You may be feeling a little gooey and edgy from the great media shower of candy, hearts and flowers today, so forgive me for piling on, but today’s reason to exercise is about love.
Not that hyped, romantic love, though, but the sane self-love that prompts us to make healthy choices like working out. Okay, end of Oprah segment. But I just wanted to share my favorite section of a book we recently featured, Eating To Lose: Healing From a Life of Diabulimia.
The author, Maryjeanne Hunt of Millis, MA, has Type 1 diabetes and used to skip the insulin she needed, despite huge risks, in order to lose weight. She also got deeply into fitness, as both participant and instructor, and says she “abused” exercise as well. But at least exercise is generally healthy — and regular exercise remains part of her far saner approach to her weight these days. With her permission, this comes from the section of her book titled “Cookie Power:”
It was a Friday morning at 6:30 a.m., several years later in July. My cardio interval class had just ended.
“Thanks,” one of the participants sighed breathlessly as she toweled off the sweat from her face and neck. “That was a great workout! I really needed that today.”
Yes, you’ll be amazed by the benefits of exercise, and no, you won’t have my legs — ever.
I turned to face the woman, whose voice I didn’t recognize, and smiled. “I think we all did.”
“I’ve been in a slump,” she continued. “This was the first week since New Year’s that I’ve actually made it to the gym all five days?”
“Well, congratulations, then. And by the way, Happy New Year!” We chuckled and continued walking toward the lockers.
“How many days a week do you work out?” she asked.
“Almost every day.”
“So if I do this every day, how long will it take me to have legs like yours?” Continue reading →
The world’s oldest marathoner has decided at age 101 to stop competing — but not to stop running. He’ll keep logging a mere eight or nine miles a day, ABC news reports. Fauja Singh, an Indian-born Brit, turned marathoner when he was 89, ABC reports, and his yellow turban prompted the nickname “The Turban Tornado.” The last sentence below made me laugh out loud:
In 2011 he earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest marathon runner when he competed in the Toronto Marathon at age 100.
Singh credits his success to a healthy lifestyle that includes no smoking or alcohol and a vegetarian rich diet. After the Toronto race he spoke to the media through his coach Harmander Singh about his accomplishments.
“He said he achieved this through the help of God, but even God must be getting fed up with helping him,” Harmander Singh said.
It’s not your imagination: yoga is everywhere. ( AmandaD_TX/flickr)
You didn’t need a study for this: Just look around at all those toned, mellow women (and a few men) toting rubber mats under their arms, coconut water at the ready. As a friend said to me recently: “I think I’m the only woman in Cambridge NOT doing yoga.” She may be right.
And here are the numbers to prove it. The latest 2012 Yoga in America Market Study (conducted for Yoga Journal by Sports Marketing Surveys USA) found that 20.4 million Americans are practicing yoga, that’s up 29 percent from 2008 when the study reported 15.8 million practicing yogis. And all those down dogs can be pricey. The survey found that “practitioners spend $10.3 billion a year on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations, and media. The previous estimate from the 2008 study was $5.7 billion.” Beyond the current yoga enthusiasts, there are more waiting in the wings: “Of current non-practitioners, 44.4 percent of Americans call themselves “aspirational yogis”—people who are interested in trying yoga,” the survey found.
Here are some more findings, from the Yoga Journal press release:
Gender: 82.2 percent are women; 17.8 percent are men.
Age: The majority of today’s yoga practitioners (62.8 percent) fall within the age range of 18-44.
Length of practice: 38.4 percent have practiced yoga for one year or less; 28.9 percent have practiced for one to three years; 32.7 percent have practiced for three years or longer. Continue reading →
Vast mountains of research suggest that exercise is the closest thing we have to a magic pill. But maybe, as with other pills, it’s better to take one than fifty.
In case you missed it, WBUR’s sports expert extraordinaire Bill Littlefield aired a provocative segment this weekend on the apparent ill effects for older athletes of overdoing the exercise. The full post is here; it begins:
Recent medical studies suggest that ambitious exercise after a certain age makes athletes more susceptible to the very ailments they’re trying to avoid. The Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Helliker summarized those studies in his recent article, “One Running Shoe in the Grave.’ Hellicker joined Bill to discuss how older athletes should respond to the latest research.
BL: Your story begins with the assertion that for older athletes “running can take a toll on the heart that essentially eliminates the benefits of exercise.” Define “older athletes.”
KH: Well, I don’t know so much that it is the age itself of the athlete, but how long he or she has been doing it. If you have been running far and fast over a long period of time, this research suggests that you may be wearing your heart out.
BL: How much running did the researchers cited in your article determine that athletes in their 50s and 60s should do?
KH: They tend to say 20-25 miles a week. Which, as you know, for serious marathoners, for some of them, that’s one day’s worth of running. There are many runners out there who do between 20 and 50. And you’re in Boston, I mean, Boston’s ground zero for distance running in America, right?
November. Waning light, biting winds. Toasty beds that say, “No, don’t get up. Five more minutes.”
It was just about a year ago that Bojan (pronounced Boyan) Mandaric and Brogan Graham faced the November problem head-on over a couple of beers at a Boston pub.
Back when they were rowing buddies on the Northeastern University crew team, they knew they had to get up to work out or else they’d let down the rest of the boat. But now they were grown-ups, thirtyish, with real jobs and long workdays, and no teammates depending on them. Every fall and winter, their fitness slid.
Bojan Mandaric and Brogan Graham, November Project co-founders (Courtesy of The November Project)
As Bojan recalls it, he asked Brogan something like, “Dude, do you want to help me get my ass out of bed starting November first?’ And Brogan said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’”
So they started to meet up at 6:30 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, “running stadiums” — bounding up the concrete seats — or steep hills, throwing in push-ups or burpees. Just the two of them, tracking their progress on a Google doc labeled “November Project.”
Many an idea born in a cozy bar later dies in the cold light of day, but this one worked through the winter, and in May, Bojan said, they decided to “open it up a bit. Throw out a few tweets.” Plus post a blog and a Facebook page.
These days, when Bojan and Brogan work out, a couple-three hundred people do it with them.
They call themselves a “grassroots morning fitness tribe,” only unlike most tribes, anyone can join. You just have to show up. And unlike most fitness programs, the November Project is completely free, and its founders pledge it will remain free forever.
It is not just a tribe but a movement, they say, a demonstration that social connection is an incredibly powerful fitness tool, and if you build it, they will come. When attendance recently hit 300 at a single workout, Brogan and Bojan decided to celebrate with new ink: a November Project arm tattoo, showing a clock at 6:30.
The group creates some striking new Boston sights. On Fridays, its 200-strong members come charging over the steepest hill in suburban Brookline like some save-the-day cavalry in fluorescent running shoes. On Wednesday mornings, they brave the brutal high steps of the Harvard stadium. Mondays, they turn flash mob and meet in variable locations tweeted in advance, from the Museum of Fine Arts to a Charles River canoe dock. All the workouts are “scalable,” doable at varying levels for elite athletes and newbies alike.
So is this the start of another Boston-based revolution? Will it spread?
The model could likely work elsewhere where population is dense, said Prof. Gary Liguori, head of the Health and Human Performance Department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and an on-call expert for the American College of Sports Medicine.
‘This is interesting how it just continues to grow, and people want to be a part of it.’
“I’ve heard of nothing else this size,” he said. “Running clubs have been around forever, and break up into small groups who go and do their things. But this is interesting how it just continues to grow, and people want to be a part of it.”
The November Project fits into a major recent trend, he said, toward ‘outside-the-gym routines,” often using little or no equipment.
Think boot camps and outdoor parcourses. In fact, The American College of Sports Medicine reported this week that for the first time, “body weight training” turned up as an emerging trend in its annual fitness survey. Continue reading →
“Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”
That’s my euphoric mood today and I know why: Not just release from storm-related claustrophobia, but a harder-than-usual workout to release pent-up shpilkes (Origin: Yiddish. Definition: Nervous energy, ants in pants.) Life is good. Good good good. And a recent study out of Penn State confirms that among its many magical effects, exercise can make us feel better about our lives. Science Daily reports here:
Had a bad day? Extending your normal exercise routine by a few minutes may be the solution, according to Penn State researchers, who found that people’s satisfaction with life was higher on days when they exercised more than usual…
By controlling for these variables [mental health, fatigue, stress and more], the researchers were able to determine that the amount of physical activity a person undertakes in a particular day directly influences his or her satisfaction with life. Specifically, the team found that by exercising just a little more than usual a person can significantly improve his or her satisfaction with life.
Readers, how would you describe your exercise high?
Bob Greene, famed as Oprah Winfrey’s personal trainer, has a new book out, “20 Years Younger,” and will be sharing tips from it — and a few free copies — this evening from 7 to 9 at the Natick mall’s first floor atrium.
The Empire of Oprah can sometimes venture into some, shall we say, non-peer-reviewed advice? But his prescriptions have always tended to strike me as sensible and backed by reasonable evidence. Before we get into “20 Years Younger,” I asked him to formulate today’s “Why To Exercise.” His response:
Successful people look at today and find ways, even if their life is falling apart, to be happy today and feel good today and treat themselves right. And exercise and eating right is nurturing yourself every day. Whether or not the world is doing that, or close friends and family are doing that, you have the opportunity every day to nurture yourself, which is the most important thing to do because it also affects others.
Now for the book. Our conversation, lightly edited:
Funny coincidence about the title of your new book, “20 Years Younger.” I was just talking to a friend who recently returned from a high school reunion of 50-year-olds, and she said it looked sort of like two separate reunions, one of 40-year-olds and one of 60-year-olds. What would you say is the lesson there? Continue reading →
Please consider this my Olympics curtain-raiser (journalese for a story that previews a coming event): As you watch the games, which open next Friday, you’ll likely see a great many ads that use gorgeous gleaming musculature to promote sports-related products from “power drinks” to sneakers. So here’s an advance prescription for several grains of salt, to be taken daily.
They conclude that it is “virtually impossible for the public to make informed choices about the benefits and harms of advertised sports products.”
The BMJ carries a fascinating article on “The Truth About Sports Drinks” here. It’s the story of how a little recipe of water, sodium, sugar, and monopotassium phosphate with a dash of lemon flavoring, concocted in the sixties, has turned into a major industry — even though the science behind it is underwhelming.
Drink when you’re thirsty.
I contacted my favorite reality-checker on anything food-related, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and what senior nutritionist David Schardt told me about sports drinks made them lose their magic for me forever:
“These are really just like soft drinks. They’re basically empty calories, because most people exercising don’t need what’s in these drinks. Water is a perfectly good fluid for quenching your thirst. And some of the research on these products showing a benefit apply only to people undergoing extraordinary exertion, and not your normal soccer-playing child or jogging adult. So people should think of these as soft drinks, as soda. But they’ve gotten this reputation as being something special, so when school districts, for example, banish soda, they often make an exception for sports drinks, and that’s just not based on the facts.”
Ugh. Now what am I going to do with all that Gatorade powder I bought? At least, David Schardt said, it’s not that sports drinks are harmful; they’re just unnecessary calories.
The investigation also explores the role of sports drinks companies in the “science of hydration” and questions their links with some of the world’s most influential sports bodies in a bid to gain public trust in their products and persuade ordinary people they need more than water when they exercise. Continue reading →
A Women’s Challenge bicycle stage race (James F. Perry via Wikimedia Commons)
The sexual risks that serious cycling can pose to men are widely known and feared, from genital numbness to erectile dysfunction to possible effects on sperm from high pelvic heat. Now there’s a highly preliminary warning signal to all the hunched-over women in Pearl Izumi shirts and bike cleats: The price of cutting your wind resistance by lowering your handlebars may be higher than you want to pay — and come due in the bedroom.
Researchers measured saddle pressures and sensation in the genital region to see if placing handlebars in different positions affects pressure and sensation in the genital region. Results showed that placing the handlebar lower than the seat was associated with increased pressure on the genital region and decreased sensation (reduced ability to detect vibration).
“Modifying bicycle set-up may help prevent genital nerve damage in female cyclists,” Guess notes. “Chronic insult to the genital nerves from increased saddle pressures could potentially result in sexual dysfunction.” Continue reading →
My Insanity set in my recycling bin, waiting for re-gifting (Carey Goldberg/WBUR)
“Dig deeper!” Shaun T goaded me, and dig I did. “You can do it!” He assured me, and mostly, to my own surprise, I could. “Don’t give up!” he hounded me. So I didn’t — at first.
In the end, all his exhortations, all his gleaming and dripping muscles, all his tough-guy-heart-of-gold coaching couldn’t alter the fact that the Insanity workout was wrong, wrong, wrong for me.
Still, I came away wiser.
If you haven’t heard of Insanity, you must live on a planet without informercials. It has one of the most persuasive pitches out there, and its YouTube trailers get millions of views. (The one below is at nearly 4 million.)
It is Amazon’s most popular exercise video and most popular DVD overall — no small feat when the listed price is $144.80.
Insanity Workout trailer
Here’s the basic concept: Try harder. To wit: Typical “interval training” involves several minutes of moderate intensity and then a minute or so of high-intensity push — a sprint, if you will. The Insanity workout flips that formula, so that you do longer high-intensity intervals and then have relatively short rests.
That approach struck me as meshing well with a wave of recent research findings that shorter, very vigorous workouts can provide surprisingly strong health benefits. And, as I wrote when I embarked on my Insanity, I was inspired by a 58-year-old doctor I deeply respect, who reported that the program was certainly intense but did not have to be truly insane. He ended up with lower body fat and feeling great.
So I took the plunge — well, a discounted plunge. I found a set on Craigslist for just $60, and met the seller in front of a pizza restaurant for a transaction that felt oddly illicit. Continue reading →