Friday, December 30, 2005

Riding in the Cold Rain

Finally made it home after what seemed like an ETERNITY out on the trusty Cannondale. It was really just over an hour, but it rained as soon as we started and stopped only for Carla to change a flat. Rain and 40 degrees. By the end, we were all soaked. Of course, I forgot most of my dry clothes and shivered all the way home with the heat full-blast in the car. I've been colder, but never this soaked before.

I'd like to send out a huge THANKS--really--to Becky, Alane, Carla, Craig, Sara and her husband, Lemon Meringue (cheeky monkey), for keeping an eye on me as I tootled along at the back along Wild Horse Creek and huffed and puffed up the Babler Beast. Yes, Carla--I'm trying to sit up tall, honey. Keep reminding me. I'll get it. I want it.

I'll admit I had some fear going down Doberman. Let's practice breaking skills, in the rain, with rain-covered glasses, on great big hills. El Pollo Grande.

Becky should ride in Paris-Roubaix. She looked like Georgie today with her cap on. Dirt on her face, in her teeth. Off the front, like a machine.

On another note, I tried my first Yerba Mate' today. Looks like green tea. Tastes like a bike shop. I'm serious. It smells and tastes like a bike shop--if one could "taste" a bike shop. Like a combo of rubber and lube and lycra. I'll give it a few more shots, though.

Right now I'm gonna whip up a kick-ass pot of Khaldi's. Thanks Bec.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Credentials (?) Gone Wild

Found this on a continuing education web site. The name has been disguised. Of course, this merits an entire column at a later date. I find the whole letter / credential thing rather idiotic, but this (respected) physical therapist has taken it to a new level:


What, no NASM credentials?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Beef vs. Soy Protein: Where's the BEEF? It's in your elevated cholesterol and LDL levels!

I have many friends and colleagues in both the strength and endurance worlds who believe and promote the myth that animal proteins are of superior quality for the athlete. I no longer subscribe to this belief. While animal protein sources might provide us with the complete amino acid profiles that most closely match our own human protein profile needs (actually human flesh would be optimal), plant protein sources can provide us with all the protein we need, WITHOUT ANY OF THE HARMFUL SIDE-EFFECTS. Yes, we CAN get every amino acid we need from plant protein sources--without all of the silly "combining" initially postulated. (Email me if you want those references.)

The latest NSCA's online Performance Training Journal contained the following juicy summary (by G. Greg Haff, PhD, CSCS) of a research study on the impact of a beef vs. soy protein-based diet on resistance training performance and lipoprotein profiles in older men:

Recently, researchers from Kansas State University and the University of Arkansas investigated the effects of protein type on resistance training performance and lipoproteins. Twenty one men with a mean age of 65±5 years participated as subjects in this investigation. All subject were initially placed in a two week baseline diet which required them to eat 0.6 g of protein/kg per day from a soy based texturized vegetable protein food. After the initial two week diet period 11 men continued eating the soy based diet, while 10 men consumed 0.6 g of protein/kg per day from beef. All subjects performed resistance training three days per week over the course of the 12 week dietary intervention. After the completion of the study there were no significant differences between the two diets in the overall muscular strength and power of the subjects. The beef group did experience significant increases in total cholesterol, low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL), while the group that consumed the soy products did not experiences any significant alterations. Additionally, the beef group had significantly higher cholesterol than the soy group. Based upon this study it appears that the type of protein consumed does not significantly impact the strength gains noted from a resistance training regime in older adults. Conversely, it appears that older adults with a diet which gets the majority of its dietary protein from beef results in significant elevations in cholesterol and low density lipoproteins, which both have been indicated to be risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Haub MD, Wells AM, and Campbell WW. (2005). Beef and soy-based food supplements differentially affect serum lipoprotein-lipid profiles because of changes in carbohydrate intake and novel nutrient intake ratios in older men who resistance-train. Metabolism Clinical and Experimental, 54:769-744.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, my "meat is better" friends!

Now we just need the same study that demonstrates similar findings for diets that advocate chicken/turkey/fish vs plant protein. These animal protein sources MIGHT promote lower increases in cholesterol and LDL levels, but they still promote increases, as well as likely contain fecal matter, dangerous bacteria, antibiotics and hormones to promote fast and furious growth, prions from consuming food derived from ground animal parts or dried blood, or nasty chemicals (mercury) from the environment.

How do you think the bison of the great plains or gorillas and elephants in the jungle become so muscular and massive? They don't eat meat or each other--they eat plants! Face it, my macho friends; it's true. You can eat plant-based protein and increase strength--and be healthier for it! You won't turn into a "girlie-man" or a pasty-white, hemp-wearing PETA activist.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

New Wheels

Got out for a ride yesterday with some good friends. Stayed warm with my Castelli thermal jacket, despite the damp chill in the air. The bike felt great. A big thanks goes out to Dave and Corky at Ghisallo for the tune up and the installation of my new training wheels: Mavic Cosmic Elites.

They cut through the air like butta'. Wow, I can't imagine what REALLY NICE wheels must feel like!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Monday Fitness Review: The "Caveman" Workout

I thought I'd seen it all. Squats on physioballs. Walking lunges for 45 minutes. But, wait...there's more.

Today's "Healthy & Fit" section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch carried syndicated piece from the Washington Post by author John Briley. The article reviews a "10-minute-a-day strength program called "Cave Man Medicine" promoted by a 65 year-old New York sports medicine physician named Dan Hamner.

It appears this guy, literally, beats himself--slaps and pounds on his abdominals, thighs, you-name-it--to stimulate isometric contractions (a.k.a the body's self-defense mechanism from blows to the body). The author reports this type of activity is painful, but that the good doctor says injury is unlikely because "most of us have built-in mechanisms against using too much force on ourselves; people on anticoagulants could risk bruising and thus should use light taps."

Well, that certainly is common sense.

Apparently the good doctor also throws in a few leg lifts, toe raises and chin-ups. The author really enjoyed pounding on his thighs while doing wall sits. Hey, we've all enjoyed a few wall sits in gym class, basketball practice or with our personal trainer. Why not jazz them up a bit with some self-flagellation? Dr. Hamner claims this and running are the keys to his physical fitness.

Now, interestingly enough, Dr. Hamner's video is available for viewing on the internet, but is not for sale via book, video tape or DVD. He's just put it out there for all to see.

As usual, though, it is not about moving well or really managing your bodyweight in space. It's just another quickie "get hard and toned" so you can look like me gig. Another wacky, narcissistic doctor setting the standard in fitness and health, through the Washington Post and syndication. At least he's not charging for his services.

Here's the link. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think:

Sunday, December 11, 2005

RSS and Atom Feeds

I've added links for those who would like to subscribe (Atom then RSS below that). Email me if there are any problems or you have suggestions. I'm still a newbie at it all.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Well, we have our first snow on the ground and it has been bitterly cold this week. It is always a bit of the shock to the system, but also refreshing to see the powerful changes and forces that occur in nature. I know spring is a only few weeks away.

Such events remind me that change is necessary for personal and professional growth. With winter, we see our surroundings in a new light. The leaves are stripped from the trees and an entirely new landscape appears. For personal or professional growth to occur, it is necessary that our beliefs, ideas and relationships be stripped of their coverings so we can examine them from a different, maybe even challenging, viewpoint. During this process some of these old parts of us decrease in importance or die completely; others are renewed and rejuvenated. New ideas, world views and relationships form. Our landscape changes and we grow.

Self-reflection is challenging; change is scary. Sometimes the process is as painful as inhaling the bitter cold air of a December morning. Let it be cathartic; exhale and watch the old breath disappear. Grow and evolve. Branch out.

There. That's better. Now, who's ready for the Spring Classics and my boy Magnus Backstedt to rock at Paris-Roubaix? There's something really sexy about a 6'4" 210 lb Swede fighting his way through the muddy cobbles on a kick-ass Bianchi. Go Maggie!

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Post-Dispatch Fitness Section Review: Walking Lunges

The weekly fitness section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch always has some interesting features. Many don't deal with real health; they deal with cosmetic appearance--"Teeth bleaching addicts can go to far"--and bodybuilding fitness junk.

The primary bodybuilding-esque column is a weekly syndicated piece by someone named Nancy Cole. The only credential or information I can find on this person (Google) is that she is a "certified personal trainer from South Florida. If anyone knows more, please fill me in. Today's topic is walking lunges. Now, I'm a fan of walking lunges for a variety of reasons, none of which includes developing "lean, luscious legs and a tight, rounded rump." Although she does briefly mention that this bodyweight exercise requires balance, flexibility and leg strength, it is brief and she does not mention anything about torso control (core strength) or total body coordination.

She recommends doing 20 "steps" to start, with bodyweight for beginners and a bodybar across the shoulders if you are advanced. She then proceeds to recommend the following volume of work, this is assuming 20 steps is a set:

"Start with a 15-minute session...with 30 second rests at the end of each set. Eventually work up to 45 minutes of walking lunges and a shorter rest time for a really tough workout."

The average person cannot even begin to do the 15 minute session, and I cannot imagine anyone spending (surviving) 45 minutes doing one bodyweight exercise, except maybe some of those fitness competition freaks. I have my people do at most 10 steps with each leg, working on balance and posture with feedback; rest periods are 2-3 minutes for full recovery and feedback on form, because fatigue will compromise form. We want to groove good motor patterns here, as poor form will lead to musculoskeletal problems down the road. Max sets might be 4 or 5.

If you want to get cardiovascular conditioning, get to walking, swimming, running or riding. Lunging for cardiovascular exercise is just stupid and impractical; this is an exercise for strength, balance and control. The average person attempting to do this will cause themselves considerable pain and possible injury attempting to do what this article advises.

But that's just it with most of these "personal trainer" or "fitness experts" in the American fitness industry. They don't really know what they are doing, have no real credentials and feed everyone (especially women) this aerobic/circuit training junk. They simply sell themselves in the popular press as experts because of some connection and usually through their own appearance. Breast implants or big biceps / pecs usually serve as good credentials in this profession (as in the picture above).

These so-called "experts" don't know how to accurately prescribe and apply exercise for improved physical health. Keep this in mind: Any idiot can make you sweat. 15 to 45 minutes on one continuous exercise is not only impractical, it borders on criminal.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Fit Happens (Or Maybe Not)

I had the great fortune of attending a convention of physical education teachers recently. And I really mean that; it was refreshing to see there are PE teachers out there trying to get young people enthused about good physical health, being fit and learning new motor skills. I will have to admit I often lamented PE class in high junior high, even as an athlete. But these people were into physical health and they were TRYING to do better for their students; I really admire that.

The booth next to ours had a number of fun t-shirts: Got Sweat, Yes We ARE Dressing Out Today and Fit Happens, etc. The Fit Happens shirt is a cool play on words, but it made me think that when it comes to physical health, fit does NOT just happen. It takes effort and education. It takes sweat. It takes hard work to keep yourself physically healthy and fit.

One of the more disappointing exhibits at the convention was some video game that had you stand (or lean on the support post behind you!) and use isometric pushing, pulling and sidebending "movements" to manipulate the image on the screen. I HAD to take a picture of this thing. I did try it to make sure I knew what was going on, but as I attempted to control the plane I was flying I just got more and more aggravated. IT THIS WHAT PEOPLE NOW THINK OF AS EXERCISE ????? DO WE HAVE TO HAVE A TELEVISION OR VIDEO SCREEN IN FRONT OF US--ESPECIALLY KIDS--TO GET THEM TO DO ANYTHING PHYSICAL??

Of course the kids loved it. They easily melded with the system and had a blast. More video games to develop hand/body-eye coordination; but no stimulation to develop full body proprioception or kinesthetic awareness. Pretty soon no American child will move at all, except to carry giant backpacks filled with their laptops. They won't run and jump or even read a book or write with a pen or pencil. They will learn, play, communicate and entertain themselves via an LCD screen. Beneficial interaction with people, gravity, their own body and other objects in the world will be reduced to little or nothing.

Perhaps the woman in the American Diabetes Association is right when she tells me that 1 in 3 American children born in the year 2000 will develop either type I or type II diabetes.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

I Digress on "Babes" and the Validation of Female Experts in any Profession

I was listening to NPR's Science Friday yesterday and heard Ira Flatow (the host) make a very interesting comment to the guest author, Lisa Randall, PhD, a physics professor at Harvard. Ira said something like "The picture on your book is very flattering. You can really use this to your advantage." (I'd have to listen to the broadcast again for the exact quote--so please, don't quote me.) She was, needless to say, a bit perplexed by his comment and I think, made uncomfortable.

Why is it that men have to comment about a woman's looks, especially when they are attractive, as something she can utilize to validate or promote herself in the marketplace or within a profession?

Am I wrong in saying that no man EVER faces such a predicament--either positive or negative? Men are accepted for what they have done, not how they look.

Come on! The woman is a Harvard faculty member! This is science, not fashion! It does not matter what she looks like and for someone to suggest that her looks are an asset is a real disappointment to me, as a woman working in a predominantly male field. Why can't we be valued for what's inside the intellect without any discussion of physical appearance? Is it really necessary?

What a shame to hear this on NPR and Science Friday.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Evolving Perspectives on Diet and Exercise

Recently I had the opportunity to meet and interact with many vegan and vegetarian athletes. It was absolutely fascinating to listen to both competitive strength (well, body builders, but that's another blog subject) and endurance athletes discuss their successful use of a vegan dietary regimen. And some of these people were even RAW vegan, which means they choose to not cook any food. Can anyone say fiber?

Some speakers at this conference--the first annual Organic Athlete Conference--did a good job of backing up their information with research data. Others provided more of a personal, anecdotal story of their experiences. One of the most interesting topics was that of diet and recovery. Fast, complete recovery from hard training sessions is key if an athlete is to stay healthy and make progress. Athletes are now taught to consume specific types of nutrients during the "optimal window of recovery" with lasts anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes or so after a training bout. Overtraining, a failure to recover properly, is the enemy of the elite athlete.

There are more special "recovery" dietary products on the market than you can shake a stick at now. I am guilty of using and promoting the use of such specially-formulated products. I am beginning to reconsider some of my personal opinions on this subject.

One of my goals over the next few months is to explore anecdotal and research evidence regarding vegan and more whole food approaches to recovery in the competitive endurance and strength athlete. My guess is that I will find some surprising evidence that current "science" and cutting-edge technology doesn't hold a candle to nature's bountiful offerings.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


I'm still recovering from the five-day loss of power at home. You would think we had a hurricane.

I've been wanted to say this for years: I am not a personal trainer. Please do not refer to me as such. I hold no "personal trainer" credentials. I don't count reps or hand people dumbbells. I am a physical therapist, licensed in Missouri and Illinois. I hold an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and graduate degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Washington University. I've acquired the NSCA CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist) credential and the USA Weightlifting Club Coach certification, but those are nothing compared to the time and effort spent to get my degrees and licenses. I can rehab your newly-scoped knee and then teach you how to squat properly or do a power jerk.

Now, I have many friends who are personal trainers. Some are very good at what they do and know their scope of practice. The public should realize that most personal trainers have no formal training. Anyone with a CPR certification and a credit card can pass a very easy multiple choice test and get a "personal trainer" certification. There are some organizations that are better than others; but the bottom line is that these organizations (some for-profit and others not-for-profit) are out to make money. Once these organizations certify someone, they have no jurisdiction over or responsibility for them. If the personal trainer injures a client, there is no one with any power to keep that person from providing services as a personal trainer. I, on the other hand, am regulated by the states of Missouri and Illinois and can lose my license if I act in a negligent or unethical manner.

It is my opinion that many people hire a personal trainer without really knowing that individual's qualifications. They simply hire that person because of their physical appearance or their personality. If you are basically healthy and want someone to help you develop an exercise routine, make sure you take the time to find out about his or her qualifications. If you have an injury, find a good physical therapist, not a personal trainer. Get someone who will educate you and help you become independent. Get someone who understands how the human body moves.

Appropriately dosed and applied exercise makes one better and healthier. Inappropriately dosed and applied exercise ultimately causes injury. It ain't rocket science, but it is an art and a skill. Don't let the buffed biceps and silicone implants blind you.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Free weights are my (and your) friend!

Finally testing the blog waters. I think this is going to be fun.

Does anyone know why people are so intimidated by free weights? Or why most of the people in this country think they are exercising by sitting down on some contraption and doing non-functional, single-joint movements?

Now if more people could get in this position, we'd have less back and knee pain. Really.