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Daily Archives: April 1, 2012

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From The Mouths of Babes

I received this email from my phone while I was out cutting the grass this morning:

My dad is the best!!

My daughter must have found my phone, figured out how to use the email feature, then typed the message and sent it.  Only a parent has a cheering section like that.

For those who fear for the future, she’s eight.  I’ve had the phone for 10 days – and it probably took me longer to figure out how to send an email on it.

My daughters will both be posting something here next weekend.  They asked this morning if it was OK.

 

UPDATE:  This month was a resounding success and a whole lot of fun in terms of fitness – I managed to sneak in 410 total miles (IN MARCH!!!), burned 23,500 calories and actually managed to gain 2 tenths of a pound.  It just doesn’t get much better than that.

Oh, and I had one of my typical, “OK, I’m just going to take it easy today, just concentrate on recovery” that turns into a 20 mph ride shortly after my front wheel touches the street.

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You Can Fix Lazy

The chance that this post raises some hackles is pretty good.  The topic is highly subjective and opinionated and attacking lazy is usually met with the tried and true, “but you haven’t walked a mile in my shoes” response – or excuse would probably be a more apt word.  The chance to be derided aside, because it’s never stopped me before, you can fix lazy when it comes to fitness.  There is one problem with the term “lazy”; it’s quite easy to come up with excuses to disprove the notion.  I have a day job, I have to take care of the kids, I have to do this, or that.  These excuses are too numerous to list. So let’s start out by banishing the term “lazy” right now.  I’ll simply refer to it as LIFE, or Lacking Intestinal Fortitude to Exercise.

The simple truth is anyone can find 30-45 minutes a day (3 per week minimum) to get out and move, it just has to be a priority – at least to start.  I can certainly understand not wanting to, especially in the winter when it’s cold and nasty outside, but there’s a big difference between “don’t want to” and “can’t”.  So how can one stay motivated to go out and run when it’s so cold that you’re forming icicles on your eyelashes within the first couple of miles?

A small part of the trick to fixing lazy is having goals.  I’ve got a couple of Centuries to ride (a metric and imperial), two or three Olympic Triathlons and a 10 Mile Run and if I want to be smiling at the finish line, I won’t be able to miss many training days – that’s actually gotten me out the door maybe twice where I’d have stayed home or cut my run short.  Don’t waste too much time forming and mapping the goals out though.  I’ve seen too many people spend all sorts of time on formulating plans, setting goals, making vision posters/collages, etc. only to find that they have no time to actually work toward the goal.  I like to plan the goals while I’m out running.

Another small part is a fear of getting old.  My dad has Alzheimer’s and I’ve read that the more active you are, the better and longer your life will be.  Now Alzheimer’s is said to not be an issue of heredity, I can only hope, but in the mean time I’m not going to be sitting on the couch worrying if it’s going to hit me or not.  In addition, I want to be one of those old farts still running at 80.  I really have no choice there – I promised I’d give my wife at least 60 years of marriage which would put me at 87 (and I think I can do better than that).  I don’t want to be a tired old man until I’m done.  My long term goal is to leave this world exhausted.  The more we exercise, the more we put off aging.

I have had for quite some time, a desire to not get fat.  I can think of a laundry list of things I hate about flabbiness but the thing that keeps me going is that being overweight is not necessary – getting or staying fat is a choice, once you boil all of the BS out.  The longer we allow the excuses get in the way of our freedom, the harder it is to leave them in the dust we kick up as we’re out running (or riding or mountain biking, walking, swimming, etc).

I liken staying fit and recovering from laziness to recovering from alcoholism as they’re alike in many ways.  The main likeness lies in the reality that there is a point where recovery is not so much work anymore – it becomes a way of life.  As far as alcoholism goes I am as recovered as you get.  I’ve been clean four times longer than I used, I work a program based on the principles of recovery and I’ve become a contributing member of society.  This doesn’t mean I can’t give all of that up in a fifth, plenty of us do that every day – I have to be vigilant and maintain this life to keep it.  Exercise (and recovery from laziness) is no different.  I have to maintain my fitness to keep it.  The trick with both is that at some point it wasn’t “work” any longer.  I began to need the good life, rather than the wreckage or laziness.  The hard part is sticking with it until we get to that point.  While being fit is fun and rewarding, getting there can really suck if the priorities aren’t right.  Now I wasn’t too far gone when I started running – 195 at 6′ tall, I was just “overweight” on the BMI chart, though I did have an ugly gut.  I also never looked back.  I was the same with drinking, once I was done, I was done – I’ve been straight ever since.  So what makes me so special, and why is it that I’m able to stick to these things when others struggle just to stay in the game?  I can tell you, the average for most treatment centers out there is maybe 10% make it more than 5 years.  The one I went to was a lot better – 85% that graduate made it 5 years, but I left early.  I walked out the door after only two months.  So what’s the difference between me and someone else who ends up relapsing all the time (in either fitness or recovery)?  It’s all about “getting done” as my buddy Dennis says.  When I decided that I wouldn’t get fat, I became done with doing that which would make me fat.  It took a lot of trial and error, it took some time, I made mistakes, but in the end I just refused to quit quitting.  Recovery was no differt.  When I was done, I was done.

So the question is, are you sitting on the fence, dabbling around the edges, or are you done?

Adapting To Temperatures…

Holy cats!  200 posts!  Sweet.

My friends have developed a hypothesis over the years of running in a wide range of temperatures.  Living in southeastern Michigan, we get it all – 90’s in the summer and 00’s in the winter.  Most of us only run outdoors and adapting to a swing of 90 degrees is not always easy – my first run at 75 degrees was tough, no matter how much I enjoyed finally being able to run in shorts and a t-shirt.  Even more difficult is adjusting from warm summer running to the cold of winter, usually some time in the middle of November.

The importance of hydration is number one in adjusting from cold to warm for me.  I can run anything up to a half marathon without so much as a swig of water in the late fall through early spring, but as soon as the temperature rises above 75, I’m carrying the H2O with me.  I can’t make it (comfortably) more than five or six miles without at least a bottle of water.  I used to horse through it, but find myself infinitely happier and faster if I carry some water with me.  Now I choose not to wear a hydration belt – I have a Nathan water bottle with a strap that I use.  It’s a pain to carry, but I’m a lot happier with it.  Either way, I always drop out on my first “hot” run of the year.  I accept it for what it is, by the second run I’m fine.

Adjusting from warm to cold sucks for me.  Going from t-shirt (or no shirt) and shorts to tights or track suits, jackets, gloves, hat and fleece – and that never-ending bite of the cold is never any fun.  I’ve written many times about my new cycling jacket being my favorite piece of winter running apparel (Specialized Element Jacket), this has been the first winter in the last ten that I was actually fairly “comfortable” through the winter – in fact, in the previous couple of years I ended up taking weeks off at a time.

Getting to our hypothesis though, there is a definite correlation to the rapidity with which we adjust and frequency in getting out.  In other words, the more we prolong the inevitable by skipping runs or full weeks, the longer it takes for us fully adjust to the seasons.  This is especially true for me when looking at the shift from summer and fall running to winter.  The more I run in the cold, the less the cold bothers me in day to day life.

Cycling seems to be a little different, though this is my first cycle through the seasons.  First of all, I’ve only ridden outside a couple of times when the temp dropped into the thirties – in fact, it was quite odd that I chose to ride yesterday.  I’m a 40 degrees and above cyclist, mainly because 36 is cold when you’re standing still – it’s brutal at 20 mph with no shelter (hats off to those who ride down into the teens).  I hate that my leg muscles feel so tight and won’t loosen up.  Also, I require a lot more water when riding in the colder temperatures.  I don’t really know why, it just is what it is and I don’t anticipate trying to figure out why.  The transition to warmer weather, in contrast, is a lot easier.  I’m sure this is due to the constant breeze created simply by riding.  In fact, I truly love riding when the temperatures top 90 degrees.  I have no problem heading out in the hottest part of the day for a nice long ride.  This year, with my body fat, BMI and weight down considerably year over year, will be even more enjoyable.  The love of the heat has been a longstanding oddity with me – nothing made me happier than taking a golf trip down to Florida to visit my dad in July and hitting the links at high noon (start after the morning rain and finish before the afternoon downpour).

In any event, today will be my busiest Sunday in quite a while.  I’ve got grass to cut, a back yard to clean up (we’ve got a 50′ maple in the back that sheds dead branches about the yard all winter long), a mid day 18 mile ride to attend to followed by the Sunday bowling league.  No rest for the wicked today.

Manscaping 101.

A few weeks ago I bought into the internet hype that all male cyclists, big and small, young and old, should shave their legs lest they be labeled a perpetual cycling noob for their egregious behavior in the eyes of their local club brethren.  About two days after succumbing to said hype I emailed our local cycle shop owner with the intention of finding out if this label was real or just hype.  God forbid, I’d hate to be labeled in perpetuity for a lack of respect for my newly beloved hobby.  Ah, if I’d only sent that email before I’d bothered to shave my “guns”, for he absolved all cycling noobs by proclaiming that the only people, at least locally, who shave their legs are the racers who compete at a regional or state level.  This certainly does not describe me, as I simply ride for enjoyment and fitness purposes – even if I do take this hobby of riding seriously.  I wrote about it here.

A comment on that post provided me with inspiration and the impetus to take said “manscaping”, even though I defined it minimally in that post, to a whole new level in an attempt to pass on to my fellow cyclists, nigh fellow men the world over, the inspiration and knowledge to keep oneself “high and tight”, without pulling out the razor lest one of us noobs accidentally shave off a nipple in the attempt to escape being labeled a social pariah in the cycling community.  The comment, provided by Kimberly of the fabulously interesting Powerofrun blog, is as follows:  “A lot of men could learn something here!”  Well Kimberly, in the interest of aiding in the betterment of my brothers everywhere, I will step up and provide a clear and concise step-by-step instructional guide of that which will allow us men to look fantastically handsome and well-groomed without having to pull out a razor on a daily basis to avoid having to deal with the itching that comes with it.

Now, it must be stated, I’ve given up on shaving my legs and am on day four of allowing my mane to grow back on those on which I ambulate.  The backs of my thighs itched so bad that it almost drove me to insanity on a daily basis and I’d had enough.  Now that I know I can avoid being shunned for the decision, not taking the extra five minutes in the shower will indubitably spare the State of Michigan from worries of a future water shortage, though I will be renewing my normal weekly trimming of said leg hair as it grows to a length that requires it.

In any event, if you want to avoid the Yeti look, and more of us should, here is a Rated PG instruction guide.

Daily

Shaving of the face daily is important.  The “five o’clock shadow” went out with Miami Vice, and looking like this is simply wrong:

As awesomely handsome as Matthew may be, this is two things… Lazy and ugly.

That’s all.  Just shave the mug – especially if your beard looks like this when it comes in.  Bald facial patches are nasty and make one look lazy, and considering how much time we spend on a bike to stay fit and look good (obviously not lazy), why would anyone want to look that crappy?  And here’s a quiz question – Why, in the name of all that is holy, would anyone take the time to shave one’s chest, but not the mug?

Weekly

The Neck Beard:  Every man grows a neck beard.  It’s the scruff that grows on the back of your neck below the hair-line.  That gets shaved once a week.  Period.  No if’s, and’s or buts about it.  Enlist the help of the significant other for this.  It takes 43 seconds.

Trimming of the nose hairs:  Folks, I hope I don’t have to point out that the photo to the left is just stupid.  You can’t – ever – substitute nose hair for a fu-manchu mustache.  There are several products on the market to aid in trimming said nose hair to an acceptable length (though this guy may actually need a gas-powered weed whacker at this point.  The appropriate length being anything that stays inside the nose.  Now there are some important facts to take into account here, about nose hair…  Number one is that it performs an actual function.  Some will use a nose hair trimmer than cuts said hair down to a nub.  I don’t use them (and really don’t care to look up yet one more site that shrieks about the horror of performing a simple grooming task while trying to transform society into a more nose hair friendly place for the sake of the human race – good God).  I use round tipped scissors.  This method isn’t perfect and requires a little bit of care so that one doesn’t slice one’s nasal cavity, but it does leave much of the stalk in place to do its job.

How to:  This requires all of three or four snips – front, back and both sides for each nostril.  It takes all of 32 seconds – total.

Ear Hair:  Here’s a blanket statement.  Ear hair, of any length, is simply not tolerable.  Period.  As you age, you will begin to grow hair in places that it doesn’t belong and lose hair in places where it does belong.  Just because this is a fact of life, it is simply not acceptable to let your ears turn into a forest in which you can lose small creatures – like a chihuahua.  Use the clippers or a nose hair trimmer.  I do not recommend a razor – there’s just too much that can go wrong there.

How to:  Clippers or trimmers – your ears are important, it may be wise to enlist your significant other to help.  If you’re the sorry fella on the left, you may just think about whacking them off and sewing some plastic ones on there.  Sheesh.

Uni-brow/Eye brows:  Now this goes for the ladies too, and if you do that stupid thing where you shave them off and then draw them back on with a pencil…  Holy crap, you can’t make that look good.  My favorite, of course, is the “surprised” look, where the penciled on brow arches towards the heavens to give the coloring artist a look of perpetual surprise.  That notwithstanding, keeping this to “man”scaping…  Uni-brows are bad.  Long bushy eyebrows are bad.  They are bad even if you’re Martin Scorsese.  Have your hair stylist trim and even them up every time you get your hair cut, in the mean time…

How to:  Take those round tipped scissors and with your pointer finger, push your eyebrows up so that any long stragglers stick out past the finger – whack them off.  Repeat for the other eyebrow.  Take a close look and make sure that you didn’t miss any.  If so, carefully isolate it and trim it down.  For the uni-brow I use a Gillette Fusion razor to shave with, it has a single small razor blade on the back that works fantastically for this task – just be careful.  One false move and you’re uneven.

Arm/Chest Hair:  Folks, long arm hair is socially acceptable (to an extent) and chest hair is normally not exactly visible unless one actually exercises in which case you’re parading around in a tank top or no shirt on a regular basis, worse still is the tight-fitting cycling jersey…  What you end up with is a nice tight shirt around the arms followed by, POOF, an explosion of hair – you can have skinny arms and by the time you’ve ridden five miles you’ll look like Popeye.  I’m not big on wasting a lot of time on the manscaping – I simply don’t have the patience, but I have been cursed with arm hair that will grow to a length of two inches if I let it.  I started trimming it about five years ago because I like driving with my arm on the window sill in the summer, and with long arm hair, I’d exit the car with one arm poofed and one arm laying flat.  It was hilarious and most decidedly not awesome:

A comb over on the arms is most definitely NOT OK

How to: I tame said jungle with a pair of clippers with a guard…  This way, I can trim the hair to any length I want, evenly and quickly.  Just be careful to A) Trim over the sink and clean the sink to avoid a significantly pissed off wife.  If you can’t keep the trimmings confined to the sink area, allowing for a 20 second clean up, stand on a towel.  It will come in handy in a minute anyway.  Total time (chest and arms both):  7-10 minutes

Leg Hair:  I’ve got leg hair under the “weekly” header, but really this can be done every other week – especially in the winter, if you trim short enough.  In fact, often it’s actually desirable twice weekly because the extra week will allow said leg hair to grow long enough to be picked up by the trimmers.  Now, while we cyclists may be safe from scorn if we choose not to shave the “guns”, we can be certain that we should not take unfair advantage of the niceness of our fellow carbon jockeys. Fortunately, so there is no doubt as to my meaning on this, I have photographic evidence to be submitted that will clear this up.  As you can see in the photo below…  Oh hell, I don’t even know where to start.

HOLY S#!T – This is WAY beyond acceptable!

Let’s just say this:  If you can braid your freaking leg hair, you seriously need to buck up and fix that – now.  C’mon man!  I almost have to believe that this was photo-shopped.  How is that even possible?  Well, we’ll just go with it.  This is absolutely unacceptable.  Not only must we respect ourselves, we must respect our feminine better half as well.  If that doesn’t work, face facts, if you show up in cycling shorts looking like that, you deserve to be shunned.  Sorry, but that’s gnarly.

How to: In this case, you could actually use to pay a hair stylist to fix that.  In less egregious situations, clippers with a guard will work just fine.  Start low and work up and make sure you at least go high enough to conceal anything you leave under the cycling shorts.  And for goodness sake, be careful and don’t miss a patch:  10-15 minutes for both legs

Monthly

Armpit hair.  I picked this one up from my sister, a hair stylist, who posited that allowing one’s armpit hair to grow to a length that sticks out of the crook between a lowered arm and the pectoral muscle, as if someone stuffed a squirrel under each arm allowing the tail to hang to the front.  This is terribly wrong:

Again, if you are a male and can braid any hair on your body, it’s too long.  Trim it.  You look goofy as hell.  The only acceptable braid length hair would be that attached directly to the cranium…and I say that’s even suspect, but it is what it is.

Finally, there are limits.  If you’re this guy, nothing can be done.  You’re just too damn hairy…  You noticed the lack of a neck beard though, didn’t ya.

UPDATE:  I almost forgot something that I must attend to on a regular basis!  My wife loves my long sideburns, thus the reason for my having them in the first place.  Sideburns require bi-weekly attention at a minimum.  If they get to bushy or straggly, they can make an otherwise well groomed man look silly.  For the side burns I use my handy clippers with a number 3 guard – total grooming time:  43 seconds.

 

 

UPDATE:  See also:

Manscaping 202 and Manscaping 303