A Panacea for Improved Health

I have a neighbor who makes money off of his car. He carefully shops for an underpriced used one, then takes immaculate care of it, and then gets reimbursed by his employer at 50+ cents per mile.

I admire his fiscal discipline, but who wants to spend their weekend washing their car the way he does? One time he yelled at another neighbor who was washing the bottom 90% of her van. “You gotta start with the roof and work down!” Best comeback ever, “No one’s gonna see the top!” Blood pressure spike. And he routinely rips me for using the last bit of dirty water in the bucket to wash my wheels, but I tell him my goal is for my car to be 90% as clean as his in 10% of the time. And normally it is.

We’re all obsessive about something. One could argue I substitute exercise for car washing. Last week was pretty typical for April. Four runs for 28.7 total miles. Two swims for 6,000 meters and two bike rides for 90 miles. And an hour lifting weights. Total time, 11-12 hours. People like me tend to have a lot of fitness activity-based friendships and we often find the swimming, cycling, and running enjoyable in and of itself. We’d still go out and run, swim, and cycle even if there weren’t empirical health benefits tied to those activities. We’re lucky that our hobbies come with health benefits.

Some people no doubt think about my commitment to fitness the same way I think about people who obsess about the stock market’s every move and spend their days thinking, talking, and writing about money. There’s an opportunity cost to finance tunnel vision. Life passes by. Investing wisely is a means towards other more meaningful ends—like learning about other people’s interests and engaging with them.

Like extreme car washing, there’s a tipping point where a person’s fitness routine can detract from their physical, emotional, and spiritual health. That’s where “Doc Mike Evans” comes in. He asks a great question near the end of this high-speed informative whiteboard lecture—Can you limit your sleeping and sitting to just 23.5 hours a day? 

Like my quicker, more casual approach to car washing, Doc Evans explains how you can achieve most of my health benefits in much less time. Walk 20-30 minutes a day. Even better if you integrate walking as a means of transportation by living within a mile of your work, a grocery store, and other stores. And of course driving less is good for your pocketbook and the environment too.

Forget my approach of driving to the pool and overdoing it in the form of occasional marathons and triathlons*. Instead, as Doc Evans advises, walk 20-30 minutes a day and enjoy markedly improved mental and physical health.

Maybe you’re already a walker, but wish there were even more tangible health benefits. Evans explains how you can reap additional benefits by extending the time and distance of your daily walks. But since time is most people’s greatest obstacle, I suggest picking up the intensity by choosing more hilly routes. My running teammates probably get tired of me saying, “The hills are our friends.” When I don’t feel like exerting myself much, which is a lot of the time, I sometimes commit to a hilly route because hills force me to increase the intensity. As an added benefit, when I’m running up hill, my conservative Republican Nutter friends don’t have enough oxygen to complain about the current political scene. If you’re a Florida or Texas flatlander, move.

We expect complexity today, but this isn’t. If you want to enjoy an improved quality (and quantity) of life, take a ten minute walk sometime today. And then repeat tomorrow. And the next day. Extend it to twenty minutes next week. And repeat. Every day.

* This summer I’m going to be more family focused than last year. We’re looking forward to a fair number of visitors from afar, and at the end of the summer, launching Seventeen at a still-to-be-decided college. I’m #34 on the RAMROD waitlist which means I’ll definitely get in and Danny and I plan on running the Wonderland Trail in mid-August. I may throw in a few short/medium distance triathlons on unscheduled weekends. Or maybe I’ll just take a walk.

Betrothed and I walking

Amazing she’ll still hold hands with me after all these years

Killer Climbs—The Conclusion

There’s one more ride on the itinerary for tomorrow, the last day, but only one of the four of us that are remaining want to do it. I’m going for a run before we head home since I have a total of zero miles so far this week. In the sport of triathlon you “ride for show and run for dough.”

Today’s ride was from Lone Pine through the Alabama Hills and up Horseshoe Meadow Road 24 miles and 6,500′ to the end at 9,900′. There’s some YouTube vids of the road if the pics intrigue you. A large percentage of Western/Cowboy movies were filmed in the Alabama Hills. I worried all day that a massive line of Indians were about to crest the mountains above us.

We left at 6 a.m. to avoid the heat. At the top I had ridden 28.3 miles in 3:10 for a 9.0 mph average. With the return, and a shortcut back to the hotel, I rode 51.4 miles, in 4:11, with 7,008′ of elevation. The descent was not for those afraid of heights. The drops were in the thousands of feet. Truth be told, I was a bit spooked at times. All in all, a very nice exclamation point to a great week of training. My inner voices, for a change, were relatively quiet.

However, there was one inner convo that started with this question, “How can you provide your legion of readers a feel for what it’s like to climb these mothers?” Here’s what I came up with. Go to a fitness club or weight room with a leg press. Figure out your 85-90% max or what you can do about 12 times, working especially hard on the last four. For me it’s usually in the 180-200 pound vicinity. Then divide that weight in half and do slow reps for 30 minutes or divide it by two-thirds and do slow reps for an hour. Turn the heat way up, turn a fan on and don’t forget to wear a cycling helmet so you get a wee bit warmer. Now repeat six days in a row. Welcome to the team.

In related news, loosening my shoes and wrapping the damaged toe tightly with bandaids stemmed the damage I was doing to it on days one and two. Back is still fragile, but with some rest, it should be fine. After absorbing this intense segment of training, I will definitely graduate from “spring” to “summer” cycling shape. The next and final stage is “late summer” shape.

All in all, this past week of climbing was fun and a success. Thanks for coming along. We return to regular programming Monday.

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Killer Climbs—Day Two

Subtitle—Voices.

Laying in bed last night, the voice was one of my internal ones, “You really should run before riding, just like yesterday. Don’t be a loser, get up and put one foot in front of the other.” To which another of my internal ones countered, “Yeah, but what about my trip motto, ‘train, don’t strain’?”

Whenever I go to bed unsure of whether to get up and run at 5:45 a.m., I sleep a little late, lay in bed, and kick myself throughout the day for what coulda and shoulda been. Those are the days everyone is out running just to remind me that I’m a lowlife. In short, I have to totally commit and visualize it before knocking off. Go to bed all Mitt Romney flip-floppy-like and forget about it.

The ride was straightforward, climb a highway for 25 miles to South Lake. Total elevation, 5,800′. Then descend eight miles to a fork and climb for five or six more miles to Lake Sabrina. Why? Because it’s there and we drove for 20 hours to get here.

There I was 16 miles in, working my ass off, when I shifted a couple gears before standing and relieving my back. The small-ring shifter cable snapped and I was stuck in one gear. Done for the day. Since the big-ring shifter still worked fine, I had two gears, neither which I could even remotely climb in. I descended back into town and found Aerohead, an amazing hole in the wall bike shop, where Brian was waiting to repair my injured steed.

Most amazing shop experience evah. Brian had to work really hard to get the cable out and said I was almost “Completely f-ed.” Then he heard the deep squeaking noise my headset/bars have been making and said “That’s heinous.” Is that brilliant or what? Line of the day. He broke everything down, headset, fork, bars, pulled the steerer tube out and inspected it for cracks, cleaned and lubed everything and put it all back together. A craftsman. Total cost of everything, $17.69. Un-f-ing believable.

Returned to the hotel where the bed whispered, “Just lay down. Enjoy the piece and quiet of an empty room. Kick on the tube, watch some basketball, some golf, chilax.” The shower shouted, “Just hop in! Let me wash away your sunscreen, dust, dirt, salt, and fatigue. It will feel really good, promise.” I thought to myself, “Dammit, shut up! I should ride another two hours or maybe I should run.” Then the shower and bed teamed up. “Just hop in and then lay down.”

Character building run—totally exposed to the sun, warm, at elevation, partly uphill. Felt decent through 10 and like complete shit at 11. The days deets—30 mile ride in 2:04 for a 14.7mph average. 3,146′ of elevation, and a measly max of 42. 13.1 mile run in 1:47. 691′ of elevation, 8:08 pace, but don’t be fooled, I completely unraveled and entered “stick a fork in me” territory at 12. Stomach cramps prompted walking breaks.

A final voice. Again one of my own internal ones. “Who are you trying to fool? Can’t even ride for two hours and run for two, what makes you think you can ride for six and run for four? Why did you even sign up to go long? Moron. Poser. Sorry excuse of a triathlete.”

Too bad it’s not, swim, cycle, self flagellate.