Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fat and Fit?

Is it possible to be fat and fit? Imagine if you worked out hard four to six hours a week yet ate heartily all the time and were technically overweight. I've often thought that overweight people should be fit. Afterall they are constantly exercising carrying all that fat about with them. I used to run carrying a backpack with two 5KG bags of rice in it in an effort to improve my strength and endurence so why woudn't carrying 10KG of fat internally be any different? Yet it does seem to be different. I've never actually met a fat, very fit person. In fact very fit people are reasonably rare as it is. Do fat people eat unhealthy food? Would eating only healthy food and exercising regularly eventually result in a thin person?

My gut feeling (excuse the pun) is that the human body needs to be calorie depleted reasonably regularly and excessive fat deposits make this impossible. Eating all the time, even healthy food (and what is healthy food?) does not give the body time to use the fat deposits that need to grow and deplete regularly. Maybe depositing fat and burning that fat is a form of metabolic exercise. If you never burn that fat and move it around it solidifies and the body ceases to function as it should exposing it to the risks of cardio-vascular disease and cancer.

I googled up "fat and fit" and read a couple of articles. The follwing quotes are a few snippets that I thought were of interest:

"It's hard to maintain overweight if you're physically fit,"

"Being physically active and fat is better than being fat and sedentary, but not as healthy as being lean and physically active,"

"Obesity is a symptom of behavior, and that behavior is physical inactivity and poor diet,"
The fat-and-fit person is "an unusual situation,"

"Sure you can be fat and fit," says Tim Church, MD, MPH, PhD,vice president of research at Cooper Institute in Dallas. "Then again,it doesn't take much to be fit."

At every level of physical activity, according to researchers, fatness predicted a higherrisk of death.

"We've studied this from many perspectives in women and in men and we get the same answer: It's not the obesity -- it's the fitness," Blair said. "Fitness can substantially reduce, if not eliminate, the high risk of being obese."

"One of the big problems is by the time people become overweight or obese it's very hard for them to become active. They've developed arthritis or other problems that makes it hard, which is why we have to pay attention to weight early on," Willett said.

Being overweight significantly increases the risk of a host of debilitating and often deadly health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, cancer and diabetes.

"When you look at the data carefully, you find that people who are active and lean have the lowest mortality of all," Willett said.

PS - The picture is entirely gratuitous and irrelevant to this post yet does have a point of interest.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Develop the Will to Survive

Physical fitness is something almost everyone takes for granted when they are young and the loss of it is also taken for granted as we age. It is something that happens very slowly and imperceptibly as time passes - and then all of a sudden we look at ourselves and we are old, fat and decrepit. Sometimes I will look at an older person shuffling along and wonder if they had done things differently would they be more sprightly. It’s impossible to know yet the loss of capability in most cases must have occurred gradually. It’s the same with very fat people, they gradually become larger and larger.

Of course disease often plays a large role in the degradation of human performance. As one ages it becomes harder and harder to stay fit. Young people often never need to worry about their health. They feel immortal and they can practically eat anything. Yet the Active Survivalist will not have this advantage and staying trim and fit will become a challenge for the rest of their lives. Disease may well come rearing its ugly head so it’s important to stay in peak physical fitness for as long as possible. It makes sense to me that you need to keep your body strong and flexible and that the only way to do that is to regularly exercise. Not only exercise but to push yourself just that little bit harder. It’s not going to be easy because your body is not what it was and training for the rest of your life is, hopefully, going to be a very long time.

So equally as important as physical fitness is a strong will to survive. This should be a no brainer because if you are approaching fifty or beyond you are running out of time. This is the last chance to get your body back into shape and ready for the rigors that lay ahead. You want to give yourself the best possible chance at it so embrace diet and exercise with one hundred percent commitment.

Yet how to maintain that will to survive in the best possible shape? Forming an exercise habit through sheer dogged consistency would be a good start. Buy good gear to train in. Record your exercise progress and achievements. Overcome your natural laziness. Sometimes when you head out for your morning run you wont feel like doing it. Never take any notice of your first feelings in the morning. Sometimes I feel weak as I head out while everyone else is still asleep and I wonder if I should have a rest day, yet often this feeling passes and I feel terrific and finish my morning routines feeling better than ever. There have been times when the feeling of weakness hasn’t passed and I will listen to it then, but only after ignoring it for a while. A lot of people give up at the first sign of trouble and this is a mistake.

If you find yourself feeling absolutely and stunningly terrific and super strong this is a cause for concern. Usually it means that night you will come down with a cold or worse. Apparently this is a known medical phenomenon, possible something to do with the body going into hyper drive to combat the first wave of infection. The moral of this story is that the normal feeling is one of slight lousiness and not super terrificness so expect it to be a bit of a struggle.

Like getting fat and getting old physical fitness is a gradual process. Determine to get just a little better everyday. Think of it as a very long-term project – a lifestyle.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Some Thoughts on Cycling

Ever since primary school I have owned bicycles. They are probably the most efficient form of transport available and will become more popular as gas prices increase. Bicycles are becoming more popular for exercise as well with quite a resurgence in the racing style of bike. For quite a while I considered the mountain bike to be the ultimate bicycle because of its ruggedness. You can ride anywhere on a mountain bike, over curbs, off road, down steps and on lawns. But then I would ride my mountain bike around the park circuit and be passed by people riding the latest racing bikes and I began to feel a little old fashioned.

To have any street credibility I would have to get myself a cool new bike. So I went out and bought what could be described as an ‘entry level’ competitive bike. It has a 101 gear set and carbon fibre seat stem, forks and rear stay. Very lightweight and modern design with some mountain bike styling in its frame design.

A year later I find that I rarely ride it preferring instead to use my old converted mountain bike. I even sunk $600 into replacing the rear wheel, gears and chain. This bike is far more practical for my use than the road bike. As I ride to the park where I do my running I cross over curbs, lawns, cattle grates and roads, dodging traffic and pedestrians. The road bike is too fragile and unstable for this sort of activity.

The road bike is probably more useful for long distance riding where speed and efficiency are helpful and where the direction of travel remains fairly constant. I’m not sure that I favour this sort of riding now as you have to mix with a lot of fast traffic on a fragile and less stable machine. It may not be conducive to longevity.

What I really need to do is design an Active Survivalist bike. This bike’s focus would be durability and ruggedness with stability and good stopping power. It would handle all weather conditions and be able to carry equipment if desired. It would be designed for mostly road yet be quite capable off-road. It would need to be super reliable requiring the minimum of tweaking. I imagine it would have disk brakes, a flat handle bar, possibly internal hub type gearing with a steel frame and front suspension. It would have mudguards, strong wheels and wide smooth tyres. Extra mounting points for fitting accessories would be good too. All equipment would be of high quality and it would have to look cool, which is no mean feat. Built in rechargeable electrical equipment would be pretty neat as well for visibility and early morning night riding. The pedals would need to accommodate running shoes. This bike would be a sort of urban assault machine yet be quite capable of long distance riding too.

Maybe over the next year I will search for bits and pieces to build my own Active Survivalist bike.

Here is an amusing piece by P. J. O'Rourke on cycling.

Some Inspirational Poetry for Today

Therefore, go forth, companion: when you find
No highway more, no track, all being blind,
The way to go shall glimmer in the mind.

Though you have conquered Earth and Charted Sea
And planned the courses of all Stars that be,
Adventure on, more wonders are in Thee.

Adventure on, for from the littlest clue
Has come whatever worth man ever knew;
The next to lighten all men may be you . . .


I think I shall memorize this poem. It's just the thing for work when you're stuck on a problem.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Evil that is Breakfast

The pernicious belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day has become thoroughly ingrained in our society. This myth has been created by the massive breakfast food cartels who purvey cereals to the unsuspecting masses. This multi-billion dollar industry is responsible for a large part of the obesity epidemic sweeping the world – did you know that there are now more overweight people than underweight people in the world? The cartels have been ably assisted by the fast food companies such as McDonalds who have also gotten heavily into the ‘must eat breakfast’ push.

Most people who arise reasonably early do not feel like breakfast. Many will force down slices of toast or high calorie cereal because they think or have been told they should. It’s madness to eat food when your body is telling you it’s not in the mood – unless you want to put on weight that is. The early morning is the best time to take advantage of fat burning. In the morning your stomach is empty and your blood depleted of sugars. Now is the time to do some cardio forcing the body to draw upon the fuel stored in the fat cells. Guzzle down two or three cups of sugar free coffee and get out there burning off the fat.

There is a danger of over-eating at mid-morning when the appetite starts to return. The Active Survivalist needs to ensure that at this time ‘clean’ foods such as fruit and nuts are eaten in moderation. If you have performed a workout in the morning think of the next meal as a recovery meal and ingest foods that are beneficial to recovery such as protein drinks or anything that is high in protein such as meat and dairy products. If you can, just eat a banana and an orange and hold out until lunchtime. Again don’t over do it at lunchtime either. It’s not going to be easy at first to fight the mid-morning hunger pangs but soon it will become a habit.

In short, breakfast – don’t do it.

Here is a link to an article that discusses things a little more scientifically.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Product Trial

With the onset of cooler weather and winter looming I have purchased some new training clothing. Specifically compression clothing. This is all the rage at the moment with athletes who seek to improve performance and post exercise recovery. As always those that are interested in physical fitness watch closely what is happening in the sports world and follow the trends. Now everyone can wear super high tech gear while they work out.

There do appear to be some good reasons for following this trend. Compression clothing has been shown to improve post exercise recovery although apparently it works best if you wear it after the exercise as well as during the exercise. Compression clothing holds the muscles a bit tighter and stops them jiggling about as you run reducing overall stress. It also aids with cooling as well as keeping the chill off on those cold winter morning jogs. And lastly but by no means least it makes you look cool - like a super hero minus the cape although being a self conscious sort of chap I do wear some clothing over the top of it. I might just wear the compression clothing for a bike ride as you can get away with a full body lycra suit while cycling. The world is probably not ready to see me running around with full body skin tight clothing leaving little to the imagination.

Go here to read a good summary of the benefits of compression clothing. And here to read an article on the research that has been done on it.

I have purchased a Skins long sleeve top packed with BioAcceleration Technology – oooh yeah. As well as a pair of Adidas leggings.

I will try it out and report on its effectiveness. I might even post a photo of myself wearing it if I can get a good shot.