My review of Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery

A couple of days ago,  I listened to  Terry Gross interview Kristi Ashwanden (you can  listen to “The Strange Science Behind the Big Business of Exercise Recovery”) .

Ms, Ashwanden has the goods.  She has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award as well as a state and national collegiate cycling champion as well as an elite cross-country skier with team Rossignol.

Christie was interviewed about her new book, Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery.

She discussed several of the main topics,  which included the overhydration wave, the rise of  electrolytes (think salt), a wide range of techniques to deal with inflammation, massage, icing vs hot packs, compression garments, infrared saunas, and most importantly sleep.

I was so impressed with the practical way she approached interview that I bought the book after I learned that no library in the state of Maine has it, yet.

Lately I’ve been reading more, resulting in being online less, two of of my goals for 2019. I read this book in two days and it fits with my own approach to recovery for the past five years (a hint of confirmation bias, perhaps?) .

This book is a solid response to the question, “Do any of these things really help with recovery?”

You can find out yourself, so I don’t want to put out any spoilers in this review but…after reading it,  I’m planning to rack up even more sleep, monitor my daily recovery with morning heart rate variability readings, continue to put in a hour or more of meditation a day, take my non-infrared saunas, reduce ibuprofen usage, make my own electrolyte drink, but most importantly listen to my body.

My traditional sauna is cranking 200 degrees right now. I’m in headed in to assist in recovery for my overstretched hamstring.

But I’m not about to overhydrate !

Game-day caffeine keeps the Portland Trail Blazers running

I’m a regular user of coffee, the legal drug that is associated with athletic performance enhancement.

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According to a Fitness Genes blog post (10/03/18- Dr. Haran Sivapalan),

reports suggest that around 74% of elite athletes use caffeine either before or during an event, and the majority of these seem to be endurance athletes. There’s good reason for this. Studies of cyclists, rowers, and runners show that caffeine can significantly prolong time to exhaustion, increase average power output and improve finishing times.  Caffeine works by blocking a receptor in the brain, called the adenosine receptor. It’s this action that explains how caffeine stimulates our nervous system and keeps us awake. Blocking adenosine is also thought to improve the recruitment of muscles, reduce our perceived effort during exercise and dampen our perceptions of pain, all of which help endurance exercise.

I’ve settled into a few morning cups- usually no more than three. In the late afternoon I’ll sometimes have another cup a half-hour before I head out on a mountain bike ride or a hike.   I’ve recently discovered that I can also enjoy an occasional espresso after dinner, with no disruptive effect on my sleep.

I’m what is known as a fast processor of caffeine.  It’s clear that caffeine isn’t an equal opportunity enhancer. The extent to which individuals experience performance benefits appears to vary according to how fast you metabolize caffeine. This, in turn, depends on your genes, particularly your CYP1A2 gene.

I’m a fast metabolizer of caffeine.  My Fitness Genes analysis indicates that I have the AA genotype for CYP1A2,  which results in an ability to break down caffeine more quickly.

In 2006, Dr. El-Sohemy and his colleagues published a study in JAMA showing that slow metabolizers had a heightened risk of heart attacks if they frequently drank coffee, compared to people who were genetically classified as fast caffeine metabolizers. The scientists theorized that the drug, which can constrict blood vessels, hung around and produced longer-lasting — and in this case undesirable — cardiac effects among the slow metabolizers.

“The fast metabolizers rode nearly 7 percent faster after they had downed the larger dose of caffeine compared to the placebo. The moderate metabolizers, by contrast, performed almost exactly the same whether they had received caffeine or a placebo.”

Clicking below will introduce you to learn how a peformance-based training program that includes coffee appears to keep at least one professional sports team on the run.

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The game-day caffeine routine keeps the Portland Trail Blazers, the NBA’s most well-traveled team, running

Uncle Tom’s Adventures in 2019: Part 2

I reached two fitness goals by the last day of 2018: riding my bikes 1,000 cumulative miles and also walking (via hiking or backpacking) 1,000 miles.

I have zero interest in indoor walking/running or biking, either in a gym or at home. After decades of continuous health club memberships, I walked away from my local YMCA in late September of 2013, due to my shifting preferences and awareness of what my heart ( literally) was telling me.  I needed to be outdoors more.  That fall I had returned from third thru-hike, amassing 2,500+ miles on the Continental Divide Trail. I was fully planning a return to my gym rat status, but all it took was for a single return session for me to change my long devotion to the gym.

For 2019, I plan to amass 2019 cumulative miles via foot, either hiking or biking.

Another goal on my list is to read 40 books this year. I “shelve” books to read and books that I’ve read and monitors my reading, with the help of the Goodreads app. It tracks my progress toward reaching my total book goal. I especially like the scan function which allows me to immediately scan ( via the app) a book’s barcode which links to the exact same info that appears in Amazon (also owns the Goodreads app). If I plan to read the book, I save it to my Want To Read list. So far I have read 3 books in Jan. I pretty pleased that one of them was the 557 page The Outsider, by Stephen King. I have it 4 stars, by the way, even though none of it included scene from Maine.

I’m here in Florida this week for 6 nights of camping with my older and closest friend Edward and his wife Jane. He’s here at Fort Wilderness Campground for a few months break from running his fruit and vegetable farm in MA.

I am becoming more familiar with my Seek Outside tipi. Is warm here but it sometimes rains hard, like it did last night, from around 2 in the morning until 9 am.  The 12 foot diameter span gives me a palace of a place here, with 6’10” of headroom in the center.

We are able to find leftover firewood that we have used every night to enjoy a warming fire.

I plan to get a lot of walking in while I am down here for a week. Yesterday , I logged 7 miles.

I finally decided to add yet another goal for 2019. It came to my attention through Alistair Humphreys, whose Microadventures book and website promote cultivating a mind that leads one to enjoy adventures that are likely right outside the back door, rather than thinking of and treating them as distant journeys, every one.

For 2019, I plan to sleep outside at least one night in every calendar month.  January ?  Check!

 

 

 

My 2018 Mileage Goals: MET ! YEAH !

Yesterday was one of my big days for 2018- the day when I finally  amassed 2000+ miles, balancing out half the miles on foot with the other half on one of my bikes.  Total hours spent hiking and biking was 506,  averaging one hour and 22 minutes a day.  I target about 75 minutes  of moderate to robust action a day.   If there are days where I am too tired to get out or I don’t feel up to it, I have to make up the time on another day, usually on the weekends.

Here are the Strava screenshots summarizing my achievements:

1,013 miles on foot
1,002 miles on a bicycle

Here’s a 2016 blog post about how I came to walk 1,000 miles in Maine a couple of years ago.

Some things that helped me meet my goals:

a)  I was injury free this year.  No crashes on my bike, where 95% of my bike miles are off road!  It is to the point now that if I get thrown off the bike, onto one of my bad shoulders, I’m a month off the bike.

b)  I was in good health all year, avoiding even a cold.

c)  I use a 2 minute daily heart rate variability measurement upon awakening every morning.  These days I’m using the Elite HRV App on my iPhone.  I’ve also switched from putting a cold heart rate chest strap to a CorSense heart rate variability sensor.

Here’s a blog post bout how I use the daily reading to gauge my recovery status, which guides how hard I plan to work out on any particular day.

d)  Get social.  According to Strava’s analysis of factors that contribute to increased time spent engaging in physical activity, there are just two factors that lead to increased activity and help athletes stay active longer: goal setting and working out with someone.  Read more about that here.

I’m strongly motivated by riding or hiking in a group.

Sunday morning with The Bubbas in the Woods.  A fine congregation !

Two to three times a week I ride with the Bubbas in the Woods, 33 members strong and riding year round on Midcoast Maine trails for the past 30+ years.

It’s pounding rain right now, with 2-3 ” predicted to wash away the foot of snow that has recently fallen here in the past week.  Maybe it will dry out enough so that I can fit in a ride in the woods Sunday morning.   I’m cruising into the last few days of 2018, feeling pretty smug but the way things turned out for me in 2018.

Consider getting friendly with a hiker or a hiker and give the 1,000 miles a year thing a go of it in 2018!

 

 

 

 

Endurance, Activity, Exertion: How Much ?

For the past several months I have been concerned that I have been pushing myself too hard and/or too long on my mountain bike rides. I’m 68. I started to become concerned when a younger guy I was riding with stopped for a rest after a tough climb that spiked both our heart rates.
He told me, “I ‘m going to rest a bit longer, my heart rate is way up, close to 155 [beats per minute]”.
Upon reaching the top of that hill my pulse was 168.
My realization at that moment was, “Wait, if this guy is concerned that he might need more rest, should I be?”

Thomaston Town Forest

When I’m out on trail, I often wear a chest strap heart rate monitor that is linked to my iPhone. My resting pulse rate ranges from 48 to 54 bpm. While I also wear a Fitbit on my wrist, it reads inaccurately at higher levels of exertion. I do use Fitbit to track steps and miles covered while biking or hiking.

Here’s a typical profile, obtained from some of the metrics that Strava offers to those of us wearing chest straps, etc.

Nov. 4, 2018 data from 25 mile ride in Acadia

I discussed these concerns with my doctor at my annual physical, who suggested that I consult with a cardiologist. My physician is a great doctor who admits to having no expertise as to fitness/aging heart rates. I asked around and got the name of a cardiologist in Portland who was reported to have experience in this area.
My MD made the referral and I eventually received a call fro the cardiologist’s secretary. She blocked me from seeing him, stating that the physician was an electro cardiologist who specializes in determining where an arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) is coming from. Doctors consult with him in determining if the patient needs medicine or procedures like a pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, cardiac ablation, or other surgeries. Consultations for my issue was not an efficient use of his time.
So, my doctor found me a different cardiologist that was able to see me right away. After reviewing my chart and administering an EKG, that physician told me that whatever I was doing should be continued, and that if anything, he’s recommend a low dose statin to reduce my LDL a bit. He buffered that recommendation due to my strong HDL level.

My 8/31/18 lipid panel results:

I recently reviewed discussion about LDL levels and statin usage in Medscape. Several articles appeared to challenge the recommendations that have essentially placed practically all aging male in the category of risk for heart attack that leads to statin prescriptions.

Here a study that perked my interest-Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review
“Our review provides the first comprehensive analysis of the literature about the association between LDL-C and mortality in the elderly. Since the main goal of prevention of disease is prolongation of life, all-cause mortality is the most important outcome, and is also the most easily defined outcome and least subject to bias. The cholesterol hypothesis predicts that LDL-C will be associated with increased all-cause and CV mortality. Our review has shown either a lack of an association or an inverse association between LDL-C and both all-cause and CV mortality. The cholesterol hypothesis seems to be in conflict with most of Bradford Hill’s criteria for causation, because of its lack of consistency, biological gradient and coherence. Our review provides the basis for more research about the cause of atherosclerosis and CVD and also for a re-evaluation of the guidelines for cardiovascular prevention, in particular because the benefits from statin treatment have been exaggerated.” https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e010401

A recent vision exam lead to further tests that were very useful to me in broadening my own investigation about my particular needs and risks. I have fairly good eyes, or I thought I did until my latest yearly check up with an ophthalmologist. My trusted ophthalmologist had retired this year, so I went with an individual who moved from New Jersey who took up the practice. His initial examination reveled some structural concerns in the posterior region of one of my eyes that suggested concerns about the connection to the optic nerve. He was concerned that I might be experiencing the initial stages of glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye, and is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60.
Four additional tests were ordered, one of which was a 30 minute carotid artery ultrasound scan of both sides of my neck, which displayed the results as live-action images on a monitor. The carotid ultrasound showed some age-related plaque but no significant narrowing. My doctor reported this as essentially a normal result and didn’t recommend any further follow-up. The other tests also ended up with normal results, ruling out glaucoma for the time being.

Bottom line: I plan to continue to keep up with my normal routine of 75-90 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily of hiking or off-road biking. I plan to continue to use 3 minutes of daily heart rate variability monitoring to gauge my state of recovery and adjust the day’s physical activity accordingly. There is a lot to be said about advocating for one’s self in the medical sphere these days, with a number of studies out there that lead to conflicting recommendations.

I’m Riding My Own Ride, so Don’t Diss Me!

Here is a 3D graphic clip of my most recent Sunday morning mountain bike ride at Ragged Mountain:
Clik it! —>>>https://www.relive.cc/view/1830659825

There are those folks who react to those of us who like to record and review our outdoor adventures by posting disparaging comments like,  “Just ride the damn thing!” ( Implying that it is unnecessary to gather and work with data from program such as Strava, or Fitbit) that might take a pointers from the backpacking community, where ” Hike your own hike! ” is a well-know slogan.  It translates to ” Do your own thing.”

Of course you can just ride !   You can also just walk and forgo the adoption of a technology such as a bicycle to get around in the woods.

It is motivating for me to set yearly performance goals, based on my own baselines. My goals for 2018 are amassing both 1,000 miles in riding my bike and another 1,000  in hiking.  Here’s how I am doing:

Recording rides and hikes keeps me on track- I am not guessing about whether I rode or hiked enough this week.

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Sunday morning members of some of The Bubbas in the Woods. A fine congregation to be part of!

Goal setting, along with cardiac monitoring through technology such as heart rate variability keeps me on track, and out of trouble,  as I age along the path. My yearly physical took place this past week, with the blood work, prostate results, and cardiac markers all very favorable.  Even my previously pathetic Vitamin D level skyrocketed into the outer limits.

Takeaway:

Public communication about fitness goals and progress is consistently supported by science!

When Walking Speed Matters

On 07/11/2018 I blogged:  I’m tired of Taking Crap from People for Walking Fast.   Myt post concluded that,  “In the end, it is important to recognize the value of walking at any intensity and pace, but if you are able and willing to pick up the pace, even for short bursts of faster walking or hill work, it will result in increased bang for the walking buck.”

Here are two more recent references related to why you might consider increasing your walking speed:

The first was from the (July 25, 2018) NY Times:

Exercise Makes the Aging Heart More Youthful

This particular health article notes specific benefits to the left ventricle and  coronary arteries found in Master’s athletes and individuals who have been regular and frequent exercisers for decades.

“For lifelong heart health, start exercising early in life and keep exercising often. But even if you have neglected to exercise and are now middle-aged, it is not too late.”

Similar benefits were replicated in a two year study that arrears to be solidly supported. Randomized groups were subjected to varying levels of frequency and intensity of exercise. They found that a sedentary group showed the usual effects of time, with heart muscles, particularly their left ventricles or chambers, shrunken and less powerful than in younger people.  The same changes were evident in casual exercisers. However, men and women who had exercised at least four times a week for years, or in those who were masters’ athletes had left ventricles that looked and functioned much like those of people decades younger.

I just finished reading Daniel G. Amen’s ” Memory Rescue: Supercharge Your Brain, Reverse Memory Loss, and Remember what matters Most

Amen is a bestselling neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and founder of the Amen Clinics.  He’s particularly interested in preserving and even increasing blood flow, which turns out to be advantageous for folks experiencing memory decline as well as  for individuals who re concerned about aging and fitness.

“The faster we walk as we age, the longer we live and the sharper we think.  An 80 year old person who walks 1 mile per hour has only a 10% chance of living until 90. But if that same 80 year old moves faster, say at 3.5 miles an hour, her or she has an 84% chance of reaching 90. (1)   As walking speed goes down, so do executive function and decision-making skills. If you haven’t walked at a faster pace for a long time, start slowly and work your way up safely.”

  1. Stephanie Studenski et al, “Gait Speed and Survival in Older Adults”, ” Journal of the American Medical Association 305, no.1, (Jan. 2011): 50-58

It should be noted that Amen’s  exercise recommendations for increasing blood flow include burst training ( intervals) , strength training, coordination activities, and mindful exercise.