Archive for the ‘Exercise and activity’ Category

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September 12, 2013

Swimming_0195

This is worth reading:

Diana Nyad and the wisdom of age

Guest Columnist (Vincent P. Ward)
Published: Sep 12, 2013, in The State
http://www.thestate.com/2013/09/12/2974330/ward-diana-nyad-and-the-wisdom.html
The thing that impressed most people about Diana Nyad wasn’t her triumphant emergence from Gulf waters after 53 hours to become the first person ever to swim from Cuba to Florida’s Key West without a shark cage. It’s that she was 64 years old.
The sheer strength, tolerance of pain and discomfort and endurance it took are astonishing. But as Nyad indicated afterward, there’s more to be found by looking deeper. The three things to take from her journey, she said, are “never give up; you’re never too old; and it looks like a solitary achievement but it’s a team effort.”
This was more than breaking a sports record. It was a demonstration of what can be accomplished with the products of aging itself. In a PBS interview the next day, she said that as she ages, “the clock seems to be ticking faster” and “time seems to be running out.” She wanted this to be “a lesson to my life that says, ‘Be fully engaged; be so fully awake and alert and alive.’”
So wisdom was a major factor. She later spoke of the line between acknowledging the possibility of being defeated by things that are bigger than we are, and quitting before we actually reach our limits. It takes wisdom to see, and to live into, that paradox.
Courage is another factor. Nyad braved the water temperature, waves, currents and weather. She braved sharks, swimming without the contraption that keeps them away and marginally eases the water’s resistance around the swimmer. She braved the jellyfish, which had taken her out of action before. She braved the depths, in which unknown critters swim, some of which could rise up to make you dinner.
In other words, she entered the ocean more on its terms and less on hers. This requires another frequent feature of aging: humility, the recognition that in the great scheme of things, you’re not nearly as important as your ego thinks you are. Related is a willingness to surrender to the task, to go with the flow of the sea, rather than determining to conquer it.
Patience is a factor, too. It took four decades of it to hold onto her “extreme dream.” Biding her time while her body aged must have been hard, and probably seemed unwise to many.
Exhaustion, muscle and joint pain, sunburn, swallowed sea water that had to be vomited up, self-doubt, fear, two days without sleep and more. Why would anybody deliberately embrace such suffering? I suspect for the same reason Christ did: for the sake of meaning greater and far more important than safety and comfort.
This swim was in Nyad’s mind for 40 years. She got in the water to start on four occasions, but never finished. But being unable to finish was not the same as giving up. Aging, if you’re paying attention, entails internal change, an emergence, a response to insistent pressure from the inside to become more authentic. So I suspect the meaning of the swim changed over the years and decades, becoming a journey, a process, that occupied a much larger, more central and more profound place in her than just breaking a record. I think it came to represent a destiny of the spirit.
But the time for fulfilling it was not to come until she was spiritually equipped, with the wisdom, courage, humility, interior strength, love that drew supporters to her, and acceptance of the role of suffering in life, which only years can bring. Her journey began decades ago, but I think she had to be 64 to integrate all that and finish this stage of it. “Stage” because the journey is life, and it’s not over till it’s over.
Those of us who are “of an age” had better be paying attention. It wasn’t the goal of swimming from Cuba to Florida that Diana Nyad never gave up on — it was herself. We should be inspired by her to the same journey. Our approaching death is no excuse for giving up on life.
Dr. Ward is a Columbia psychotherapist; reach him at drv-sc@earthlink.net.

Clitoris Awareness Week meets National Bike Month

May 7, 2013

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May is National Bike Month and this week is International Clitoris Awareness Week. So, how do the two fit together?

Clitoris awareness, unlike penis awareness, is not a given. Female children and girls are less aware of the details of their anatomy than boys are. And historically the clitoris has been an object of denial, scorn and even violence (as in female circumcision). This article, for example, documents the  psychological harm done by lack of accurate emphasis on this important organ.

So what does any of this have to do with cycling? Aside from anecdotal reports of spontaneous orgasms occurring during cycling (both men and women), there are other effects of bicycle seats meeting female genitalia, as well described in this blog post . Similar problems occur for men (sometimes resulting in impotence), but this is not Penis Awareness Week — one could argue that every week is.

If you find yourself shocked, embarrassed, or snickering about this blog post, you have just demonstrated the need for Clitoris Awareness Week. I admit, I first heard about it on Weekend Update (on SNL, a comedy TV show) and thought it was pretty silly. But further thought has convinced me it is also serious, and worth publicizing.

For all you ever wanted to know about the clitoris, and more, see this web site.

Parents, remember these numbers: 5210

July 29, 2012

Five-two-one-zero (5210) is a reminder of what our children need each day in order to be healthy. Here is the breakdown:

5    = Five or more servings of fruits and vegetables

2    = No more than two hours of recreational screen time (no screen time under 2 yrs old)

1    = At least one hour of physical activity

0    = Zero servings of sugary drinks (drink water and fat-free or 1% milk instead)

[To remember the numbers I think “five to ten”]

For more information see http://www.letsgo.org

Here is a short video to use as a teaching tool for children: http://youtu.be/TluNJeM6HAI

Here is a more detailed video for help in designing a 5210 program in a community: https://vimeo.com/29985972

My Review of Navigator 2.0 WSD

May 4, 2012

Excellent, with one exception

By ChasSC from SC on 5/4/2012
4out of 5

Pros: Durable, Stylish, Lightweight, Comfortable, Versatile

Cons: Need to upgrade chain

Best Uses: Leisurely Rides, Uneven Surfaces, Street Riding, Commuting, Exercise

Describe Yourself: Casual/ Recreational

Was this a gift?: No

I am a 69 year old male and traded in a 4 year old Specialized Expedition Sport for this one. I much prefer the “women’s” design, with low step-over, to the high cross-bar type. The Trek and Specialized bikes are comparable, but I like this one better — smoother ride, better fit. Initially, the gear shifting on this bike was rough and clunky, and the bike store owner finally told me the chains Trek uses on this bike are of inferior quality. He gave me a free upgraded chain, and it made a tremendous difference. I ride about 10 miles per day for exercise, fun, and grocery shopping. My wife has the Navigator 1.0 (and likes it), but the 2.0 is definitely worth the price difference. One odd thing is that the tires on the 2.0 hold 60 -80 psi, while those on the 1.0 hold 45 – 60. The bike dealer did not know this, so be sure to check for yourself.

(legalese)

Six small changes can help keep pounds off

January 14, 2011

This post is based on an article in the February 2011 issue of Consumer Reports magazine. The average middle-aged American gains 1 to 2 pounds per year. These six simple changes will at least help stop the weight gain, and may help you lose a few pounds.  Fad diets that promise more not only don’t work, most research shows they result in even more weight gain over the long run.

“Those who start with small changes often end up able to make more and bigger changes and lose more weight.”  James O. Hill, Ph.D. (University of Colorado)

1.  Stop drinking calories. Many drinks contain lots of calories.  Yet, when we consume calories in liquid form we don’t feel full or satisfied, so we eat just as much as we would without the beverage (or more, if the beverage contains alcohol or salt).  Calorie-free “diet” drinks do not cause weight gain, so are a better choice (but not as good as water).

2.  Eat more protein. Low-carb, high protein diets have proved surprisingly effective, especially in the short term. People who eat a higher proportion of their calories from protein end up consuming fewer calories overall. The bottom line is it can’t hurt to substitute a bit more lean protein for some of the fat and starches in your diet.

3.  Eat more fiber. “Fiber is the good guy of food,” according to the Consumer Reports article. “Grow the amount of vegetables on your plate and shrink everything else,” says Barbara Rolls, Ph.D. (Penn. State University).

4.  Lead yourself not into temptation. If there is an unhealthy food you crave, don’t have it where you can eat it impulsively.  See this post for more about the addictive properties of fat, salt and sugar in processed foods.

5.  Add 2000 steps per day. You can do this all at once, or divide it up, but the point is to get moving. See this post for more about exercise.

6.  Cut your screen time. This is related to number 5,  but is worth emphasizing because we spend more and more time seated in front of various screens (TV, computers, games).  Excessive screen time is correlated with more obesity and other health problems. For children, especially, it is important for parents to set limits on screen time, and to model by their own behavior how to stay active.

One more change: practice mindful eating. The best way to make this a habit is to write down everything you eat (keep a food log or diary).  If you do this, you will lose (or stop gaining) weight.

Willpower and Fun: a win-win combination

December 12, 2010

In a few weeks it will be January, and at least half the U.S. adult population will be groaning about how much they overdid the holiday spirit and how much they need to suffer to get back in shape. It doesn’t have to be that way.  Exercising willpower and self-control now can put you way ahead of the game later.  But how to do this and still have fun is the big question.

My take is there is no fun, in the long run, in acting as if there is no tomorrow.  This applies all year long, not just during a hectic holiday season.  Being mindful of the beauty and joy of this, and every other, season is what it takes to truly appreciate what we have.  Eating mindfully allows us to truly savor the good food.  Being fully present, and not rushed or distracted, when with friends and family enhances the good feelings (practicing mindfulness also helps combat depression; see here).  On the other hand, neglecting yourself (eating and drinking too much and not exercising) leads to bad feelings and regrets.

Willpower is a controversial topic, but should not be.  We all have it in varying degrees, and there is a lot we can do to get the most good out of it.  See these previous posts for some ideas.  Mainly, treat your willpower and self-control as a valuable but limited resource.  Don’t expose yourself to extreme amounts of temptation (see this study).  Strive for balance in your life, during holidays and all the rest of the time.  Finally, I suggest, don’t define “fun” as a continuous orgy of indulgence.  What is your definition of “fun”?

Learning self-control and delay of gratification

May 22, 2009

New Yorker marshmallows

A now classic psychology experiment from the late 1960s demonstrated that four-year-old children who were able to delay the gratification of eating a marshmallow became more successful in later years than children who could not exercise as much self-control. In an update of the research on this topic, Jonah Lehrer (writing in The New Yorker recently) quotes the original researcher and many others discussing how we learn to control our brains when it comes to resisting temptation and applying ourselves to a task (such as controlling what we eat or exercising more).

The marshmallow researcher, Walter Mischel, says, “Once you realize that willpower is just a matter of learning how to control your attention and thoughts, you can really begin to increase it.”

Teaching children (and adults) simple ways to master their thoughts and behavior (through “strategic allocation of attention”) may be a crucial ingredient in increasing success in many activities.  For example, the children who were successful in resisting the marshmallow temptation

distracted themselves by covering their eyes, pretending to play hide-and-seek underneath the desk, or singing songs from “Sesame Street.” Their desire wasn’t defeated—it was merely forgotten. “If you’re thinking about the marshmallow and how delicious it is, then you’re going to eat it,” Mischel says. “The key is to avoid thinking about it in the first place.”

Mischel and other researchers are very interested in studying the people who have become “high-delaying adults” (exercising self-control) even though, as children, they failed the marshmallow test.

Some researchers (e.g., John Jonides at University of Michigan, and others) are focusing on the exact locations and functions in the brain associated with self-control and delay of gratification:

Yale University researchers found that delaying gratification involves an area of the brain, the anterior prefrontal cortex, that is known to be involved in abstract problem-solving and keeping track of goals.  … The brain scan findings from 103 subjects suggest that delaying gratification involves the ability to imagine a future event clearly, said Jeremy Gray, a Yale psychology professor and coauthor of the study in the September [2008] edition of the journal Psychological Science. You need “a sort of ‘far-sightedness,’ to put it in a single word,” he said. [reference]

Mischel, the original marshmallow researcher, adds:

The key to delaying gratification may lie in the ability to “cool the hot stimulus,” he said in a telephone interview.

Over and over, research is showing that the trick is to shift activity from “hot,” more primitive areas deep in the brain to “cool,” more rational areas mainly in the higher centers of the brain, he said.

There are many ways to cool a hot stimulus, said Mischel, who is president of the Association for Psychological Science. Say you are determined to resist the chocolate cake at a restaurant. You must distract yourself from the waiter’s dessert tray. You can also focus on long-term consequences and make them “hot” – by vividly imagining your future tummy and hip bulges – or think of the cake in the cooler abstract, as a thing that will make you fat and clog your arteries.

In the marshmallow test, he said, “the same child who can’t wait a minute if they’re thinking about how yummy and chewy the marshmallow is can wait for 20 minutes if they’re thinking of the marshmallow as being puffy like a cotton ball or like a cloud floating in the sky.” [reference]

A large-scale study is now underway, involving hundreds of schoolchildren in Philadelphia, Seattle, and New York City, to see if self-control skills can be taught.

More resources:

Do not — DO NOT — deprive yourself

January 30, 2009

sleeper

In Woody Allen’s very  funny movie Sleeper (1973), he plays a health food store owner who travels to the future and discovers everything that was bad for you (smoking, fast food) is now good for you. I have often wondered whether, in such circumstances, I would change my long-standing eating preferences (which now happen to be “healthy”) so that I would eat heavy desserts, creamy sauces, sweets, McDonalds food, etc.  Now I dislike such foods, but if it turned out they were good for me, would I learn to like them?  The answer is, probably yes.

Over the last two decades, I have absorbed the culture of healthy eating to the extent that I PREFER to eat this way.  I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that I have brainwashed myself.  Which is a good thing.  There is ample and growing evidence that we can control our likes and dislikes to a great extent (it takes time and practice).

What I know does NOT work for me or many other people is to change the way I eat just to be “good” or “healthy.”  If I do that, I feel deprived, and will get angry, resentful, and ultimately go back to eating what I like.

The same is true for exercise; do it because you want to, not because you “have to.”   You will be happier, and healthier.  What’s the point of being healthy if you’re not happy?

Please, don’t Resolve to “get healthy” in the new year!

December 31, 2008

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There is nothing wrong with setting a goal to walk 30 minutes a day, or to stop buying fat-and-sugar-laden snack foods to keep in the pantry. The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that they are usually reactive and rarely work.  By reactive, I mean they tend to be the result of a feeling that “I have overindulged” or “been bad” in December, so I will make amends next year.  This kind of thinking is self-defeating.  Diets don’t work, and Resolutions don’t work.  What does work is a full time commitment to practicing specific, realistic behaviors.  The idea of an annual review and re-commitment is not bad, but I suggest the best time to do this might be December 1 — certainly not January 1.

Here is an excerpt from Weight Management for Your Life that may give you some idea why I think December, with all of its “special occasions,” would be a good time to review and renew your healthy-living plan:

If you have been successfully working on changing your eating and exercise patterns for some time, you will encounter situations where someone will say to you “This is a special occasion, so go ahead and eat that cake!” The cake is not the issue, but the implication behind the statement is. People observing your healthier lifestyle will assume you are in a constant state of self-deprivation, and will want to see you “loosen up.” It is important to them to feel okay about
their own “indulgences.” The problem with your buying into that theory is that it discounts the fact that you already are eating (and exercising) the way you want to. You are not depriving yourself – in fact, by doing what you want, you are indulging yourself. Your ongoing healthy lifestyle is its own reward.
Another problem with going back to old unhealthy habits, even temporarily, is that such “special occasions” come up frequently: out-of-town trips, weddings, graduations, birthdays, holidays, cruises, office parties, etc. etc. Add the special occasions with their special “indulgences” or “rewards” up over the course of a year and you have put on an unwanted five to ten pounds. … Special occasions are even more special when they don’t throw you off your chosen path.

Happy new year!

Give up a car? Get a bike? Maybe.

August 13, 2008

After decades of being a two-car family, my wife and I recently gave up one of them and bought two bikes. Now, don’t think we are being heroic — we are both retired and live in a very convenient in-town neighborhood. We can walk or bike to many stores and restaurants and friends’ houses, and the climate here is pretty good. Still, it is very nice not paying for insurance, taxes, upkeep and depreciation on the car we gave up. We definitely are driving less than we used to, and I go days at a time without driving (my wife often takes the car on out-of-town trips to visit family, and at those times I am completely car-free).

A huge bonus is that we have found we love cycling around town, and I went in with a friend who has an SUV to buy a very good bike rack, so we can sometimes take the bikes to other places for a change in scenery.

To really see what is possible (and difficult) when you become car-free, check out this blog.

If you have found a way to cut down on driving, and increased your use of more healthy forms of transportation (for you and the planet), let us know.