Friday, April 30, 2010
I fixed a hole my kayak tore in my wetsuit last night. Well, technically, it was my doing; the kayak didn't bite me on it's own, but to phrase it that way would suggest incompetence on my part, so I prefer to transfer the blame.
Anyway, if you've never patched a wetsuit, the best way to do it is with this stuff called neoprene cement, a "very tough and flexible solvent-based contact cement made by mixing chloroprene resin with solvents and other chemicals." In other words, "nasty shit." You paint the tear and wait 10 minutes, then you stick the two sides of the tear together and they fuse. I'm not a chemist, but it appears that the cement actually melts the neoprene. The process smells terrible and it completely ruins the rubber gloves I wear when I do it, so I can't imagine how my skin would react.
I tell you this because, for all its stoke and spiritualism, surfing is nasty environmentally, from the fiberglass, polyurethane and resin board to the neoprene wetsuit, we're all basically just a bunch of little, self-contained oil spills floating out in the ocean.
Thankfully, there are right souls trying to make boards in more environmentally benign ways, such as using recycled foam, but this stuff is pretty much being done by small, struggling companies. If you read the Los Angeles Times article I've linked to, you'll see the boards made this way cost more and surfers tend not to want to make every day Earth Day when it means shelling out a couple extra bucks.
And yet, Ripcurl, a surf company so huge that even the most landlocked of landlubbers knows it well, has seen fit to come out with a new $1000 wetsuit they think might catch on. And because all that neoprene isn't toxic enough, they've figured out a way of making it battery-operated.
That's correct, the new Ripcurl H-Bomb is a heated wetsuit that features a titanium-lined warming panel that requires two 7.4-volt lithium-ion batteries.
This pisses me off something fierce. First off, despite not being the manliest sardine in the tin, I've still surfed all kinds of super-cold conditions, including Norther California and Southern Australia winters. And I did just fine. Do you know how people surfed those waters pre-wetsuit? They'd wear wool sweaters and set up bonfires on the beach, going out into the water in quick blasts and then warming themselves by the fire. They did just fine too.
As far as I'm concerned, if you need to take a heater into the water with you, you're a pansy and you have no business surfing.
Second, as I stated above, in this day and age, should we really be inventing leisure produces that burn more fossil fuels and create more toxic waste?
Body Glove announced an environmentally-friendly wetsuit a couple years ago called the Biostretch which replaces the neoprene with "non-petroluem bio-stretch rubber" which is apparently made from limestone. They also use recycled zippers and go for about $400. Next time I need a suit, I think that'll be my choice. I'll man-up and endure the cold, saving the planet - not to mention $600 - in the process.
via Wired and Treehugger
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
This week, Brazil's Minister of Health Jose Gomes Temporao raised eyebrows - and potentially a few other body parts - by suggesting that Brazilians needed to fight the country's rising obesity issue by having more sex. "It's not a joke, I'm serious. Getting physical exercise regularly also means having sex, obviously protected sex," Temporao said, imploring his people to dance the horizontal samba at least five times a week.
If your domestic situation is anything like mine, your initial reaction is, "Easy for you to say, jackass." After that, you might start to question if multiple, weekly bada-bings would really provide that much cardiovascular benefit. ABC News asked the question and this is what they got:
"You're not going to get the same [physical health] benefit as going out for a two-mile jog," said Dr. Jamie Feldman, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.
Looking at the standard unit of exercise called METs (metabolic units), Feldman said sexual activity ranges from 2 METs to 3 or 4 METs during orgasm. That's on par with walking at 2 miles per hour on level ground. By comparison, a leisurely bike ride clocks in at 6-7 METs.
Of course, Feldman wasn't considering, ahem, the way I take care of business when making this assertion, but still, it probably holds true for most people. And while sex has an assortment of other physiological, intellectual and emotional benefits, it's pretty silly for a government talking head to come out with a suggestion like this for the simple reason that if you're in a relationship where you're having sex to fulfill your need for exercise, that's one messed-up relationship.
Of course, Temporao's mention of a condom suggests that perhaps he wasn't thinking in a relationship context. Oh, those smutty Brazilians! First the thong, then the Lambada, and now this! Disgusting!
If you'll excuse me now, I have to call my travel agent.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Thanks to an initiative initially initiated by New York City, 16 food companies (and I use the word "food" liberally) have agreed to cut salt in their foods. These companies include Heinz, Kraft and Starbucks. From AP:
Mark Broadhurst, director of corporate affairs for Mars Foods, said the company would cut the salt in its Uncle Ben's flavored rice products by 25 percent over five years.Before you nominate anyone for a Nobel Prize, keep a few things in mind. First, that quote from Broadhurst is ridiculous and he should be totally embarrassed. Second, there's been growing pressure on the FDA to regulate salt as an additive for years, so my bet is that this is a preemptive move to take a little heat off. From the New York Times:
"When it comes to reducing sodium, if you can make it here you can make it anywhere," Broadhurst said.
Lanette Kovachi, corporate dietitian for Subway, said the sandwich chain has already cut sodium by 30 percent in its European outlets and is working on reducing salt in its U.S. restaurants.
"We're actively working with our food suppliers to reduce sodium in all of our menu items," she said.
Heinz had announced that the company would reduce sodium by 15 percent in all the ketchup it sells in the U.S. starting May 1.
Now the nation’s largest doctors’ group, the American Medical Association, is going after the government and the food industry to reduce what it sees as a persistently high level of salt in many processed foods.
Specifically, the medical association, which had never before called for regulation of a food ingredient, asked the F.D.A. to revoke salt’s long-time status as a substance that is “generally recognized as safe,” a classification that warrants little oversight. Instead, the F.D.A. should regulate salt as a food additive, the medical group said.
Also, as much as it's great they're cutting the salt, it's really not a case of making a bad thing into a good thing. It's more about making a bad thing into a slightly less bad thing. For example, Uncle Ben's Country Inn Chicken Rice has 940mg of sodium per serving. That's 38% the RDA. So if they cut it by 25%, that's still 704mg per serving, which is 28% the RDA. Makes me thirsty just typing that.
But still, it's great and hats off to them or whatever. A big, collective pat on the ass to you. Yet, here's the thing that kills me. The salt companies, represented by a group called The Salt Institute, aren't taking the reduction lying down. From that AP article:
"The Italians eat about 40 percent more sodium than Americans, yet they have better cardiovascular health than Americans," Roman said. "So it's not the sodium. It's an overall diet high in fruits and vegetables."
I know, I know. You're asking, "What the hell is this crazy broad talking about?" I did a little research and discovered that the salt industry has a habit of disseminating dodgy science, as evidenced in this Washington Post column, which talks about how the Journal of the College of Nutrition "published a supplement that contained articles questioning the scientific basis for this longstanding recommendation" to reduce sodium, but neglected to mention that all the scientists contributing to the supplement had been handpicked by the salt industry. With this in mind, you should take Ms. Roman's Italian fact with, ahem, a grain of salt.
I then checked out the Salt Institute's website, which is awesome. According to the information within, you'd think that life itself would grind to a halt without salt -- which is technically true, but still, they don't need to be so self-aggrandizing about it.
Anyway, my point is that I don't understand this reaction from Big Salt. Don't they get that this move will probably, in the long run, benefit them? And it's not like tobacco or refined sugar, where we might, in a perfect world, stop using it. It's salt! We need it to survive. And if we use less of it, we'll all probably add 20 years to our lives, thus using more cumulative salt then had we all died at 38 of a stroke.
Your industry is perfectly safe no matter what, so just relax, Big Salt, and go take a salt bath or whatever it is that rich salt people do.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Given we live in Couch Potato Nation, you'd think it'd be easy to talk just about anyone into taking a day off sometimes, but it's not. We seem to be all-or-none around these parts. Either we're 300 pounds and reaching for the remote control causes us to break into a heavy sweat, or we're body fat obsessed and 4-pack abs, as opposed to 6-pack abs, are viewed as a bitter failure.
That's why I think, for that second group, that the idea of a recovery day can be challenging, which is a damn shame, because a good day off is a vastly important tool in your fitness Swiss Army Knife. Exercise tears down muscles. Recovery builds them up. It's that simple. But what constitutes a recovery day? Should you do nothing at all, or will you benefit from a little light work to get the blood flowing? Dr. Gabe Mirkin, whose name rhythms with "firkin," has posted a great blog asking just that question and posting studies on both sides of the fence.
Research data comparing active and passive recovery are scant. I am amazed at how few quality studies are available to answer this question. New training methods are developed by athletes and coaches. Then when these athletes win competitions, scientists do studies to show why the new training methods are more effective. A recent report from The University of Western Australia shows that runners recover faster by taking a relaxed swimming workout 10 hours after high intensity interval running, rather than just resting (International Journal of Sports Medicine, January 2010). However, in another study, runners recovered strength and power faster aftr a marathon by resting for five days compared to those who ran slowly (Journal of Applied Physiology, December 1984).I found this to be a particularly fair and balanced bit of reporting, which is refreshing considering Dr. Firkin can be a bit fringe sometimes. For example, he recently reported that saturated fats may not be bad for you after all and... oh, wait a minute. I reported that too. Never mind.
Anyway, my take on the active v. passive rest day debate is that it depends entirely on the individual. I like to set one day aside a week with no planned exercise, but I also lead a pretty active life, so that day is usually filled with swimming, hiking, playing cornhole or riding bikes with my daughter. Hell, I don't even have basic cable and it only takes so long to read the Sunday Times, so my couch just doesn't see that much weekend action.
As long as it's clearly not breaking anything down and it feels right, I think whatever you do on your day off is on the right path.
photo: mjd-s @ Flickr
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
There are three reasons I love this guy. First, he's awesome. If he's bored on a weekend, he grabs a board and paddles between the Hawaiian Islands the same way you or I might walk the dog or grab some frozen yogurt. Second, he married volleyball player Gabrielle Reece, who I find to be the most beautiful woman in organized sports. Third, and most importantly, he's become an absolute legend and completely revolutionized wave riding without selling out. He's not technically a "pro surfer," meaning he doesn't compete on any tour, which is something I've always found antithetic to my chosen activity. Laird Hamilton just surfs.
If I've piqued your curiosity, the first thing you want to do is rent the movie Riding Giants, a documentary about this history of big wave surfing feature Laird and the many bad-asses that came before him. Once you've done that, check out Force of Nature: Mind, Body, Soul and, of course, Surfing, written by Laird and, presumably an uncredited, highly-stoked ghost writer.
The book is basically a primer on how to live like a surf god. While some it presumes that readers also live in an island paradise with no need to work, plenty of disposable income and a skeleton made of titanium, there's still plenty of great intel to be digested here.
Part one, "Mind," is a series of meditations and musings on positivity, goal setting and hard work. Daily inspiration stuff. Nothing too amazing. Again, it's easy to be stoked when life has stoked you back like this.
"Body," however, I found a little more interesting. I especially love how it opens.
"I look at my athletic career as the intersection of two lines on a graph. One shows my physical abilities, such as oxygen uptake and muscle density, either flattening or gradually declining. The other line shows the cerebral factors - maturity, judgment, experience, passion, perspective - continually rising, Where the two lines cross, I regard as my peak."Inspiring stuff for a man looking down the barrel of his 40th birthday.
This section also discusses his training techniques, some great exercises, nutrition (The man likes his espresso. Who knew?) and his "injury map," a fairly impressive chart of all the wounds he's overcome over the years, from the 134 stitches in his head to the Skilsaw through his thigh.
The "Soul" section points out that you can be the biggest athletic hellman on Earth, but what's the point if you don't enjoy it and make sure the people around you enjoy it as well? I also really like this passage:
"Your path is yours alone. And if that's the path less traveled, that's absolutely fine. The world doesn't need more conformists, The world needs more people who create and question and search. If you don't fit in, celebrate it, and then get ready to stand your ground. Our society has some rigid roles for people, and then you decide that you don't want to play the same game as everyone else, you might not get much support for your decision. Don't let that discourage you. The best way to find your path is to start with a dream and then refuse to listen to anyone else;s opinion about what you 'can' and 'can't; do in pursuit of that dream."The final section of the book, "Surfing" is basically just 46 pages of surfing porn. There's no point in me explaining this section here because if you know what I'm talking about, you'll love it. If not, skip it.
Steve and I talk about Laird sometimes. We both agree that he's incredible. Steve, however, thinks he can be a bit hippy-dippy, noting that Laird walks around barefoot as often as possible because he wants to absorb the energy caused by all the lightening bolts that hit the earth at any given time. At first blush, this does seem a little silly, but I buy it. Surfing is all about energy. When you ride a wave, you're not riding water, you're riding pulses of energy that started thousands of miles away and are now moving through you. It's only reasonable that a surf would seek that transference in other parts of his daily grind.
Due to my spinal injury, I've been beached for a while. And even though I spent the first 40 years of my life mostly barefoot or in sandals, I now need to wear joggers most of the time to inhibit back jarring. It sucks. I miss that energy flowing through my system. But I also take solace in the fact that Laird Hamilton once crushed his vertebrae when a jetski landed on him and he's back in the water. Soon, I will be too. In the meantime, I'll keep his book handy and, this weekend, I might take off my Nikes for a few minutes and feel the electricity.
Now I just need an American Express sponsorship and a smokin' hot volleyball player wife and I'll be all set.
Monday, April 19, 2010
A few weeks ago, The Real Fitness Nerd reported on a Princeton study indicating high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) caused weight gain more than table sugar.
One of you loyal fellow Fitness Nerds, the charming and on-the-ball michm, graciously pointed out a post over at the Nutrition Data blog tearing how Princeton presented their study into tiny pieces.
The authors are making a big deal out of the fact that rats given HFCS gained more weight than rats given sucrose. They don't mention that they actually had two groups of rats eating HFCS and only one of them gained more weight. The second HFCS group--which ate the same amount of HFCS as the first--gained exactly as much weight as the sucrose group (and, for the record, the same as a fourth group of mice that weren't given sucrose OR HFCS). You'd think that would deserve a comment.... and it goes on from there. If the Nutrition Data blog has even a hint of truth to it, it would appear that someone in the Ivy League was really bustin' to smack down HFCS and the truth wasn't going to get in the way.
But enough about HFCS. Let's talk about something far more interesting: Me. Do I feel a little embarrassed about reporting what appears to be anti-HFCS propaganda? Yeah, kinda. Maybe I need to be even more careful. I rarely believe what I read on the interwebs, but I tend to take press releases from credible institutions at face value. But I don't feel too bad about it, given this flip-flop proves a point I make a lot. You just can't pin down 99% of nutrition or fitness science because, as Dr. Who fans might put it, it's an incredibly big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff. Yes, I have my opinions about how things should be done, but I also operate on the assumption that my assumptions are partially assumed and therefore can be yanked out from under me at any moment like a corn-meal-coated carpet on a freshly waxed floor.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. Some science cannot be refuted. For example, if you eat enough steamed beets, a surprising assortment of bodily excretions will come out red. This I know, because it happened to me this weekend. I am living proof.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Given you're all fitness nerds, you probably already know that static stretching before exercise isn't the best way to warm up. In fact, it can actually lead to injury. But if you're interested in the "why" of this statement, The Associated Press has published a tidy little article on the topic.
When you stretch before exercising, your body may think it's at risk of being overstretched. It compensates by contracting and becoming more tense. That means you aren't able to move as fast or as freely, making you more likely to get hurt.The article goes on to compare the merits of active and static stretching. It also extols the virtues of yoga.
Static stretching simply forces the muscle being stretched to endure the pain of that stretch. With active stretches that work more muscles, the stretched muscles learn to extend while another group is working.
Those types of stretches are commonly used in yoga, which emphasizes how the body is aligned during stretches, not just flexibility. Many yoga poses involve the whole body and focus not only on stretching a particular muscle, but the ligaments, tendons and joints around it.
All that said, don't stop static stretching entirely. As the article indicates, there's a time and a place for all kinds of stretching. The exception to this is checkbook stretching, which the Internal Revenue Service made me do yesterday. You should never be forced to do that. Price of freedom? Whatever.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Loyal fitness nerds have probably figured out that we're big coffee advocates 'round these parts. In moderation, it's a delicious beverage with a host of benefits. Heck, you can even throw a little sugar and half-and-half in that first cup. A teaspoon of sugar is 15 calories. Two tablespoons of half-and-half equals 35 calories. That's 50 calories. Is it good for you? No, but if the rest of your diet is solid and you're not trying to lose weight, it's not a big deal.
When I was a lil' fitness nerd growing up in South Dakota, that's as crazy as coffee got. When we moved to Seattle, mochas and lattes came into the picture, but even those were rare and exotic at the time. Over the years, that's changed, though. We're now at the point where java drinks have become impossibly complex and caloric. Many coffee achievers consider a latte to be passe and asking them to drink their joe straight would be akin to asking a cake eater to choke down a handful of wheat instead.
With this little tirade in mind, I now ask you to check out Diets in Review.com's short list of the "4 Worst Coffee Drinks for Your Waistline." A Cosi Double Oh! Artic Mocha has 1210 calories and 240 grams of sugar. Boggles the mind, doesn't it?
Monday, April 12, 2010
Given the nature of athleticism, it stands to reason that what makes a legend most is performance. Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Lance Armstrong; these are the ones that will be remembered forever. Yet, at the end of the day, their perspective sports would have done just fine without them. True, occasionally an athlete such as Muhammad Ali or Billie Jean King progresses their sport for their race or gender, which is hugely important, but other than that, athletes ride fast, hit hard, throw fast. Sure, that's inspiring and all, but did it really change the world?
I mention this because George Nissen died last week at 96. In all honesty, I didn't know about him until I read his obituary. Have you heard of him? Even if not, you've had an up and down relationship with him your whole life. Nissen invented the trampoline.
From the Los Angeles Times:
In high school, Nissen was a gymnast and diver when he made the serendipitous visit to the circus. Watching the acrobats rebound, he wondered if the net could help him train for his sports, he later said.At first thought, the idea of trampolines is a little silly, but think of their impact -- and, no, I'm not talking about the Man Show's "Girls on Trampolines" segment. From their official use in Olympic sports to their use as fitness tool to the ability they have to exhaust any five-year-old in 45 minutes or less, they've changed the world.
An early prototype crafted from canvas and junkyard scraps gave way to his first usable model, developed in 1934 from strips of inner-tube rubber while he was a University of Iowa student.
His coach, Larry Griswold, and the school of engineering gave him an assist.
At a YMCA summer swimming camp, Nissen tested out the bouncer. When "nobody wanted to go swimming," he knew he was onto something, Nissen told Reuters news service in 2000.
So we all need to raise a protein shake to George Nissen. And tonight, when my bounced-out daughter goes to bed at a decent so that I can do my back rehab exercises in peace, I'll thank him again, because that's more useful to me than any home run or slam dunk ever was.
Friday, April 9, 2010
As expected, my beef with beef on Wednesday generated some healthy debate in the comments Fitness Nerd section. And as I went back-and-forth with you cats, I claimed that this blog isn't about espousing a specific dogma. It's about asking questions, challenging notions and generally cracking wise.
With that in mind, I guess I need to put my money where my typing fingers are and tell y'all about this study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicating that fruit and veggies aren't all that beneficial when it comes to battling the C word. From CNN:
Eating an additional 200 grams a day of fruits and vegetables (about two servings) resulted in only a 3 percent reduction of cancer risk, which was described as "very weak," according to the study published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
"This doesn't mean fruits and vegetables aren't important," said lead author Dr. Paolo Boffetta, the deputy director at the Tisch Cancer Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "They aren't the only factor. There is no one factor."
The results fly in the face of previous studies indicating produce could cut cancer rates by 20% to 30%. So there you go. Here's me, casting doubt on fruit. Happy?
All that said, fruit still provides a vast array of health benefits and I still love the stuff. Frankly, it's provided me far more well-being and happiness over the years than any woman I've ever met (with the exception of my mom, of course). Yes, that may be a little sad, but it is what it is and I accept it. Maybe I was just born too late. Perhaps if I had been around in the 1940s, I would have dated Carmen Miranda and been very happy.
But I don't know how Mother would have felt about that.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
In January, I reported on a study out of Harvard indicating that perhaps saturated fat wasn't so bad after all. Well, hold on a second before you tuck into that blue cheese Big Mac. While saturated fat may still be vindicated, it looks like the naturally occurring trans fat in cow and sheep products may be problematic.
For those of you who weren't aware of naturally occurring trans fats, they're created in the rumens of cows and sheep and are passed on to their meat and milk. Two things that bother me about this are 1) it's trans fat and 2) it serves as a grim reminder that anything cow-related that you eat passed, at some point, through its several stomachs. Gross.
But I digress. Long story short, researchers out of VU University in Amsterdam reviewed several studies looking at trans fatty acids in their various forms and discovered that, regardless of origin, they still appeared to tweak cholesterol.
Based on this overview we speculate that all fatty acids with one or more bonds in the trans configuration raise the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol irrespective of their origin or structure. Thus, our results provide an additional argument besides the high content of saturated fatty acids to lower the intake of ruminant animal fats.I'm completely fascinated to hear how Atkins and paleo supporters are going to respond to this. They've put a lot of energy into vilifying trans fat instead of sat fat and now, ooops!
As far as I'm concerned, the only thing cows are good for is leather, but if we just used them for that, then we'd have a bunch of skinless cows walking around and that wouldn't be fun for anyone, especially the cows. You can't win.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Today, Wired proved me wrong. They've posted a bit called Headfirst Insanity: 6 Gnarly Helmetcam Videos and, yes, they are indeed gnarly. Here's one featuring a guy barreling his mountain bike through the slums of Rio.
Click here to see the rest of them, but make sure to pop a couple Dramamine first.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Well, I was wrong. In a recent study, a Princeton University research team led by psychology professor Bart Hoebel (or "Bart's Angels" as I call them) fed two sets of rats sucrose and HFCS. As it turns out, the corn syrup rats got much fatter.
The team have a couple theories as to why this happened. Here's the one I find most credible:
As a result of the manufacturing process for high-fructose corn syrup, the fructose molecules in the sweetener are free and unbound, ready for absorption and utilization. In contrast, every fructose molecule in sucrose that comes from cane sugar or beet sugar is bound to a corresponding glucose molecule and must go through an extra metabolic step before it can be utilized.This is both fascinating and terrifying. It's fascinating because I don't know how Natalie Portman, who I assume is the woman in front and on the left, has time to attend Princeton with her busy film career and all. It's terrifying because HFCS completely dominates the American diet. According to the Princeton press release, the average American eats 60 pounds of the stuff annually.
This creates a fascinating puzzle. The rats in the Princeton study became obese by drinking high-fructose corn syrup, but not by drinking sucrose. The critical differences in appetite, metabolism and gene expression that underlie this phenomenon are yet to be discovered, but may relate to the fact that excess fructose is being metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles.
So the next time you're about to drink a vial of syrupy orange liquid handed to you by a sexy grad student, make sure to ask what's sweetening it. Your hips will thank you.
Photo: Denise Applewhite (Seriously, this is the photo that Princeton wants the media to use.)