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Extreme Athletics: How Much Fitness is too Much? (And other Fun Questions)

This post is about my experience, strength and hope.  My results may differ from yours.

I rode my bicycle more than 8,500 miles last year.  The year before was 7,500.  The year before was 6,000.  The two years before that topped 5,500.  Add my miles up over the last six years and I’m well into my second time around the world (38,000 miles and change).  I ride an average of better than six days a week, but I never considered what I do “extreme”.  Intense, maybe, but not extreme.  Extreme was for those crazy people who are running marathons through the desert, or who take a couple of weeks to cycle across the US…  Not me.

The last time I sat in a doctor’s office (something like 3 or four years ago), after having a full blood workup, my doctor said, “Whatever it is you’re doing, keep doing it”.  Cholesterol, blood sugar, my “inflammation” numbers… by every measure I was extremely healthy.  In that case, extreme was good.

Going back three doctors and a decade there has been concern over my EKG readings though.  The first cause for concern was the “spike”.  My “spike” is big.  Really big.  The spike led to an ultrasound of my heart and an “all clear”.  I even called my doctor back to make sure I’d heard right in his office, that I was clear to continue exercising as I had been.  The worry was that my heart was enlarged.  While it is a little bigger than normal, it was discovered that it’s not really that big, it’s just strong.

Over the ensuing years I cut days off the bike to a point where I’ll now go for a month or two without taking a day off.  I simply substitute easy days for taking a day off (three easy days a week).  That’s not “extreme”, right?

Well, maybe not.  It’s the duration.

According to my new doctor, who I know personally and have for years, and whom I trust to look out for me, there’s a new understanding that’s come about over the last three to five years about what happens after that spike in the EKG that I mentioned earlier.  I can’t remember all of the jargon, but there’s a drop after the spike (which is normal) but there’s a small rise after that drop followed by another small drop that shouldn’t be there.  It was once thought that the small rise was benign.  Sadly for me, “once” is a very big word in that last sentence.

Unfortunately, because Government-down Obamacare sucks, I can’t be referred to a cardiologist to have my ticker checked out because I’m too healthy.  While my EKG shows signs for concern, I’m not exhibiting any negative symptoms or problems related to that little rise….  On the other hand and thankfully, Democrats didn’t go full stupid for a Canadian-style socialized scheme so I can still pay for the consult and new ultrasound with a cardiologist out of my pocket.  In the next few weeks I’ll be going to see a cardiologist about how to make my ticker keep up with the rest of me.  Where this gets really fun, if there is something wrong with my pump, we’ll catch it early enough that the available treatment options will work excellently because I’m so damned healthy.

Anyway, back to the main topic:  How much fitness is “extreme”?  I don’t freaking know.  I always figured I was a little above average and maybe slightly nutty, but extreme?  We’re not even that fast, above average, yes, but I know a whole class of guys who ride a lot faster than my friends and I do… Then my buddy Mike pointed out over the phone yesterday, “Yeah, but it’s not about the speed.  We’re out there doing a hundred miles in five hours.”  And that’s precisely when I saw me as I am.  If the average person puts in 30-45 minutes a day, five days a week… measured against that…  Their week is my Saturday.  Or Sunday.  In those terms, I may not be hardcore, like someone who races, but “extreme” is fair.

Finally, and to wrap this up with a neat little bow, I still have a lot to learn about what is going on with me, whether it’s just genetics that is messing with me or whether I even have a problem to begin with.  There is one thing that keeps ringing in my melon, what my doctor said about how much I choose to exercise or ride my bikes…  Once you go from a normal amount of exercise to the extreme, the risks not only outweigh the benefits, there are no additional benefits.

That one hurts, and it fits me perfectly.

So, what’s next for me?  Well, it’ll be that appointment with a cardiologist and I’ll wait for his recommendations – and I’ll follow them.  If that means slowing down or limiting the length of time I’m on the bike, I’ll do whatever I have to for longevity.  I like riding fast.  I like being in the upper crust of endurance cyclists.  I like long rides with my wife and friends.  I also believe in one important axiom a friend of mine passed on to me:  “It’s real easy to talk tough about death, until the bus shows up for you.”

 

The Root of almost Every Social Ill is Fear.  What’s the Root of Fear?

The Root of almost Every Social Ill is Fear.

The Root of Fear is Dishonesty.

Period.  End of story.  Put a bow on it.  Just a thought.

Oh Apple, How I Hate You. Still Can’t Connect to My WiFi… I’m Done.

I’ve tried all of the workarounds (at least the first two pages of a Google search’s worth).  Even some of the stupid one’s.  I still get the “incorrect password” for my router when I know it’s the right password and the entirety of my family is connected happily to that very router except my sister-in-law who’s having the same problems with her stupid iPad.  In fact, guess how I’m writing this post?  On my lap top that is connected through that very router.

I’m almost tempted to run my data usage up so I can, in turn, stick that bill right up my provider’s ass…  But the truth is, it’s not my cell provider’s fault Apple’s operating software sucks my butt.  And don’t give me all of this, “well if you just reset network settings” crap…  First, I have, and second I shouldn’t have to reset anything.  I just installed a freaking brand new operating system (a 1.8 gig download [!!!] that I had to restart three times because the server stopped the download more than 3/4’s of the way through).  The point is, I shouldn’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops to make a $700 f@cking phone work.  It just should because that’s exactly what the f@ck I paid for.

See, here’s the point folks.  Most people will go to any length to make someone else’s busted up s#!++y product work, because it’s expensive and they’d rather not go to all of the trouble of taking their crappy, yet astoundingly expensive, product back to the store to have it replaced.  They’ll hang on like ticks just to avoid that confrontation.  Don’t.  They owe you a product that works as advertised.  If it doesn’t, by all means take it back.  It’s the only real way to “make ’em pay”.

This has been happening with regularity since I went from my iPhone 4 to the 6 (Gold btw).

So, I’m done with you Apple. And this post is my middle finger to you.

You suck.

Any chance of bringing Steve Jobs back from the dead?  D’you at least freeze him ‘er somethin’?

Getting Your Kids Into Fitness – Patience, Persistence and Leading By Example are the Keys to Success.

My wife just completed her first Sprint Triathlon of the season the other day and she’s becoming quite the cyclist.  My cycling exploits are well documented over the last three years of this blog.  I used to run, before cycling, with a friend of mine when our kids were just stroller-bound.  We’d meet every Saturday at a friend’s house and Pete and I would plop our four kids (two each) into their kiddie running strollers and we were off.  It gave Pete and I time with our daughters and more importantly, gave our wives some alone time.  The fella, whose house we ran at, still gets misty when recounting the story of Pete and I passing him on the way out, pushing our daughters in their strollers.

My daughters have never seen the other side of me.  The overweight side.  The guy who stood in front of a mirror and said, “Heck with it, I’m just gonna get fat”.  I buried him when I bought my first pair of running shoes.  He’s got a grave marker that reads, “C’mon man, you’re too old for this…Or somethin’!”

My wife and I have pushed our daughters, well nudged is a better word, toward leading a fit lifestyle ever since they were old enough to understand what the words “fit” and “lifestyle” meant.  We had help too.  Many of our friends lead a fit life.  Grateful Jim, when our kids were too old to push in a stroller, used to take our kids to a pool to swim and then to lunch so I could get my run in.  I always made the mistake of saying he taught my kids how to swim but he corrects me, “I only taught them how to not be afraid of the water”.  Either way, he had a profound influence on both of my daughters who are now on a traveling swim team.  They’re eleven and eight years-old.

A month ago, I purchased a road bike for my eldest daughter.  She had been asking for one for a year but I wasn’t looking at some cheap big-box mountain bike with drop bars version of a road bike.  She was going to end up with the real deal because one of the great aspects of cycling is enjoying what you ride.  We settled on a full-sized 700c Specialized Dolce, with a carbon fork, a triple crank and a decent integrated brake/shifter component set.  Originally I was reluctant to drop almost $800 on a bike for an eleven year-old.  What if she didn’t like it?  My fear was fair but wrong in the end.  She took to that bike like she was meant to ride and she makes her dad proud.  Her younger sister inherited her mountain bike (a 21 sp, front suspension Trek) and loves it…  It couldn’t have turned out any better.  Or so I thought…

Monday, while on a training ride, my wife mentioned that my daughter was interested in doing the Aqua-Bike at next year’s triathlon, with my wife.  I contacted the organizers of the race by email and explained our situation and my daughter’s age – and also her level of proficiency when it comes to swimming and cycling and asked that she be allowed to compete even though she’ll be well under the minimum age requirement.  They responded that a special consideration will be allowed based on her proficiency as explained in my email.  Of course I’ll have her whipped into even better shape for the bike leg by that time and I’ll be riding the course myself, as neutral support for all of the cyclists (it’s a female only race).  She’ll be good to go and based on this year’s results, she’ll even have a very good chance at a podium spot – racing against adults.  In fact, I don’t know who’s more stoked about my baby girl in her first race, my daughter or me or her mom.

Getting to this point has taken patience – if we were to push too hard, we could have turned both of them off from fit sports altogether.  It’s taken persistence – always reminding them that their youthful bodies will get old in a hurry if they’re not moved pushed on a regular and consistent basis.

Most of all, it’s taken my wife and I leading by example…  Physical fitness and a happy, healthy life go hand-in-hand.  There is no cheating it, no miracle pill, no easy way around it.  There are no shortcuts, no days off.  We can pay now or pay later and for those who opt for the latter, “later” is usually way too early.  Living fit doesn’t guarantee a long, happy life.  It just makes that more attainable.  More probable.  My kids see this and now they want to be a part of what makes their parents so happy.

A fit life is not a theory, you have to live it… And that in living it, life is good.

Cycling for Speed: I Am Good Enough, I Am Fast Enough; Why You Can’t Get There…

First, before I get into this post, the title was meant to catch your eye, a little bit of a, “What the f—?” kind of deal – so please, give me a second before you get offended, if you’re happy with where you are, I’m not even talking about you anyway.  Probably.

I went for a 32 mile ride yesterday.  We had to cut Sunday short due to Easter festivities and it was supposed to rain both today and tomorrow.  When I got home, I got dressed and did my normal sixteen mile route, probably a little faster than I should have, if I were riding the Club ride tomorrow, but it was supposed to rain.  Then I did sixteen more with Mrs. Bgddy, who just learned how much damn faster she can be tucked down in the aero bars.  In other words, she really had me working for a few miles – once, I even had to tuck in behind her for a draft (dudes, she was flyin’ – 23 mph) for a mile.

So there we are, just cruising down the road and we come up to a left turn…  And boom, we’re done.  23 down to 15-16.

My wife explains, because she wasn’t breathing too heavy to not be able to, that the reason she slowed down was that her thinking got in the way.  She thought, “I can’t keep this up.”  “I can’t keep going.”  So she didn’t.  Now, I’d made the Cardinal error of letting her know how fast we were going…  She doesn’t like to know how fast she’s going because if she knows how fast she’s going, then her mind kicks in and messes her up.

I use my wife as an example only because she is honest with me about what she’s thinking, because I know her well enough that we actually talk about these things and because you don’t know her.

I am also the polar opposite, but only to a point – and I think this is where the subject gets tricky.

I have to cop to the fact that I don’t really understand what it is about people who mind-f@€k themselves into going slower than their potential.  I have no idea why anyone would do that to themselves.  I do understand what it’s like to put everything into going as fast as I can, only to come up short, though.  For instance, I can’t, no matter how hard I try to cheat and suck wheel, keep up with the racers in our group.  It’s fairly simple, my max isn’t good enough so I’d have to work even harder at it, if I want to go any faster – but my max is good enough.  I don’t want to go any faster. 

On the other hand, when I get back from a ride, I’m smoked. Drenched in sweat, out of breath, I’m done.  My mantra is, except when I’m on a recovery ride, “I can do better, I’m faster than this.”  I completely lack that mental piece that says to slow down unless I’m smoked – and here’s why.  I know that I have my limits, but I also know excuses are lies we tell ourselves that only we believe.  The notion that I can’t go a little bit faster for just a little bit longer is one of those excuses for me.  It would be a lie I told myself that only I believe.  Therefore, I started out fast and got even faster.  I still have my limits but I’ve been breaking those limits every year for the last four.

The point is this:  Too often it is the tape that we allow to play in our head that says “I can’t” that holds us back from our goals.  It holds us back from losing weight or getting faster.  Too often we hold the best of ourselves back because we fear “can’t”.  We have to save a little for one of two reasons:

1.  So we can “make sure” we have enough to get to the finish line.

or

2.  So that when we do fail, we can say, “Well, I never really gave it my all anyway.”

Both of those are bullshit when it comes to cycling.  They’re lies, and while you may be able to convince those who don’t know any better that it’s really unfair that it doesn’t work for you, one way or another, if you really want to keep up, you have to give it everything you’ve got.  Not for any heady reason like “it’s the right thing to do” but because that’s what we do.  You have to get rid of “I can’t” and insert “F@ck you, I will”.

This is the key to happiness and speed.

So, back to my 32 mile ride yesterday…  This evening is the club ride that the Weather Channel said would be rained out.  Lo and behold, they changed their mind and it’s going to be partly sunny, 52 degrees with 10 mph winds (that’s barely a breeze in Springtime – in other words, the ride is going to be fast.

What was my first thought this morning on seeing that we should have a great ride (and that I went too far and too fast yesterday)?  “Oh, this gonna hurt.”

What was my second thought?

“So what.  I know the route.  I’m gonna rock that shit till I can’t pedal anymore.”  I won’t hold anything back.

That’s why you’re slow and I’m not.  It’s that simple.

P.S.  There’s nothing wrong with being slow on a bike, by the way.  What is wrong is making excuses for why that is the case, why you can’t do better or more importantly, why cycling isn’t helping you meet your weight goals (the slower you go, the harder it is and longer it takes).  Whatever it is you choose to do, own it.

The Secret to Slavery…

I was working on a post that I’ve been putting together for about a week now when I received an email that said:


THREE OF LIFES SECRETS ……..

 

” Nonresistance, nonjudgment, and nonattachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living.”

Eckhart Tolle

I responded:
So said the slave who stayed on the plantation rather than escape to the North.  So says the prisoner who is too afraid to get out of prison to create a better life. 

Thank God the Founders of this country had big enough balls to say, we deserve better.

If you’re not keeping up with me here, let me try a different angle:  So said every boss who claimed you were only worth $1.50 an hour.

While I do understand the sentiment behind the email, it is nonsense.  Nonresistance is a dangerous way to live one’s life.  To simply accept that freedom can be snatched up on a whim begins an ugly journey down the slippery slope.  The other two ensure we are to remain at the bottom, to be buried by all of those who manage to cling on just a little bit longer by conforming, until they too fall out of favor.  After all, as one more bit of freedom is carved away, who are you to judge?  Is not non-judgment of imprisonment in the system freer and more enlightened?  Why should we, after all, be attached to freedom?  Non-attachment is much more comforting from your padded cell.

We can take this a step further and even deeper down the foxhole:  Should rape victims not seek justice?  After all, maybe they should choose nonresistance, no?  Maybe a battered wife should simply say, “Meh, I’m choosing non-judgment today.”  Or the old lady whose house is broken into, “I think everything is okay because I’m not attached to that $200 I had set aside to pay for my medication, better to be nonattached, non-judgmental and nonresistant.

Bullshit.

That putrid phrase has been uttered in one way or another by every dictator who has ever said from on high, “Do as I say…  And pass the caviar.  Freedom for me but not for thee.”

No thanks.

The Denver Post Attacks Girl Scout Cookies – I’ve Had Enough, You Dirty Fascist Bastards. Shut It.

I don’t care if you can’t eat a cookie without pigging out on the whole box.  I don’t care that you have to avoid them like the plague to stay true to your diet.  I can’t drink successfully so I don’t freaking drink – I don’t run around saying the world shouldn’t consume alcohol because I can’t.  To do so would mean I was an idiot.

We’ve had our run at prohibition and it didn’t turn out too well – though it was good for organized crime, you know, machine guns in the streets and all.

So what’s got my undies in a bunch this morning?

A writer, Diane Hartman, for the Denver Post attacked Girl Scouts and Girl Scout cookies…  It’s the way she does it that’s got me all kinds of fired up:

“I will try to make a logical case here and ask readers to stop biting themselves and pretend they can be logical, too.”

Oh, this is a brilliant way to start a conversation – insult the people you want to converse logically with before we’ve even left the gate.  Stop biting myself and pretend I can be logical?  Go to hell, you dumbass.  See, now it’s on so I’m going to have some fun with “logical”:

In fact, let’s take this GS cookie notion a step further and play this out…  Pizzas, that she referenced in her article, aren’t what the kooks call healthy, so maybe they should be banned as well.  In fact, pasta is overeaten too, so maybe we should round the Italians up, they are the source of both after all, and send them to re-education camps run by Veganazis.

Moving on:

“America is drowning in obesity. Nobody wants to talk about this part of the Girl Scout cookie craze. Take Thin Mints, which account for 25 percent of the sales (and those sales are over $200 million). If you eat four of the tiny things, which no human has ever done, you get 160 calories. The saturated fat in them is 25 percent. They have some trans fat, some palm oil and are high carb … all those things you’ve probably been trying to avoid.”

Well Diane, my girls and I eat Samoas three at a time – yeah, those are the caramel, chocolate and coconut cookies, far better than mere Thin Mints (though that is fairly debatable)…  And 160 calories?  That’s nothing.  I burn that off in exactly ten minutes on my bike.  Ten minutes – LESS THAN FOUR MILES.

“Maybe you think by saying, “Well, they’re Girl Scout cookies,” takes all the bad out of them? Everyone has apparently agreed that they are exempt from the list of things that make you fat. They’re soaked in chocolate, of course, and all of us know chocolate has addictive ingredients in it and transforms your brain so you can’t stop eating it.”

Got that ladies?  She’s advocating the banning of chocolate as well.  And what’s that bit about a “list of things that make you fat”?  Nothing makes me fat because I am physically active and I don’t overeat.  So this dope is suggesting that because a certain segment of the population chooses overindulgence, we normal folk (and the Girl Scouts) should suffer the loss and turn to broccoli for the greater good… How about this, you nags: Piss off.  Here’s my favorite part:

“Another pseudo-reason for Girl Scout cookies is to help Girl Scouts learn responsibility and the business of selling. When the idea first started, the Scouts had a recipe sent out by the main office, so the girls could make them to sell to friends and relatives. Now they get shipped by the case…”

So what!?  This discussion would be different somehow if the girls made the cookies themselves?  How stupid does this woman think you are?

Oh wait, that last bit wasn’t my favorite part, this is:

“There are clouds on the horizon. We’ve all heard about climate change and it’s hard to dispute it, no matter how it came about. Some people think humans should try to change the scary course of the world. One idea is to use energy-efficient light bulbs. How hard would it be for the squads of energetic, idealistic Girl Scouts to switch from cookies to light bulbs that are good for our planet?”

Now there’s logic for you!  Have little seven to twelve-year-old girls sell mercury filled light bulbs that require just short of an immediate evacuation and a hazmat suit should one accidentally break one.  Yes, that’s just freaking brilliant – and that dumbass is questioning my ability to be logical?  Never mind the idiocy involved in believing that this is actually a viable fundraising idea.  I’m going to let the whole global warming thing go – that’s another post all on its own – just take note of the “some people think humans should try to change the scary course of the world”…  Yeah, and “some people” believe screwing animals is awesome.  I’m not going to pay those idiots any attention either.

To bring this to its humorous close, we get to the bottom of Diane’s lapse of sanity:

“I don’t think my daughter enjoyed pushing those cookies and I didn’t like taking them to my office, hoping someone would buy some so my daughter wouldn’t be humiliated in her troop.”

She’s not even sure whether or not her daughter “enjoyed pushing those cookies” – but Diane obviously didn’t appreciate it, lest her little girl be humiliated by her mom for not selling cookies to people who look forward to this time of year.  I wonder how wonderful she would feel showing up with a box of light bulbs, trying to hock those to someone like me – who would absolutely humiliate her.  Remember that part in my post yesterday, where I wrote:  “The important fact here is that I choose to be the guy who people want to have around – not the guy that causes eyes to roll when they see me heading up the road to the parking lot”?  Irony is awesome:

“Even my closest friends get really annoyed when I talk about this.”

No shit lady, it’s because you’re an asshole.  Knock it off.