My New Gym – Outdoors!

I was complaining to My friend  Frankie the Tax Dude  about my feet, back, and neck after I got back home from 5 months of backpacking the Continental Divide Trail.  Frankie recommended that I have a few sessions with William Armstrong, up to Belfast, ME .

Just three sessions with Bill did it for me. I  found his approach fresh and useful.  My neck problem is gone.  Bill also assisted me in making the switch from the gym to the outdoors as well.  I have been a gym rat for the past 40 years, but no more.  I can’t stand spending sweat time indoors when I can be outside, with trees, streams, and rocks around me.

With just a foam roller, a couple of solid rollers, two dumb bells, and an eight pound medicine ball , I’m good, even if it’s too miserable to get out.  I can use this stuff at home too, if I  am watching backpacking or music videos on the TV.  20140412-095635.jpg Bill also suggested specific exercises for me to try, garnered from a variety of sources.  I am now engaging in backpacking and biking specific routines.

Some of Bill’s simplest recommendations surprised me. For example, after 6 decades of wear and tear on my body, I assumed that one needs some assistance with balance.  Bill was observing me put on my socks after one of his sessions.  I had one hand out against a wall to keep myself steady on one leg as I aimed my other foot into my sock.  “Bad idea”, he said.

“Don’t hold onto anything, keep wobbling.”  Interesting.

Bill also suggested that I could make several adaptations while I was hiking outside.  For example, with the deep winter snows now almost gone, I am able to  go into the edges of the woods lining the road and do some things that helped me, like using a natural chinning bar.

Here is a map of my outdoor gym.  It is a three mile out and back ciruit, and gains some elevation going up Moody Mountain at the end point.  If I have enough time, I keep going to the saddle at the top, where I do a turn-around :

The path, out and back

The path, out and back

I found my chinning bar today!  It was not 10′ from the side of the road at the 1.1 mile mark. It’s   a maple limb, about 8 and a half  feet off the ground, just at the right height for me to stretch my arms over head and leap up  and hang off the ground.  I could only do two chin-ups , and hope to work up to 10.  Yeah!

Next, I’ll make a final selection of a big rock that I can jump up and down from.  Then a distance from that would be a slightly elevated rock that I can step up and down from.   I started jumping a couple of years ago, after I learned that non-impact sports like biking do nothing to keep our bones strong.  It’s a good thing to do to keep osteoporosis at bay.

Hikers! Lose weight, save $$$$ !!

from Outside magazine

from Outside magazine

Weight Loss for Athletic Performance | Nutrition | OutsideOnline.com  <–Click to read original Outside post

I’m actively trimming ounces of gear that lead to one less pound for my 2014 backpacking gear list.   While it’s a standard target for many backpackers to lessen the load they need to haul around, up, and down- I’m even more interested in keeping 15 pounds off my now reduced to 200-pound frame.

At the end of March last year,  I weighed in at 215.  It was less than a month before I was to step away from the Palomas, Mexico border crossing in New Mexico and walk some 2,500 miles over the Rockies to Canada.  I didn’t worry much about my weight, because I knew I’d lose lots of weight, even eating all the high calorie food I could carry.  By the 60th day, somewhere in Colorado, I stepped on the scales and I was down to 184. Pretty remarkable.  Thirty one pounds.

I like to visually imagine this weight thing, and default to a mental image of a pound of fat—-pound of butter, 4 sticks. Fat-butter, yes- they are pretty close in density.  Four times 31 equals 124 sticks of butter being trimmed off my body. Yikes!

I’m yo-yoed through this up and down weight thing before , as have most other folks.  This time I have been able to keep off those last 15 pound that I have said bye-bye to.  I was able to fit into a pair or size 34 pants when I came back to Maine from this last long hike.  I am really pleased to say I can still fit them, and would like to keep it that way.

Why?  Because I am now fitter than I have been in previous winters, even at any age.  I feel it climbing hills on my Pugsley bicycle, which I have been able to ride at least twice a week just about every week this winter.  I have good endurance on longer snowshoe expeditions, and winter hikes.

How have I kept the weight off?  Portion control.  I have always exercised enough, but my lower metabolic rate has always worked against me.  I have a new perspective- EXERCISING IS NOT ENOUGH  FOR ME TO DROP WEIGHT.

One of the factors that has correlated with staying 15 pounds lighter this winter is  not renewing my YMCA gym membership.  I’ve been a gym rat all my life,ever since high school.  No more.  It’s not logical, I just felt it wasn’t right anymore to drive 15 minutes down and then 15 minutes back to work out for an hour.  I stay outside and do things- walking biking, hiking.  I have even vowed to cut my own firewood, and haul and split it myself.

I do have a medicine ball, a stability ball, a set of dumb bells and a program of exercises that I can do in the house if the weather is really bad and I don’t feel like going out.  But it’s the last resort.

screenshot-2013-12-30-15-09-39

from Jordan Crook (@jordanrcrook)

I give some credit to the Fitbit app that I have on my iPhone 5s as a contributing factor to my weight loss.

It’s free from the App store.  If you own the 5s you no longer have to purchase the $100 wristband to use most of the features of the Fitbit app. Apple’s M7 chip — exclusive to the iPhone 5S (and new models of the iPads) — keeps track of a user’s movements and allows easy retrieval of that data without sacrificing battery life.   Just keeping the iPhone in my pocket allows me track all the motion of my body during the day, which automatically converts to steps, and miles. The app also allows for manual data entry about how many miles biked, etc.  The Fitbit app also allows me to enter everything I eat, and registers calories. It has a vast array of foods already calculated for entry.  Over time, I realized that there aren’t that many varieties of meals and snacks that I eat on a monthly basis- they can be entered and saved for really quick meal/ snack entry.  I like that I am prompted for consumption of a specified amount of daily water- in my case 64 oz.

Intake/ output food calorie is not new.  Ever hear of Weightwatchers?

It’s new for me, and it’s working so far.  Plus I’m saving money that I’d spend on getting those last few ounces off my back, by losing pounds off my stomach.

The 4-Minute Workout

First came The First Twenty Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds. $T2eC16NHJH!FFl4W1Rm(BRbs2B4DVQ~~_35  In her 2012 book, Reynolds made the case that 90% of the health effects from a session of exercise are gained in the first 20 minutes that we get moving.  It’s a worthwhile attempt to answer the question about just what extent and degree of exercise is optimal?  More exercise is better?  Not really, she says.

Reynolds’ research suggests that for recreationally-oriented individuals who do not have some over reaching goal such as completing a half-marathon or so, the best bang for your buck comes in that first twenty minutes, with only incremental improvement coming after that first 20 minutes.  Good news, huh?

Now,  20 minutes may be overkill, but only if you are willing to go all out.

Check out—->  The 4-Minute Workout – from NYTimes.com.

This new study whittles that 20 minute figure way down – to just four minutes .  The research examined the effects of a relatively large dose of high-intensity intervals on various measures of health and fitness.

There may be something to it.  However, one’s actual engagement in brief exercise is not a logical undertaking.  Otherwise, why are the majority of adult Americans now clinically overweight?  How many of us vow to get moving , and use those pants that someday we believe we can fit into again?

I think that the body unconsciously recoils against pain-  intense intervals hurt.  And evolutionary biology  has programmed pain avoidance into our consciousness.  In order to engage in repeated bouts of night intensity exercise, one needs to trick ourselves into changing up for a sweat fest, no matter how brief.  I’d like to see the long term research on one’s ability to maintain such a difficult, albeit brief road to fitness.

Thoughts?

Might As Well Jump

Aging athlete?

Hoping to avoid osteoporosis, possibly a hip fracture?

From the NY Times’ Gretchen Reynolds–>>Why High-Impact Exercise Is Good for Your Bones – NYTimes.com.

I have been a faithful member of a gym for decades. But, no more.  I didn’t renew my YMCA membership for 2014. After returning from backpacking 2,500 miles in 2013,  I experienced a turnaround of sorts.

I exercise outside now- either walking, snowshoeing, riding my bikes ( which I have been able to do all winter), or tending to “farm chores”, like harvesting and transporting wood. I also save $450 a year in gym fees. Driving twenty miles round trip to the gym to work out for 45 minutes makes no sense, when I can just walk out the door and get moving. Granted, there are days where it is just too cold or snowy to safely do something out there, so I keep a couple dumb bells and a stability ball around to take up the slack.

How’s it working for me? So far, really good.  I lost 27 pounds on the hike, and usually gained back weight within a few months of home food and reduced activity.  However, this time I’m still down 15 pounds.

I’ll post details about my home exercise program sometime. Bottom line is that I feel good and have adequate energy on my hikes and biking loops.

One of the regular exercises that I have added to my program is jumping up and down from stairs, or an elevated railroad tie that’s outside.

I decided to start jumping after reading a superb book, Daniel E. Lieberman’s The Story of the Human Body 41mMojkNh5L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Liberman is a evolutionary anthropologist at Harvard. He writes about “mismatch diseases” that are a product of the incompatibility of our evolutionary drives with modern society: heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, back problems, and osteoporosis.  Rates of osteoporosis are on the rise, a fact Lieberman attributes to declines in the physical activity necessary to build and maintain bone mass.

The guy is a genius, this is his territory, he’s mined it fully. Lieberman points out that while the roots of our tango with osteoporosis are already established, there are still things one can do to keep deterioration at bay.  For example, I had no idea that teenage inactivity results in smaller skeletal mass, which increases one’s risk of osteporosis later on.  Calcium supplementation may be one of the established procedures to fend off osteoporosis, however, it’s not often effective.

Any old exercise program won’t do.  Check out this alarming article: Are Cyclists Pedaling Towards Osteoporosis?  “People do not achieve peak bone mass until their late twenties, so if cyclists or swimmers are in their early or mid twenties, and they’re not doing any exercise that’s going to load their spine and help them achieve peak bone mass, they may be putting themselves at risk for a fracture.”

Might as well jump…..

Carey Kish: It’s time to step up to the 1,000-mile challenge | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

As part of a regimen for the 1,000-mile goal, include hiking time in Acadia National Park. With views like this, you’ll be invigorated in both body and mind. Carey Kish Photo

As part of a regimen for the 1,000-mile goal, include hiking time in Acadia National Park. With views like this, you’ll be invigorated in both body and mind.
Carey Kish Photo

Carey Kish’s idea is superb. I like the idea of setting a long term goal that requires bit of a stretch. Totally in the right direction, which is getting outside. It’s also Maine-based.

Hey, Carey, I’m on this bus! Maybe we can hike together sometime in this 2014 campaign. I vowed to stay close to home this year, and your plan is making me look forward to the next few months.
I’d like a third hike of the Hundred. Carey’s thru-hike of Baxter state park inspired me to do the same this coming August. And yes to Grafton Loop. Definitely will do a thru hike of the George’s Highland Path and all of Camden Hills State Park

Readers click here—>>Carey Kish: It’s time to step up to the 1,000-mile challenge | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Careful! Inter-Web Info may physically wreck you

I am not 70, but closing in.  I enjoy reading about health and aging.  This article from Outside magazine was right up my alley.  I am also a subscriber, so I trusted it would be useful.  It is- mostly, but there appears be a research mistake in one of the recommendations, and it’s possible that you’d be hurt or discouraged from continuing your program, if you were to follow it.

Here’s the article itself, and I suggest you click on the light right below,  read the article, and then come back:

Photo from Outside magazine

Photo from Outside magazine

Who will argue about strength training, eating right, and walking?
No one, however, the advice about strength training is possibly dangerous.
Specifically , “Nix that muscle atrophy with regular cardiovascular and strength training exercise. One study showed that a strength training regimen of 3 sets of 8 reps at 80 percent of your one rep maximum, performed three times a week, can not only improve strength, but also build back Type II muscle fiber, which can give you a more toned, less flabby look.”
I read the abstract for the study, and there’s something wrong.  It’s the one rep maximum as a reference point.  I’ve been lifting for 40 years.  Eighty percent of the maximum weight  is totally appropriate for 8 reps, but ONLY  if you are an experienced lifter.  Muscles resist cycling loads and get stronger, so really strong people need to push 80 % of their max , as much as 8 times,  if they are to grow in strength.

But, if a 70+ year old tries to lift  80% of their max single effort lift 8 times, to exhaustion, and not just once, but three times in a row, I see big trouble: either torn muscles, heart failure, or a desire to stay away from something so hard to do.

My recommendation is to drop those reps to three sets of  4, if you are an older athlete, and your bar weight is 80 % of your maximum single push or pull.

So, why did the 12 men in the study have such great results after 12 weeks?   I’d bet their “trainers”  were not pushing them hard enough when establishing those 1 rp maximum reps.  Their maximum efforts were not true maximums.

Anyone else out there agree?

Why is my Vitamin D level abysmal ?

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In preparing for a physical, I took a blood test this past week. I was also curious about my levels after spending 5 months backpacking.
I received a call from my doctor that indicated positive results in all bio markers with the exception of Vitamin D. The blood test for D was the 25(OH)D blood test.
The Vitamin D Council suggests that a level of 50 ng/ml is the ideal level to aim for. Mine is 23 !
The doctor’s office recommended that I immediately supplement 2,000 IU/ day. Cursory internet research suggests I need more. The Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D supplementation in order to reach and stay at this level.
The two main ways to get vitamin D are by exposing your bare skin to sunlight and by taking vitamin D supplements. Apparently you can’t get the right amount of vitamin D your body needs from food.
I should have been able to metabolize adequate D from my daily exposure to intense sunlight for 5 months (ultraviolet B rays). This should have happened very quickly, particularly in the summer.
The Vitamin D council suggests that you don’t need to tan or burn your skin to get vitamin D. You only need to expose your skin for around half the time it takes for your skin to turn pink and begin to burn.
I hiked through the summer when the light was lengthy, and it was my habit to hike in short sleeve shirt and shorts.
It appears that I will need to get vitamin D by taking supplements. Vitamin D3 is the best kind of supplement to take. It comes in a number of different forms, such as tablets and capsules, but it doesn’t matter what form you take, or what time of the day you take it.
This same problem surfaced after my 2010 Pacific Crest Trail hike, another 5 months stint where I bathed in sunlight 95 % of those 150 days. My doctor even had me take 50,000 unit doses once a week for a month. Only a meager increase was gained, I didn’t ever reach 30.
I do have some of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency ( tiredness and general aches and pains), but those are also consistent with the extreme demands of averaging 20 miles a day over 5 months. People who are deficient also have infections. I experienced a infected tooth on the Trail.

Cause for concern? Anyone out there with some wisdom in this area to impart ?

Help!