Sunday, September 28, 2008

Some pictures and random stuff

I'm going to start with a video that I hijacked off of the minuscar website. He used it a couple days ago and I can't stop sharing it. I think it is absolutely hilarious. In case you can't tell, the toe truck is pulling the other truck with a rope or something.

I was going to put other pictures and video up that are currently just sitting on the camera, but as I was importing photos, the camera ran out of battery. Maybe later I will have another moment to post pictures and stuff, but evidently it won't be today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I'm too busy for a real post, but I have a few on the burner. Until then, there are a couple of other blogs that you should really read. First is a 'bike blog' that where the poster isn't afraid to deviate from bikes, and he seems to know what he's talking about. He has a great, unbiased look at some politics (OK, maybe there's bias, but I agreed with him, therefore there is no bias). Go here.

The other blog has a great description of autumn. You should read it, it is one of the best nature essays I have read in awhile. Go here.

I'll be back when my dissertation finishes writing itself. While I have been tremendously pleased with my new Mac, it has not helped my dissertation progress any faster. Evidently the user is still lazy.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Just a couple thoughts on bikes.

First, my middle son made me really proud the other day. When he first wakes up my wife will always ask him what he wants to do on that day. First response, without fail is, "eat". To which my wife will respond, "what else". And my son will say, "ride bike". That's my son! Is there really anything else in the world besides riding a bike and eating?

Second, I sold a couple bikes. I currently only own one bike. I have my fixie that I commute on and that's it. No road bike, no mountain bike, just a commuter. My wife has two bikes, I feel that I now have some leverage in getting her to sell the minivan so we can take this simplicity thing to the next level. Actually, I have no leverage, and I never will, but I feel I've taken a good step toward simplicity. Who really needs three bikes? I would say, however, that I would like to get another bike at some point. I want something that I could use for touring or racing. I want something with relatively steep angles, that will use 700c wheels and accommodate either skinny road tires or knobbies. I also want something that I could put panniers on. If you know someone who sells the bike I want, let me know, otherwise I'm in the market for pieces to start building it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Feelings vs. Science

I had this post all figured out until I read another blog that I frequent. Don't go to the other blog until you finish with mine, it will be better that way.

I woke up yesterday morning and with fall coming, the open windows made it sort of chilly. I looked at the thermometer (that I keep in Celsius because I'm sort of a snob like that) and it said 13.5. I know that 10 is the cut-off for needing to wear my long underwear top, but I was cold in the house, surely the long underwear wouldn't be a problem.

I ignored the tried and true rules I've established over the last two years of commuting and I went with my feelings. I perspired profusely on the way to school and was absolutely soaked when I arrived at 7:30. In fact, I put cycling clothes on that were still wet when I left for home at 5:30.

Today I returned to my normal rules. It was 13 degrees outside when I left, I was cold in the house, but I left the long underwear at home. I was cool for the first minute of the ride and perfect the rest. No sweaty mess in my locker and my clothes should be dry by the time I leave today.

While I study science and understand the scientific process, I also believe in following feelings. They aren't always reliable (as demonstrated by my clothing choice), but they are definitely meaningful and are what provide the really important moments in life. Feelings can't be ignored.

Anyway, the little blog in the big woods posted recently on this topic as it pertains to politics. He says that democrats bring to the table logic and solutions, while the republicans seek to go after the emotions. So whether the republicans have a solution or not, they have hit the emotions and people respond to that.

I would add that I too let my emotions win yesterday when I put on that extra layer. It didn't provide the solution I was looking for, and I knew that before I started, but I felt that I should. In the end, logic was the best answer to providing real solutions.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Since Sans is sleeping and the boys are entertaining themselves, I'm taking over. We have taken a few good photos, so I wanted to share them...

Here are all the peaches from our tree this year. I was impressed because it is only our peach tree's second season. There will be lots more tomatoes; these, I made into spaghetti sauce.

We all went to the park today. Here is Mugwump.

and Jaguar. He LOVES standing. He's getting good at it, too. Only 7 months old! Yikes, we're in for it with him.
A nice shot of Mugwump.

Have a great day!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Aerobic exercise

First, I would suggest that anyone who is looking for a good in-home workout check out the comments to the last post. The Woulfes recommended "Never Gymless" by Ross Enamait as a resource of exercises that don't need equipment. I knew there would be one out there, that is probably a better way to go than my thoughts expressed on a blog.

Then Emily asked the question that I wanted to answer next. Yes, running is the way to lose fat. I'll got into more detail. I'm going to write about running today, but what I really mean is aerobic exercise. The best aerobic exercises are repetitive movements of large muscle groups. Cycling is my favorite, but running, walking, rowing, cross country skiing, in-line skating, and swimming would also fit the bill. The thing is, all you need to run is shoes, so I'm going to write from a running perspective, but keep in mind that any aerobic exercise would work.

The key to fat loss is burning more calories than you consume. The American College of Sports Medicine says to participate in 30 or more minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise most if not all days of the week. That would mean at least four days a week. I think that is good advice.

Moderate intensity and 30 minutes or more are getting to the idea of duration and intensity and I think those points need to be discussed together. The faster you run, the less time you will be able to endure the torture... I mean running. Also note, that the faster you run, the more calories you will be burning. The slower you run, the fewer calories you will be burning, but the longer you will be able to run before exhaustion.

Do you know those little charts they have on exercise machines that show the "fat burning zone"? Forget everything you know about them, they're dumb and misleading. It doesn't matter if you are burning fat or carbohydrates, if you burn more calories than you consume, in the long run that will come from your fat stores. Sure, you may burn some protein from muscle and you may deplete glycogen (carbohydrate) stores, but the carbohydrate stores will return when you eat and the protein... there's not much you can do about the protein except weight training. So do that.

If you go and do wind sprints (10 second sprints with 30 seconds of rest repeated for 30 minutes), you will burn almost entirely carbohydrates. If you sit on your couch watching television, you will burn mostly fat. The difference is that the wind sprints will burn a lot more total calories. The next time you eat after the wind sprints your body will replenish carbohydrate stores with the calories in the meal, and use fat stores to provide you energy while it is replenishing carbohydrate stores. Eventually, caloric deficit will lead to fat loss. That's just how it works.

I still haven't addressed how long and how hard. How about this. Run for 30-40 minutes and when you are done you should be completely spent. So find the pace that you can barely maintain for 30-40 minutes. If you really want a heart rate to go along with it, look it up on the internet, it's around 70-80% of your max heart rate. If you don't have that much time, run faster. If you have more time, or need to get somewhere, walk instead of driving.

Emily asked if it was OK to walk, as long as you keep your heart rate up. No. Well, I mean it's fine to walk, I'm not trying to be a nasty drill sergeant that is just mean, but running burns more calories. When you are running, you're burning lots of calories. When you walk, you are burning fewer calories, even if your heart rate is still up. Run as much as you can. Or walk briskly. Here's the thing. The harder it is to do, the more calories it is burning. Sorry, you just can't get around that.

As an interesting aside, I've seen a study that showed that the greater the energy flux, the better the body is able to accurately gauge energy intake with hunger. That means that the more energy you are expending with exercise, the better your body is at regulating how much you eat, without you having to think about it.

4 days a week of aerobic and 2-3 days a week of resistance training would be a good mix.

I have to go do something now...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Weight training.

Before I get to the part about weight training I will address comments.

Emily-- No, I'm not going to go on a tangent about mental image and physical fitness, but did you know that regular aerobic exercise has been shown to be comparable in effect to many anti-depressants? (Nobody should stop their prescription meds because of that comment) I know that my last post was a bit tangential from your question, but I felt it was a better place to start what I had been thinking of discussing for quite some time.

Anonymous pregnant lady-- The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30-40 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise most, if not all days of the week for pregnant women. You shouldn't lay on your back because the baby can compress a big vein on the front side of your spine and cut off a major source of circulation. You also shouldn't do things that are risky for impacts to your belly. Dodge-ball, for example, is out. Sit ups are also no good during pregnancy. I know that your specific comment was on energy levels, etc. I can't give you more energy, nor can anyone else, but the regular light exercise is going to be good for you, help your health for the delivery and also be good for the baby. And when you reach the end of the third trimester and REALLY want to go into labor may I recommend a pogo stick workout. (That was a joke... I should probably put on here somewhere that I shouldn't be a substitute for medical advice).

Woulfes-- Can you lose weight by lifting light weight lots? Sure, the lighter the weight and the more you lift it, the more likely it is that you could use it as a means of losing weight. The lighter the weight and the more you lift it the more it resembles aerobic exercise and you stop getting the weight training benefits from it.

Does any increase in metabolism help in weight loss? Yes, but let's take a reasonable look at this. Those tips that you read in the popular press about exercise substantially increasing metabolism for ~24 hours post exercise were taken in large part from a study on college cross-country runners who ran 60+miles/week. That is not the typical exerciser. The typical exerciser sees some increases in post weight training metabolism which is good, but still not sufficient to use as a sole weight loss strategy.

One more thing to consider... In general, the heavier a person is, the more muscle they have. Yes, body fat percentages go up with weight, but it takes muscle to carry around that fat, so in general (body builders and extremely muscular big people are usually excluded from this) heavier people have more muscle. For those people (at this point the majority of the population), running will be a great step in taking the layer of fat off of the hiding muscle. Yes, you will also lose muscle with a heavy running program, and weight training can help you look more toned, but for the majority, losing the fat that is hiding the muscle is the biggets obstacle in a fit appearance.

On to a home workout program.

My major obstacle in designing this program was repetitions. The ideal number of repetitions for building muscle is between 8 and 12. When you are doing a weight training program, we need to understand the importance of reps and how many to do. If I am able to do 100 push-ups (I'm not), but know that 8-12 reps is the 'best', so I only do 10, I will get virtually no benefit from the exercise. So when I say 8-12 reps is the best, that means that you will do your last rep and then you will try to do one more. On that last attempt I could tell you that I would give you $10,000 if you completed it, but you would be unable to do so. Not because you didn't want the money, but because no matter how hard you exerted yourself, you simply could not do one more rep. The problem with a home workout is that your resistance is limited, so when you get to 13 reps, you can't just add a another weight to the bar, you have to find the perfect object around the house, which can be awkward to lift and even dangerous in some cases. If you are serious about it there are big rubber bands available that you can use for resistance that are really good (the link is the first I found, not necissarily the best. You should do your own search for exercise bands).

So here are a few really good exercises that you should be doing.

Push-ups- It works the pectoralis muscles and triceps. If you need to do them from your knees in order to get to 10, then do so, but as you improve you should add some from your toes. The key is to not stop until you absolutely can't do any more consecutively. I know that I said that 8-12 reps is best, but for the best results you need to do as many as you can consecutively. This should also be easily done with a kid. When you can do 12 reps from your toes, put the kid on your back and use the kid as resistance.

Planks- This is simply making your body into a plank that is suspended by your elbows in front of you and your toes. It works the core muscles. Hold it as long as you can. Or if you want to prolong your missery (and maybe get better results) hold the plank for 15 seconds and then take a 5 second break and repeat as long as you can. You should also do these on each side by using just one elbow and making your body more verticle so you are balancing between one elbow and the side of your same foot and looking at the wall.

Row- This one you stand next to a chair, bending one knee and placing it on the chair. You then bend from the hips, keeping your back straight and lift something heavy
There, the picture is better than my description. Use a gallon of milk or something else that you can easily hold, canned goods probably aren't heavy enough.

Pull-ups- Yes, that one where you hang from the bar. It works muscles in the upper back and you should be doing them. If you can't do them, join the club. Rest your feet on something behind you with your knees bent while you hang from the bar. You can then use your feet to help you a little in the pull-up until you can do it unassisted.

Dips- You can sometimes do this if you put two chairs back to back with about 18 inches in-between. You can put one hand on the back of each chair and go down until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle and then straighten your arms. Again, if you need to use your feet a little that is fine. I would recommend a stool or something to put your feet on so that you aren't tempted to just stand up, but it is still easy to do so if you need to.

Squats- This is my favorite. Since you won't really have anything that will provide adequate resistance, I think you should do jump squats. So you bend your knees and squat down and then stand up as fast as you can and jump into the air. When you come down, bend your knees to absorb the shock, sink down to your original squatting position and jump again. It becomes a series of jumps. See how many you can do in a row. (This is a bad one for pregnant lady, whereas all of the others should be fine.)

That's a start. If anyone has other recommendations, let me know. I'll add more as I think of them.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A move to health

I've been thinking of changing gears for some time, but just haven't yet. I figure that since I'm working on a PhD in Health Promotion and over 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese, I could have some valuable information to offer. But for whatever reason I like to write about a bunch of stuff I'm really not an expert on... and I will probably continue to do so. But I recently got a comment asking for help with an exercise program. I'm going to work on answering this question, but it's going to take several posts. If you have questions or comments in the meantime, please post them and I'll answer them. So here's the first question I'm going to address.

"So, I need your help. I want to start an exercise routine and getting your help to maximize my benefits with what little time I have would be greatly appreciated.

I am hoping you can help me with the weight lifting/load bearing exercises. I want to work out at home 3 times a week to gain strength.

Can you post a blog about a good routine to do at home with free weights or canned goods that will help me gain muscle? How many reps are ideal...what exercises work various muscles in the body...etc.. I am hoping you can provide me with a whole body routine.

If you would do that, I would love it! I figure I can get in some exercise at home with the baby playing next to me and do the cardio outside the apartment whenever I have time. Are you up to the challenge? I am! I'm tired of this baby weight/fat!"

First I'm going to interpret the question because it doesn't fit with what is known about strength gain, weight loss, etc. The question begins by asking for a weight lifting program to gain strength. I'll get to that in a future post. The comment concludes with a comment about being tired of body weight/fat.

Here's my major thought for the day. Strength training is the worst method of weight loss available. OK, I take that back. A television and potato chips is probably the worst way, but strength training just doesn't create a caloric deficit, and it's a caloric deficit that is responsible for weight loss.

I should probably be clear that I by no means think that weight training is bad. In fact, I would consider it an important part of a weight loss program, but that is not the source of weight loss. So today I will talk about establishing a caloric deficit.

To start, maybe I should define a caloric deficit. If you are in a caloric deficit, that means that you are burning more calories than you are consuming. Weight training doesn't burn nearly enough calories to really make a difference in weight loss. Aerobic exercise is a far better way to increase caloric expenditure, but still isn't the real cause of weight loss.

Weight loss occurs most readily when caloric consumption decreases. Diet is the key to weight loss. I'll talk about that sometime, but for now, just know that if you aren't seeing weight loss results, it's generally not because you aren't exercising enough (although that could be part of it). Time and time again diet has been shown to be the most effective way to lose weight. Diet induced weight loss is more likely to be permanent when it is accompanied by regular aerobic exercise. Weight training helps maintain muscle mass.

That's all that I want to write today. The main point is that diet is key to weight loss while aerobic exercise and weight training also serve important purposes, but it's not generally the cause of weight loss. Next time I will talk about weight training at home to work all of the major muscle groups, but I wanted to be clear that it is a poor weight loss strategy by itself. Later, I will also address how to eat less and how to get more aerobic exercise.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I remembered what I was really going to post about competition the last time I posted, and thought that it would make for a better post than the drizzle that came out last week.

I was riding into work like I do every morning and I wasn't in a particular hurry. I was just meandering along. I wasn't trying to go slow, but I also wasn't trying to go fast. Anyway, I got caught by an old guy who was also riding his bike into town. I don't especially care that I got caught, or even that I got caught by an older overweight guy. I wasn't racing and even if he did beat me in a race, my self-worth isn't completely dependent on my performance on a bicycle.

He passed me just before we turned on to University Ave., which is a fairly big street in Provo. Just a couple hundred yards after the turn there's an overpass that involves a really short climb and subsequent descent. After he passed me, I sort of decided to let him go because I find that there's nothing more annoying than passing someone and then have them accelerate to demonstrate that they aren't really that slow.

I was that annoying guy, but I really didn't do it on purpose. You see, he down shifted on the way up this little hill and I was in the only gear that I have, so I had to maintain my cadence in order to make it over the hill. The old guy laughed at me as I passed him. As he should have.

I waited for him on the other side of the hill because I still didn't want to be 'that guy' who races off to demonstrate his cycling superiority, when in reality it doesn't matter. He caught me at the first light and we rode together for a mile or two. I asked him where he was going because I think that it's a good conversation started to start talking about jobs and what you do, etc. He was going to North Provo, I was going to central Provo. One point for old guy, zero points for Sans; old guy had a further distance to travel from where we were at that moment.

I then asked what he did up in North Provo in an attempt to get the topic away from the competition. He's a social worker, but he wanted to compete. He came back with the next obvious question: Where are you coming from? Sans: Spanish Fork; Old guy: Payson. Two points for old guy, Payson is further away than Spanish Fork. Actually that's three points for the old guy because he also beat me in the 'race' that I didn't know I was participating in.

Did I score any points? I don't think I did in his book, but I want to say that I stopped for the stoplights that he ran. I consider that a point for obeying traffic laws, although it doesn't make me faster.

Why does everything have to be a competition? Why couldn't I have a simple conversation with this guy about social work and the people that he helps instead of having to compete over who rides further and faster and whatnot?

OK, last comment on politics for a bit. I mentioned last time that I liked Obama for the reason the McCain camp is saying he's no good... Lack of experience. One of my biggest concerns for Obama was something that Bill Clinton tried to place as one of his strengths. He compared Obamo to JFK and himself (Clinton) as being young and relatively inexperienced. While I'm not old enough to really know tons about JFK's foreign policy and such, I believe he did a good job with it. Clinton, on the other hand, I would argue was one of the leading reasons that the US invaded Iraq. I know that it is Bush's war and he's the one that made all of the bad decisions, but he also took over office after 8 years of Clinton's inaction against a growing threat (if they were, in fact, a threat). Is Obama going to be 4 more years of inaction? While I don't think the war in Iraq is good, I also don't think that inaction is good. Appropriate action is good and I don't think that is what Clinton provided and I hope that Obama would take a different path. Did you notice how I made the paragraph on politics really long and rambling? That was in hopes of you not reading it, but I did want to write it.