Monthly Archives: October 2011

M.A.F. Meltdown

I was worried about my last MAF test on Oct. 4 since it indicated a plateau. I decided to retest a little earlier than usual. I wasn’t expecting anything major since I had some encouraging signs on my long runs. I’ve run steadily longer, increasing from 90 min. to 2h15, and thought I was getting stronger at lower heart rates. But I ignored another sign which is my morning HRV test. My score has been worsening as a longer trend from September.

But when the rubber met the track, the results were a disaster. I regressed significantly. From a MAF pace of 11:03 I regressed to 11:50, almost erasing my aerobic fitness gains of the last two months.

How can this be?

1. Work stress

The last MAF test hinted at it. Now I know for sure. Too many workshops and chaotic schedules.

2. Sleep quality

Related to stress, my sleep is not as effective as it was during the summer.

3. Diet

While I have lost a little weight, there have been some cheat days with restaurant food and beer.

4. Missed workouts

Just this last month, workshops, weather, and other issues have interupted workouts. I missed a lot, but it might be enough.

In addition to these causes, another symptom that Maffetone cautions us to watch against is injury. My last two long runs have left me with IT soreness. It’s bad at the end of the run, but goes away within a day. Maffetone feels that any injury or illness is a significant sign of imbalance that needs to investigated and addressed.

What way forward?

Sleep more, sleep better. No more blogging in front of a bright screen before bed!

No more rich food (until Thanksgiving)

Stress reduction
I will experiment with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. The HRV scores and MAF test results indicate an overactive sympathetic nervous system. This can lead to over-training or burnout.

Retest Soon
Next week? I don’t think that is too soon.

Diet, Not Genetics Controls Heart Disease

Happy Healthy Long Life: The Big 9p21 Cardiovascular Gene Turn-Off! Vegetables & Fruits – Q & A with Dr. Sonia Anand, the McMaster University Researcher Who Helped Discover the Interaction Between Heart Disease, Genes and Diet.

This new study and great commentary fits in well with the medical myths article I posted earlier this week. Genetics are not your destiny. Instead, they are fluid and changing and react very strongly to what your lifestyle throws at it. I’ve long believed that we ALL have heart disease and cancer in our genes. It doesn’t just run in only some families. The gene that has the strngest link to heart disease has been extensively studied. And guess what? According to this study those genes are in 75% of us! But the really good news is that with just a few servings of fruits and veggies, those nasty genes can be turned off. We are not helpless victims to our genes, but active creators of our own health. Go cook up some kale. Do it now.

GO!

Weekly Plan: 10/24

Mon.

Run 30 min.

Dinner: Chili with Baked Potato

Tues.

1 hr. Bike commute

Dinner: Pizza with Farmer’s Mkt. veggies

Wed.

Run 60 min.

Dinner: Leftovers TBD

Thurs.

1 hr. bike commute

Dinner: ? Leftovers? Maybe time to clean out the freezer a little…

Fri.

Rest day

Dinner: Stir fry

Waste Not, Want Not Part 2: The Freezer

It’s not just the bulk goods in the pantry that needed inspection and rotation, but my freezer as well. How long will a package of tempeh keep frozen? My guess is not as long as I’ve kept mine. No, I won’t share the date. The freezer is an awesome thing, which I learned from my grandmother. My grandma grew up on a farm in the days before refrigeration, so knew all about “putting food by” to last the winter. When refrigerators and freezers appeared she kept the tradition of storing food, but now she could store more variety with more freshness. I remember she had a huge chest freezer that kept all kinds of food well preserved, all labelled and dated.

I’m not as good with my freezer, it’s small and I don’t label. But I have learned a few things that make the freezer an awesome tool for healthy eating.

Freeze Leftovers

Make a big batch of something and freeze individual portions. This makes a quick lunch or dinner if plans go awry, and prevents eating out.

Freezer Basics

Make a big batch of beans in the slow cooker, drain and cool thoroughly. Freeze in one cup amounts in plastic bags. Cheaper and tastier than canned.

Frozen Veggies

Keep several bags of mixed veggies on hand. These can be used for quick meals cooking and adding some sauce and seasonings. My favorites: California Blend, Mediterranean Blend, Southwest Blend.

This Week’s Freezer Clean Meal:

Indian Dal with Veggies

2 cups yellow split peas

8 cups water

1 onion, chopped

2 potatoes chopped (I used one russet and one sweet)

1 16 oz. bag frozen veggies, thawed (I used carrot, cauliflower, broccoli)

2 T curry powder

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

 

Bring split peas to a boil, lower heat and simmer about 30 min. uncovered.

While split peas simmer, thaw frozen veggies and prep the raw veggies.

Add remaining ingredients to pot and cook and continue to simmer until everything is cooked to your liking. I mistimed the veggies, and ended up overcooking the frozen veggies until they broke apart. It turned out just fine. Adjust the seasoning. I like to add hot sauce.

To serve:

I put cooked rice in a bowl, a handful of baby spinach and ladled the dal over the top. It would also be good on its own.

 

Long Run Recovery

Another two hour run today in preparation for a marathon. The whole run, except for a mad dash across six lanes of waiting traffic to make a light, done at a brutally slow MAF pace. The good news: I went further and faster than the last attempt two weeks ago. Unfortunately, I missed last week due to being out of town for an all day weekend workshop.  I think this led to the bad news: a sore and very grumpy left knee about 90 min. into the run. It was just the muscles that control the knee and power my stride. They will get stronger and if Maffetone is correct, keeping the aerobic metabolism exclusively engaged, the correct muscles for endurance are getting stronger. So here are my secrets for recovery since tomorrow I have a two hour ride planned.

Post Workout Nutrition

NUtrition timing is over rated. The research seems to show that it doesn’t really matter whether it’s solid or liquid, consumed within 30 min. or 60 min. What matters is that you eat sooner rather than later. I used to be serious about drinking a commercially prepared “recovery” drink with the trendy ratio of highly processed carbs to high refined protein immediately after a long workout. I still do that after really long races, like an XTERRA, because I can’t stomach solid food for a while. But I am trying as much as possible to get away from the processed calories and instead eat whole food sources. So I time my long workouts to end within an hour of a real meal, either lunch or dinner. Today I finished my long run with a bottle of sports drink because I needed fluids and some calories. But after I cleaned up I ate my lunch, an enormous bowl of soba noodles with stir fried veggies and tofu.

Post Workout Rest

Rubbed magnesium oil into legs for relaxation.

Take a nap. Nothing helps recovery like sleep. Ad who doesn’t like a nap after lunch?

Post Workout Chillin’ Like a Villain

Compression socks

Feet up

Reading an old Travis McGee novel

Bliss

For extended recovery, I’ve got basic black beans in the slow cooker. They’ll go with quinoa, homemade fresh salsa and avocado. Does it get any better? I’ll save you time spent on research, it does not.

What works for you? Any special rituals put mind, body and soul back together after a long effort?

Momentum

Anyone know of the perpetual motion machine? It’s a mythic beast that can somehow over come the laws of friction to never stop once started in motion. I often think that this should apply to me. Once I start on a logical course of action, that logic should provide all the impetus needed to continue, right? Next stop, enlightenment. Doesn’t work that way, though, does it?

Friction

A perpetual motion machine can’t operate because friction, whether it be mechanical or simply air resistance will over time cause a slowing and eventual stop. Likewise, our own habits and goals meet with all kinds of friction.

Social Friction

We have social friction from friends and family members who are used to a different “us” and find change unsettling. Subtly or overtly they may resist our best efforts to change because we become someone they don’t know.

Internal Friction

We also have internal friction from old habits that are well established. It costs far less mental energy to do what we have always done than engage in a new and as yet unproven habit.

Really Big Friction

Then there is the macro friction that comes from society at large. If you try to do things differently from the mainstream, you will feel that friction, even if there are many others on your same path.

What to do?

Be aware.

Sense the friction for what it is. Look at it dispassionately. Friction does not mean personal failure. Just another obstacle.

Establish momentum.

Pick a small task in the right direction and do it. Right away. re-establish momentum. Small efforts count more than big ones if they are done with frequency. Right now I need training and diet momentum.

I have fallen short in recent days, so I took small steps today. I commuted by bike. I wanted to drive the car, but I didn’t. I didn’t go for a big workout as penance, I just made sure I operated under my own power. It felt great. I’ve eaten out recently which means I lost control of my nutrition, so made sure to eat a vegetable rich Asian stir fry for dinner. It tasted great. These reactions mean I am reestablishing momentum. Keep the energy flowing in the direction you want to go. Small redirections can pay off big over time. Don’t let a set back overwhelm you. Just reestablish momentum as soon as possible. How do you handle yourself when you have strayed off track? Any tricks or secret techniques?

Persistent Medical Myths

Thanks to the wonders of the twitterverse, a fascinating article came my way by Dr. Robert A. Kornfield about medical myths that even doctors subscribe to and perpetuate, despite what the research and experience shows. Here is my summary and thoughts on what people need to consider carefully. I worry about our ability to provide health care in this country when such costly beliefs persist.

Technology Improved Healthcare

If it had, we’d all be healthy, right? But we’re not. Instead, we put less emphasis on prevention and hope technology will save the day.

Inflammation Must Be Conquered

It’s the natural response of the immune system. Find the cause and fix that. Don’t handicap the immune system.

Genetics Control Disease

This attitude really bothers me. If you believe that genetics rule, then you become a helpless victim. Gene expression is complex and heavily influenced by lifestyle. Dr. Dean Ornish has done fascinating research into gene expression and lifestyle as it applies to prostate cancer. Your genes are not your destiny.

Medications Improve Health

Like technology, if this were true, we’d all be healthy, right? Instead we take meds for life. For many conditions, I do not see that they help at all.

Immunizations Prevent Serious Disease

I’m struggling a bit with this one. I’ll keep an open mind, because I have come across some interesting criticism. His main point appears to be that while we may immunize away some diseases, those powerful chemicals administered to undeveloped immune systems may lead to different serious diseases. I want to know more abut this one.

FDA Trials Ensure Safety

Thanks to recent examples of FDA approved drugs being rescinded, (Vioxx, anyone?) this point argues that since drugs are tested and approved in isolation, the results don’t apply to the real world, where people take multiple medications. These unforeseen interactions can wreak all kinds of havoc.

My Conclusion

In this day and age we need to treat healthcare as it is: a profit seeking business. We need to be wise consumers, ask questions, and not immediately discount our common sense. Most importantly, we must take our health in our own hands, and as Dr. McDougall frequently exhorts, “Get out of the medical business!”

Bad Vegan Jokes

You’ve all heard them, but how do you deal with them? You know, the ignorant, insulting jokes about the veg*n lifestyle? Unfortunately, all my best remarks occur in hindsight. Whether my response is insulting, witty, thoughtful, polite, whatever, it seems I can’t think of a good response when someone makes an asinine comment about my lifestyle. Do you have to rehearse these things in front of a mirror?

So let me back up. I was recently at an all day workshop where lunch was provided. I usually bring my own lunch if I don’t know what will be served, since even here in California, veg*ns are often left out. But since I add low-fat and no-oil to my method, I assume that provided lunches will not be satisfactory. At this particular workshop, as we finished our task and were ready for lunch an announcement was made about the what parts of the meal were vegetarian and which weren’t.  It was requested that the omnivores leave the veg options, which were far more limited to the true vegetarians. The question was asked, “Any vegetarians?” As I sincerely appreciated the gesture, I proudly raised my hand. The only hand. I also replied that I brought my lunch, so no one had to worry.

Then as we broke up I got the barb from some jackass, “Hey, vegetarian is an Indian term for poor hunter.” Seriously? What are we, twelve years old? I mean, who gives this guy the right to joke about someone’s lifestyle, especially when it has no impact on his own? My answer was simple, “I don’t see it that way.” Then I walked away. But I wanted to say something else. I was blindsided, so I was unable to say more. At the very least I wanted to tsate the obvious: that was exceptionally rude. If it had come up in discussion that I was gay, would it be acceptable to make a fag joke? Of course not. Religion? Absolutely not. So why does this asshole jerk think he can insult my lifestyle straight to my face believing it’s funny? Unfortunately, my ideal responses came well after the fact, and never got said. What’s the best way to handle these knuckleheads? What do you do?

Reverse Diabetes

I’ve known diabetics and prediabetics. Problem is that identifu=ying the disease and starting the drug regiment that is used as treatment never works. They never get better. They start a sisyphean attempt to “control” the disease. But they never cure it. In fact, they get worse. I thought the reason we took drugs was to get better? Well, diabetes is a lifestyle disease, so the only way we can cure it is to fix the lifestyle issues that caused it. But that doesn’t appear to be the way that we approach it. Dr Neal Barnard has great research that shows how to get at the root of the problem in his book about diabetes. We can control this, but it takes some effort on our parts. It may be more effort than swallowing pills and shooting up insulin, but in the end it will pay off bigger. But what is even worse, we have known about this disease and what can reverse it for for decades as Dr. John McDougall explains  in his lecture on diabetes. Even if there are flaws in these studies it costs nothing to try them, right? Enjoy.

Living to 100

Here’s a great talk about the blue zones research, which investigates the lifestyle factors in common among areas with the highest concentration of centenarians. Although the map shows a region of Costa Rica, the speaker doesn’t elaborate. That’s a shame, I would love to hear what the Ticos are doing and compare it to the famous Okinawans.