General Musings

Perhaps fitness related. Perhaps not.

January 2017

It’s under 60°. In Los Angeles that’s, um… cold. I’m under the weather, which is unusual. More unusual is that I’ve been fighting this malaise for over three weeks. Flu? Winter blues? Cracked header on Jeep leaking CO into cab? Dunno.

What is certain is I’d like to feel better. My friend Nancy, a physician, recommends strong medication. Stat! She’s means, “Dude, whip up your awesome chicken soup— A Bowl of Seasonal Warmth would be great right now. “Yeah, maybe.” I say, “But I’m not all that hungry. I’m thinking more along the lines of a hot toddy made with Hibiki whisky.” She says, “Dude, you don’t have to eat it, just make it.” (Meaning she’ll eat it.) Nice.

I head to Whole Foods to fill the Rx.

Ingredients:

  • Two bunches of celery.
  • Eight multi-colored carrots.
  • One big yellow onion.
  • Five yellow potatoes.
  • One bulb of garlic.
  • One leek.
  • Himalayan pink salt.
  • Black pepper.
  • Bragg organic “Sprinkle” herbs and spices seasoning.
  • Organic, extra virgin olive oil.
  • Five chicken legs, separated into thighs / drumsticks.
  • About three quarts of spring water.

Thirty minutes and forty-five dollars later I’m at home, and the prep begins.

Tools:

  • One big pot— I use an 8q Calphalon pasta pot.
  • 10” Skillet— I use a 100 year-old cast iron skillet.
  • 8″ Chef’s knife.
  • Serving spoon.

Compounding:

My process is simple. Chop celery and carrots into 1/2” pieces. Cut onion and potatoes into quarters, then halve the quarters. Peel garlic and slice each clove in half.

Sauté celery, carrots, onion and garlic in skillet, one at a time, with olive oil and Bragg seasoning. (Five minutes, or so.)

Stand leek on end in big pot, add potatoes, chicken, and sautéed veggies. Add water to cover contents, and salt and pepper to taste— for me that’s 3 tbsp of salt and 1 tbsp of pepper.

Fire up burner and bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Stir carefully, put lid on (it won’t cover pot completely because of the leek), and every so often stir again. Cook until potatoes are soft, maybe an hour-and-fifteen minutes. And then, soup’s on!

 

Chicken Soup Rx

Chicken Soup— Just What the Doctor Ordered!

Dosage:

A taste from the pot is promising. First bowl— mmmmm!— perhaps the best I’ve made. Second bowl, just as good. And, if some is good, more is better! Third bowl— don’t know that I’m well yet, but I am feeling better. Hey Nancy, your prescription is right on!

But, with half the batch gone already, you better drop by soon.

How’s That?

As astounding a run as it is in the 2016 Olympic 400m men’s final, Wayde van Niekerk leaves even greater speed untapped. How’s that? Notice that in these video stills he doesn’t begin falling until about 13° past the vertical! He ultimately reaches about 30° of Fall which clearly is sufficient for setting a World Record of 43.03″, but what if he begins falling at 0°? Like previous WR holder, Michael Johnson, and his mentor Usain Bolt.

van Niekerk at Vertical Moment

Wayde van Niekerk hits the Vertical Moment of his running stride.

van Niekerk at Pose Position

Here, van Niekerk reaches the Running Pose at about 13° from the vertical.

van Niekerk at end of Fall

Then, at about 30° from vertical, van Niekerk reaches the end of his Range of Fall. 

 

Why?

By the way, there is a reason for this, and it can be seen in this video still. By leaving the previous support behind (his right foot, in this case) after his bodyweight passes over it, van Niekerk is forced to coast past the ideal midpoint of the running stride stride— the Vertical Moment— before he’s able to start falling again.

van Niekerk Flight Phase

Late recovery of support leg prevents reaching Running Pose “on time.”

 

Not Harder, Smarter!

Wayde van Niekerk has the talent— that is, exceptional neural, metabolic and psychological capacity— to continue developing as a runner, and it’s inspiring to anticipate his realizing even grander achievements in the coming years. I suspect more records will be set as he further refines his skills, maybe harnessing those unused 13°. And why wouldn’t he? Since it’s said that we’re either striving to move forward or allowing ourselves to drop behind, and, since van Niekerk set a new WR from lane 8, effectively racing against himself, it’s really a foregone conclusion. That’s what he does. You see, genetic potential is quickly reached— we compete against our physiological peers— but skill can always be improved. Greatly, in fact, and at any age. And, while not the only factor in racing, skill is a primary factor. While no one needs to work harder per se to acquire new / refine current skills, they must work smarter. That begins with knowing precisely what to train.

You can learn more about how you can apply the skills of Pose, Fall, Pull to your own running success, right now. Start here:  Correct Running Form.

 

Brentwood, CA. 2008.

One morning a physician leaves his home in Mandeville Canyon, just as usual. At the same time, a dedicated group of bicyclists is completing their weekly ride which snakes past his house. They know each other already. They’ll get to know each other better. Or worse.

The riders’ gradual hill climb is a five mile time trial of sorts that reveals an hierarchy of fitness as the peloton of maybe fifty stretches and separates into small packs pedaling for between fifteen and thirty minutes. (FWIW, my times were a little better than 18 minutes. Not fast. Not slow.) The subsequent descent, depending on skill and derring do takes only a fraction of the uphill time. The cyclists rarely dip below the posted 25 mph limit, and many ride over 40mph.

Still, that’s too slow. For most– driving to work, dropping their kids at school, meeting their trainer at the gym, or what-have-you– customary automobile pace down this idyllic two lane road, with arching trees, pasture land and kids playing in yards is 40 to 50mph.

Most days cyclists and cars cooperate well enough. Some days individuals from one group or the other have been known to get a little testy. Today, hell breaks loose.

The doctor takes exception to the riders in his way. In anger, he curses them, speeds past, then swerves in front of a few and stomps his brakes. Crash!

One cyclist was flung face-first into the rear window of [the doctor’s] red Infiniti, breaking his front teeth and nose and cutting his face. The other cyclist slammed into the sidewalk and suffered a separated shoulder. — LA Times, January 8th, 2010

A police officer told jurors that shortly after the crash [the doctor] said he slammed on his brakes in front of the riders to “teach them a lesson.” — LA Times, January 8th, 2010

Yes — whether criminally or negligently– too many drivers are a danger to themselves and others, and cyclists are always vulnerable. But let me make clear that, having ridden with this group of cyclists myself, some arrogantly ride area roads with outrightly hostile traffic manners.

That’s right, cyclists aren’t all innocent, law-abiding victims. I fully understand drivers’ frustrations. Nonetheless, a car is no less intimidating nor any less lethal than a gun. But, cars themselves don’t cause accidents. And of course no reasonable person, not even an injured cyclist, would even think of putting a car on trial. Even as auto accidents kill over 45,000 Americans each year. Even as auto accidents are the leading cause of death of children, aged 10 to 19! That’s because to a rational mind, cars aren’t the problem.

Rather, a jury would convict this physician of mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon (his car), battery with serious injury, and reckless driving causing injury. He would be sentenced to five years in prison. Why? For allowing his emotions to dictate his actions.

“Danger to Self and Others.” When I hear this legal phrase applied willy-nilly to firearms ownership I think of those seeking to deprive citizens of their natural human right to self defense and how those crowing loudest about traumatized vets or others with general lifestyle troubles might just fail their own psychological litmus test. Not only with regard to guns, mind you, but within the context of everyday activity.

For instance, everyday in Los Angeles I see people driving (quite often in Obama / Biden branded) cars and SUVs with a wanton disregard for their own safety and the safety of others on the road. These menaces to society– and they are nothing less– are given the privilege of driving an automobile, and they habitually abuse it.

How? By intentionally breaking the law and texting while driving— not just typing a quick reply such as “on way” while stopped at a light, but rather swerving inside and outside their lane, sometimes into oncoming traffic while their heads are tilted down and their eyes focused on their smartphone screen as they are pecking furiously with both thumbs. Normally, these perpetrators are traveling at or above the posted speed limit, and frequently in residential, school, and construction zones.

Compare that aberrant, callous, anti-social driving behavior, and its resultant, astronomical daily rate of traffic fatalities and injuries to the hundreds of millions of guns in America owned by responsible, law abiding American citizens that remain safely idle in gun safes and that have not and never will cause injury nor death. Do the math– guns obviously are not a safety issue. Further, the FBI recently released it’s latest findings which show that even with far more guns in private hands than ever before, violent crime is at a forty-year low. Facts are facts.

Now, texting while driving is only one example. Others include cavalierly speeding through red lights and stop signs with (or without) a cellphone pressed to their ear. Yet another is carelessly whipping their car into a U-turn across two or three lanes of traffic, typically at speed and without so much as a glance over the shoulder. Or, get this, the driver who in mean-spirited interest of intimidating an approaching motorist making a late left turn at an intersection traffic signal, accelerates hard off his green light, aiming straight at the other driver. Regardless of outcome, this potentially deadly game of “chicken” is effectively criminal assault.

These drivers, without doubt, present a grave danger to themselves and others, and are arguably mentally imbalanced. How else could they continue to knowingly and routinely violate the law and put life, limb and property at undue risk? Do reasonable, rational people behave this way?

Do you know any such drivers? Could you be you such a driver?

Perhaps it’s time to preemptively remove these dangerous drivers from the road because isn’t it just a matter of time before they “accidentally” hurt or kill themselves, you, or one of your loved ones? How about, when licensing drivers a psychological stress test can be included as part of formal driver’s education? And, why not consider that any emotional outburst over the previous decade would preclude their being allowed apply for licensing in the first place? Or, maybe we can just ban cars and smartphones all together. LOL.

Actually, a good litmus test could be as simple as finding out whether people are fit to own and drive an automobile by checking whether they are able to put fact ahead of feeling when making decisions. Can they control their emotions well enough to rationally evaluate and navigate their circumstances? After all, giving in to infantile emotions and impulses– i.e., road rage, or choosing to text while driving– could very quickly lead to killing a whole family in one collision. It happens all the time. But, whether in heat of the moment loss of control, or a casualty of simple distraction such “accidental” death is doubly tragic because it’s so preventable.

Personally, I’d rather be shot and killed by an individual with ill intent than to become the collateral damage of some wholly oblivious teen, soccer mom, business exec, etc. whose careless text messaging trumps careful driving… Crash. OMG!

So even before cranking the engine we must ask ourselves,

Since being behind the wheel of a car is the same as having a finger on the trigger of a loaded gun, does my mental state make me a danger to myself or others?

And then consciously answer.

I’m walking through the Santa Monica park, between exercise stations— dips to pull-ups. Passing the series of three low tubes, about ten feet in length and six inches in diameter, arranged in an end to end zig-zag across the grass, I notice a girl of around eight years old with her mother drop their bikes in the grass and run up to the equipment.

I always savor seeing parents and kids exercising together with reckless abandon in the park. Gives me hope. Maybe the next generation will boldly favor physical fitness, just as a matter of course.

The girl leaps over and onto the tubes, balances easily, and encourages mom to join in. She tries.

Mom stands in front of one of the low tubes, contemplating a single leap over. The tube’s height is about 10 inches— maybe mid-calf. Mom’s even wearing a bike helmet! Yet, she hesitates.

Again, she bends her knees to coil her spring, swings her arms to unweight her body, and…balks. Several more times. In between, her body language speaks: frustration.

Her daughter, pauses her careless play. “C’mon, mom!” Once more mom loads up, but just won’t pull the trigger. She quits.

If she’d been asked earlier whether or not she could jump over a ten inch hurdle, she might have said with confidence, “Yeah, of course.” Why can’t she do it now?

Agoraphobia.

They climb aboard their bikes and ride fifty feet to the next station.

Fruit usually falls close to the tree. Happily, some rolls beyond its shadow.