Things I Learned at the Gym

 

  • Henry Rollins once said that the iron doesn’t lie. And he is correct.
  • The treadmill doesn’t lie either. You can’t lie to yourself about how fast you’re going or how hard you’re working. There is no stopping to look at something interesting, no stopping to take a sip of water. You either keep pace, or you fall on your face.
  • Most of the trainers I’ve met are nice people whose profession is helping people out. Of course they’d like you to be their client, but that’s business.
  • I’ve been complimented on my flexibility. It doesn’t matter whether or not you can lift 200 pounds if you can’t reach your shoelaces.
  • If you go to a gym, you will encounter a vast array of physical fitness levels (well, most places anyway). Remember that each one of them needs to be paying attention to their own workout; chances are they don’t care what you look like — and will only notice you if you’re clearly in trouble. They’re not laughing at you. They aren’t “miring” you.
  • There appears to be a small number of songs that will never go out of style as far as gym playlists are concerned. Iron Man is on that list.

On Yoga

I know exactly two true things about yoga:

  1. Any pose can be done better.
  2. The pose you hate most is the one you need most.

If I hear one more person misinterpret yoga as light stretching, I may just challenge them to get into some choice poses with me. It’s a better reaction than violence.

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And here’s a bonus cat picture.

Namaste.

Music Monday: In which I misuse Tom Petty

 

There’s been quite a lot of talk about, between, and across those that think vaccinations are wonderful lifesaving technology, and those that don’t. And for those who are saying “What’s the big deal? Measles are just a rash!” Roald Dahl has some words for you. Here’s one of the better summaries.

Let me briefly put my position out there: vaccines save lives; herd immunity saves the lives of those who are too young or sick for vaccines, as well as those for whom the vaccine didn’t work as well as it should. The risks associated with the currently available vaccines are tiny compared to the risks of being hit by lightning. Vegas is uncomfortably close to Disneyland, has its own supposedly unrelated case of measles, and 3 cases of whooping cough in one high school. All preventable.

Today’s latest round — politicians have waded into the fray. Should we then call it Measlesgate? Vaxgate? Maybe just Stupidgate. So the President went on the record as saying the sensible thing: “You should get your kids vaccinated.” The crowd that would argue about the American flag being Red White and Blue if the Kenyan Muslim Usurper President said so immediately swung into action! They couldn’t come out and say “No no no, vaccinations are dangerous,” because that would be too stupid. Instead, two people who want to run for President in 2016, Chris Christie and Rand Paul, said that parents should be able to make the choice for themselves about whether to vaccinate their kids. Dr. Dean is not amused.

Ok, let’s talk about parental choice and child safety. When it comes to keeping children safe, the law doesn’t allow certain choices. Parents aren’t allowed to choose whether to use a car seat for a baby, or whether their older children use seat belts. Parent’s aren’t allowed to choose to withhold medical care they don’t agree with in most states — even when the “child” is the one making the decision. We don’t let parents choose to do things that are known to put a child in danger (except let them play football, of course). The idea that parents should be able to choose to endanger their children (and those around them) is ludicrous.

In short, this is yet another argument where the facts just don’t support two sides to the issue.

In Closing: they hate us for our freedoms; Greece and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; yeah, that ain’t happening; no kidding; stereotypes; and Evangeline.

In honor of flu season…

Ok, so by now everyone knows that this year’s flu vaccine isn’t quite as effective as would be desirable. By the way, that’s because the flu virus changes (read: evolves!) quickly. There’s still a few things you can do to reduce your chance of getting the flu. One of the biggest things is almost free and you won’t even need a doctor: wash your hands regularly.

Hand washing — a controversial yet effective technique since 1846. I wish I didn’t have to point out that it’s a good habit.

In Closing: a few items about terror, the internet, and security; point, partially refuted.

 

Eat It

Today’s question:

Do you tend to order the same thing at restaurants? Or do you like to jump around the menu?

Answer: yes. It depends where I am. There are places where I just want the one or two things that I know are awesome. There are other places where I am busy trying new things. Remember, Vegas is a world class food city! Sorry, I don’t have much more to say about the issue than that.

In Closing: no regard for the Supreme Court; catching the cold; one Indiana lawmaker doesn’t think you should have a choice whether you raise a child with severe disabilities; cybersecurity; doing the same thing and expecting different results; finally somebody said it out loud.

Alkalinity

A couple months ago, I planned to go to the gym after class. However, I forgot my water bottle. So rather than go all the way back home to go to a gym down the street from the college, I stopped at a convenience store and bought a couple of the cheapest bottles of water they had. I didn’t realize at the time that I had purchased “alkalized water” that was “infused with negative ions.”

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Yeah, my chemistry professor — the one that studied with the Nobel laureate — had a good laugh about that.

I only used one bottle and the other ended up in the fridge, forgotten until I overheard someone say that alkaline water was so much better for you than regular water, would change the entire pH of your body, and improve your health.

Time for science. To the refrigerator!

So the first thing I wanted to do is see how stable this stuff is. Was it actually alkaline? After spending a couple months on the shelf, was it in fact still alkaline? Thankfully I own a pool test kit, so this was easy to check:

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Yup, pH of roughly 8.0, or close enough to it to not matter. At least this stuff is what the label says. This was a pleasant surprise.

But what about the health benefits? Or rather, are health benefits even possible? To answer that question, let’s look at what happens after you swallow this stuff.

First stop is your stomach, which is full of gastric acid: a blend of hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride, and salt. If you’ve ever been responsible for swimming pool maintenance, you know it doesn’t take a whole lot of acid to neutralize a whole bunch of somewhat alkaline water. In other words, odds are very good that this stuff is just-plain-water by the time it gets to the intestines. In fact, one of the few research studies I was able to find about alkaline water suggests that a pH of 8.8 would be needed to get any kind of results. Since pH is a logarithmic scale, you’d need water 8 times more alkaline than the stuff in this bottle according to the study. Oh, and before I forget, this study was done in test tubes, not people.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that some of this water makes it past the stomach, past the intestines, and into the blood. Your body has over 5 liters of blood, and this little bottle contains a half a liter. Human blood has a pH between 7.35 and 7.45. It can be hard to maintain a swimming pool pH between 7.2 and 7.6, yet your body maintains a range a quarter that size all day, all night, without you even thinking about it. And it’s bad news if the pH gets out of the normal range! Your body can regulate this with your kidneys, your lungs, and even with normal reversible chemical reactions within your blood. You’re alive, which is evidence that your body is very, very good at this.

So in conclusion: there is little evidence and no logic whatsoever to support alkaline water having any health benefits. And remember that like all bottled water, the stuff that comes out of your tap is better regulated.

In Closing: Moi aussi, je suis Charlie; point of view; more prisons than colleges.

On Good Habits

Today’s question:

Do you have any good habits that were hard to start but you’re happy you worked to build them?

Well yes, I have a lot of habits that were hard to start. For example, it was very hard to get started working out regularly. Sadly, it’s much more fun to hit the snooze button than to get up and sweat. It’s more fun to go out to breakfast than to go to yoga class when you’re starting. But you know what? I’m stronger and more flexible than I was the day I graduated high school.

I also had a hard time getting in the habit of keeping my nails polished. Let’s face reality, I’m not one of those naturally-girly girls but rather one who has to work at it. So finding the time to give myself a manicure (and a pedicure) is something I do in the name of feeling more feminine. Sure, I could pay somebody to make this happen, but this way it happens on my schedule.

So yes, good habits are worth developing.

In Closing: New antibiotic; calorie myths; a pound of fat a day; ok I promise my last weight link of the day; wasting no time. See everybody tomorrow.

Exercise is a Good Habit too

Did you know that regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight? You probably did. Did you also know it can prevent bone loss as you get older? Maybe you just don’t know how to get started without spending a lot of money on one of those exercise programs advertised on late night television.

Well, thank heaven that Google turns up a lot of good places you can start without necessarily buying a gym membership or some expensive videos. Just remember: whatever you do, keep doing something. Remember that this is a habit that’s going to take some time to do right (and even longer if you do it wrong). But all the research says it’s worth it.

Edit: Yet another study says exercise is good for you. Of course, If you started printing out these studies, you might go broke just buying paper.

In Closing: Ted is right; Schneier on doxing; sounds good to me; Mrs. Quimby would probably be in big trouble; the answer is blowing in the wind (and the sun too).

Ok, Let’s Talk about Food

You know what would be a really good habit for 2015? Eating a better diet. Most of us could stand to do better. Furthermore, the cold hard reality is that 2 out of every 3 Americans need to lose some weight; one out of three needs to lose a lot of weight.

There are a handful of diet and nutrition tips that the overwhelming majority of experts agree on:

  • Fruits and veggies are good for you and most of us could stand to be eating more of them. Deep fried veggies don’t count. Come on, even these guys agree on this much.
  • Water is one of the best things you can possibly drink; green tea comes in second.
  • If you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight (and that’s easy to do).
  • Too much refined sugar is not good for you.
  • Olive oil is pretty good stuff.

I’m going to close with what 2000 calories looks like and what 200 calories looks like. Oh yeah, and these guys may have some useful information (come on, the Food Pyramid was retired quite a while back). Whatever you decide to make for dinner, be safe.

Update! Here’s a “study” showing that fast food portion sizes haven’t actually changed that much between 1996 and 2013. Well, just based on this reporting of the “study”, I see at least two problems. First, much of the portion size creep started long long before 1996. Heck, I remember how the 20 oz. drink at Wendy’s seemed absolutely huge when I was a kid, and now I think they call that size a small. Second, the items that researchers compared included “2 oz. and 4 oz. cheeseburgers.” Well alert the media, 4 ounces is still 4 ounces. Never mind that these days, there may well be a 6 ounce and an 8 ounce burger on the menu! In short, it is possible to eat moderate portion sizes at a fast food restaurant, but you’re going to have to read all those little calorie count numbers carefully.

Hello 2015

Like many people, I was happy to see 2014 go and I’m looking forward to a great 2015. This is a time of year when many people are working on habits: getting rid of bad ones, starting good ones. As you can see from the nice banner at the side, I’ll be talking quite a bit about habits this month. Be sure to check out some of the other nice people who will be doing likewise.

Oh, don’t worry, I’ll be sure to talk about the economy and politics and the freakin NSA from time to time too!

My plan is to keep it short and sweet and useful. Let’s start with a little talk about goals. Yeah I know, I beat up on goals just last week. But here’s the thing: if you don’t try, you’ll never ever succeed. Even though what Mr. Venuto says about goals is tailored to a health and fitness community, the fact is that most of what he says can be applied to any goal — and that includes habit related goals!

In Closing: Health insurance does you no good if you can’t afford to use it; slowdown; the injustice system.