Sunday, October 29, 2006

OT: Allergies and Food

Just picked up the November copy of Sauce Magazine, a local foodie publication that tends to have interesting articles on area restaurants, chefs and all things food. This issue has an article by Jill Baughman that discusses the controversy over the role of food with regard to seasonal allergies. If you live in the Midwest, and especially St. Louis, you know the region is notorious for having hordes of people who suffer from seasonal allergies and sinus infections. I used to be one of those people. But I changed my diet (eliminated dairy, gluten and animal proteins) and have since eliminated my use of medication to control seasonal allergies and sinus infections, as well as cleared my skin of troublesome acne.

Let me share are few quotes from Dr. H. James Wedner, chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the Washington University School of Medicine:
"There are a lot of old wives' tales about foods or drinks that stop respiratory allergy symptoms, but none of them help. Many of the remedies people propound as benefiting allergies have not been tested well. There is no degree of scientific certainty that they actually work."

"Take medicine. We give patients pills to feel better. I hate to tell you that; I'd love to tell you that patients could drink wine, eat a good meal and be cured. That may make them feel better, but it is in no way a proven treatment."
Dr. Ray Slavin, co-director of the Comprehensive Sinus Center at St. Louis University agrees with Dr. Wedner:
"There is no evidence at all that eliminating or including certain foods in your diet prevents allergies."
With all due respect to these highly educated and accomplished health care professionals, I must strongly disagree. We live in the most cancer-ridden, heart disease-ridden, diabetes-ridden, allergy and asthma-ridden, obese culture on this earth. How we eat has everything to do with this! And no amount of pills, genetic engineering or medicines will solve the problem. They may mask and decrease some of the symptoms, but they will not solve the problem. It is a travesty that our scientific and medical communities continue to focus on reductionist approaches to major health problems and refuse to acknowledge that BEHAVIOR and the biology and chemistry of the food we eat contributes mightily to our health, or lack there of.

It is chemistry, not just caloires. Food is not just energy; it interacts with our biology in more ways than we can likely imagine.

For many of us, the various proteins we ingest wreak havoc on our immune systems. Whether it is casein (in dairy) or gluten or some other mysterious protein, these stimuli affect our immune system and susequently our respiratory systems, our digestive systems, our nervous systems, our skin, or our sinuses. The expression of the problem is extremely complex and varies with the individual. The expression of our body's reaction to the food we eat may take years to develop, and thus weeks, months or years to be detected if we remove these stimuli from our diets.

We are, and are affected by, what we eat. It is so beautifully simple, yet so complex. There are so many levels, so many interactions--our science and our scientists cower in the face of doing the long-term epidemiological work that might help explain these phenomena. Instead, they head for the Petri dish and the single cells and genes they can easily manipulate; this is where the grant dollars, respect and the Nobel Prizes are. Additionally, the powerful food industries spend billions of dollars and fight tooth and nail to deny the disease consumption of their products may cause, just like the tobacco industry. Our physicians, on the backs of the powerful pharmaceutical giants, push pharmacological methods as the preferred and only fix and help us deny that our behavior and choices might be the real culprit for our lack of health.

I just met a client who, at the age of 41, rebuked the advice of his physician to go on statins, and changed his diet. His LDL decreased from 170 to 90 now. He's lost 40 lbs. He runs, he rides, he competes in triathlons. He's bucked his familial trend--"it runs in our family--we all take cholesterol meds."

Like me, this guy read T. Colin Campbell's The China Study. It is the best science published thus far to back up the theory that dietary habits are the foundation of many diseases that exist now--including allergies. It is too bad Dr. Wedner and Dr. Slavin will never encourage their patients to give dietary behavior modification a try. I need to send them both a copy of Dr. Campbell's work.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Go Crazy Folks!

Take that Kenny Rogers. The Karma Fairy came through. You won game two, but she put the pine tar curse on the rest of your pitching staff and they couldn't field a ball to save their hide or win the World Series. And some 5'7" shortstop and his ragtag teammates with the 13th best record in baseball, come together to win 4 games to 1. It wasn't the most beautiful series, but the Cardinals did what it took to win--and sometimes that means simply making fewer mistakes than your opponent. Many times, the winning team makes their own luck.

The last time the Cardinals won the World Series (1982), I was in 8th grade and I was in love with 2nd baseman Tommy Herr. I suffered through 1985 (KC) and 2004 (Red Sox). And my lovely husband is a crazed Minnesota Twins fan who takes great pleasure in reminding me frequently that his beloved Twins beat the Cardinals in 1987. This will quiet him down for a while, at least until pitchers and catchers report next spring.

I'm not a huge baseball fan and both Kevin and I strongly opposed public funding of the new Busch Stadium. But I have met Lou Brock and had the honor of working with Stan and Lil Musial while living here. I've met several people on the Cardinal managment team while working with them and their acquisition of Dartfish. Congratulations to them all--and the rest of the Cardinal Nation. It was fun to watch.

OT: Clean Living

As my husband will gladly tell you, I am notorious for leaving things in my pockets. Things which aren't found until they are destroyed in the washer and/or dryer. Tissues, lip balm, money--you name it. I try, but I just can't seem to clean out my pockets before depositing my clothes in the dirty pile.

Well, last night I was doing laundry and thought I finally got what I deserved. The knocking sound in the dryer turned out to be my little Lexar 512 Mb Jump Drive, sans it's little protective cap. Great. Was there anything really important on it? Oh well, maybe I'll learn, right? On a whim I decided to see if it still worked. Popped that puppy in the USB port and to my surprise, heard the familiar "cling clang" of Windows XP. Clicked "My Computer" and there was the icon. Clicked on the icon and there were my documents, squeaky clean.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Brief AJ Update

The District Cross Country Championships are this Saturday. AJ will be running on a course she ran back in September, going 21:50 on a hilly course and finishing 15/250. The competition will not be stiff in terms of teams qualifying for the State Championship next Saturday, so there is some pressure but not a great deal. Her team should qualify easily (top 2 teams).

We are tapering her resistance training to more basic work and keeping things quick and fast. I watched her run last Friday, where she had a great 21:04 time on a tough course and finished 26/120+ girls (30 teams) with both 3A and 4A schools competing. AJ's school is 3A, meaning it is a smaller school. As a freshman, she ran that particular course in 24:00+; last year she ran it in 22:30. So she's making some great progress overall in her development as a runner.

During the race I was able to see her go by 4 or 5 times and it seemed like her stride was a bit too long and her stride frequency a bit slow. It did not seem like she was effectively using the elastic energy of her lower extremities. During our meeting on Sunday we worked a bit on the treadmill (it was raining) and talked about shortening her stride a bit and increasing the rate of turnover. I am not a fan of the high speed treadmill magicians, but in this case, the treadmill forced AJ to pick up her pace and she could not overstride due to the design of the treadmill. Needless to say, she confessed to really disliking treadmills! She emailed me to say she tried her new technique in practice with some 200/400 intervals and managed to up her pace, while remaining comfortable and without any increase in perceived exertion.

I've encouraged her to experiment and push her psychological envelope a bit. I'm certain she has the cardiovascular engine to go faster; she just needs to become more efficient and utilize the new strength/power she has to make those legs cycle more effectively rather than pull her along. It is somewhat late in the season to make changes, but as long as she is comfortable I think they are for the better. We'll see what happens on Saturday!

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Dirt on Lying: Hey Everybody's Doing It

Oh that wasn't pine tar. It was just dirt on my hand.

Right Kenny. You were caught "brown-handed." But for whatever reason, you gambled and won. Like many other adults in this day and age--politicians, heads of corporations, other professional athletes--this 42 y.o. baseball pitcher has LIED to the entire world about what was on his hand and why it was there. Straight up lied and denied right at us. Unbelievable? Not today.

Deny, lie, deny and abdicate responsibility for our words and actions. This is what our society does now and it trickles down to our young people like you wouldn't believe. Hey, if professional athletes can get away with it, why can't a high school athlete who is accused of violating a high school's drug and alcohol policy get away with the same tactic? The high school doesn't have the blood alcohol reading of my body before or after the dance. I didn't drink and you cannot prove I did. Now let me practice and play.

And no one who can or will take disciplinary action knows the true identity of the substance on Kenny Roger's hand. So he'll continue to deny everything and there's nothing anyone can do about it. It's our right to play high school/professional sports anyway--besides, who wants to throw a talented athlete off the team? Sports are all about winning and money. Character, integrity and following the rules are just old fashioned.

So get a life, Coach--and grab a lie. Everyone else is doing it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More Thoughts on Sissy Squats

  1. If the athletes are truly quad dominant and you want to initiate posterior chain strengthening, why spend so much time—weeks--on a quad dominant exercise? Let’s get to the point, the human body responds to appropriately applied overload.
  1. I am curious to know just how bad the posterior hip and ankle flexibility is in female middle distance/distance athletes—and thus the need for this drastic remediation. I would tend to think the opposite is true—that males are more prone to inflexibility. Just my experience with high school boys.
  1. Are the male middle distance runners asked to do this exercise or just the females? Is the macho bias of the collegiate weight room showing through with prescription of this particular exercise?

Reminds me of the George Carlin routine (weight room version):

On the MEN’S side of the weight room, we do: HACK SQUATS

On the girls’ side of the weight room, we do: sissy squats

On the MEN’S side of the weight room, we do: SKULL CRUSHERS

On the girls’ side of the weight room, we do: triceps kickbacks

You get my point, right? If this exercise is so great, at least CHANGE THE NAME so the women in the gym don’t have to put up with the HUMILIATION of doing “sissy” squats while everyone else is doing squats without some idiotic name. It’s like saying “you throw like a girl”—our expectations of you are so low, we have to make you do “sissy” work.

These women obviously know how to bust their ass on the track. In my experience, they are also willing to bust their ass in the gym. It might be a different type of work for them, but my guess is that they’ll learn to love it if you only give them the chance. My high school runner AJ has—all 116 lbs of her!

We don’t melt in the rain and we can hang with the guys in the gym if you let us. We might appreciate a more positive and rational explanation of what we are doing and why, than our male counterparts, but we aren’t motor morons. Please don’t automatically dumb us down or humiliate us with exercises and terms like “sissy” squats.

Young Athletes and Poor Choices

Well, I'm bummed. A young athlete I know has been kicked out of one of the USOC Olympic Training Centers--for the second and final time. All of the talent in the world. This kid's physical abilities allowed her to walk into a great situation--room, board, college tuition, health care and training--a situation and opportunity many athletes in Olympic sports never have. This kid has the capability of representing the US in London in the 2012 Olympics, but the chances of that happening are greatly decreased now as she will be forced to fend for herself for training space and coaching.

Maybe I'm cynical, but it seems many of today's young athletes have trouble remaining disciplined and making good choices. Alcohol, sportsmanship, working as a team--heck, just showing up to training on time--many of them just don't seem to get it. The coaches are forced to act as baby sitters for people who cannot seem to keep their pants on or keep themselves sober--even at World Championship events.

More Bode Millers. I'm good and I'll do whatever I damn please and you'll like it.

Where is the honor and pride of being a disciplined athlete--especially when you are on the dime of the USOC? Of being a part of a team--a team that represents your country? Of just being a person of integrity, with humility and appreciation for your talents and a desire to use them in a positive manner. Of respect for those coaches and administrators around who are trying their best to make you into the best you can possibly be?

Makes me sick. Just sick.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sissy Squats? Only for the Skinny Girlies!

Anybody else checked out the sport specific training article in the latest T&C? I have to say I am utterly shocked and disappointed in the article by Matthew Ludwig, assistant strength coach at the University of Washington. I was hoping to find some extra goodies and inspiration for AJ's workouts--which have been going well and I'll update after today's tough race.

You can see a full summer workout program for the Huskies women's distance runners here.

The long track sprinters and hurdlers actually get to front squat. Why is this?

I don't see how incorporating a "sissy squat" into a program helps any athlete gain the proper lower extremity strength and mobility to do any kind of other squat.

What is wrong with simply having them stay upright with a med ball or other implement and encouraging closed-chain ankle dorsiflexion? Why do the long track/hurdlers do front squats, but not the middle distance women?

AJ has been taught all kinds of squats: back, front, single leg, multi-directional lunges, step ups, squat and press (dumbbell), cross over & touch. She even knows basic push press. Even though she is a novice middle-long distance athlete, I still use the basic weight training tools one would use with any other athlete; they are simply dosed in different intensities and volumes, given the athlete's needs and abilities.

I include barbell movement because I think they are great for overall strength, leg and core, and they help me discover R vs L compensations. It is also imperative for loading to stimulate lean body mass and bone density in these athletes. Barbell work helps me to utilize the single leg work more effectively and measure the effectiveness of any remediation we need to do.

The entire WU program seems very watered--"dumbed"--down for women and for distance runners. I appreciate the need to avoid muscle soreness with these athletes. I appreciate the need to build a good base of strength. But the intensity, volume and variety of this program leads me to thing there is no real "strength" being built here. The article stresses the use of weightroom for active recovery and "pre-hab." Well, those things are well and good, but it makes me wonder if these athletes are given short shrift in the weightroom. Obviously having the NCAA Div1 1500 m women's champion lends legitimacy to this strength & conditioning program. But I'm not sure that's not just the tail wagging the dog. What about the REST of the athlete--how are they benfitting and improving in their performances?

I'll enable comments again as I'd really appreciate input and comments from Vern, Joe P and anyone else with an interest and experience working with this type of athlete. I don't mean to disparage anyone on the WU S&C staff, but this seems typical of strength coaches who give women and endurance athletes the short end of the stick. The athletes survive and those who are gifted do well, but are they doing best for the rest?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mah Na Mah Na

Get the lowdown here.

Stick it in your head and have a great weekend!

A Few Thoughts on ChiRunning

Finally took the time to look over this ChiRunning stuff. A friend of mine is going to one of their workshops in Atlanta. I'm skeptical. From what I can tell from the website, this is a very slickly-run gig. Lots of product available for sale--they have even made it really easy for anyone (affiliates!) to make some money, by providing the html code for products to embed in your website so any click through from your site brings you an easy 20% commission.

I can't really find any good references on the actual techniques they teach, just general lay terminology: core strength, don't over-stride, don't focus on a heel-strike. In one sense, it seems like they are providing some good BASIC info to the adult runner. If you've ever watched a 5k or marathon, it is PAINFUL to watch many of the participants move. There is no wonder why there are running injuries in the masses. Most recreational runners are not blessed with naturally efficient running mechanics or an awareness of their movement--that's why they are not the Kenyans running like the wind. Compensations abound. So for many, ANY information and training with regard to improving mechanics could seem MAGICAL. And I believe we need to teach people how to move better.

But I'm not so sure it is CHI or revolutionary. At $195 for a one-day (6 hours of group instruction) workshop--bring your own lunch--it is CHI-CHING for the people running the show.

What I am sure of is that this is a slickly packaged, swiftly marketed idea. Calling it CHI makes it non-threatening to the recreational athlete. Promising to rid you of your pain and prevent injuries AND provide you with a "spiritual component to your fitness program" is clever. Who wouldn't want to meditate and run effortlessly? Effort during exercise can be distasteful for those who aren't used to working hard. Isn't that the idea of overload? It is one thing to teach improved mechanical efficiency, but to say you will run effortlessly pushes the envelope for me.

The following course topics cause me to raise an eyebrow:

• The Keys to Effortless, Injury-free Running
• The Physics of Running: Run without Using Your Legs
• ChiRunning® versus Power Running

When someone trademarks a term to describe what is possibly just sound running mechanics--and I'm not sure they are sound mechanics--it gives me pause. Like I said, pretty slick. But that's the way it is here. He who coins the magic phrase and gets intellectual property rights first, laughs all the way to the bank. Chi-ching.

We'll see. I'll try to keep a somewhat open mind and wait for my friend's report of his experience. He knows it won't bring back the hyaline cartilage on his femur, but if it eases his mind and gives him ANY inkling of how to run with less frequent and less intense discomfort, or truly improved running mechanics, maybe it is worth it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Why do boys get the good stuff?

Got some new cycling shoes today. Carbon-soled bling. Once again, I chose to shop in the men's section because the color and functional design in the equipment was better than that in the women's section.

Men's equipment and clothing functions better and looks better. Always. That's because it is designed for an ATHLETE. Women's stuff seems to be designed for men to look at women or for women to really not perform at an elite level. Not even recreate.

I am happy companies are finally beginning to manufacture sport equipment designed specifically for women. Size and anatomy are different. We are not simply miniature men.

But, and this is very common with cycling equipment, the women's specific design (WSD) stuff is usually has at least one of the following characteristics:

1. Inferior componetry--bikes get the crappy, low-level groupos, saddles, etc
2. Looks frumpy--not cool and fast
3. Nasty pastel colors
4. Designed to show skin, not function as athletic clothing, look good in a catalogue or in the coffee shop

Just once, I would like to easily find women's cycling shorts (or compression shorts for regular exercise) with an 8 inch inseam, in the latest high-tech fabric, with a women's chamois, in BLACK. NOT white, not pink, not blue and not with a 2 inch inseam. And I want the shorts to rise ABOVE my hip bones.

I would like my athletic shoes to come in colors that are not reminiscent of a baby's play room.

I would like my t-shirts to be larger than a Kleenex and to be available in colors other than pink and baby blue.

Seriously, it is very hard to find functional athletic clothing that is not designed to make you look and feel like a sexed-up teeny-bopper or a frumpy grandma. I sweat, I move, I work hard. Please give me equipment and clothing that helps me work harder--not look like a hottie.

If you ever see me exercising in hip-hugger capri pants and a spaghetti -strap tank with a paisley print, you'll know I've gone over the edge. And don't even think about a skort. I will fight anyone to the death before a skort touches this body.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mass Hysteria: The Myth of "Bulking Up"

So I've been absent for a few days--nothing like an 18 y.o. cat with a kidney infection and kidney stone, along with redefining my affiliation with Dartfish to distract me. But here I am.

I'm speaking to a group of individuals enrolled in a weight loss program through the Washington University Program in Physical Therapy next week. My friend Cindi (Cinister, the super cyclist and registered dietician) has invited me to speak for the second year. The topic du jour is resistance training: Don't believe the Hype: Be Smart, Be Healthy, Be Strong. My goal is to get these people to actually understand that using weights and training with real resistance is NOT going to cause any undo masculinization or lead to that great American fear, unwanted bulk.

Who the hell started this absurd myth anyway?

Every week this fitness myth is propagated by mass media. Why on 9/25 our wonderful Post-Dispatch "Health & Fitness" section carried a special article from the Washington Post by some guy named John Briley. This "Eyes on the Thighs" piece just made me cringe. You know the drill: some very unfortunate woman dutifully performs some type of cardiovascular exercise (stairmaster, elliptical,etc) and develops THUNDER THIGHS! In this article, the culprit is bicycle commuting to work. Give me a break. I don't care what gearing this person has selected--there is NO WAY some commuting cyclist is going to develop extensive hypertrophy from riding a bike back and forth to work.

Maybe she's increasing the amount of bad food she puts in her mouth because she burning more calories. Maybe she's making very poor food choices and the low level of riding she is doing cannot make up for the subtle increase in weight gain. Let me at her. I want to measure thigh girth, body fat, caloric expenditure and caloric intake and THEN determine whether there truly is an increase in lean body mass in the thigh area.

There are few if ANY people in this world who have a true biological disposition toward massive accumulation of aesthetically excessive lean body mass--regardless of the intensity and volume of training. Professional bodybuilders are NARCISSISTIC FREAKS who utilize absurd training schedules, wacky nutrition practices and illegal substances to create unnatural amounts of lean body mass. Can you tell I really have no love for these people? They, and the soft-porn publications that promote their activities, give resistance training a BAD NAME. Bodybuilders and the "sport" of bodybuilding perpetuate fear and loathing toward something that should be a healthy, lifetime practice for everyone.

The real problem for the rest of us is a disposition toward ingestion of too many crappy calories and not enough intense regular physical activity. So people, don't believe the hype. Be smart, be healthy, be strong. Lift some weights. Ride your bike. Bend your knees and move your center of mass. Your bones will thank you and you WON'T develop thunder thighs.