A Little Pep Talk

(Note…this is intended to be more motivational than informational.  If you need some “fuel” for your “fire” I hope this helps).

TW-bike-2014

Yes, that’s a selfie.  Never thought I would post a selfie, but hey, I also never thought I’d have a website either.

Sunday afternoon

I went for a solo bike ride this morning.  Nothing too crazy.  Just over 20 miles…about an hour and 20 minutes.  It’s August in Texas so, no surprise, it was warm but there was a mild breeze and it actually was pretty pleasant.

During a long straightaway I was passed by a car that had a “0.0” sticker on the back window.  I actually find those pretty funny.  I’m sure you’ve seen the 13.1, 26.2, 70.3 and 140.6 stickers.  Those let the world know what kind of athlete you are:  half-marathoner (13.1 miles), marathoner (26.2 miles), half-Ironman triathlete (1.2 mile swim+56 mile bike+13.1 mile run), and then full Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile ride, 26.2 mile run…”amazing!”).  Those numbers sorta represent an insider code for endurance/extreme athletes.

The “0.0” sticker announces to the world, “I’m a couch potato and proud of it!” It also might be sending this message:  Hey, all you self-absorbed Lance Armstrong wannabes…get over yourselves!

There’s an incredible difference between a “0.0” and a “140.6.”  While I certainly admire and respect anyone who has done an Ironman I also know that if your goal is to improve your health and immunity, lower risk of chronic disease (including dementia and Alzheimer’s), sleep better, feel better, look better, manage stress, have more energy, and push back the onset of disability then you don’t have to spend hours upon hours in the water, on a bike, or running on a trail, street or treadmill.

Basically, you need to get off the couch…on a regular basis!  Another way to think about it is, “Walk the dog…even if you don’t have one!”

Hard to Watch

I spend a great deal of time in airports and recently while waiting on a flight I was blown away by the number of individuals that were having problems walking.  Simply walking.  I could tell the incredible effort being expended just to walk a couple hundred feet between gates.  It was painful to watch but I suspect much more painful to experience.  It really made me sad.  Many of these people were in their 20s and 30s.

This morning on my bike ride I started thinking about all the benefits I was receiving.  First of all, my heart rate was elevated and blood was flowing at a faster rate than if I was just sitting home reading the paper.  Endurance, or aerobic exercise, has hundreds of benefits but one I tend to concentrate on is something called “collateral circulation.”  Basically, when you “stress” the cardiovascular system on a regular basis through exercise you, in essence, grow more blood vessels and increase the options to get blood from “point A” to “point B.”  That means if one vessel becomes clogged or “occluded” you have alternative pathways to bypass the congestion.  I think about this since my father died from heart disease.  I’d like to have as many “alternative routes” as possible.

But my heart was not the only organ receiving benefit during my ride.  Several large muscle groups, including my quads and hamstrings (front and back muscles of the thigh) and calves were being challenged.  Not so much that they burned but just enough to let me know they were working.  The human body is beautifully designed and will always do what you ask it to do…good or bad.  By pushing myself just a bit I was sending a message to “get stronger.”  Since the body responds to stress by adapting I was helping to maintain my strength.

Staying strong is important to me since my daughter and son-in-law just celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary and have a new puppy.  By my rough calculations that means I’ll be a grandfather within two years, probably sooner.  My goal is simple; I want to play with my grandchildren.  I don’t want to watch my grandkids play.  Big difference!

It wasn’t just my legs that were working this morning.  My back, abs, and triceps were also engaged so I was really getting a great overall workout.  Again, nothing crazy but just enough to feel “alive.”  I was breathing fresh air, enjoying the scenery, working up a sweat (much better than “cleansing” to remove toxins), and soaking in a bit of vitamin D…although it was still early and there wasn’t much UVB light yet (Remember, the longer your shadow the lower UVB light that’s available.  UVB is what triggers the synthesis of vitamin D in the body).

Bob Bowerman, the late, great track coach at Oregon, and co-founder of Nike, used to say, “If you have a body, you’re an athlete!”  I LOVE that quote!  It doesn’t matter if you ever competed on a team or in an event.  You were born to move!  To run, jump, play, fall, dance…all the things we used to do when we were young.  When we were, as Mark Fenton likes to say, “free-range kids.”  Yes, we can “get by” by avoiding physical activity but we aren’t going to thrive.  We aren’t going to be able to take advantage of all the great things our world has to offer.

Regular, consistent physical activity, a.k.a. exercise, is the single best investment you can make in yourself.  You don’t have to join a gym, buy an expensive bike, invest in all sorts of shoes, clothing or equipment.  You just need to move.  Invest in yourself!

When I finished my ride this morning I felt great.  I had just spent 80 minutes setting the table for the day.   I was back home before 9:30 and already had amassed the equivalent of over 10,000 steps (that’s for those of you with “wearables,” i.e. FitBits, Jawbones, Fuel Bands, Vivofits, etc.  By the way, the science says the true benefit of “steps” starts at 7,500/day…not the 10,000 that everyone assumes is the magic number.  More is always better but benefit starts at 7,500…Thank you Dr. Tudor-Locke!).

So, for the guy that passed me with the “0.0” sticker…I get it!  I know that there are plenty of folks like you that don’t like to exercise.  I also know there are plenty of people that are tired, hurt, depressed and struggling just to get through the day, or from gate to gate at the airport.  All I suggest is to understand that the only person that can improve your health is you.  The answer is not a pill or a procedure.  The answer is to recognize the awesome gift of life that we have and to get moving.

Stay well.