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


  1. Good on you. I know that I should do this too, but...

    No one wants to hear/read excuses.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

  2. I like your hiking stories. How is your Badger doing?

    1. Thanks Scott. New hiking post (kinda) up. Which badger?

  3. Always good to hear your thoughts on various subjects, healthy lifestyles included. While I lack the willpower to do all that is good, your advice at least encourages me to scale back on the bad stuff a bit.
    John Blackshoe

    1. Thanks for stopping by John. Everybody has to do their own thing, and do it their own way. Just the way it works.