Friday, May 25, 2018

Ambulate ad vive

So lots of things have kept me far from the blog for a number of days. Sometimes it seems I'm living crisis-to-crisis, but it's not that bad. Just life stuff.

Me about to get out of bed this morning:

"Firetruck this, I ain't training today. My neck hurts, my back hurts, my hip hurts, my legs hurt. I'm sore and stiff. I've done enough this week. I can take a day off."

Me after I got moving a bit:

"Well, I'll do my weight room stuff. Then we'll see."

As you may recall, I have a certain fascination with and appreciation -- perhaps even love -- for jumping spiders. I watched this one stalk and catch a housefly in my garage yesterday.

"Get yer own, Bub!"

Which has little if anything to do with Ambulate ad vive, or Walk to Live. I got the idea for the title of this post from the old foot soldier's axiom; "take care of your feet, and your feet will take care of you."

The reason I was thinking about feet -- my feet in particular -- and about taking care of feet, is because it's time for new shoes. Unless I get hit by a bus I'll have logged well over 200 miles for the month of May, and my shoes are wearing out.

I've been wearing sneakers when walking in and around town, and those are kinda-sorta okay, but I really need serious hiking shoes if I'm going to be able to keep piling up the miles. Sneakers don't have the kind of support I need, and old fat guys need well designed shoes to keep the foots fit as well as the leg joints and spine.

When hiking the prairie I've been wearing Danner hiking boots and shoes. Danner makes great boots, even if they're chinesium in the present century. But they are heavy (3.5 and 2.7 lbs./pair, respectively), and they are old school when it comes to design, so I figured there was likely something better out there.

And oh boy is there! Just get on your computer or phone and gargle up "lightweight all terrain hiking shoes" and try to figure out which ones to buy!

Fortunately, I got a 30-percent-off e-coupon in the email and out of the blue from Arc'teryx the other day. Reviews and description had put several of their shoes on my rather long short list, so I decided to jump on a pair. The ones I settled on were the Norvan VT shoes. They arrived today.

These shoes weigh only 1.6 lbs. for the pair, which is great. They also fit well, have excellent orthotic support, and have an advanced all terrain sole which is good on the asphalt or gravel as well as the shortgrass prairie. So far today I've done 8.25 miles (that's 13.277 kilometers outside the U.S.) in them and it's almost like having new feet. We'll have to see how they hold up, but so far they seem to be a winner. A steal at only $170!

The shoes did well and felt good on the road as well as on the prairie. And you never know what you'll find when clambering around in prairie canyons, especially when you're wearing great shoes.

Bideo, too...

Buenos adidas! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Some ride

It's not that I haven't been writing here, it's just that I haven't been posting here. I've produced a double handful of drafts over the last 10 days but they keep falling apart. I suppose I should just press on and post something.

I've been really hitting it with physical training since April 30. Basic weight training, cardio, and hiking. This is a different approach for me. Over the last couple of decades I've been relying on physical labor and pleasurable hiking to keep fit, and that's worked pretty well. But I am getting older and it seems a good idea to increase my level of overall fitness while I still can, and I think daily training is a good habit for me to get into.

Over the last couple of weeks I've shed a lot of fat and rebuilt a good bit of muscle mass. I'm nowhere close to being actually fit, but I'm heading in the right direction I think. I've been telling myself over the last couple of years that I'm "more fit than most of the folks I know in my age cohort," and that's true, but "more fit than them" is not the same as actually fit. If I was actually fit I'd be 60 lbs lighter, for instance.

It's a process. Along the way there have been no few aches and pains and I'm sure they will continue, but I can live with those. So far I've not had any injuries, and I'm being pretty careful, but I'm sure there will be a few along the path. On the upside I feel much better in general and I'm sleeping better.

So why all this sudden bullshit about fitness? Couple of things, I guess.

I've been watching a close family member struggle with liver disease for many months now. The problem stems from a condition called fatty liver, which happens when the liver has a problem with handling fat. It's rather complex, but the liver begins to store triglycerides in liver cells and eventually the sheer quantity of stored lipid kills the cell. The cell then becomes scar tissue, or to use the medical term, cirrhotic. When enough cells are affected the liver loses two things -- working liver cells and the vascular pathway through those cells.

When enough cells are lost the liver can no longer do a proper job of filtering blood and doing the metabolic magic that pretty much every other part of the body relies on.

When the intrahepatic vascular pathways are affected, other bad things happen. All of the blood that passes through the gut flows directly into the liver through the portal vein. If bloodflow through the liver is constricted, the blood pressure in the liver goes up, as does the pressure throughout the gut. This is called portal hypertension. Increased pressure in the liver soon begins to squeeze still-healthy cells until they, too, begin to die and become cirrhotic. In many ways it's a spiral of death. There are treatments that can help, and they are helping in this case. But it's a battle. The near term outcome depends on whether the still-healthy liver cells can heal themselves. Under ideal circumstances a person can survive with as little as 25 percent of the liver functioning. How will this particular case play out? It's too soon to tell. There are positive signs and negative signs.

What's the connection to fitness?

Well, in the first world fatty liver is the fastest growing segment of the death industry. Shouldn't be surprising, really. People in the first world tend to overeat and under-exercise. Excess calories get stored as fat, and first-worlders are the fattest group of humans there have ever been. There are limits to the amount of fat the body can make, store, and use; when the sheer quantity of incoming nutrients overwhelms fat production/storage/use capacity some of that fat begins to pile up in the liver cells. Sound familiar?

Yeah, not a good disease to have. It's entirely preventable though, at least as far as I understand. The key to that prevention is to not be fat, or if fat, to get un-fat. I'm fat, so the path for me if I want to avoid fatty liver and all the bad stuff that goes with it probably isn't to lay back in the recliner and shove twinkies down my neck for a few decades.

As I think I've mentioned before, I've been blessed with robust good health. Therefore getting un-fat is as simple as addition and subtraction. More output than intake until the fat goes, then a proper and healthy balance of intake and output. The most sensible way forward appears to be diet restriction and daily physical training.

What else about fitness?

Interestingly, there's actually a solid correlation between leg strength and head trauma in the aging population. Like it or not, I fall into that population. The correlation looks like this; those with stronger legs have both the strength and agility to avoid falling and/or to catch themselves and regain balance is they begin to fall. Those with weaker legs, not so much. Falling carries a high incidence of head trauma which itself carries a high incidence of bad outcomes. So strong legs are a real plus, and the only way to maintain strong legs is to exercise those legs. And unless you've got a bike built into the recliner, watching Oprah and popping bon-bons probably isn't the appropriate approach.

Also, here's an interesting study I blundered across. It looks very much as if -- in general and in the population as a whole -- Americans could add more than a decade of useful longevity to their lives by following five simple lifestyle guidelines. Don't smoke. Don't be fat. Don't drink alcohol excessively. Do at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily. Eat a properly balanced and appropriate diet.

If you think about it, the normally healthy body does all kinds of cool shit to keep itself healthy and functioning at a remarkable level. To maintain that into the advancing years, all you gotta do is stay out of the recliner, don't poison yourself, and keep a little bit active. But you gotta do it of course. Makes sense, right?

So if it's so simple, why do only six percent of Americans follow the recipe? Why do 94 percent of Americans, including myself, do only a couple (or none) of those things? Who was it who said, "common sense is the most uncommon of virtues"?

It's a good question. At the end of the day...

Holy shit! I went full Yoda! SMH.

Hope I'm not coming over all evangelical. I don't mean to lecture anyone but myself. In a lot of ways this post is pointed only at me. Just thinking at the keyboard.

"When you sleep in, you skip your workout, all of a sudden the donuts are starting to look pretty good, and then the next thing you know it's pizza and when you get home at night you're just watching tv, and that can continue on for days. Days turn into weeks and the next thing you know... you're fat and out of shape." Jocko Willink

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Rainy days and Wednesdays

The crafting (gag) of this post has proceeded in fits and starts. It is now Saturday afternoon. When I began, it was Wednesday afternoon...

I was talkin' to myself and feelin' old.

And it was raining.

But it was Wednesday, I didn't want to quit, and I had better things to do than frown.

It's a great line though, that "rainy days and Mondays." A lovely old Carpenters song with a lyric and melody that tend to play in my head on rainy spring mornings. Who needs bluetooth when you've got rockhead?

I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind...

No, no, that ain't the Carpenters!. though I really dig this cover, and a bunch of my brane synapses are conspiring to recall moments from times long past.

Um, where was I?

I remember. I remember a rainy day many years ago. I was in Junior High, probably seventh grade. It was springtime, and the memory of that day is infused with "last couple of weeks of school" flavor. Anyway, I walked out in the rain that day. It was probably lunch time and I suspect I'd spurned school lunch in favor of taking my grownup seventh grade self down to the malt shop, which was a leisurely stroll of six or eight blocks. I doubt it was raining when I set out, but it was certainly raining when I headed back to the ol' school yard. It was a warm rain, a very springtime rain, and I remember how good it feltto be walking in a warm rain in the middle of a world coming alive after a long winter sleep. Walking in rain without being bothered by the wet or by my soaking clothes. For some reason that memory has stayed with me and it's a delightful one.

I also remember becoming chilled later in class, and shivering miserably in my sodden clothes. That's a good memory too, though not quite as delightful. Kind of a yin and yang thing I guess, an early realization that life is complex with complicated rules and unanticipated twists and turns. A good way to learn about the no free lunch thing; that the price of walking in a delightful rain storm is often paid in time spent shivering.
Ninth Grade, but close enough for gubmint work.

Think this yearbook ad would fly in 2018? Oh the victimization!

Butt I digress.

Wednesday morning I was indeed talkin' to myself and feelin' old. Feeling stiff and sore and creaky anyway. I did some serious exercise walking on Monday and Tuesday, and though I'd kept myself somewhat active and on my feet over the winter, I didn't do any regular walking or hiking. So Wednesday morning I was stiff and sore and creaky.

And it was raining.

Despite the pain of my age-induced infirmities I wanted to get out and get in some road work. But it was raining. Should I skip it and take a day off? It was an attractive proposal.

Getting in a good hard hike was more attractive, so that's what I did, spurred in part by the memory of a springtime walk in the rain many years ago.

The first mile was miserable. My ankles were sore and stiff and made me feel awkward. It was hard to get a flowing stride going. And as always when getting my legs back into walking shape, my anterior tibialis muscles burned like fire. The Tibialis Anteior is the big muscle on the front of the lower leg that lies alongside and outboard of the shinbone. It's the one that gives a great deal of power to your stride, the one that you use to push off with. The deep, aching, burning pain that came with each step was anything but enjoyable.

Not my first rodeo though, and I know that powering through the pain is the key to success. It's easy to give in to the pain and quit, and doing so isn't the end of the world, but it does delay the goal of getting back in hiking shape.
Cows didn't offer to get me a wheelchair.

Puddles are always nice to see in this country.

'Zackly 15 miles north of the Colorado line.

Just in case.


There's a Longhorn hiding in there.

Smokebong hill, good for what ails ya.

Brewer's blackbirds and a black-throated sparrow.

Keeping the rain out.

So I pressed on, and as usual, muscle pain began to dissipate after the first mile as tightness eased and blood flowed. I ended up taking a route that went a couple of miles south of Kimball along Highway 71. It was damp and cool and the rain wasn't the warm rain of my memory, but I kept plenty warm as I strode along. The route was mostly uphill going out and downhill coming back, so it was a good workout. As usual when I walk along roads with traffic though, people kept stopping to give me a ride. A couple of them actually wanted to argue with me when I declined their offer and explained that I was exercising. Which raises the question, were they actually offering assistance to a fellow human being? Or was their mission to manipulate and control an object that they don't really regard as a fellow human being?

Good workout.

Thursday it rained again, and Thursday I hiked again.

I split the hike to stop by the hospital while Dad was getting a paracentesis done.

Yesterday it was fixing fence and pasture hiking. Also four runs of a 1,000-yard two-gun course. Two-gun is like golf, only more kinetic. Players are required to have two balls, even the girls. And speaking of golf, more people are murdered annually in this country by golf clubs and other bludgeoning instruments than by rifles and shotguns combined. Funny how the media can't report that.

Today I didn't want to go at all. Not a lot of energy on standby. But that's the way it's supposed to be actually. It takes time and effort to switch the ol' metabolism from winter storage mode to non-winter active mode. You gotta deplete the ready stores of energy (blood glucose and muscle glycogen) and make the body start freeing up energy stored as lipids. Slow and easy over an extended time works, but so does fast (relatively) and hard (relatively) over a shorter time-frame. The danger of going fast and hard is twofold; the possibility of injury increases somewhat, and so does the possibility of giving up because it's too hard. So far so good. We'll see if I pussy out or not.

Five charges (ahem) up smokebong hill today. East of smokebong hill is drug deal road, you see...

Drug deal road is where even prominent local businesspersonages go to get the stuff they need to survive. Poor bastards (and bastardettes!).

 Beautiful day out there today...