Saturday, May 31, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||128/80, 49|
It's no longer a question of staying healthy. It's a
question of finding a sickness you like.
No exercise today (and note how much higher my blood pressure is than it was yesterday, though it's still not bad). I drove down to the bay area to visit old friends -- we ate well, but I think we managed to eat sensibly too. Plenty of vegetables. Dessert was strawberries. Fruit as a dessert course used to be commonplace, and should be again. Some of the vegetables I picked up at the local farmer's market today. It's nice to get produce that's really local, and really fresh. Not cheap, perhaps, but not many kinds of food are cheap these days.
Another old friend (he was my lunchtime running buddy when he still worked at my company) got in touch with me recently. He wanted to share either a run or a pint with me; I proposed that we do both, so tomorrow we're meeting for a trail run, and probably going to a brewpub for lunch afterwards. He claims he's become pitifully out of shape lately, but that's fine with me because it means I can probably keep up with him. I'll try to make sure the run is long enough and difficult enough to justify the pint afterwards.
Friday, May 30, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||111/69, 58|
To get back my youth I would do anything in the world,
except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.
Well, that was embarrassing. I rode my road bike to work, all right, but when I got there I realized that I had forgotten to put on my bike helmet. I wasn't about to turn around and try to climb that awful hill to retrieve it. And going on today's group ride to Sebastopol without a helmet (partly on high-traffic city streets) would have been conspicuously stupid. So, I made my apologies and said I couldn't go.
Of course, at the end of the day I did have to make that terrible climb, and I was on the road bike, not my moutain-bike with the low gears. The hill is a 10% grade most of the way, and the worst parts get above 15%. I had to get off and walk it during the two hardest sections, which was humiliating.
However, awful as that hill-climb is, it only takes about 15 minutes to do it, so it doesn't count as a workout (especially if you're walking part of it!). After I got home, and I'd cooled off a little from the climb, I went to Spring Lake and did a 4-mile run there. That at least I can do.
Again, remarkably low blood pressure today. I hope I can maintain this trend.
I voted today (mailing in my ballot, because there's no polling place set up for my neighborhood); the only two statewide offices up for election each involved a single candidate running unopposed. Maybe California and Burma aren't as different as we'd like to think.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||119/68, 52|
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it,
doesn't go away.
I did a pretty good run today at lunchtime (4+ miles), but this time I was running with two other people -- faster people -- and I became a bit demoralized because I couldn't keep up with them. There was a time when I often could keep up with them, but since then they've become faster and I haven't. (Weight loss would probably solve that problem, though.)
Tomorrow I'm riding my bike to work, and also participating in a lunchtime cycling event -- a group bike ride to Sebastopol, which is about 10 miles away. It's far enough, and the other riders are going to be fast enough, that I'd better take my road bike rather than my mountain bike, if I don't want the rest of them to leave me miles behind. The catch is that I will also have to ride the bike home from work, and my road bike doesn't have the kind of low gears that I need for the hellish climb back up the hill. In the past I've sometimes succeeded at scaling that hill on my road bike, and sometimes failed. Well, tomorrow evening I will either do one or the other!
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||124/77, 52|
Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical.
When I went out to run at lunchtime today, I wasn't at all sure that I was feeling up to it. After all, I had done a tough trail run of more than 9 miles the day before -- and I had finished it at 8:15 PM, so the feeling "but I just did a run!" was pretty strong. I had the queasy feeling that this run was going to be very hard and make me feel very bad, and I was yearning to back out of it.
Of course, once I started running, everything was fine. The route was a familiar one that includes three steep climbs, and all of them seemed easier than usual, not harder. My absent-minded, carefree mood when I was running last night came back to me today: when I was climbing a hill, I wasn't constantly thinking about how hard it was, or how much farther I had to go. I wasn't even keeping track of my progress at all. I felt good running, and felt good afterwards.
It's strange that I have to go through something like this sequence of emotions almost every time I work out. I get into my exercise clothes with the anxious feeling that this time my body is going to let me down, that it's going to be a terrible experience, that I'm going to hate it, that I won't even be able to finish. What then happens is that I finish the workout feeling better and stronger and more energetic than when I started, but despite this track record, I always have to fight against the feeling that this time it's going to be horribly different.
Why is this? What on earth is going on here? I think it is related to the phenomenon of stage fright. Many performers (even very accomplished ones) become sick with anxiety as they wait for the moment they're going to walk out on stage, even though they know from experience that they'll be fine once they get out there. The composer Benjamin Britten, who was also a brilliant pianist and conductor, and who had no difficulty with performing once the performance was actually under way, would become so stressed out while he waited for a concert to start that he often had to throw up in a backstage bathroom. He knew this was crazy, but he never overcame it.
It's called performance anxiety, and it effects athletes just as much as it affects musicians and actors. You just get a powerful feeling that you are about to be put the test, and might experience a humiliating public failure. The strange thing is that I feel this just as much when I'm working out alone as I do when I'm running or cycling with other people. I guess, in my subconscious mind, every workout is a performance, and therefore an opportunity to fail. Every time I get ready to work out, I have a voice in my head saying "this time, you won't be able to handle it!".
Probably everyone experiences this to some degree, but some people ignore it and get on with what they're doing, while others allow it to defeat them. I'm sure most people who are trying to start an exercise program hear that voice in their head saying "You can't run today -- you're not up to it!", and they say to themselves: "Okay, then, I guess I won't run. My plan to get into shape will have to wait until tomorrow." But tomorrow, and the next day, the voice of anxiety will still be there, saying the same thing. If you listen to it, you're lost.
I've always accepted that reality -- that I have to ignore my anxious feelings and just go ahead and do the workout whether I feel like it or not -- but I was hoping that eventually, after exercising regularly for a few years, that feeling would go away and I wouldn't have to deal with it. That hasn't happened. I feel a lot better during exercise than I used to, but the anticipation phase hasn't improved at all. I don't have a solution to the problem, obviously. I'm discussing it because I think it's important to realize that the problem is there, and that it doesn't have to prevent you from succeeding with exercise. People who exercise daily don't do it because, unlike you, they feel perfectly confident that each workout is going to be pure pleasure. They do it because they know better than to listen to the voice that's telling them each workout is going to be a flaming disaster.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||114/72, 60|
Life is like playing a violin in public and learning the
instrument as one goes on.
My Memorial Day holiday was marked, I'm afraid, by a lot of eating and drinking, and I tried to make up for it today by doing an unusually long run -- a trail run with a distance of 9.3 miles. I did it after work, and I had to hustle a bit to finish it before it started to get dark. When I arrived at the state park to begin the run, I was not remotely feeling up to it. I felt heavy and bloated and tired, and too full in the stomach. Predictably, the first mile of the run was not very enjoyable. I felt pretty awful, actually, and I had no choice but to go slow. Still, the longer I ran, the better I felt. The big hill-climbs, by the time I got to them, were comparatively easy, and after a while I simply got into "The Zone", and became quite absent-minded. I stopped noticing the physical effort involved. All I noticed were the pleasures to be had from the experience -- the beauty of the natural surroundings, the late-afternoon sunshine, the views, the birdsongs, the surprising coolness of the air for late May. By the time I finished I was startled to look at my watch and see how long I'd been running (the better part of two hours, with only a short rest stop at the half-way point). The run had seemed unusually short, not unusually long. I felt good. Nothing was sore; I didn't feel overstrained. I didn't even feel especially tired. I was slightly chilled, though, by the time I got home and got out of my damp running clothes, but that only set me up to enjoy the luxury of a long hot shower. That is one of the payoffs of doing serious workouts: the shower afterwards feels a hundred times better than any ordinary shower ever could.
Another really good blood-pressure reading. I hope I can keep getting more readings like that one, even on days when I didn't do a 9-mile run.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||131/80, 56|
Use your health, even to the point of wearing it out. That
is what it is for. Spend all you have before you die; do not outlive
That's more like it -- after yesterday's unseasonable clouds and rain, today it was sunny and mild. Not hot (it never really got about 70), but close enough to summery for all practical purposes, and maybe as close to summery as anyone really wants it to get. I don't require a heat wave to let me know it's summer, and anyway we've already had one of those, so I'm satisfied on that score.
My workout today consisted of work -- mainly yard work. Pulling, chopping, and otherwise eradicating weeds. It's good exercise if you do enough of it, and I'm pretty sure I did.
Arguably, what we call exercise is an attempt to squeeze into a short period the kind of exertion we used to spend all day on, in the form of labor. There certainly is evidence that people who do physical labor, but don't work out, derive a lot of the same health benefits that other people go to the gym for. Yesterday I heard a radio documentary about the "Latino Paradox" -- the observation that Mexican immigrants newly arrived in California are healthier than most other Californians, despite being poor and uneducated and uninsured (factors which are normally associated with poor health, not improved health). Interestingly, this health advantage declines with long residence in the U.S., and the children of these immigrants tend to become just as unhealthy as you would expect poor Americans to be. It's hard to explain this any other way than by pointing to differences in lifestyle. The newly arrived immigrants, desperately poor, spend long hours engaged in hard physical work (in effect, they're "working out"), and they tend to eat traditional foods rather than junk foods. The long-term immigrants and their children eventually pick up all the bad health habits that are par for the course in the U.S., and so they gradually fall prey to the American lifestyle diseases.
So, when you don't have an opportunity to work out, try working!
Saturday, May 24, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||128/82, 44|
It is better to know some of the questions than all of the
Everyone who is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (or warned that it's a likely risk) needs to become an expert on the disease, because in the case of this particular disease, what the patient does is a lot more important than what the doctor does. If you do a good job of managing the condition, no doctor can do you much harm; if you do a lousy job of managing it, no doctor can save you.
However, becoming an amateur expert on this disease is a mighty frustrating task. First of all, the popular literature on Type 2 diabetes and the other medical conditions related to it is so shallow and vague that it's hard to extract from it any kind of useful understanding of the subject. For example, every pamphlet and article on high blood pressure ever printed will tell you that high blood pressure can cause a heart attack, but I've never seen one that even attempts to explain how high blood pressue can cause a heart attack. I mean, there's no obvious connection, so why not explain it? (I finally asked a cardiologist I know. He said excess pressure puts stress on the arterial walls. The stress causes inflammation, and the inflamed arterial walls become more vulnerable to various problems, including formation of blood clots which can cause a coronary blockage. There, was that so damned hard? And is there some reason why this needs to be kept secret from every patient who doesn't know a cardiologist socially?)
An even more frustrating problem is that, in the areas where the experts do make explicit statements, they don't agree with each other. There is little in the way of scientific consensus, at least on practical matters, and in the cases where consensus exists it often turns out to be founded on flimsy evidence. What's a poor patient to believe? Nutrition is perhaps the biggest problem area. The subject is almost impossible to study rigorously, at least in humans, so there's an uncomfortable amount of guesswork involved in a lot of nutritional basics. (For example, it's impossible to know whether saturated fat is actually as harmful as we've been told; the real culprit may be some other ingredient that tends to be found in foods high in saturated fat -- such as animal proteins -- or it could be that people who eat a lot of saturated fat tend to have some other risk factor in common.)
As I've watched the experts battling it out over the years, usually to no decisive end, the list of things I can confidently believe about Type 2 diabetes, and health in general, has become shorter rather than longer. The more I find out, the less I know. I can't sit back and wait for a clearer picture to emerge (as it might not happen for decades), and life has to go on, so I guess I have no choice but to decide what I'm going to believe and hope that it turns out I'm right. I'm putting the most confidence in the ideas that I'm able to test for myself (such as the effect of exercise), and cautiously embracing the ideas that at least have the virtue of making sense to me. Where there is no certainty, you might as well look for probability.
Friday, May 23, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||111/59, 61|
Every man is a potential genius until he does something.
This is no way to begin the Memorial Day weekend -- with clouds rolling in, and the temperture dropping to the 50s by 5 PM. At least it's good running weather. At 6:30 PM I did a trail run of about 7 miles (a very hilly one) and was pretty comfortable -- I didn't get dehydrated at all. This time, I didn't have to escort any lost joggers to safety (as happened on Tuesday night). I did encounter one rabbit on the trail; he was less afraid of me than they usually are, and let me get a lot closer before he hopped away than they usually do. I wondered if this meant he was rabid or something, but he didn't bite me so I'll never know. At one point in the run I became suddenly preoccupied by the idea that a mountain lion was following me, but if so he never pounced. Something else pounced, though -- when I got home I found that I had acquired a tick on my left leg. He hadn't yet chomped down on me, and I simply brushed him onto the bathroom floor. But then what? Obviously I couldn't just let him crawl around and hide somewhere, to get back on me again later, so I was forced to deal with the fabled indestructability of that creature. I thought pouring a little bleach on him might poison him; it didn't. Then I got out a of a sharp-pointed blade and started poking and crushing and hacking him up with it. It took a long time to divide him into enough pieces that none of them were still capable of independent movement. Somebody should find out what ticks are made of, and start constructing body armor out of it.
Changing the subject just slightly, the difference between red wine and white wine is not what you think. Most people assume that there are grapes with white juice and grapes with red juice, and red wine must be made from the latter. Not so; the actual difference is that red wine is fermented with the grape skins, while white wine is fermented after the skins have been screened out and discarded. The reason I'm bringing this up is that this difference in the way red wine is made explains why it's always "red wine" and not just "wine" that is being praised for its health benefits. The beneficial ingredients in grapes (and some other fruits) are concentrated in the skins, so red wine provides a lot more of those ingredients than white wine does.
One such beneficial ingredient is called resveratrol, which has been shown to reduce insulin resistance in mice and to have other protective effects. Another beneficial ingredient is is a group of flavonoids called "procyanidins", which appear to prevent cardiovascular disease and other problems. If you don't to get your resveratrol and procyanidins from red wine, you can also get them from whole grapes, berries, and peanuts. Apparently you can also buy supplements. However, it usually turns out that supplements are much less effective than whole foods containing the same ingredient, so I'm not recommending that you go down to the vitamin store and buy an armload of capsules. You're better off going for the real thing, which is at the grocery store, or better yet the farmer's market (or best of all, the winery).
That's the lowest blood pressure reading I've ever measured on myself. It might be a faulty measurement. On the other hand, I did a long hard trail run earlier this evening, and last night I completed the computer class I'd been taking, and now I have a long holiday weekend ahead of me -- the combination of all those things could be giving me a legitimately lower blood pressure.
Postscript: I repeated the measurement a little later, and got a very similar result. Apparently my blood pressure really is down today. Now the trick will be to have more days like this.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||130/78, 57|
Technology is a way of organizing the universe so that man
doesn't have to experience it.
Blood pressure is up a bit, probably because I just took the final exam in my computer class, and I became tense over it. Most of the questions were not terribly difficult, but I spent most of my time fretting over the six or seven that were. In the end I was forced to guess on some of those, but at least I wasn't guessing wildly -- I had to choose between plausible alternative answers, and I had my reasons for choosing one over the other. Anyway, I got 90% on the test and an A in the class. So relax, relax, relax.
I did get some running in today, but I wasn't feeling very energetic, so I didn't make it a long one. It was my default route: a hilly loop with a distance of 4.3 miles. It wasn't hot today, and it was very windy. It's been like that all week; I hope it calms down a bit soon. I want to resume biking to work, but not in a stiff wind. There's nothing like a strong headwind to take all the fun out of cycling.
At an Irish music session last night I was talking to a woman from Ireland who's here for an extended stay in California to manage a project for a local medical company. Apparently her job is to steer their medical devices through the FDA approval process, and she must be good at it because her company just scored a triumph in that area. She told me that working with the FDA personally has led her to lose a great deal of respect for that institution. She said that the agency doesn't seem to pay well, so they can't hold on to employees for long -- which means that big decisions are being made by shockingly inexperienced people fresh from college who don't know what they're doing. (She cited FDA approval of a blood product from China, produced at a factory the FDA hadn't investigated, which contained toxic ingredients and killed several American patients.)
Anyway, she said that her knowledge of what goes on at the FDA has made her feel more strongly than ever that it's a bad idea to take any medication if you don't have to. She was also a little shocked at the state of public health in America -- she assured me that Europeans are catching up, but America is still far in the lead in terms of needless chronic illness and dependency on medications. She said she wasn't surprised that America has such a diabetes problem, now that she has seen how Americans are constantly surrounded by fatty foods, and can't withstand the temptation. I wouldn't have thought things were so different in Ireland, but to her it seemed stikingly worse here. She's sending her daughters home to Ireland for the summer; maybe she's worried that they'll get too Americanized if they don't get a break from it.
It's always surprising to me when someone from a different place describes as a local problem something which I had thought was simply the human condition. Once someone told me he was planning to leave California and go back to Chicago, because he couldn't stand living among people who never do what they say they're going to do. I was amazed. I realized, of course, that people in California are extremely unreliable about following through on their announced plans (no one planning a party in California knows whether to expect 5 guests or 25), but I had always assumed that people everywhere else where just as maddening. It had never occurred to me to see that as a local issue. He claimed it was. In Chicago, according to him, people followed through. Not that he followed through on his plan to move back to Chicago, but I guess his excuse would be that he caught the California disease and lost the ability to carry out a plan. I was briefly tempted to move to Chicago, just to experience this vaunted human reliability for myself, but then I did some research into Chicago's climate.
Yikes. I guess I'll stay here in the sunshine, and deal with the fatty foods and flaky citizens as best I can.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||124/79, 48|
Doctors are always working to preserve our health and cooks
to destroy it, but the latter are the more often
When you participate in a big race (such as Bay to Breakers on Sunday), there are usually photographers on the course taking digital photos -- of which they hope you will later purchase a print. As the prints are usually expensive, and the photos are usually embarrassingly bad, I seldom order them. This year's Bay to Breakers photos of me were better than most. If this one doesn't strike you as anything to be proud of, you should see the other ones that have been taken of me in previous races.
I did a fairly short run at lunchtime today (somewhere between 3 and 4 miles). I think I'll have time for a longer one tomorrow. I'm going to take the final exam for my computer class in the evening, and then I'll be free to concentrate on things I like better.
I want to enjoy this summer more than I did last summer. The theme of last summer was holding on to employment, as my job was disappearing and I needed to find a new one within the company or get out. I did find a new one, but it was a stressful time (first scrambling to get the job, and then scrambling to get acclimated to it). So, it wasn't a great summer. I don't have a vacation planned yet for this summer, but I hope I will be able to think of something good. By "good" I don't mean "expensive and exotic". A good vacation, to my mind, is one which puts you in a different mental space and makes you forget about your usual concerns. What matters is not how far you are from home, but how different what you're doing is from what you would do at home.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||119/75, 59|
The only way for a rich man to be healthy is, by exercise
and abstinence, to live as if he was poor.
Sir William Temple
Well, I'm certainly doing the exercise; the abstinence is where I've been falling short. BG and blood pressure are both good, but they won't stay good for much longer if my weight keeps going up. I've got to get away from party food. More vegetables, less of everything else. No more wine with dinner for a while, either. It's enough to make a person feel sorry for himself.
Because of a meeting I missed my opportunity to run at lunchtime today, I planned to run after work. Our heat wave is very much over; it's been cool, and this afternoon a strong wind came up. As I left the office the wind seemed so overpowering that I was afraid it would make running a miserable experience. However, it occurred to me that if I went trail-running in the woods at Annadel State Park, I would be largely sheltered from the wind most of the time. This turned out to be true.
It was an interesting run. I started a bit later than I meant to (about 6:30 PM), and as I was going to be running a steep 8-mile route, I knew I didn't want to waste time and still be out on the trail when the sun went down. I figured I would finish at about 8:00, which was fine because sunset wasn't until 8:20. That the sun was so low in the sky made for especially beautiful views, as the hills and meadows all bathed in beautiful orange light. The park was nearly deserted; I encountered very few people on the trails, and those I did meet all seemed to be on the way out of the park.
By the time I got to the lake where I usually take a short rest, it was about 7:30 and I seemed to have the park almost to myself. I decided not to stop, and headed for the trail that would take me back out of the park, to the road where I'd parked my car. I soon ran into a woman jogger whom I took to be in her late 60s. She stopped me, explaining that she didn't know the park trails well and had gotten lost. From her description I knew roughly where she needed to go, and which trails she needed to take to get there, but I also knew that it would be impossible for me to tell her what to do, in language which would be brief enough, clear enough, and memorable enough for her to be able to rely on it. It didn't look as if anyone else was going to come along to help her if she got lost again, and although she seemed to be in good shape I didn't think she was ready to cope with the situation unaided. I certainly didn't want her to spend the night in the woods, with no warm clothes. So, I told her I was going in the same direction myself, so she might as well come with me.
I had to slow my pace down a fair amount so that I didn't leave her behind, but after the hard climb I'd made to get up to the lake during the first half of the run, slowing down wasn't entirely unwelcome. She explained to me that she was still working (as a biologist for a local medical-equipment firm), but she only lived in the area during the weekdays, and made a long drive to her real home on the weekends. She usually did her trail-running at home, which was why she hadn't learned the local trails.
We finally emerged from the park at 8:20 (exactly at sunset) on Channel Drive, where my car was and where I understood that hers was. She looked around in confusion and said this wasn't where she'd parked. I asked her to describe the place as well as she could remember, and there were enough hints in her description for me to be able to guess (accurately, as it turned out) where the street was which she had thought was Channel Drive. I gave her a ride there, she spotted her car, and the crisis was over.
One of the things I like about that park is how much like a wliderness it seems, even though it's so close to town and has suburbs around the park boundaries. There's a feeling of adventure, and even a whiff of danger, about being there, and for some reason that appeals to me.
Monday, May 19, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||125/74, 53|
The only people who grow old were born old to begin
During the weekend I was down to San Francisco for that very, very serious athletic event known as the Bay to Breakers race...
It's more of a street-party than a race, obviously, so unless you start from near the front, where they put the Kenyans, you're going to spend much of the race trying to dodge around a bunch of people who are in your way. However, participation was comparatively low this year, as you can see:
A mere 60,000 people took part in the race this year. Of those, I finished 5101st (and 430th among men in their 50s). It doesn't sound all that impressive, but at least I managed to finish the 7.5-mile race in 1:15:12, which is about four minutes faster than I've been able to do it in the past.
It's funny that, having passed the milestone of 50, I'm still able to make progress. Most people expect that everything about their physical health will be heading in the wrong direction by the time they're 50 (or even 40). They certainly don't expect that anything will be getting better for them in middle age -- least of all athletic performance! But maybe this expectation is the real problem they face. It's easy to see how it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You expect to weaken over time, so you stop trying not to, and voila: you get just as weak as you thought you would.
I am not pretending that I can make myself immune to the aging process, but neither am I going to cave in to a process of premature aging and declining health which can easily be opposed.
Although I did have a good run in San Francisco, I also had plenty of good food and good wine, so my weight and BG are again going up. Today I did a 4.3-mile run at mid-day, and a pretty hard yoga class after work, and I'm scaling back on calorie intake. It's a challenge -- I have much more discipline about exercise than I do about food. Doing in an extra workout is easy; not doing an extra helping is hard...
Friday, May 16, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||124/76, 61|
A hospital is no place to be sick.
It wasn't as hot today (the mid-afternoon peak was about 93 degrees). I rode the bike to work again today -- which meant that I would have to climb the hill again to get home, but I figured if I could handle it when the temperature was 100 degrees, I could handle it when the temperature was a little lower. I think it will be good for me to continue taking the bike to work, so long as I don't try to pretend that it can count as my workout for the day. The ride home is very difficult because of the hill climb, but it only takes 15 minutes at most, and that's not enough to count as a workout no matter how hard you're working. Certainly doing that climb every day will help me develop some solid cycling muscles. You might think all the running I'm doing would take care of that for me, but adaptation to exercise is very specific to the kind of exercise you're doing, so the development of your leg-muscles from running doesn't necessarily help you much with cycling. Any athlete taking up a new sport is always at a temporary disadvantage for this reason.
I did to a run of about 4.5 miles at mid-day, but I was trying not to push myself too hard. I carried water, and chose a less hilly route than usual.
My exercise tomorrow might
need to be yard-work. I've got some plant life (both wanted and
unwanted) to deal with. Sunday is the Bay to Breakers race, so I know
what I'll be doing then.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||107/72, 60|
Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be
H. L. Mencken
Well, well, what could be better for Bike To Work Day than temperatures ranging from 83 at sunrise to 101 in the afternoon? I imagine that's why the event is not scheduled in July. But, as we found out today, sometimes you can get July weather in mid-May.
Still, I rode to work today, and a surprising number of other people did too. The company collected figures on it, and 17% of the employees in my division participated, which is pretty high considering that the event wasn't very heavily publicized and most employees weren't even getting peer-pressure to take part. (And also considering that the office is located half-way up a steep 1000-foot hill.) The participants included some high-ranking managers, including at least one at the vice-presidential level. I keep seeing indications that, in my company, people in leadership positions are expected to set an example of healthy living.
The guy who won the prize for the longest bike commute to the Santa Rosa office rode in from Cloverdale -- 31 miles away. My distance was trivial in comparison, but I had a ferociously steep 500-foot hill to climb on the way home, and of course that was when the temperature was edging above 100. I'm relieved to report that my new bike was well-suited to the commute -- the brakes were good on the way down the hill, and the gears were good on the way up. Making that climb after work in the heat was not easy, but it wasn't as hard as I was afraid it might be. I decided I'm going to start bike-commuting more often. Still, I needed a shower and change of clothes before I could go to my night-class afterwards.
My blood pressure reading today is so much lower than usual that I should probably conclude there was something wrong with the measurement, and do it again. I'm not going to, though. There are a couple of reasons why it might be legitimately lower. The hill-climb on the bike this evening might have helped me (really hard exercise raises your blood pressure briefly, but reduces it afterwards). Also, tonight was the last class session of the computer class I've been taking, and I'm feeling a great relief at being done with it. Strictly speaking, I'm not done yet, because I have to take the final exam next week, but the teacher is using a point system, and based on the point totals he posted today, I could skip taking the final exam entirely and still get a B; if I take it and get a score of 25% or better I'll get an A. So, I'm feeling good about that.
Although San Francisco is normally a lot cooler than the rest of northern California in the summer, occasionally it gets hot, and this week it's been very hot there. It may not cool off very much for the Bay to Breakers race on Sunday, either. Well, I'll carry a water bottle with me and try to be careful. Anyway, even if the conditions are terrible on Sunday, by now I'm pretty confidend that I can survive a race of that distance under just about any circumstances.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||122/74, 66|
What may be done at any time will be done at no
A heat wave is starting. It was in the low 90s today. We started our lunchtime run a bit early, and chose the shadiest route we could find, but it was still a bit difficult. We didn't feel like doing a long route; we did about 4.3 miles. That's plenty when it's hot. Tomorrow is forecast to reach 101 degrees. I don't plan to run tomorrow, but I will be cycling.
Even though the rainy season (what there was of it this year) is long over, and I should have started bicycle-commuting by now, I've been reluctant to start. A big part of the reason is that I didn't have the right kind of bike for the unique challenge that my particular bike commute represents. I've got a very short distance to cover, but the there's an outrageously steep slope between the starting and stopping points. That means very good brakes for the descent in the morning, and very low gears for the climb in the evening. The commuter bike I've used in the past has pretty low gears, but it's an awfully heavy bike to be hauling up a hill, and the brakes are lousy. Lately I've been looking at mountain bikes that seem better equipped for my purposes, and today after work I found one at a good price and bought it. I took it to Spring Lake for a test-ride, and drove it more or less along the same hilly path that I ran in the 10K race on Saturday. It was nice to be on a bike again. The new one has disk brakes, and they're a vast improvement over what I'm used to; it's also better in terms of gearing and weight.
So, tomorrow I'll ride it to work. I'll have plenty of company, as it's Bike To Work Day, but I would have a fair amount of company anyway -- lots of my coworkers commute by bicycle whenever the weather is good, and some do it when the weather is bad as well. You would never go there and not find a lot of bikes parked outside.
A fair number of the bicycle commuters are in management positions, by the way. Although I have never heard it articulated as a company policy, I have noticed over the years that the company tends to award a lot of its higher-ranking jobs to people who are noticeably active and fit. I don't think this is because the company is consciously trying to foster an athletic corporate culture; I suspect it's simply that active people project more of certain qualities (strength, energy, self-discipline, determination, confidence) which the company looks for in candiates for a high-level job. Anyway, the fact that the company takes a tolerant view of employees who work out at lunch, and even provides exercise facilities for them, suggests that they think the company is better off if its employees are not sedentary and weak. And I'm sure they're right.
Although my weight is finally
starting to move in the right direction, the trend is probably a bit fake. Over
the past several days I've been running more, in hotter weather, than I usually
do. The apparent weight loss is probably from water loss more than fat loss.
However, I'll take my good news where I can find it, and try to make it come
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||125/76, 66|
Choose the life that is most useful, and habit will make it
the most agreeable.
Sir Francis Bacon
I couldn't run at lunchtime today because of meeting schedule which didn't leave me enough time. I was thinking of making this a rest day, or maybe doing an easier type of workout at the gym -- after all, I'd been doing a lot of running for the past few days. But after work I found that I was pretty energetic, and I just felt like doing a trail-run. It has been warm during the day (about 85 degrees), but in the evening it was dipping down into the 70s. Why not do it, if I felt strong enough? So I did. It was a repeat of the 7.1-mile route I ran on Sunday. There were people on the trails, but mostly mountain-bikers rather than equestrians. I don't worry about getting around a bike on narrow trail, but getting around a horse worries me, and it was nice not to have to cope with that. I was done well before sunset. Once again, I was neither hurting nor exhausted at the end. It felt good.
Thursday is bike-to-work day, so I'd better make sure my bike is in good working order for that. The division I work for is competing with other divisions to see who can get the greatest number of employees biking to work that day. I'm ambivalent about biking to work, not because I live far from the office (I don't, by any definition of far) but because I live at the top of a steep hill, and the climb back home from work is agonizing. In little more than a mile I have to climb 500 feet. I get home drenched in sweat and shaking from exertion, even though it's a short ride. Of course, if I were a stronger cyclist and weighed less, it wouldn't be so tough for me. Oh well, I'll do it Thursday and see how well I handle it. Maybe I'll even make a trial run tomorrow.
Changing the subject a little...
Most writing about diabetes is dominated by the assumption that drugs are strong medicine and lifestyle adjustements are weak medicine. It is usually implied (or even stated outright) that diet and exercise might be adequate -- for a while -- if your diabetes isn't very severe, but when things get serious you will need serious treatment, and serious treatment can come only from the pharmacy.
Because the tendency to take chemical therapy more seriously than lifestyle therapy is so widespread, research into diabetes treatment tends to focus on the former. Because I think this tendency is misguided, I am always pleased to learn about any research in which the two kinds of therapy are actually compared. Funny, when this happens, drugs never seem to win the contest!
An interesting case that I read about recently was a study of diabetes prevention. It's not new research, just new to me. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases completed something they called the Diabetes Prevention Program in 2001. Actually, the program was supposed to run a year longer than that, but the program was terminated early because "the results were already clear". The program involved over 3000 patients who had already become glucose-intolerant and were clearly well on their way to developing Type 2 diabetes. The question was, what sort of intervention would most successfully prevent these people from becoming diabetic? The patient population was divided into four sub-groups. One group received coaching in exercise and weight loss, two other groups received two different kinds of oral diabetes drugs, and a control group received placebo pills.
So what happened?
For one of the two groups receiving oral diabetes drugs, we have no data: they had to discontinue their participation in the study, because the drug they were taking (Rezulin, a.k.a. troglitazone) turned out to be toxic to the liver.
The group taking the other drug (Glucophage, a.k.a metformin) reduced their risk of becoming diabetic by 31%, compared to the control group.
The group making the lifestyle changes reduced their risk by 58%.
In other words, of the two drugs studied, one turned out to be poisoning the patients, and the other turned out to be much less effective than lifestlye adjustment. The patients who exercised and lost weight were nearly twice as successful as those who took the pills.
It seems gratingly wrong to me that, given the kind of results which researchers actually find when they compare lifestyle adjustments to drugs, everyone still talks and writes as if drugs were the real deal, the heavy artillery, the serious solution. I imagine these people would defend themselves with the argument that most patients won't actually make the necessary lifestyle adjustments, so the realistic thing to do is to dismiss lifestyle and focus on drugs. My counter-argument is that "being realistic" and lying to people are two different things.
The honest way to describe the situation is: lifestlye adjustment is the therapy of choice. Drugs are a distant second; they're better than nothing, but that's the most you can say for them. Why is that never what we hear?
Trust me, lots of people would still choose drugs over exercise even if it were made clear to them that they were getting inferior treatment and would probably pay for it dearly. So why not just tell them? If people have a right to make up their own minds about the treatment they're going to receive, they certainly have the right to know that one of the alternatives is twice as good as the other.
Monday, May 12, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||125/78, 57|
To be worn out is to be renewed.
I was feeling a bit tired from running more than 13 miles on the weekend, but I ran another 4 miles at lunch. Then I was even more tired. I went a bit reluctantly to yoga class after work, but I knew that, however hard yoga might be tonight, I would feel less tired after it than I was before it, and that was true. I always tell my yoga teacher when I'm feeling the effects of some weekend exertion, and she always seems to find something to do that helps. Tonight we did a bunch of exercises involving a folding chair placed against the wall. Often I would have to stand with one foot on the floor and the other foot resting on the back of the chair, so that my leg was sticking out straight from my waist. Like all yoga poses, it sounds easy until you try it. That position was just the foundation on which a variety of poses were built -- with the trunk twisted this way and that. Every part of me got a good long stretch before the class was over, and my legs are feeling less tight than they were.
I included that Lao-tzu quote at the top with serious intent, even though I have to admit some skepticism about a sage who supposedly remained in the womb for 62 years, and consequently "emerged a grown man with a full grey beard and long earlobes, which are a symbol of wisdom and long life". Yeah, I'm sure that's just how it was. Anyway, I am willing to take wisdom where I find it, even if it comes from somebody who took 62 years do get beyond the fetal stage, and it is very true to say that "to be worn out is to be renewed". At least, it is true up to a point. A slightly more scientific way to say it would be "mild overuse, which causes very slight injury, stimulates the body to renew its tissues, with desirable results". The downside, which Lao-tzu did not see fit to mention, is that heavy overuse causes more injury than the body's renewal processes can repair -- with highly undesirable results.
The thing is, sports training has always been about mild overuse, which causes mild injuries. Weight-lifting is entirely about that -- if you don't lift enough weight to cause a little damage, you don't stimulate the body's renewal process to replace your slightly-injured muscle fibers with thicker ones. Taking steroids only magnifies the renewal process; if you don't lift enough weights to overstrain some muscle fibers, steroids won't help.
The trick is to find the right balance -- you want to do mild tissue damage, not heavy tissue damage. If you are tearing up your tissues faster than your body can rebuild them, you don't come out ahead on the deal. Lately I seem to have found a way to run a lot without getting shin splints and other painful injuries. Despite the pressure I sometimes feel (from other runners) to run faster, I want to be very careful about that. I'm sure I could run faster than I do, and to some extent I am interested in achieving that, but what I am mainly interested in is to continue to be able to run. I don't want to have to give up running (or any other form of exercise) because I've hurt myself doing it. That would be a terrible crisis for me, as it would force me to give up my current method of managing my BG levels. I'd have to go on expensive pills with nasty side effects, like most people with Type 2 diabetes. I don't know for sure, but it doesn't sound to me as if those people are having a lot of fun, what with the chronic diarrhea and all. I'm not into diarrhea, personally. I'd rather run.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||131/78, 55|
It does not matter how slowly you go so
long as you do not stop.
I decided to sleep late this morning, to get caught up a little. Yesterday I got up early for the race (after a late night), and I was terribly sleepy later in the day when I attended a local concert -- which was bad because I was in the front row, and I know the musicians, and they got to see me yawning and dozing during their performance. Today I spent the morning engaged in prolonged napping.
I did go trail-running at mid-day -- it was 7.1 miles. I think I should be getting plenty of exercise right now because of my recent weight gain and (on some days) elevated blood pressure. It was slightly warm, but not bad -- and I was in the shade a lot of the way. That's one of the reasons I like trail-running better than running along roads or athletic tracks: if you're under a canopy of trees a lot of the time, the heat doesn't affect you much.
When I finished the run I noticed something that would be surprisingly easy to overlook: I wasn't hurting anywhere, and I wasn't all that tired. I mean, I ran a total of 13.3 miles this weekend, and only a few years ago I would have been feeling pretty badly beat-up after that much running. It used to be that, after a trail-run of 6 miles or more, I would have been hurting in my hips, lower abdominal muscles, and probably a few other places, but when I finished the run today nothing was sore, and although I wasn't in the mood to run any farther than I did, I couldn't honestly say that I was exhausted. I guess my body has become used to doing this, or else I have learned how to do this without hurting my body, or both.
After I cleaned up from the run, I went to play at a jam session, and two of the musicians whose concert performance I had dozed through were there, but if they had noticed my sleepiness they didn't call me on it. At least I was alert while playing myself; I'm actually pretty good at listening to music while I'm asleep, but my playing really suffers.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||128/80, 57|
Laziness is nothing more than the habit
of resting before you get tired.
Through some miracle, I did get up early enough to participate in the 10-kilometer "Human Race" in Santa Rosa this morning.
It was a fun race, and it was exciting to see such a big a crowd of runners gathered in Santa Rosa, which is hardly a major metropolis. The only problem was that most of the route was not on a wide street such as the one pictured above -- most of it was on a comparatively narrow footpath around Spring Lake. For the first two miles, the crowd was still so bunched up that it was impossible to get around the people in front of you, some of whom were walking rather than running. Except for the elite runners who were placed in front of the crowd, it was slow going for almost everyone. Despite the rather numerous hills on the course, I felt that my time could have been well under an hour if the course had been less crowded; as it was, my time was 1:01:15. The average time for people finishing the race was 59:11, so at least I wasn't far behind that. (Jeff Jackson, the 20-year old who won, finished in 32:09 -- and apparently it wasn't much of a contest for him, because he finished more than 2 minutes ahead of the guy who came in second.)
The race was actually two separate races with different distances -- at Howarth Park, most of the runners split off onto a separate route that was only 3 kilometers. (I suppose that is why the race attracts such a big crowd -- there's an option that's easy enough for just about anyone.) Only 712 of us actually ran the full 10 kilometers (that's 6.2 miles), but in a narrow space even a mere 712 people can seem like quite a crowd.
I liked that the race went around the lake -- it's kind of inspiring (though daunting as well) to look across the water and notice that the elite runners are so far ahead of you, they're already on the opposite side. It gives you something to dream about being able to do.
The Bay to Breakers race next weekend will be even harder to finish with any respectable speed. It's a little longer (7.5 miles), it features a bigger hill to climb, and it will feature 7 or 8 times as many participants. But nobody with any sense counts on being able to finish it fast, and I'm certainly not. That event is very definitely a party, not a race.
Friday, May 9, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||126/80, 53|
Fashion is a form of ugliness so
intolerable that we have to alter it every six
Actually, I may have another race to do before Bay to Breakers. Tomorrow morning is the Human Race, a 10-kilometer run that's a fund-raiser for various local charities. I've been meaning to do it for years, and I've always overlooked it, or had some schedule conflict. It's very popular; they usually get about 10,000 runners, which is small compared to Bay to Breakers but big compared to most other races. Certainly it's big for anything taking place in Santa Rosa. If I can manage to get up early enough, I think I'll do it.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||118/73, 48|
There is a theory which states that if
ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it
will instantly vanish and be replaced by something even more bizarre and
incomprehensible. There is another theory which states that this has already
Well, at least my blood pressure is down -- that's good. I'm not often below the 120/80 threshold of "normal".
The big training event at work is winding down, and I didn't have to participate in any group lunch or dinner today. I manged to get a 4-mile run in also. Here's hoping that I can now settle into more orderly habits and meals. (The computer class I'm taking will be over in 2 weeks -- that will help also.)
Let's see -- is there any othe big event I've foolishly signed up to participate in this month? The only thing I can think of is the Bay to Breakers race on May 18 (a 12-kilometer footrace across San Francisco), and that's really just a big party. It's a nutty event, in which tens of thousands of people take part (more than 100,000 on a few occasions, but usually the crowd is a mere 75,000 or so). Buried within this event, somewhere or other, is a competitive footrace, but you'd have to be at the right place and the right time to see that part of it, and I never have. All I've ever seen are dense crowds of people, many of them wearing funny costumes, some of them wearing nothing, most of them in my way, and most of them walking rather than running. The main challenge of the race as a running event is trying to find a way to get around all the walkers. One year I was stuck behind so many people that I didn't even get to the starting line until the race had been under way for 15 minutes (and by that time the Kenyan who actually won the thing was almost half way to the finish line). So, you don't participate in Bay to Breakers with any very serious athletic goals in mind. Only the most competitive runners (who qualify to be placed at the front of the herd at the start) can actually run the thing the whole way; everyone else has to spend the first mile or so trying to get around people. So you might as well devote yourself to people-watching during the event, even though not all of them are people you really want to watch. (The people who run naked in Bay to Breakers are, for the most part, not doing it because anybody wanted them to see them do it.) But the people who run in costumes often come up with some pretty clever ones. My favorites are the salmon -- a group of people who wear big fish-head costumes and run the race in the wrong direction, fighting their way "upstream" into the onslaught of runners.
The main attraction of the event is the sheer strangeness of it. The photo below gives some idea of the absurd scale of the thing, but the absurd atmosphere of the thing can only be experienced first-hand. It's the sort of event which, when it's over, you ask yourself "Did that really happen?". A lot of people (that is, people who don't live in San Francisco) think of Bay to Breakers as the quintessential San Francisco experience, and many of them make long journeys to take part in it. People who live in San Francisco mostly hate Bay to Breakers, which they see as just one more in a long series of disruptive, road-closing civic events, but they put up with it anyway -- which I guess is what makes it the quintessential San Francisco experience.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||135/82, 51|
Food is an important part of a balanced diet.
I'm a food prisoner this week -- and have been, off and on, rather a lot lately. By "food prisoner" I mean someone who is in a situation that necessarily involves a lot of big social meals that are planned by somebody else. What makes me a food prisoner this week is the field-employee training event at work, which involves eating lunch and dinner with employees from all over the globe -- and, as the meals are supposed to feel celebratory, they tend to be rich. For Cinco de Mayo on Monday, a Mexican dinner. A barbecue yesterday. Lunch at a restaurant today. Not that anybody holds me down and forces guacamole down my throat, but I don't know how to sit down to a big dinner and not end up eating a big dinner.
Before this week, there was the concert week (backstage food and desserts for four days in a row). Even the relay weekend before that involved more chowing-down than was good for me.
Believe me, I'm a lot better at eating a healthy meal when it's a humble meal at home; when it becomes a group meal and I'm going along with the crowd, I'm in a lot of trouble.
Up till now, I've always relied on the principle of controlling the meals that I'm actually in control of, and not worrying too much about the meals that I just happen to find myself in the middle of. But, since I'm currently finding myself in the middle of an awful lot of big meals, and I'm gaining weight rapidly as a result, I'm either going to have to find a way to particpate less in big social meals or find a way to restrain myself when I do. For a while there I managed to turn myself into the party killjoy, who doesn't chow down on what everyone else is having; I hoped I wouldn't ever have to get back into that mode (it's no fun for me or for anyone around me), but it doesn't look like I have much choice.
I finally got my rest day -- no exercise at all. Which I'm sure means that my weight will be even higher tomorrow morning. Which then means that I'll have to work out hard tomorrow, and it will be difficult because I'll be feeling heavy and sluggish. Oh well, it doesn't matter if I feel like doing it or not -- all that matters is that I have to do it.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||122/74, 55|
Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And
my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with
The things I do in the name of glucose control! Today I went for a 4.3-mile run at lunchtime, even though I feel overdue for a rest day, because I knew I wouldn't have a chance to run tomorrow. When I got back from the run, and tried to go into the building where the locker room is, I discovered that the pass card which I had clipped to my shorts, and which I need to get through the automatic doors at work, had fallen off somewhere along the route. Actually, the clip was still attached to my shorts, but the string that attached the card to the clip had evidently broken. As I had lost two of these accursed things in the past six months (one of them pretty recently), I desperately wanted to avoid going into the security office and begging for them to issue me yet another. Later in the day, when I had an opportunity, I walked the same route that I had run before, carefully retracing my steps and scanning the sidewalks and gutters for any sign of the thing. I didn't find it. What I did find is that it takes a lot of time and energy to search four miles of road for a dropped pass card. (And I was pretty tired to begin with.)
So tomorrow morning I must report to the security office and deal with their comments -- they're sure to say "You again!", but I don't see how this is my fault. If they didn't want people to lose these things, they would probably give us more durable devices with which to attach them to our clothes. I'll have to start carrying the thing on a lanyard around my neck.
Well, at least I got plenty of exercise today. I hope it did me good.
Monday, May 5, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||120/74, 46|
There's a big training event going on at work this week, for field employees from all over the world, and the activities revolving around that are going to make it difficult for me to get out and exercise -- which means that I need to seize any opportunity for exercise that comes up, because there's no knowing how much more difficult it might be to create that opportunity tomorrow or the next day.
After yesterday's long run I was feeling very much like taking a rest day today, but a window of time opened up in today's schedule, so I went for a hard 5.3-mile run instead. (The main reason it was hard was that I was trying to keep up with a couple of faster runners.) I felt very tired afterwards, and the fatigue lingered, so I guess I'm overdue for a rest day. The sensible thing would be to take that rest day tomorrow, but I might hold out for Wednesday because I know my schedule's going to be worse then, and I don't want to take 2 rest days in a row. Maybe I can do a lighter workout tomorrow, something minimal in the gym.
These days my life revolves around exercise, and around the problem of finding time for exercise. I've become pretty good at managing this issue without too much fuss, but when fuss is required I get irritated about it. It would help if I were the early to bed, early to rise sort of person, who gets up before dawn and has plenty of time to exercise on the way to work -- but that's not me, and never will be. I'm the artistic, nocturnal type, who is sleepy at 2 PM and wide awake at midnight. Too bad I didn't find a career in a field better suited to my time schedule. I ought to be a night watchman (at some facility which doesn't really need all that much watching).
Blood pressure's looking good, and BG is okay, but weight still needs a lot of work. I don't find it hard to do more exercise, but I find it very hard indeed to eat less food.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||130/78, 58|
Today I had time for a longer workout than yesterday, so I went to Annadel State Park and did an 8-mile trail run. It was a great run. There weren't too many other people (or bikes, or horses) on the trails, and the weather was nice (sunny and 65 degrees). I love getting out in the woods and hills to run. It's a good thing I have a place like that so conveniently nearby. There were still a lot of wildflowers, although the grass in the meadows and hillsides is already turning brown. California's annual episode of green hills is brief; in some years it lasts until well into May, but we didn't have much rain this year, especially in the spring. We get so little rain in the summer that, when I was in the third grade, I objected to a children's story which involved a summer baseball game being interrupted by a thunderstorm, on the grounds that thunderstorms didn't happen in the summer and everybody knew it.
I wasn't running with anyone else today, so I was able to set my own pace, which for me is a big help -- I get very tense and discouraged when I'm struggling to keep up with anyone else. When there's no pressure to keep up with anybody, I can relax, and strangely enough I'm sometimes faster under those circumstances. I think I was fairly fast today, but I wasn't keeping track of time. I knew I had more time than I would need.
My fasting BG was a bit higher than usual today, but I think the only reason for that is that I slept late. If I test later than 8 AM the result is usually up a bit, and today I didn't test until 9:45.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||127/78, 48|
I was hired to play Irish music at a party in the afternoon, and I wanted to spend a large block of time getting ready for it (assembling lists of tunes and practicing them). However, I also wanted to fit a run into my schedule for the day. At first I was thinking of a long trail run (I try to do one of those on most weekends), but I decided there wasn't enough time. Instead I did a 4-mile run around Spring Lake, a popular spot for walkers, runners, and cyclists in my town. In fact, the path around the lake is downright crowded on sunny weekends, to the point that it becomes a bit of an obstacle course. Still, I like to run there occasionally, for the same reason that I like to participate in big races and bike rallies: it's helpful to me to spend time in the midst of a lot of people who are exercising. I need the reinforcement. It's too easy to feel, when you adopt an exercise program, that you have taken up an eccentric hobby -- and that no one but your pathetic self is involved in it. The best way to fight that feeling is to spend time around lots of strangers (young and old, male and female, thin and fat) who are out getting some fresh air and exercise. The sense of "community" I get from encountering swarms of runners and cyclists in popular exercise spots is a pretty superficial thing, I realize, but superficial things can be extremely useful.
The music at the party went well. The weather was nice, and we were playing outdoors on a large deck. Four or five of the guests had very young children with them. One toddler (a girl just barely old enough to walk, with red hair and huge blue eyes) was fascinated by the music and hung around grinning at us almost the whole time. She tried to dance, but was so wobbly that her parents had to hold her up while she gyrated as best she could manage. That's one of the great pleasures of playing music -- watching young children respond to it in a spontaneous way. Sometimes you don't dare look at them while you're playing because they're so cute you're afraid you'll crack up. It's hard to believe I was ever that uninhibited myself, but apparently I was when I was in kindergarten. A lot has changed since then, though.
Friday, May 2, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||130/80, 50|
I guess I'm lucky my blood presure is as low as it is, given that I've just spent an absolutely maddening four hours trying to complete a lab assignment in the computer class I'm taking. The short version is: almost nothing worked. The assigment had to be submitted on line by midnight, and I was only able to come up with answers for 7 of the 11 questions. Everyone claims that Unix is the way it is because the people who invented it were geniuses who had no consideration for ordinary humans. My take on it is rather different: Unix is the way it is because the people who invented it were idiot savants who had no awareness of ordinary humans.
I squeezed in a 4+ mile run today. Nice weather for it: thin clouds, light breeze, low 60s. Running felt better today than it did yesterday; I assume the pollen count was down. I think I had a little ashma yesterday. I was afraid it might persist from now till June, so it was nice to find the situation had improved today.
There was a little gathering after work of runners from our relay team of a few weekends ago. One of the runners had put together a video of the race, and we gathered at a pizza parlor to watch it. Pizza tends to be a lousy choice for me, especially when I'm trying to shed some weight, but there was a salad bar and I chose that. (Sometimes when you're with a group and they're having pizza you aren't given much choice about the matter -- but when you do have a choice, it's a good idea to try something else.) The consensus of the runners was that, yes, we'd do the relay again, although most of us would do a few things differently now that we knew what to expect. We talked about doing similar relay races in Oregon and Maine. The big obstacle to doing something like that is that it requires more organizational work than most people want to get involved in. That aside, I think it was a really good experience for all of us -- certainly it was for me -- and I would like to try that again. The team aspect of it and the adventure aspect of it were both great advantages.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
|Blood Pressure, Resting Pulse||127/77, 54|
I'm at the peak of my allergy season right now. I used to have quite severe allergies as a child (including asthma that was severe enough to require a couple of hospitalizations). After course of injections, the symptoms were reduced to manageable levels, and in recent years all my outdoor running and cycling has helped as well (paradoxically, the more time I spend outdoors being exposed to pollen, the less it affects me). Still, I think my lungs are not operating at full efficiency right now. I did a four-mile, hilly run at lunch today, and it seemed a good deal harder than usual. Of course, the fact that I've gained weight in recent days can't be helping me, either. Anyway, it was tough (and I couldn't keep up with my running buddies, at least on the hills), but I did what needed to be done.
For me, management of Type 2 diabetes pretty much boils down to that: working out hard when you absolutely do not feel like it. Which means you have to let go of the feeling that it matters whether you feel like doing it or not. The truth is that it doesn't matter how you feel about it. It is just one of those things you have to do. As a child you learned that lesson about certain other required acticivities (such as bathing), which you may not have felt like doing, but which your mother insisted had to be done whether you felt like it or not. If you can remember the process of caving in to that requirement, do the same now for exercise. Fortunately, once you do cave in -- that is, once you do accept that you are going to have to exercise whether you like it or not -- it becomes a lot easier to exercise. Nobody had to talk me into running today, I just did it. It helped that some other people were doing it with me, but if they had been unavaialable I still would have done it. (I would have done it slower, though, so it's a good thing they were there to set me an example.)
Once again, I meet the standard for normal blood pressure (120/80) on the diasastolic end, but not on the systolic end. I often get the diastolic number below 80, but I rarely get the systolic number below 120. The blood pressure experts are weirdly unwilling to explain such matters to the public, but I believe that a wide separation between the systolic and diastolic numbers is regarded as a bad thing. In fact, there is a special name for the difference between the two ("pulse pressure"), and it's best to keep that number low. How low you need to keep, I don't know, but if 120/80 is the threshold of normalcy, then I suppose the pulse pressure should be about 40. Mine is typically 50 or higher, so I suppose that's something I need to work on. Probably weight loss would help. I know I don't want to go back to taking blood pressure medication -- not because it did me any noticeable harm, but because the pills aren't cheap, and because I've pretty much dedicated myself to non-pharmaceutical remedies.
It might seem that blood pressure is an entirely separate issue from diabetes, but I can't really afford to look at it that way. Type 2 diabetes involves a combination of physiological problems which, for whatever reason, travel together, and hypertension is very much a part of that picture. You can't just get your BG under control and say that your task is done. There are a lot of other things you have to manage if you have Type 2, and blood pressure is one of the more important ones. I don't think my blood pressure is seriously high (and I guess my doctor doesn't think so either, or he wouldn't have let me stop taking the Monopril), but it is usually at least slightly above the newly defined "normal" range, so I still have some work to do there.