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All posts for the month November, 2008

yesterday, i went to whole foods (aka: whole paycheck) to buy my favorite lip balm, a $7 lipstick tube of protection against the elements, specifically, perennial southern california sunshine, arid atmosphere and harsh winds. if my lips aren’t soft, my girlfriend understandably objects. i reason seven bucks is a small price to pay to ensure peace. and, it’s not just me. so popular is this salve that for about the last decade it’s normally out of stock. the main ingredient is soothing, smoothing, shea butter, and its remarkably few other constituents were amazingly effective and wholesome, too. nothing, and i mean nothing, worked as well. my last stockpile finally consumed i needed to replenish. but, on inspecting the ingredients of this recent incarnation i was shocked to find that my once pure lip balm had been adulterated. now, just a mish-mosh of cheaper oils, including hydrogenated oil — that trans fat which has recently been banned in local restaurants — and flavorings in the same package. why?

treating food with arguably nefarious ingredients is a production expedient. a business model. yeah, so what? well, such happens with food all the time, and the deleterious effects go way beyond dry lips. relentless marketing of processed food continues to undermine the health, figures and physiques of the american population. but soft drinks, chips, fast food and its ilk are pretty obvious. more insidious is apparently fresh and wholesome fare.

for instance, salmon is said to provide healthful fat, but, ever popular farm raised salmon doesn’t contain the healthful oil of wild salmon. not only, to ensure it’s purchased it’s dyed orange. same thing for some olive oils diluted with less healthful hazelnut oil. (not that hazelnut oil is bad, but it’s not olive oil.) at best, such practices are deceptive. at worst potentially harmful. always, though, they’re profitable. the point? ya gotta read labels to be in control of your own health and fitness. even then you can’t always be certain.

a quick google search reveals suspicious items found in everyday food, so rather than reinvent the wheel, here are a few links to review.

while i certainly don’t claim perfection, and some may challenge me on, say, wine, espresso, and dining out — perhaps rightly — you’ll be hard pressed to findanything on the above lists in my kitchen. i think my health, fitness, and well being are important enough to warrant diligent discrimination when it comes to the foods i eat, and products i use, even down to my lip balm. how ’bout you?

one of several pervasive beliefs of our culture is that we can have it all, without effort, smiling all the while. words such as fun, easy, and quick shroud reality. and with, get this, promises of, say, four minute fat burning workouts we’re not encouraged to think differently. we’re enticed to consume. and we do, to little avail. fitness products are commodities, but after consumption, the truism, “there is no free lunch,” returns to haunt us. one way or another, we pay. again, back at square one, we wonder, so, just how does exercise fit into the mix? most won’t like the idea. fewer will follow through, but, here it is.

there’s nothing quick and easy about fitness. to get results, you either go long, go hard, or both. period. of course, my less is more programs follow suit by successfully managing quantity and quality — frequency, duration, and intensity — and, something often overlooked, recovery (as integral to fitness as effort), too. of these components, intensity — the level of effort — is most often misused, and misunderstood.

no pain, no gain, and go heavy or go home are valid. that said, so is long, slow distance. problem is, exercisers, by and large, train in between these two zones. it’s the goldilocks conundrum: poppa bear’s porridge is too hot; momma bear’s is too cold; and, baby bear’s is just right. well, just right is luke warm. tepid. the benefit of high intensity is forfeited. effort a little above low intensity is wasted, yet requires additional recovery. for our purposes, just right indicates precise hot and cool points specific to our goals, which sounds reasonable, even easy doesn’t it? of course. but, determining training zones is not the biggest challenge, it’s following the plan.

a three hour run, at a heartrate of 140 bpm (beats per minute), with a warmup & cooldown of 15 minutes at 130 bpm, and a cadence (foot turnover) of 90 to 100 spm (steps per minute), regardless of terrain should be just that because it best conditions the aerobic & neural systems. but that’s boring, so athletes often jog through a 3:30 long run at a heartrate that starts out at 145, vacillates quite a bit depending on terrain, and ultimately increases over the duration even as pace and cadence decrease. likewise, leading an athlete through a heaving, fitness peaking set of progressively intense hill repeats or sprints, on the velotron cycle ergometer, while maintaining tempo and technique is quite a feat for the coach, as well as the athlete because it hurts!

it’s not so much that the physical effort is hard, though it may well be. rather, it’s how we mentally process the duress of exercise. it’s so much more fun, easy, and (seemingly) quick to just mindlessly workout than it is to pay attention, to really concentrate on what you’re doing, and to do it right. simply, your body follows your mind.

never thought you’d feel a muscle burn between your ears, didja?

traditionally, the new year in america brings with it, along with clinking champaign flutes, a chance to wipe the slate clean and begin, again, with fresh determination and resolve. expectedly, gym memberships and attendance sky-rocket each january as we lunge forward in an effort to shed conspicuous results of the year’s excesses or indiscretions. but, the sad truth is, in spite of all the fanfare, the revolutionary exercise routines, and dynamic diets, few succeed. why’s that? one reason is because, incredibly as it seems, there is no real urgency. here’s what i mean.

occasionally, life interferes with our best health-and-fitness intentions, or rather we (consciously or not) conspire with circumstances to neglect or ignore our physical being and say, for instance, that we don’t have time. i could fill the rest of this post with excuse phrases I’ve heard (and given) over the past year. all bogus.

you, me and everyone else make time for things we deem urgent. if fitness is important, great; we’ll get to it. If it’s urgent, we’re doing it now. so, are you doing it now, or do you need an arbitrary event, say the flip of the calendar to take action?