Saturday, March 19, 2011

genetics, exercise...and you

all men, and women, are NOT created equal other than in their humanity. you heard it here, first.

by this i mean, we are equally human but do not have equal traits: smarts, looks, strengths, weaknesses, etc. as such, some of us will be "blessed" as measured by our cultural biases, socioeconomic needs, and other aspects that may be particular to our respective circumstances. thus, if you have to pick a coconut off the top of a tree, and you are a lousy climber, or are scared of heights, you may just have to get along without coconut in your diet. if it means some beautiful woman will not accept your amorous entreaties, so be it.

by the same token, one man's blessings are another's curses. so, the ability to climb a tree is cool if you live on a remote tropical island; but get transported to NYC and you're kind of screwed when it comes to high paying job opportunities.

so it is with fitness. some of us, when we train with various forms of exercise, get bigger, stronger, faster, leaner, looser, or more durable. but, some, doing the same exercises, will not see the same or comparable results. this is not a bad thing....unless you're in competition. as this article points out - -
exercise has its own merits even if you are genetically inclined to NOT increase aerobic capacity. granted, you may not see as dramatic a result in terms of blood pressure or blood sugar levels; you may not get fast enough to win the race; you may not even get lean enough to get on the cover of a magazine. but you will get faster than you'd be had you not exercised; leaner than you'd be had you just read the mag; and your blood values will surely not improve blaming your family history for your condition.

in other words, academically this is a very interesting line of inquiry. psychologically it may even work to mollify one's distress at lack of results. but physically/medically, genetics are always a ceiling and floor. you have the capacity to reach higher or stay lower. exercise is one way you can reach high, and stay off the floor, even if you're not able to reach the same heights as your co-exercisers.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

on health and health care

the mckinsey quarterly report, an on line economics think-tank-like publication, comes from an economics/business perspective and articles deal with everything from banking to investing to market health care. why not? that's the fastest growing expense in our and the world's economies. in the US, we spend about 16+% of our GDP on health care, via government-provided and insurance-provided and employee-provided and personal, out of pocket provided health payments. uniquely, this report deals with one of the cost drivers -like that economics-y talk? from a fitness pro, no less? - that is within my scope of understanding: obesity, and other lifestyle-related diseases.

i'm not going to try to summarize all it said in too much detail. let it suffice to say that a public-private effort must be made to bring down obesity rates to that of 1980 - about 15% of the population, starting with kids. clearly mrs. obama's efforts are well-taken but without the cooperation of other government entities - being gutted by the GOP's slash and burn policy of defunding anything that speaks to the masses, i.e. those who don't have the means to pay the outrageous costs of their own health care or education - her calls to action are likely for naught. at the same time without government interference on behalf of wellness - against the economic interests of providers of health services, the payers for health services (read: insurers), and the purveyors of anti-health (read: food industry), depending on the mass consciousness change toward improving diet and engaging exercise is fraught with pipe dreams.

so what to do?

well the report does not give specifics; it's more a call to action itself. if you're reading this, you are likely concerned enough about health care, your own and maybe our nation's, to already be taking action to ensure against those diseases you have some power over. the formula is the same whether for overwt-ness or for diabetes or for heart disease as it is for athletics at any level: eat right, exercise appropriately. obviously, if you are afflicted with diseases which can be affected by this formula, your mandate runs higher than if you are disease free. but if you are even AT RISK for disease because of lifestyle choices made 10, 20, even 50 yrs ago, then now's the time to act. after all, don't count on the government acting rationally or the food industry acting patriotically to reduce your, or our health care costs:

Friday, March 4, 2011

on barefoot running mechanics

barefoot running - i've been here before. the science is coming on stronger and stronger, tho not necessarily suggesting that we all toss our nikes in the trash. however, clearly there are biomechanical adjustments we make when we put our feet in thickened soled shoes. for one thing, we land harder on that part of the shoe that offers the greatest protection. that's good. asphalt is hard material. our barefoot ancestors didn't have to worry about miles and miles of rock-solid footing. of course, rocks and sticks still hurt but callous is pretty effective....if you start out walking barefoot and don't ever put on shoes. for those of us here in the States and most modern urban areas, that's not an option. but if you do get these barefoot shoes, you'll find yourself walking differently and running more naturally on the mid-foot. which is why you should progress slowly. other injuries will result from sudden changes in mechanics and foot wear, so beware.

on a personal note, having bought a pair of vibrams early this year, i have found greater comfort around the gym in them than in my new balance sneakers with orthotics. old feet and tired legs are fresher in vibrams. that said, i used to spend 4-6 hrs/day barefoot in tae kwon do class, but i was also way younger (same weight, tho.) so i have a predisposition toward this feel. you may not. do what works for you, but don't be too resistant to change when it no longer works well.