Friday, December 31, 2010

Making Plans

Whew, just in time for the new year. I can't think of any other time of year that this might be more appropriate than just before everyone is making their New Year Resolutions. Before you scoff and tell me you think it's cliche or that resolutions are just good intentions without anything to back them up think about it for just a moment.

While there is nothing special about the New Year as far as a health or fitness perspective it's not a bad thing to take the chance to make some goals for the upcoming 12 months. The important thing is to distinguish between goals and dreams.

Goals are specific. They have a plan of action to bring them to fruition and a way to measure if they have actually been attained. Dreams on the other hand are unattainable, unrealistic and if you really take the time to think about it are not something that you would ever even expect to happen.

Let's give an example. One of my goals two years ago was to run a 45 min 10k race. To do this I prepared for several months. I planned my weekly runs and set up a schedule to follow so that I would be ready for my big run. On the day of the race I knew how to measure my success. If the clock was over 45 minutes when I crossed the line I had failed and if it was under 45 minutes then I had succeeded. My plan was specific and my goal was measurable. I had some experience running prior to this. It wasn't like I was just trying to start as someone who never ran or only jogged a 12 min/mile pace before this, so I knew that this was within my reach. Thankfully, I attained my goal. I made it to the finish with less than 5 seconds to spare.

Now a dream of mine has always been to be in the Tour de France. This obviously is not going to happen. No matter how much I train, it's just not a possibility. I'm in my mid 20's, I have raced my bike for one year so far and am only a Cat 4 racer. Riding in Le Tour just is not an option for me. But I can dream, can't I?

Another important part of setting reasonable goals is using the right scale to measure them. You would never measure the growth of a tree in seconds. It would be absurd. The same is true for fitness or nutrition goals, you need to measure with a calendar, not a clock.

So even if you are adverse to making a New Year's Resolution, think about all this the next time you make plans for life whether they are in your work or play. Aim high, but have a plan for how to achieve it and measure it when you get there so that you don't spend all of your energy towards something you discover to be just a dream.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


About a year ago while doing some research about kettlebells I stumbled across an ingenious invention. The shovelglove. If you want to talk about functional fitness this is functional fitness meets MacGyver.

It all started with a fella who was a bit out of shape, but lacking the motivation to leave the house and go somewhere to exercise. Nevertheless his desire to get his butt back in gear overcame the exercise inertia that had him sitting around and he devised shovelglove. Here's a little excerpt of his story...

"I wanted an exercise I could do right there, in my bedroom, without any fancy equipment.

But I didn't want to do sit-ups or pushups. I didn't want to grovel on my stomach on the floor, like some degraded beast. "There must be some kind of movement I can do standing up, with the dignity of a human being," I thought, "some kind of movement that is natural and interesting, that my body would like to do."

I started making all kinds of spastic movements, hoping to come across something that resonated. I remembered reading something in some French novel about coal shovelers having the best abdominal muscles of anyone the author had ever seen. I started making shoveling motions.

Now there are a few problems with shoveling, from an exercise perspective. For one, if I actually went outside and started shoveling, I'd get all wet (remember, it's raining). The neighbors would think I was crazy, and if I did it at the wrong time I'd actually annoy them. I'd also have to have something to shovel, a waste of space, at least (our backyard is more of back alley). So outdoors is out. But I couldn't really shovel indoors, either. Even if I just did a pantomime with a shovel, I'd need some kind of weight to move, and I'd need some way of keeping it from scratching the floors or killing the cats."

And out of such turmoil and chaos came the shovelglove. Of course if you want to learn more you'll have to visit the website. (By the way, his website is considerably more enjoyable reading than just about anything else you'll waste 5 minutes on today so it's worth a peek.)

A shovelglove then, is just a sledgehammer with the head wrapped in a sweater or towel so that you don't brain yourself or scratch up the floors. The idea behind it is to mimic movements you might otherwise do in "real life" like shoveling, chopping wood, lifting luggage etc. It's really not unlike the new clubbells that are out and being used by the kettlebell types. By doing swinging motions with a free weight that has a center of gravity away from your body it engages several muscles involved in range of motion and works more than just a single muscle group at a time; the same concept that has made kettlebells so popular and effective.

I have yet to try it. My beautiful wife is a little skeptical that I won't wind up putting a whole in the wall...or ceiling...or my face. However, the idea sounds great and I'm confident that my powers of persuasion will win out sooner or later.

While you may not be signing up for a shovelglove class at the local gym anytime soon this shovelglove fella may just be on to something. He even has his own YouTube Channel.

Dare I say, "try it?"

Monday, December 27, 2010

Another good reason to train your core

Ever heard of "Dead Butt Syndrome?" Yeah, neither had I, but it's legit. NYTimes author Jen Miller just wrote an interesting little blurb about her problems with her gluteus medius and I have to say that recently, I can relate a little. Quite conveniently, during the week of a lecture on the lower extremity I noticed some funny pain in my right hip. It turns out my gluteus medius was a bit unprepared for my cross training season.

The problem boils down to this: As an athlete works their legs, they frequently neglect their core which includes the butt muscles. The butt muscles or gluteal muscles are some of the most important, though, especially for runners because they stabilize the pelvis which is the platform for everything that you do. The most important muscles to do this for running are the gluteus medius and minimus (but mostly the medius). When you have a weak gluteus medius your pelvis tilts instead of remaining level.

A quick way to test is to try and balance on one leg. This may be enough to make your pelvis tilt (although it may not be as dramatic as the diagram). If that's not enough, try doing a one leg squat, if your knee turns or bends in towards your midline ("valgus knee") then the odds are good that your hips could use some strengthening. If you still aren't convinced lay on your side and open your legs like a scissors. Have someone push down steadily and firmly but not violently on your leg while you try to keep them open. I was shocked to learn how much weaker my right side really was compared to my left.

Here are a few suggestions.

1) The clamshell
For this exercise you should lay on your side with your knees bent and open your knees like a clamshell.
As you can see by the thrilled look on this guy's face it's not the coolest exercise, but it's practical.

2) Glut Bridge
You can call this whatever you want, a bridge, a butt lift, all the same it's good work for your backside. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tensing your butt muscles lift your body so that you make a triangle (your feet/shins and the floor should make a right angle and your body is the hypotenuse).

3)Tight rope walk/Dumbbell walkouts
Don't worry you don't have to have access to a sky scraper to do this one, just a couple dumbbells. Take two dumbbells between 8 and 20 pounds each (start light) and walk around heel to toe like your are balancing on a tightrope. This may not seem like a lot, but because your toes are in line you must stabilize your pelvis with every step. You can see a video here.

Doing 2-3 sets of these exercises with 8-20 reps per set 3-5 times a week will work wonders. Another important aspect of taking care of your hips is to be sure and stretch. Just a little bit of extra time each day doing these exercises and stretching could mean the difference between playing and sitting on the sidelines.

For more core workouts and butt rehab try here and if you specifically are looking for a runner's core workout check out this workout at the Runner's World website.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Simple Garlic Hummus

A tasty snack with good fat and a good price too.

1 can of chick peas (14 oz)
1/4 cup of yogurt
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tsp minced garlic
1.5 Tbsp olive oil
Salt- to taste
1 Tbsp Tahini (optional)

Combine all ingredients in your blender or food processor and mix until smooth. Mix less if you like your hummus a little coarser.

Serve with Pita bread, fresh vegetables, pretzels or any of your other favorite dipping delicacies.

Monday, December 20, 2010

You need fat too!

I realize this is something that is hard to swallow, but it's true. You need fat too. Before you blow me off and keep "fat" on your black list read a little further.

You're body is made up of cells. A couple hundred years ago you might have looked at me and just said, "huh?" But thanks to the microscope and some advances in science (as well as public education) I feel pretty confident you can track with me here. Now where were we...ah yes, cells. You're body is made up of cells. Skin cells, stomach cells, hair cells, muscle cells, fat cells and more. Despite the fact that these cells all are part of different organs and systems, they have more in common than you may think. One of the things that all these cells have in common is their outer layer.

Cells have what is called a membrane which is composed of a lipid bilayer. What that basically means is that each cell is encased in a double layer of fat molecules. That's right fat molecules (aka lipids). And an important source for those cell walls is the fat that you eat. The fat you eat and cholesterol that you eat and that your body makes are mostly responsible for making the walls of your cells. The combination of those two components helps to determine how hard or soft those walls are. In the ideal world it would be the perfect combination of not too soft and not too hard, but every person is a little different based on their diet and their genetics.

This is part of the reason that trans fats are such a big deal. Initially when trans fats were invented we thought they were a great cheap solution to always needing plant or animal products, but as we quickly found out it's hard to beat nature at it's own game. By now it is impossible to go into a store without seeing bags of anything and everything labeled "0 Grams of Trans Fat" or "Trans Fat Free." That's because we learned that when trans fat gets included into our cell walls it tends to pack very tightly together. This means rigid cell walls (among other problems). Fats made by people and animals are almost exclusively cis-fats. While trans fats generally make straight linear molecules, cis-fats have some twists and bends in them. They create little extra spaces for molecules to move around and your cell membrane stays "softer" so to speak. Because of all of these problems trans fats are one item I would say are okay to put on the official "bad" list.

Another fat to avoid in excess is saturated fat. Saturated fats have similar properties in your cell to trans fats, but are naturally occuring in animal products and still not as bad as trans fats. This makes intuitive sense because we all are aware that eating a stick of butter or having bacon with every meal (both of which have a large amount of saturated fat) is not a good idea. Saturated fat, though, is not necessarily something to completely eliminate from your diet. For one, it would mean eating almost no animal products which is not a truly healthy or realistic option. In addition, your body can handle saturated fat and deal with it without too much difficulty, but just like any other nutrient if you eat too much of it you will not be happy with the outcome.

Now there are a couple of fats that are good for you. Namely unsaturated fats as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Unsaturated fats are found in nuts, seeds and other plant products and they are generally liquid at room temperature when they are isolated (as compared to saturated fats which are typically solid at room temperature-this is another good indicator of the quality of fat you are eating. Have the solids sparingly and enjoy the liquids). These unsaturated fats are the kinds that will leave your cells' walls soft and happy instead of rigid. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for multiple uses in the body, but they can't be made by humans, so they need to be eaten instead to be included in our bodies.

But now I've been babbling long enough, let's get to the payoff.

If you had to distill all of this information into a quick application it would be this. Don't avoid fat because you think "fat is bad." Fat has twice as many calories/gram as carbohydrate or protein so it's important to eat less of it if you want to avoid packing extra supplies of it on your body. However, it's not necessary to avoid it altogether and isn't good for you to do so either. Try enjoying some almonds instead of potato chips or using olive oil in place of butter. These are good ways to make sure that you get the fat you need without overdosing on the fat you don't need.

I know it's complicated, but you can do it. If you are just tuning in, check out more of this series on the three main nutrients under the Nutrition tags.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Exercise as an appetizer for breakfast

I read last week in the NYTimes about a recent study in the Journal of Physiology did an interesting experiment involving athletes and timing of exercise compared to when they ate breakfast. During the experiment they fed three groups of athletes a diet with an excess of calories which means that each group was expected to gain weight.

The first group did no exercise for the six weeks of the experiment and ate 30% more calories than would be appropriate for their need. In the end they gained an average of 6+ pounds (big surprise, huh?). Moreover, they saw in just those six weeks a decrease in insulin sensitivity, which is considered main causal problem in Type 2 diabetes.

The second group ate their excess calories in carbohydrate and ate carbs during exercise. Not terribly dissimilar from what a normal athlete would do other than eating excess calories. The results for this group were kind of boring. They gained a little weight because of the excess calories, but the rest of the findings were just kind of blah.

The third group, though, that exercise before breakfast and didn't eat anything during exercise was really interesting. They found that this group not only didn't gain a significant amount of weight, but the group also had increased insulin sensitivity and increased fatty acid oxidation (they used fat better for fuel). Their conclusion was somewhat novel (and a little cocky): "This study for the first time shows that fasted training is more potent than fed training to facilitate adaptations in muscle and to improve whole-body glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity during hyper-caloric fat-rich diet."

Really it is a pretty cool thing to find out. Lots of athletes know that when they need to drop a little weight, they do a little extra exercise in the morning before breakfast. Bradley Wiggins for instance talked about this being a normal thing for him when he's getting ready to drop a pound or two in preparation for a big race. This study had subjects doing 60-90 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise which is no small thing. However, the results are also no small thing. If they really hold true, this could be a nice prophylaxis for the holiday season when we are all a little prone to eating more than normal.

One caveat, don't expect your all time greatest results when you exercise before eating or without eating. You can only last so long without fuel and this method essentially has you running on E. If you decide to try it, start easier and work up to your limit instead of just blowing up on your first try.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Swiss Ball Stunts

Apparently there is this whole world of swiss ball stunts...and even acrobatics.

Needless to say, given my level of amateurity, I'm not quite there yet.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Swiss Ball: Not even remotely related to Swiss Cake Rolls.

It's still cross training season.

Which means I'm looking for ways to build some strength, maintain at least a minimal amount of aerobic fitness and try not to cry when I think about how long it could be before I get back on the open road with my bike.

One special area of interest during this time of year is core strength. My new secret weapon, the Swiss Ball (aka Fitball, exercise ball etc.). Please see below:

Core strength is especially important for a guy like me who spends long hours on a bike saddle or long hours hunched over study materials because it creates a platform for power when I'm bike riding and helps prevent back pain when I'm just sitting. I once heard the best way to eliminate low back pain is to eliminate your lower front. Now good posture, appropriate shoes and an expensive desk chair don't hurt; but when you're looking for the most bang for your buck you can't beat increased core fitness.

The Swiss exercise ball is one trick that I'm sure I can count on. Not only because of the good shape that regular ball users get into with these exercises but also because these exercises are difficult. Really difficult. If you don't believe me, try it. What have you got to lose? (besides maybe your lower front...)

For more face-breakingly difficult exercises check out these killer core exercises.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

BMI is a baseline measure, but also a helpful one

Lots of people put tons of emphasis on BMI. It's a good baseline test for figuring out what kind of shape your body is in. The US Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes for Health (NIH) have composed guidelines for healthy BMI and are what physicians use in the initial assessment of whether or not a person is underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese. BMI is somewhat limited in that it does not take into account a person's body composition, but the majority of the population (not elite athletes) this isn't too big of a problem. When you consider athletes BMI hits a little bit of a wall because athletes tend to have less body fat which means more of their weight is from muscle. This does not mean that BMI is invaluable, it simply needs to be used carefully. For this reason I have often given BMI less credence than perhaps it deserves.

The NIH recently released information regarding a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on BMI and it's predictive power concerning longevity. It turns out that your BMI is a little bit bigger deal than I have thought in the past. The study pooled 19 other investigations that examined BMI and the probability of mortality (dying). This study actually allowed them to look at data concerning 1.5 million people which is 0.5% of the total population in the US (not bad considering the number of people in the US). What it found was that overweight people had significantly increased mortality rates and that obese people were even more at risk. This was also examined with other possible concurrent risk factors for death and found that an increased BMI by itself increases the likelihood of death within 10 years compared to an individual with a health BMI (defined as between 20 and 25).

Interestingly, a BMI that is too low is also bad for you (there is such a thing as being too skinny). But before you go pounding down twinkies to try and protect yourself from a low BMI, consider this. The increased risk to your health begins around a BMI of 18 which would be a 5' 6" tall person who weighed less than 118 lbs or a 6' tall person under 140 lbs.

If you're curious you can go to the NIH's BMI Caculator and see for yourself what your BMI is. If that's not enough for you, the next step to finding out more about what kind of shape you're in would be to find out your body composition or % body fat, but that's a conversation for another time.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What's the big deal about protein?

Having just finished the Thanksgiving week and heading into the Christmas season, I thought it might be an appropriate time to return to some of my previous nutrition topics. After downing more bird than I care to admit during the last several days , protein seems like the best place to start.

If Zubaz were a definitive mark of 90's fashion, high protein diets are a definitive mark of our current decade's attempt to trim the fat. Most of these are fads aimed at dropping weight quickly without much care for the other associated health risks (i.e. Atkin's). I recently reviewed an article during my evidence based medicine class that especially highlighted the increased risks of heart disease in middle aged women who ate a high protein-low carbohydrate diet.

This isn't to say that protein is bad for you. An appropriate view of nutrition means that you need to make your eating choices based on balance and your personal circumstances will dictate your need for different nutrients. Lean protein, for instance, has been shown to help with muscle building and recovery from strenuous exercise. Another perk and perhaps more important to those who care to lose weight is that it helps with satiety. However, like all good things, there is a limit to it's effectiveness and benefits. As I talked about before, if you eat too much of anything your body will store it as fat for later.

So how much protein is enough and how much is too much. Let's take a look at what the experts have to say. In 2007 the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition wrote an article regarding their stand on "protein and exercise." If you'd like to view the entire article for yourself, just follow the hyperlink. I'll highlight some of the most important parts:

1) "Vast amounts of research" have been done that support the increased protein needs of exercising individuals. This means that, yes, you do need more protein when you work your body more. (warning: sciencey language ahead) This is because proteins are made up of amino acids which are used to build other proteins in your body including enzymes that perform metabolic processes. An athlete's increased metabolism and stresses therefore dictate the need for increased protein intake.

2) Protein intake levels ranging from 1.4-2.0 g/kg/day in exercising individuals are not only safe but may also help improve adaptations to exercise training. That's pretty self explanatory. It means that for a guy like me who weighs ~79 kg, I can eat between 110 and 158 g of protein each day in hopes of improving my athletic performance. That comes out to between 400 and 600 calories a day from protein which would be only 13-20% of my caloric intake on a day that I eat 3000 calories (which is normal or less than normal when I am in full swing with bike racing).

3) Eating protein after exercise can aid in recovery, specifically it aids in maintenance of lean muscle mass and muscular hypertrophy when consumed following resistance exercise . This is a complicated topic, and one that I think I will highlight again another time, so for more info you'll have to tune in later.

Another interesting topic on protein is how much is too much? Generally your body breaks down and reuses a set amount of its own proteins each day. This means that there is a plateau effect in supplementing protein. Amounts higher than 2.0 g/kg/day generally offer only limited increase in benefit if any increase at all. It also just so happens that eating 2.0 g/kg/day is actually rather difficult if you aren't intentional about it. A whole egg only has about 7 g of protein (I would need to eat 22 eggs to eat my 158 g of protein) or 600+ g of lean chicken...that's about 1.32 pounds.

The bottom line is that protein is an essential part of your diet whether you are an athlete or not. If you aspire to live an active lifestyle, protein becomes a more important part of your diet. Nevertheless, all things must be taken in moderation and balance must be your guiding principle. I'll leave you with the following from

"Remember, the healthiest diet is based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein — not rigid lists of 'good' and 'bad' foods. "

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Cyclocross is something that I may never try, but I will always admire it and the crazy hardmen who do it.

...I couldn't help but include this one too since it's from my homeland. I even recognize some of the riders.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Be Thankful

So much of exercise and fitness is about moving forward, getting better, improving on what you have and leaving the old obsolete version of you behind. But if that was the only message that I ever offered you here it would be incomplete.

When I write, I am very progress minded, and this is a lot of what fitness is about. Improving so that you get faster, stronger etc. However, there comes a point where you need to reflect on what you have gained and where you are. If you don't it will only lead to discontentment.

Today is Thanksgiving, so what better time to take pause and be thankful for whatever you have to be thankful for in life and in the theme of this blog here are a few things that I am thankful for...

...a healthy body to run, bike, swim, yoga (I don't know if I can use that as a verb), jump, row, and just plain play. lovely wife who supports my crazy endeavors and family who backs me up.

...the privilege of being in medical school where I can learn all about the human body and how it works.

...friends and riding partners who like to do some of the same crazy stuff that I do

...A beautiful world to explore in so many different ways

...A safe place to live and sometimes to rest and recover when I need to

...Good food to eat and fuel my adventures

...A trusty steed to take me wherever my little heart desires

God has blessed me with all of these things and it just wouldn't make sense not to be grateful for them. I hope you take the time to stop and reflect on the good things in your life from time to time and not just when we have a holiday designed for it. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Functional Fitness

In the continued spirit of the cross training season, I'd like to remind you about the concept of "functional fitness." It sounds nice, but what is it? It's the kind of fitness that says sure I can run a mile to catch that train. Or if you want I could dig post holes and build a fence. Or maybe you'd like me to pull things out of the attic? Then again the yard needs to be raked and it would be nice to be able to pick up my nephews without hurting my back.

Oh yeah, those important kinds of things. Don't forget, fitness isn't really doing you a lot of good if it's not doing you a lot of good. (yeah, wrap your head around that...)

There are plenty health benefits to being fit: lower chances of coronary artery disease, improved mood, fewer chronic aches and pains. But those things are all future types of things and after a recent discussion on public health--and general observation of the world's obsession with instant gratification--we know that most people are less concerned about the future than they are about the here and now. So let's talk here and now.

My brother got into weight lifting a little bit in high school and was enjoying his new strength and muscles. Not that there's anything wrong with that! But then one day when he was just being lazy around the house my mom asked "So what are those [muscles] good for?" Ooooo....Point goes to Mom.

She has a good point though. I used to work at a health club teaching swimming lessons and would often see members come in who looked like they were way too clean to be working out and who spent most of their time building big muscles and toned bods just for the looks. But what are they good for? Put them to use!

Try things that give you functional fitness so that you can take advantage of being fit by doing everday real life types of things. Yoga workouts are great for building your core strength and helping prevent back injuries. Circuit workouts use your whole body, muscles and cardiovascular system. So does rowing! Kettlebells are great for stabilizing joints because they use multiple muscle groups instead of just isolating the good looking ones and are good at stimulating the muscles you use for picking things up (like the garbage). And you can still enjoy the other good looking benefits of the changes your body will make as it adapts to the stress you put yourself under.

The bottom line really is this: all that hard work you do ought be useful to you. Don't you think so? Staying fit and trim is functional because it prevents injury and helps you do everyday life types of things without stressing you out so much that you need a nap. When you take care of yourself it's not that big of a deal when you have to lift your luggage (and all your other family members) or carry it up the stairs, a walk in the park becomes a walk in the park instead of an exhausting amount of exertion and, who knows, your next landscaping job might be something you decide not to hire out. I have to say that these sorts of things all sound fantastic to me, and 100% worth it.

The next time you're working out, ask yourself "What is this good for?" The answer may be to win your next race, it might be to fit into smaller pants, it could even be because you want to be able to be able to keep up with your grandkids someday. Whatever your reason is, just make sure you have one. It will make your training all the more worthwhile and maybe even a little more FUNctional. (oof. That was bad wasn't it?)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hey Cow

With my recent move to America's Dairyland I have pedaled past my fair share of cows while they enjoy their daily meal. Man, I'm glad I'm not a cow. However, I don't miss the opportunity that presents itself while I am rolling past. Instead I insist on playing "Hey Cow!" It's a fairly simple game really. You yell at the cows and if they look at you, you get a point for every cow that looks. It's somewhat mindless, but ridiculously amusing and far more difficult than you would imagine. My score is rarely in the double digits, even after being on the road for 30+ miles. If there are enough cows you can melt miles off a long ride with this brainless entertainment.

It's just one of those things that can't quite be understood until you give it a try.


Thursday, November 18, 2010 - Regular Run: Quick Run on 11/18/2010

I discovered I can share my workouts from MapMyRide. I'm just giving it a try to see what happens when I do that. It may or may not be worth doing again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Those must have been some Ripped slaves

You know all those movies where the ships roll in with the galley full of slaves rowing away. Now I know why they always made the slaves do the rowing. It's really stinkin' hard!

With the advent of cross training season I'm moving indoors to try some alternate training that will help keep my cardio fitness up and give me enough variety to keep going even when I'm stuck inside not going anywhere. Thus, I have turned to rowing. Rowing is not for the faint of heart. It's a total body workout from your shoulders to your toes. Just make sure you do it right so that you stay injury free.

There are lots of good tutorials that you can find on Youtube. Anything from an actual rowing coach walking you through the motions, to stick figures and animations. The thing that I like best about rowing is it will keep my legs in shape, but help build some of my core and upper body at the same time--areas that tend to be neglected when training for cycling, but are needed if I want to stay useful for everyday life types of tasks.

If you want to try rowing, I recommend you watch one of the instructional youtube videos so that you don't incur any injuries and send yourself backwards instead of forwards. Start slow and then build up and reap the benefits.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Careful Cross Training

It's getting to be that time of year again. Cross training base fitness time. This can be either the most liberating time of the year for a cyclist with a structured training plan if you use it carefully. Or else it can wind up being just wasted time if you don't care to use it appropriately.

Let me explain what I mean.

As an amateur racer in the midwest, the summer months are race time. It's a fairly short season compared to professionals and those in warmer climates, so it means that we have a lot longer off-season since we're not getting paid to ride. For lots of people that off season is their undoing. They stop riding and so they stop doing much of anything. However, the best part of an off-season that long is that you get some time to just play. The first couple months after a full cycling season should be used to rest and then just enjoy being active anyway that you want to. Play soccer, go running, try something new like curling or polo. Okay, maybe that's a little extreme, but you get the gist.

After that, though, comes a good stretch during which you have the opportunity for solid base training before the next Spring. I generally consider mid November until January a good time to start some nonspecific base training and strength building. This means using your exercise time to maintain general aerobic fitness and do some muscle building as well. The best part is that if you get a little interrupted (for instance with Thanksgiving and Christmas in there) it's not the end of the world. You're workouts don't have to be killer long either because they are maintenance workouts. Maintenance workouts are typically most beneficial when they are a little bit shorter and a little more intense. The long workouts come in springtime when you are trying to increase your aerobic capacity and get ready for early season riding again.

It's generally accepted that fewer high intensity workouts compared to longer low intensity workouts more often will help you hold onto your fitness a little bit longer. Regardless, I don't expect to feel as fit as I was in July when I get to January. For that I'll need to rebuild again during the spring. It's frustrating that your fitness cycles from high to low through the year, but don't despair. That's normal. The cool thing is that each year that you increase your fitness the following low is a little higher than it was before and you can build a little higher than your previous height of fitness. That's why you hear of cyclists, runners, triathletes etc peaking in the careers during their 30's, because they've had several years to build fitness.

You're fitness, then, might look something like this over the years:
Each peak and trough here is roughly a year's cycle of fitness. This is by no means scientific, just qualitative.

Cool, eh? So get out there and make the most of the off season...and if all year is your off season, maybe it's time to make some goals for next season.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Carbohydrates are not evil

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy that your body needs. That's right needs. Without carbs your body generally doesn't get enough high quality energy for your daily activities. Eating only protein leaves your body to starve in between meals (and especially overnight) because you cannot store protein and eating only fat in place of carbohydrate leads to LOTS of other problems.

If you want to do any kind of physical activity, carbohydrates are a necessity. They directly feed your muscle glycogen stores which are the primary source of energy for your muscles. Also, carbohydrates are the main way that your body feeds your brain the glucose that it needs. So fruits and veggies really are brain foods.

So why do carbohydrates get such a bad wrap? Mostly because our society has become so sedentary. It is easy to eat a lot of carbohydrates without even thinking about it, and when you eat too much at one time you wind up storing it as fat because you have more than you need for the time being. Also, diets like Atkins and South Beach have said "no carbohydrates = weight loss." Most people can't see through that to see that "no carbohydrates = water weight loss." When you have carbohydrates stored in your body you are also storing a significant amount of water with them, but when you cut out carbohydrate for long enough you also lose a lot of water resulting in a chronically dehydrated and lighter body. I think we can all agree that being well hydrated is a good thing, so if you are really wanting to be fit and healthy, cutting carbs out is not a sensible option (although cutting back may not be a bad idea).
Furthermore, your body knows what it needs, so the next time a carbohydrate deficient body gets any carbohydrates it latches on to them to store for later because it has been starving for carb. It may result in dropping some weight, but initially that weight is water weight and in the long term a significant amount of the weight that is lost is muscle. Additionally, the first carbohydrates it gets after starving for days weeks or months get stored right away and sometimes as fat. I don't know about you, but I'm most interested in losing fat, not storing it up to lose water or muscle.

Carbohydrates come in all sorts of different foods. Whole unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables and grains are the best sources because they include other important vitamins and minerals with them, but there's nothing wrong with satisfying your sweet tooth from time to time with a chocolate bar. Whenever possible it's important to include some fiber or protein with carbs because carbohydrates do not trigger your "satiety switch" quite the same way as other nutrients. Satiety has to do with feeling full and satisfied and it takes longer for your body to realize this with carbohydrate than it does with fat or protein. Including enough fiber and staying well hydrated can help too.

The bottom line, carbohydrates are an essential part of your daily diet (and the FDA generally recommends that you get around 50-60% of your daily caloric intake from carbs). Not only that, but if you have even the slightest desire to live an active lifestyle you are going to need carbohydrates to fuel your fun.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Portion size, why it is that a super-sized portion means a super-sized you.

Everyone has heard about the movie "Super Size Me" by now and has seen how a sustained period of terrible eating can do terrible things to your body. The protagonist in the documentary was up against a lot more than just lots of calories, but that was the primary contributor to his 24.5 lb weight gain over the 30 days of his experiment. He was a 6'2" guy who weighed 185 lbs to start. During the 30 days of his experiement he ate around 5000 calories a day. His BMR based on those figures is right around 2000 calories/day, which means that he was eating in excess of 2500+ calories/day assuming that he was minimally active (which was another constraint of his experiment).

So what?

Before we answer the "so what?" let's start by laying some baseline information. Calories are a measurement of energy. Calorie with a capital "C" is actually a kilocalorie, but we use Calories to talk about food because measuring in calories like physicists would give us giganticer numbers than we want to deal with. Your body needs a certain number of calories per day which it gets from food. Food is your fuel. There are three main pathways that those fuels take when you eat them. They get used for 1)energy now, 2)they get stored as energy specifically for muscle in glycogen or 3) they get stored away as fat.

Now let's answer the "so what?" question.

If I only need around 2000 calories per day to do everything that my body needs to do what does it do with the extra? It stores it! Let me introduce you to your friend, the liver. The liver organizes most all of this fuel. It's first job is to maintain your blood sugar. If you don't have enough glucose in your blood the liver will move glucose into your blood. If you have too much glucose in your blood, the liver will take it out and send it where it can be stored. Pretty handy organ to have, eh? The liver also does a lot to direct the storage of extra fuel as both glycogen and fat. But here's the deal, you're body can only store so much glycogen before it's full. Fat cells on the other hand just keep getting bigger and bigger the more you stuff in them. It's not such a bad system when you don't know when your next meal will be, but living a developed nation we can usually count on eating every day. Which means that if you don't want to store food as fat you need to control your caloric intake.

There are two really important ways to do this. First, keeping an eye on your daily caloric intake vs. output. If you are using 2600 calories a day and eating 3000 you are going to have 400 extra calories a day that the body wants to hang on to, which means more fat. This explains the well known idea that if calories in > calories out you will gain weight.

Let's get more specific though and talk about how much you eat at one time. Would you believe me if I told you that eating 5 times a day is better for your body composition than eating 3 times a day? What if I explained that you would be eating the same number of calories, but in smaller portions spread throughout the day? Think about the liver's priorities..1)blood sugar, 2) glycogen, 3) fat. All right, so now imagine you ate 2500 calories in 5 portions. That means that you would eat around 500 calories each time you ate. Not too bad. That's a big PB&J sandwich. But it also means that your portions are small enough that you are primarily addressing liver priorities #1 and #2. Once the food is used to balance your blood sugar and fill up your glycogen tank there may not be any left for your fat stores. Now that's pretty cool!

Try it and see how it works for you. The worst part is the inconvenience of eating outside of the normal Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner window. However, eating small portions several times a day, will help your body to store less fat and use more of the energy it is consuming when it enters the body.

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's nice to know there are somethings nobody knows

One of the coolest things about taking classes like Biochemistry or Genetics, or any other upper level science class for that matter is that you realize how many things that we still don't know. There are a lot. It may seem like we've got this whole world all figured out, but there are still a bjillion different little gaps to fill in. Some of which are not so little.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Food is Fuel

...and you're body is a power plant. Think of it a lot like a steam engine when you fuel the fire in a steam engine there is more heat to create more steam and thus more power from the engine. The engine doesn't work unless there is fuel to burn. (for those of you who need a refresher on steam engines check out How Stuff Works)

The difference is that our bodies also have batteries. The problem being that the batteries for our body tend to come in the form of love-handles rather than the nice copper tops. That's right, fat is the human battery. It's the primary way that we store energy for using later and it's pretty stinking good at storing a lot of energy (we can talk more later about how fat really isn't a bad thing unless you have too much of it).

Food is fuel. Sounds great, but what does it really mean. It means that what you eat lets your body do what it needs to do. There are three main nutrients that give energy to your body, protein, fat and carbohydrate. There is potential energy stored up in all of the chemical bonds that exist in the foods you eat. When you eat, your body breaks those bonds and transfers the energy in them to make other molecules your body can use, primarily ATP. Don't worry that's about the end of the sciencey discussion for now. The bottom line being that if you don't eat, you don't get the energy you need to do the things you like to do like running, biking, swimming etc.

There are three main plans that your body has for the fuel you put into it: 1) turn it into glucose right away to maintain your blood sugar levels and feed your brain, 2) store some energy in small energy stores for muscles called glycogen so that your muscles have the immediate energy they need to do things like walk, jump, sit, stand, etc. and 3) store whatever is left as fat.

Your body's goal is always to use the fuel you give it, even if you give it too much. Now the trick is finding out how much fuel you need and to give yourself the right amount. A good place to start is by doing a simple calculation of a basal metabolic rate. There are lots of calculators on the internet that you can find which will help you do this. The basal metabolic rate really is just a starting point though, because this is the absolute minimum number of calories you need in a day. Which means that even someone who has a sedentary job will burn more calories than their BMR...albeit not a lot more. The more active you are the more calories you burn because your muscles are using more fuel. Makes enough sense, right? If you drove your car 100 miles a day it would need more gas than if you drove it 10 miles a day. It's the same idea. Some calculators will try to compensate for this by giving you an opportunity to estimate activity level, like this one I found or the calorie calculator. These are only estimates, but they work fairly well.

Not all fuels are created equally, either because you are never getting just one nutrient from what you eat. This is a good thing too. Interestingly enough it is often found that natural whole foods frequently have a combination of nutrients and vitamins that complement each other in such a way to benefit your body. For instance, eating an orange or a bell pepper is a more efficient way for your body to obtain vitamin C than taking supplements...but now we're getting into vitamins and other add ons. They aren't really fuel, but they help your body do what it needs to do with the fuel. We'll leave that for later.

Ultimately you need to choose your fuel carefully. Most people would be quick to agree that eating all fat is no good, but eating all protein is also no good. Foods need to be balanced between nutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrate) and they need to be enough to meet your needs. A caloric deficit--which is what you usually aim for whenever you go on a diet--will make your body lose weight, but it will also stress your body. Remembering that food is fuel will help you realize that when you eat you should be considering the amount of energy you have used or will need to use. The key being balance and establishing a beneficial average quantity.

Until next time, fuel up!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween is a little less scary now...

yeah, that's right. That's a real human skull for my homework.
I named him Fred the Head. No big deal.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

An exercise in discipline

I recently gave a presentation at Wauwatosa East High School to a 10th grade health class about obesity in America and about childhood obesity in particular. The presentation ended with a challenge to the class to make a change in their lifestyle for 30 days that will help to keep them fit and healthy. Some of the options included: Eating smaller portions, walking/bike riding to school, doubling your water intake, sleeping 8-9 hours per night, not drinking soda etc.

I left thinking it was funny to challenge them and then not accept a similar challenge on my part. Studies have shown the impact that a community or social network have on the health of individuals in that network. It means that if two people in a group of 10 friends decide to quit smoking, the other 8 are more likely to quit smoking. Likewise if you are in a high school and 30 people in a class decide to stop drinking soda at lunch, the rest of the class is more likely to stop drinking soda. The opposite is true as well. It means that our community has profound effects on our health.

I decided that it would be silly to challenge them to improve their health and community's health without contributing to my own. So I chose two changes to make as well. The first is to drink 2 L of water a day. After the first couple days, during which I am sure I took at least 10 different trips to the bathroom, my body has gotten a little more used to it and it's going well. I actually noticed that I get less hungry during the day when I manage to reasonably space my portions out through the day. Additionally--and this may be pure coincidence--I am two pounds lighter than when I started this a week and a half ago or so. I've heard that staying hydrated actually keeps your body from storing excess water weight. It makes sense, but I didn't know if I actually believed it. So far, that seems to be true.

The other challenge I decided to accept was keeping a food journal. Talk about a Challenge with a capital 'C.' I did this for two months at the beginning of the year and counted calories in order to try and drop 5 pounds before starting the cycling season. And having done it once, I can honestly say that it is a very rewarding exercise no matter how demanding. You have the opportunity to go back and shine a light on your habits which can be a little embarrassing, but helpful regardless. For instance, I am learning right now that I have started eating dessert a bit more often than I used to (I wonder why...). However, I haven't been riding or exercising as much. Hmmm.... In my first journal I discovered that I don't eat veggies nearly as much as I should. It didn't have as much to do with my eating preferences as much as it did with when and where I would eat. Working in the evenings left me with fewer opportunities to cook dinner and in turn I ate fewer vegetables. Oops.

All this to say that we talk a lot about being healthy without ever taking the steps to become more healthy. As an amateur athlete and a future physician I would hate to be one talking about all the great strategies to be healthy without ever trying or employing them. So for now, I'm on the 30 day challenge along with several Milwaukee County high schoolers. Here's to making a positive change!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What you eat and what your body does with it...

Just a few weeks in a medical biochemistry class and it's hard not to think about what's going on inside of me and with my metabolism every time I sit down to eat. Better yet, though, it's hard not to think about how to better fuel myself when I ride/race/exercise.

With that said, I think that you will be in for some Biochemistry lessons over the course of the next several posts. I'll try to address carb metabolism, lipids (fats), a bit about protein and any other golden nuggets that I come along...and if you thought of McDonald's chicken nuggets when I said that, you might just want to tune in for more.

Nutrition science is pretty cool and I'll be sharing as I learn. Hopefully it's as cool to anyone who feels like reading as it is to me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The coolest social network application ever!

One of my recent diversions from hard core science studying is to study Chinese. I know that doesn't sound like a break, but it's a good way to switch gears for a little while without completely shutting down my brain. My biggest challenge is finding people who speak Chinese that can help me learn. Do you find you have the same problem? I thought so...

Search no further! My favorite new website can help you out. It's called LiveMocha. It's genius. The idea is that you sign up to learn a language (there are tons of languages with 30-40 lessons to learn from) and at the same time designate any languages that you speak. Someone like me for instance signs up to learn Chinese and tells everyone else that I am a native English speaker.
Now here's the REALLY cool part. As I do my lessons I have two assignments to submit, a speaking and a writing exercise. After I submit them they go out to the native/fluent Mandarin Chinese speakers to correct. Within a couple hours I can have anywhere from 2-5 different reviews from other users. The same works in reverse. Members learning English submit their lessons and I have the opportunity to grade them. It's way cool! As you go and contribute to the community, you earn points that give you further access to more learning tools.

Check it out. You never know, maybe you'll be speaking Bangladeshi by the end of the week.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Things I've learned in medical school

After having been here for a month I thought I'd let all my faithful readers know some of the important things that I've learned since coming to medical school...

1. How to take blood pressure (kind of cool, I'll take yours if you have a sphigmomanometer I can borrow)
2. How to draw blood (again I'd be happy to practice if you have the needle and the tubes)
3. How to remove the top of a skull...d0n't worry it was the cadaver (I'd offer, but I don't think you'd be interested)
4. That even though we're all aiming at being doctors here, we're all using different ammunition.
5. Surgeons really are a lot like everyone says they are and yes we can pick out the future surgeons from our class already....
6. Even though doctors would like you to think that they are normal or at least once were normal like their patients, it's not true. We're all freaks.
7. I don't get to ride my bike nearly as much as I thought it might be possible to squeeze into my schedule, but it really is still possible to have a life while in medical school (it's just a very full one).
8. I like tea
9. Drivers in Milwaukee are not very good...
10. The students from California here at MCW have no idea what they signed up for when they agreed to come to a school with winters.

So far so good. I'm actually half way through my first semester which means I only have 15/16 of the way left to go before I am Dr. Anderson. Cool? Scary? Nigh on unbelievable? I'll go with D. All of the above.

Most importantly though, I've relearned the beauty of weekends. After working the past two years in a job where weekends don't have any meaning, my week once again has a beginning and an end. Woohoo! Bring on the weekend.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Medical School is a lot of Stamp Collecting

All science is either physics or stamp collecting.
Ernest Rutherford, in J. B. Birks "Rutherford at Manchester" (1962)
British chemist & physicist (1871 - 1937)

So maybe I'm the only one who finds this amusing because I'm a big nerd, but after my past three weeks of Human Development which is basically a class based on "We know that this is this and that turns into that, but how it really works we're not so sure" I can sympathize with old Ernie, there. Now, I was a Chemistry major in college and will make my argument for Chemistry given the difficulty of chemistry concepts, but I'm willing to hand over most Biology courses to the stamp collecting side.

...just a side note, Lord Rutherford went on to win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Ironic, no?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Or should I say "dont txt and drive"? I can't believe the number of morons out there who are tapping away at their cell phone while on the road. You know who I'm talking about, the ones who forget to go at the green light because they're too busy having their conversation with 1000+ different people at once. The scariest one to me is the drivers I notice in rush hour who are doing it. The most frightening situations being when I look at the driver behind me in the rear view mirror and they are clearly split between the road and something in their hand or lap.

It has to stop! Recently, the Washington Post reported that 28% of traffic accidents involve drivers using cell phones (either texting or talking). That's worse than the number of accidents caused by drunk driving (5-10%). It's not just drivers who are having this problem. What about those pilots last year? The ones who went cruising past their destination because they weren't paying attention while they checked out "work schedules" on their laptops. Yeah, right.

Texting scares me as a driver, a passenger, a cyclist, a walker, or even just someone sitting on the side of the road. Although I'm more scared standing on the side of the road when someone is listening to their GPS without thinking about what they are actually doing.

The bottom line, think about what you're doing now and not about something that you're connected to through your latest electronic gadget. It'll be better for all of us.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's Official

As of today I am a bona fide commuter.

I made it safe and sound and in one piece from home to school and back again. It's not a long commute, but not too short either. It's about 6 miles. The best part is that with goofy traffic patterns around here it only takes me 5-10 minutes longer than driving in rush hour. Woohoo! Hopefully that makes for some regular riding.

Now, though, it means that I have a little work to do on my new steed. After his first true trial run I can see a little where he is lacking. New tires and tubes are in order...and maybe a new saddle. Good thing those can be cheap. The biggest trouble at this point is still a little difficulty truing the front wheel. I've made some improvements, but nothing phenomenal. I'm trying not to give in and bring it to a shop but I'm wondering if it needs a total rebuild. I have exams next week, so we'll see what happens during the weekend after that.

Monday, October 4, 2010

And the world has a new Champion

Thor Hushovd (Norway) is the 2010 world champion.

It sounds like it was a great race too! I wish I could have seen it. Great to see it go to a guy like Thor. It'll be interesting to see where is career goes from here. He may be done contesting the points jersey at the grand tours, but after a solid win on a 262.7 km parcours at worlds this weekend I think is aspirations as a classics rider may just be realized before too long.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Warming Up, the true test of real men

yeah, that's right. Real men warm up. The ones who don't aren't real, and the one's who you don't see warm up probably do.

This past weekend I got schooled in the value of the warm up. I played ultimate frisbee for the first time in a couple years or so, and by the time I finished I could hardly walk. Oof. I'm getting old.

Besides this though, I have noticed that anytime I go out for a ride the first 20 minutes or so seem much more difficult than they should. My interest was piqued and I couldn't help but keep track on a few rides this fall. It seems that the ideal amount of warm up time for me is somewhere between 21 and 22 minutes. Weird, huh?

I don't really know very much about why warming up helps. Perhaps I'll investigate more in the future and report back. However, I do know that it makes a big difference. The best analogy I can come up with is like the motor on your car. Now if you aren't from someplace with cold winters you may not actually know what I mean. But growing up in Minnesota can teach you a thing or two about what to do and what not to do when the air outside is cold enough to freeze your spit before it hits the ground. When you are going to drive in weather like this it is critical to let your engine warm up a bit before starting. Everything cold is a bit more rigid and constricted. Heat helps this loosen up.

The same is true about your body, to a point. We know that too much heat causes problems as well. Your body at rest is just kind of hanging out maintaining function of important organs like your brain. When you start to exercise your muscles need a little time to turn on their engines. This is why warming up is key. Warming up tells your body, "Hey wake up! It's time to move." Your body then has a change to start burning energy in the appropriate way for whatever activity you might be doing. Kind of cool really. If you start out too hard your body takes a while to catch up.

This is why cyclists who are about to ride time trials frequently spend what appears like a ridiculously long time on the trainer. They need to make sure when they start their ride that the machines in their body are already humming right along. I always thought it looked insane to sit on a trainer and ride for an hour or so before getting on the starting platform and riding all out for 30-40 miles. But it really works.

Gustav Larsson (Sweden) looks very cool warming up

see? all the cool kids are doing it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A visit to the ER with Brian Regan

After spending the past 2 years working in an ER I think this sketch is hilarious. Not to mention a good reminder of what it's like to be a patient in a hospital.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

BORING. with a capital B!

Currently, I am in what would be considered a transitional phase of training or a resting period. It's BORING. I decided that from September 15- October 15 would be my "transitional phase" after that I'll get back to general fitness training before getting back on the bike in January to build base for the upcoming season.

Let me tell you wHat. It stinks. For a guy like me that is just made to play this is the guarantted way to drive me nuts. Now, just to clarify, this period is different than a true Rest phase in a training calendar. Thankfully transitional just means that I am not supposed to have any structured training plan or goals. Other than to not structure my training and goals...oof.

The good news is, though, that it still means I get to be active when I want to (or when I can). The hard part now is squeezing that into a full week of Biochemistry, Human Development, Gross Anatomy etc. It's well timed--I suppose--given the fact that I am adjusting to a full schedule of medical school.

My body, though, is going a little nuts. It says GET ME OUT THERE. And I just have to sit back and say, "Just be patient, the time to grind you into a pulp with tempo rides, lactate threshold tests and anaerobic intervals will come soon enough." Surprisingly my body seems to have already forgotten how much work that was and it wants more.

In the meantime, though, I can live vicariously through some of the end of season racing going on. Just this weekend, Ben King won the US National Championship road race. While his teammate Taylor Phinney took the US National Championship time trial title. Not a bad day's work for a couple of young bucks in the US peloton. Both are under 23.

Coming soon will be the World Championships in Geelong, Australia. I don't know if he has a chance, but I'm pulling for Tyler Farrar. He's just a different kind of sprinter. A little less cut throat than the rest, which is refreshing. And he's coming off a good run at La Vuelta. We'll have to see if he can hack it against the likes of Fabian Cancellara and Philippe Gilbert. The course might be a little more to their style. Nevertheless, I'm still hoping to see another triumph for US Cycling.

Until then, though, I'll just be chillin' (if you can call a full class load in med school chillin') while my body harasses me about the transitional period. Hopefully I don't waste away too much. I'd hate to end up like George Costanza during the Summer of George [see 5:00 min] "in a state of advanced atrophy due to a period of extreme inactivity."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Adventures of a soon to be commuter

In an effort to squeeze as much bike time into my busy schedule as I can, I recently made the investment in a "new" commuter bike. It's a 1979 Motobecane Super Mirage. It's in pretty good shape and looks like the last time is was ridden was some time during the summer of 1980. However, the front wheel is not quite true. I figured I could handle that and spent some time researching instructions on how to true a wheel.

The best instructions I found were on Park Tool's website. They have all sorts of great "How To" articles for guys like me who are too cheap to go running to a bike shop anytime you need anything done.

Just a sidenote: I've always been intimidated by the thought of doing any mechanical type stuff on my bike. I mean what if I mess it up? Then one day I had this revelation. So what? What's the worst that's going to happen? I mean, it's not like it's going to explode. And if I don't feel comfortable with the work I've done, all I have to do is undo it. Plus, I figured that if I have the possibility of working on people someday as a physician, I better be able to handle something as simple as a bicycle.

After reading the instructions and thinking it through conceptually I convinced myself that it had to be a simple process. It's not like I was reinventing the wheel or anything. (please feel free to groan at that one)

Unfortunately this weekend my best efforts were more or less thwarted. After lots of trial and error this weekend, I don't know that my front wheel is really any more true. I'm going to chalk this up to a few different factors. 1) I don't have a truing stand. I remedied this by hanging my bike from the ceiling in the garage or flipping it upside down. It kind of worked. 2) I've never done this before and 3) I kept forgetting which way to turn the wrench to tighten and loosen spokes. [IMPORTANT: when tightening a spoke from the outside you have to turn it counter-clockwise which in my opinion is fairl counterintuitive] However, I'm prepared to give it another shot at my next available opportunity.

Until then I'll do some more studying. And if you're interested and like me don't have a truing stand of your own you can check out this video.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Whoa. Now that's crazy

yes, that's right. Bike Polo. It actually exists. I stumbled upon this a couple days ago just by accident and it was too good not to share with the world. I have no desire to participate, but it would be awesome to see.

Take a gander if see if you have the guts to give it a try. I sure don't...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Share the Road, no really, SHARE it.

Share: [shair]
1. to join with another or others in the use of (something):
2. to divide, apportion, or receive equally.

Yes that's right, equally. If my 3 year old nephews can do it (well most of the time at least) then why do cyclists and motorists have such a hard time sharing the road? Why must it always be bike vs. driver? Supposedly we learned to share so that we could make it through kindergarten, but one look at the roads proves that most are interested in "me, me, me!"

This exhortation doesn't just go out to cars, though, it's for the cyclists reading too. As much fun as it is to ride in a group, it's really not appropriate to take up the road unless it has been marked off for you like in a race.

Bikes belong on the road, not on the sidewalks and often not even on multi use paths. A bike just goes too fast to be safe anywhere but on the road. More specifically on the right side of the road. It's harder where there is not always a nice shoulder, but even then bike laws protect your right to be on the street. I've found that here in the Milwaukee area the roads are in bad shape, and shoulders are rarely larger than 6-12 inches. Drivers for the most part are sensitive to this problem, but it only takes one guy who wants the road for himself to make life tough.

It seems the people least willing to share the road with cyclists are also the least likely to share the road with other motorists too. However, there are the occasional motorists who feel the need to be especially obnoxious towards bikes. I don't know where this enmity originated. Maybe they got caught behind a group of riders one day that made them late for work. Or maybe they associate bikes something dangerous like sabertooth tigers and their caveman instincts are just unrestrainable. (although, I think a sabertooth tiger would likely get more respect).

Horn honking, cat calling and "buzzing" riders on the side of the road does not make you cool. It makes you just as dumb as if you did that to someone in the supermarket while you were shopping for groceries.

Cyclists, this part is for you. Taking up the whole road, running stop signs and weaving through slow or stopped traffic doesn't help. In order to earn your place on the road you have to obey the laws just like being in a car. Unfortunately most people know more drivers than they know cyclists, so when one of us does something dumb everyone assumes that all of us do the same dumb stuff.

Minnesota has a great program called "Share the Road" that raises awareness for cyclists and advocates for bike friendly infrastructures. They also have some great resources about how to be safe and do your part as a cyclist on the road.

Let's all get along, ok? It's a lot more fun to be a rider when you can just concentrate on riding and worry less about dealing with boneheads in loud pick-up trucks (or yuppies on cell phones for that matter). The same is true about being a driver. It's not a battleground, just a way to get from one place to the next. We all need to use it, we may as well share.

Take a lesson from these guys and just get along...

...okay, maybe we can do better than that...