a crushed  rock landing zone below it.  It’s perfect to jump up on and then leap down from.  Ten times a session should do it.

Bicycling, walking, and apparently even weight lifting don’t help with reducing the inevitable effects of osteoporosis. Walking might work, but only if you push it.   You can’t make up for any bone loss as you age, but can prevent the rate of bone loss.   This is a topic that bears educating one’s self.

Today the men helped me

Today was a gift, however some serious pulling, pounding, and lifting were required to get at the treasure trove.  Since I have given up my decades-long YMCA gym membership this fall, the plan was to increase my outside “farm chores” in order to keep myself fit.  Today, I surpassed all my hopes that I could reach some degree of fitness, but needed three of my friends to make it happen.  They average out to about 75 years old, but these are no ordinary men.

Dave and Hank had helped me reconstruct the wood shed that had crashed to the ground during the winter of 2012-13.  Today Hank came back and we put the front trim boards on and then lifted and screwed down the metal roof.  Hank brought his tools, including the rechargeable drill.

Hank makes it happen

Hank makes it happen

We cleaned up that job in about an hour and a half.  I worked off the the tall ladder and walked on the roof. Hank worked off the shorter ladder. He’s 82!

While Hank and I worked on the roof, Dave and Gary began today’s firewood detail.
Gary is a master at felling trees.

Gary aims the fall

Gary aims the fall

His family farm in Warren goes back many generations. Since his retirement from his marine scientist position with the State of Maine, Gary has  amassed all the right tools for processing and transporting firewood. Gary was our main cutter today. Both Dave and I had to move quickly to keep up with him.  Here’s Gary, sharpening one of his saws with a Dremel attachment, powered by a quiet little Honda generator.

Gary is well prepared

Gary is well prepared

Dave put some serious miles on walking back and forth fueling the brush fire.

Dave stoking the brush pile

Dave stoking the brush pile

We took down an old stand of apple trees. Most were of the wood was diseased. I gave Dave several clear butt ends of apple wood that he’ll craft into bowls and spoons.  He’s a fine cabinetmaker, who has produced some remarkably detailed cabinetry and fine stringed musical instruments.

It was immensely satisfying working hard, and mostly wordlessly with these men today.
My Fitbit app on my 5s iPhone stayed in my pocket today, tracking my movement.  We worked for 4 hours and while I never strayed more than a couple hundred feet from my door today, the miles piled on.  Check this out!

Mileage, baby!

Mileage, baby!

I love these men, who graced me with their presence, and left me with a drying shelter for the cord of firewood that we worked up today.