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...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sunscreen, that magic white gook.

Sunscreen is yet another must have on any sunny riding day. I forgot mine yesterday morning. Oops. I know all of us cyclists are pretty stinking proud of our tan lines no matter how goofy they look. But face it, vanity really isn't worth the end result.

By now, just about everyone knows that UV light is the cause of skin damage from the sun. There are two types which are classified by the amount of energy they carry. UVB which is higher energy and tends to be the primary cause of sunburn and UVA which is equally dangerous in high doses, but less obvious.

Because of this it's important to make sure your sunscreen covers for both UVA and UVB. Sunscreen is rated in sun protection factor which we all know is higher numbers for higher protection. The scale is roughly designed so that SPF 30 makes 30 hours in the sun the equivalent of 1 hour of unprotected exposure, SPF 15 then makes 15 hours exposed equivalent to 1 hour unprotected etc.

There is much debate these days about whether or not sunscreen is really doing any good in preventing skin cancer. But the evidence shows that it certainly doesn't hurt. Also, it definitely helps to slow the aging of skin caused by large amounts of sun exposure and damage. That is if you use it correctly. This means putting it on in advance and using enough which happens to be quite a lot.

The American Academy for Dermatology is crazy about sunscreen. They even recommend using it every day no matter what the weather is like. To me this a little extreme. But to my PA sister-in-law who now works at a dermatology clinic it makes perfect sense. I just can't muster up the will to slime my face every morning. It just feels kind of gross.

Ultimately no matter what your choice of shade, you need something. Sunglasses, hats, umbrellas, long sleeves, sunscreen and more will all do the trick. Funny, huh? We need a little light in our life to help us with Vitamin D and our mood, but too much is a bad thing. Sounds like lots of things in life...

So get outside and play, but don't forget your sunscreen.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Is that really necessary?

Today Mark Cavendish won his second stage of La Vuelta. He won in a pretty distinct fashion (as usual) and couldn't help but celebrate...

Cavendish bunny hops in celebration

Yeah, that's right. He bunny hopped over the finish line. I asked myself the same thing: "Seriously?"

Cavendish gets a lot of flak for being a rather brash guy. And I have to be honest, I think the success has gone to his head. I'm not one to stand behind his outrageousness, and I've never really supported the whole dance in the end-zone thing, but this is hilarious.

It's maybe a bit dangerous, but otherwise completely inoffensive. And when you look at his face you know it's just his inner child bubbling over.

So for this one, I say nice work Cav. You earned it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Yeah, I'm surprised too.

It turns out I have to admit, 我喜歡喝茶 or "I like drinking tea" for those of you wondering.

In particular I like green tea (绿茶) especially with lemon. Maybe it's just a phase and will pass now that my sore throat and headache are gone, but I don't think so. And to my delight, green tea is actually quite good for you. The citrus from lemons supposedly even enhances the bioavailability of the catechins in green tea. That's technobabble for citrus makes it even better for you.

There are all sorts of anecdotal benefits of tea that have been around as long as tea itself. Which is pretty long since the experts at Wikipedia claim that tea is about as old as Chinese history (4000-5000 years give or take a century or two). Nowadays the big label on the box has to do with lots of antioxidants. The jury here is still out on the whole antioxidant craze, so for now I'm content to enjoy the anecdotes and--believe it or not--the scientific literature discussing the benefits of tea.

Perhaps more to come on the current antioxidant obsession in a later post, but for now it's tea time.

Green tea and varieties of green tea are the most common in China and is generally their beverage of choice over the black tea which has gained the most popularity among the tea people in the West (i.e. almost everywhere besides Asia). Although, Oolong (烏龍) tea which means "black dragon" tea, is also rather prominent. Let's face it all kinds of tea are popular in Asia. The phrase "all the tea in China" didn't just appear out of nowhere.

***A brief tea lesson. White Tea, Green Tea, Oolong and Black Tea are all technically the same thing. Sort of. They all come from the same plant, Camelia sinensis. They just represent different levels of processing or oxidation. The least processed being White Tea which is actually often made from buds of the tea plant and the most processed being Black Tea which is used in English Breakfast tea, Earl Gray etc.***

For me, though, I'm content to stay with the green stuff for now. Surprising, even to me, considering that some of my first experiences with green tea had me convinced that I was being fed grass clippings from the last time the lawn was mowed.

Green tea is a good middle of the road tea. It has half the caffeine of black tea and the most beneficial components because the level of processing is enough to bring them out without destroying them. Some of the purported benefits of green tea include: increased metabolic rate, a boost in mental alertness, a boost in the immune system, decreased cognitive decline in the elderly, and even an antidepressant effect. All of this coupled with the fact that a little caffeine comes in handy on study days makes it brain food that I can enjoy.

Now, obviously I don't know if all of that is true, BUT when it comes down to it tea isn't going to hurt me (unless it gives me kidney stones...which would hurt...a lot...). Regardless, it could help, so why not give it a try? It's an easy drink to make at home, costs about 12 cents per tea bag which can be used 1-3 times and has no calories. Except for the 15 calories that come from a tsp of sugar to sweeten it I'm not adding lots of extra fluff to my daily intake. Cool, huh?

That's my cup of tea. Enjoy!

Friday, September 3, 2010

That is all


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Today is my bike's birthday

One year ago on this day I had my first fateful ride on my faithful steed. It was a short ride but transforming. My Scott CR1 is the first all carbon rig that I've every owned or even ridden for that matter. After trading in my 2004 Marin Argenta it was like graduating from a bomber to a fighter jet. The Marin was a great first bike, faithful, durable and a smooth ride. However, moving to my Scott taught me to appreciate the racy feel that a well built frame can really give you.

It's not a pure race machine with a little more upright geometry than most race bikes, but it has a shorter wheelbase that makes it snappy and quick like a fox. Yet, it still manages to stay stable even when barreling downhill at speeds most people only go with an engine to propel them.

Some highlights of my past year of bike riding on this new speed machine of mine include my epic bike adventure, my first experiences in road racing (including a 2nd place finish at the season opener), climbing in the mountains and hitting my new all time max speed... 55 MPH!

So today, I say happy birthday to my bike. After one year of riding He is now 3097 miles old .

And after a long summer season of riding I was thinking. You know it's been a good cycling season when...

1) You have tan lines that will last until next season.

2) Anything below 20 MPH feels a little slow.

3) "False flats" really do feel flat.

4) Your bike is kind of dirty (because you've been too busy riding it and it's hard to clean while the pedals and wheels are spinning)

5) 25 miles or less now constitutes a "short ride"

6) When you don't answer your phone people just assume you're out for a ride.

7) You can now ride without your hands, take off your jacket, check your heart rate, drink your water and carve a turkey all at the same time without stopping.

8) Sunglasses are no longer an accessory, but an extension of your body

9) You've graduated from calling your cycling shorts "shorts" and now refer to them as "bibs" or "knicks"

10) Your resting heart rate is now officially classified as bradycardia.

But most of all you know it's been a great season when more than a couple days without a ride truly feels like an eternity. Here's to riding as much as possible as often as possible.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sleep, it does the body good

Crazy that I should be writing about this so soon in my medical education considering that most of my next four years and beyond will more than likely not be filled with enough sleep, but here I am nonetheless. So far, I have slept better than I ever have during undergrad. I think it largely has to do with being married. Life is a little more regimented when two people are trying to live in sync.

Actually, what got me thinking about this is that we have been talking about sleep during our intro Psych class at school. A little about dreams, a little about the benefits of sleep and a lot about getting enough of it.

Sleep is not well understood despite all the study that surrounds it. We know that we need it and we know that it's good for us. We also know that getting enough is crucial to functioning well and that not getting enough can be as dangerous as being intoxicated.

The side effects of sleep deprivation include but are not limited to:
  • increased blood pressure
  • body aches
  • dizziness
  • hallucinations
  • slurred speech
  • impaired cognitive ability
  • weight gain
  • poor memory recall
  • death
Pretty crazy, huh?

Life is always better after a good night's sleep. It's hard to argue that when you've slept well you don't feel more able and more ready to attack a big day. Here are some tips to help your "Sleep Hygiene".

  1. Develop bedtime rituals (i.e. reading, teeth brushing, snack etc.) and try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day
  2. Don't nap if you can't limit your nap time
  3. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine at least 4-6 hours before bed
  4. Don't exercise within 4 hours of going to bed
  5. Save your bed for sleep and not TV watching or reading or talking on the phone etc. This conditions your body to associate bed with sleep
  6. If you can't fall asleep for 20 minutes or more get out of bed and do something boring until you feel sleepy (i.e. read molecular biology textbooks)
Those are just a few of the guidelines for setting a regular sleep schedule. As a student this can be difficult, but the benefits will pay out quickly. I'm going to try my hardest, though, we'll see how long it lasts before I'm here writing about my own sleep deprivation experiences.