July 31, 2008

Ask Cranky Fitness: The Dog Days & Gym Reality

[By Merry]
Dear Cranky Fitness,

My exercise partner has lost interest. Every time I bring my leash over and wag my tail, she makes some feeble excuse about needing caffeine, a nap, or something called "catching up on my email." I don't want to trade her in for a newer model; it took long enough to get this human trained. How can I convince her to get out in the fresh air with me more often?

Woman's Best Exercise Partner

Dear Partner,

Clearly some work needs to be done. Have you tried making sure your e.p. doesn't spend her evenings out carousing with other humans instead of turning around three times and lying down at a reasonable hour? In the morning, accidentally wagging the tail a bit too enthusiastically when she's sipping the last drop of coffee in the house might result in a quick sprint to a Starbucks.

Dear Cranky Fitness,

Could you possibly loan me a few million dollars? I could lose weight so easily if I could concentrate on cooking healthy meals and working out 13 hours a day like a super-celebrity. As it is, I have to go to work five days a week, and I come home tired, grumpy, and ready for a Happy Meal in front of the T.V. In the interest of fitness, could I borrow some $? Failing that, got any better ideas?

I. B. Draggin

Dear I.B.,

No problem! Would you take a check? Hope you don't mind that it's post-dated to January 2024.* (We have to go out and write the best-selling Cranky Fitness Code first. And find a publisher. And bribe Dan Brown so he doesn't sue us for plagiarism. Details.)
While we're waiting for the check to clear, have you considered cooking food on the weekend and storing it in cute little containers? This would also encourage you to bring food from home, which saves you from the urge to splurge on Scottish cuisine. Saving money on food will help you pay the bill for your gym membership. Trust us, sitting on the couch watching reality shows is nothing compared to going to the gym and watching reality.

What would you do if you had a recalcitrant exercise partner or an addiction to junk food and T.V.?

*We've been informed by the Cranky Fitness Legal Department that post-dating a check doesn't stop the bank from cashing it anyway. Hope you don't mind if we just move the decimal point on that check over a bit. (No, in the other direction.)

Have a health or fitness question? Then send it to CrabbyMcSlacker at gmail dot com and we'll do our best to provide an answer. (Not necessarily a 'good' answer, but certainly an original one.)

July 30, 2008

But I Don't Wanna Write It Down!

[By Crabby]

Do You Keep a Food and/or Exercise Journal?

Two studies announced in the last few weeks have confirmed what most of us know already: if you want to lose weight or make yourself exercise regularly, there's almost nothing more powerful you can do than keep a written record.

The fact that it works for exercise as well as food highlights the fact it's not just about information--most of us can remember, if we take a minute to think about it, how many times we worked out this week. But a big part of journaling's effectiveness is the accountability that a written record demands.

Most folks love to write down that they ran five miles before breakfast, but they hate to write down that they had seven oreo cookies after dinner. The knowledge that your behavior will be recorded really can change it for the better.

And the information part can be powerful too. Holy crap, there are how many calories in a margarita and a plate full of nachos? Do I really grab that many handfuls of trail mix out of the cupboard in the course of an average Saturday afternoon?

Not surprisingly, food and exercise journaling works only to the extent you actually do it. The people who skipped days didn't do nearly as well as those who were consistent.

So: if this technique is so powerful and awesome, why isn't everyone who has dietary or fitness goals writing everything down?

The answer is simple:


Truly--when I've wanted to lose weight I've used them. And each time they worked really well. Yet I couldn't wait to stop.

Here are some of the reasons why they suck, even if they do work:

1. Weights and Measures:

Whether you are tracking calories, carbs, points, or the nutritional quality of the food you eat, you probably still want to know how much you're consuming. And in order to learn to estimate portion sizes with any degree of accuracy, you gotta start off by weighing and measuring. And what if you don't have ready access to food scales and measuring cups? Well then you have to consciously overestimate--otherwise, you will underestimate, because you are human.

Similar annoyances apply to exercise diaries, although they're not quite as odious. It can be a hassle estimating how many miles you ran or biked or swam. And can you count walking up and down the grocery store aisles? Do kegel exercises burn calories? Pedometers and map-my-run computer programs can help, but it is likely that the same way you underestimate food portions you will overestimate exercise, so plan accordingly.

2. What the Hell is In Here?

If you are a dedicated, energetic person who is super-conscientious about eating a healthy diet, then you probably prepare most of your own meals. In this case, there are plenty of sources of information in books and on the web that well tell you most of what you need to know in order to track what you're eating.

Or, at the opposite extreme, some people buy nothing but processed pre-packaged portion-controlled food with all the quantities already figured out. (Note: NOT recommended).

But many of us are in the middle: too busy/lazy to cook everything, but unwilling to subsist on microwaved frozen meals. So we buy a loaf of bread at the bakery rather than make it ourselves, or grab take-out Thai for dinner, or pick up a rotisserie chicken or some pasta and a "healthy-looking" tub of sauce from the deli.

Welcome to the Educated Guessing Game! And you know what? The more educated you are, the less fun this game is to play.

If a pre-made meal doesn't contain nutritional information, then how do you know how much sugar, salt, bad fats, refined grains, etc are in there? You have to assume the worst.

This is because the more terrible food is for you, the better it tastes.

People selling food don't care if you want to unclog your arteries or lose 50 pounds. They just want you to buy their stuff again. If they made it really healthy, it wouldn't be as tasty so you might not.

(It's not a coincidence that many people who start food diaries also start cooking a lot more of their meals at home).

3. Obsessive, Perfectionist Thinking

The ability to monitor and track your performance can be a force for Evil as well as for Good if you have perfectionist tendencies. Food and exercise journaling takes long-term goals (like getting to a healthy weight, or running a marathon) and turns them into daily sources of pride or shame.

This is of course awesome when you're doing really well.

But you won't always be doing well, and you need to be prepared for that.

I won't belabor this point because there's a whole post on perfectionism right there on the sidebar, and many of you have already read it. But if you're going to start a food or exercise diary you have to learn to cut yourself some slack and recover from lapses or the whole enterprise will become very unhealthy and will likely quit before you reach your goal.

4. Screwed Up Priorities

You may have all kinds of healthy nutritional goals--eating more whole foods, less processed crap, avoiding transfats or whatever. But it's hard to track a bunch of different goals, and what most people end up paying attention to at the end of the day is a number. How Many? Did I go over my Points or Calories or Carb grams or was I Good?

Likewise, you may have lots of fitness goals, like becoming stronger and improving your posture and increasing your flexibility and endurance--but if you're like most people, you're more likely to track your miles or calories or pounds lifted, and less like to note that you used proper form and did not hurt yourself, or that you remembered to stretch those hamstrings at some point in the day.

This data-driven, number-focussed approach can cause you to put all your energy into things you get "credit" for, and neglect those that don't "count." Which can be problematic when those things you're not tracking are actually really important.

5. It's Too Obnoxious To Keep Doing For the Rest of Your Life

Well, some people can manage but not many. That feeling of being watched and judged and evaluated, even if it's only by yourself, is far more oppressive than just a casual sense that "I need to watch what I eat and get enough exercise."

The goal, at least for me, of doing a food and exercise journal is to internalize those goals and turn them into healthy habits that don't need constant monitoring. For most people, becoming slave to some wire-bound notebook is just too damn unpleasant to do year after year.

But... um... for all that, they do actually do a good job of keeping you on track. Damn it.

So what are your thoughts on Food and Exercise Journals?

Cookbook Winners

Gosh, it was really hard to pick a winner with so many fine poems and haikus to choose from. And like in a horserace (albeit one involving very slow horses) there was even some last minute drama! Because I went ahead and picked a tentative winner yesterday afternoon, seeing as the post had gone dormant--and then two strong finishers came out of nowhere in the final seconds hours and made me change my mind!

Actually, it really was kind of a 4-way tie, but I had to chose just one winner, so Rebecca wins our poetry contest. (Which were the other three entries? Just assume, if you wrote a poem or haiku, that one of them was yours).

And the random drawing went to messymimi, who also submitted a great haiku featuring a clever pun I didn't even catch the first time through ("grill of his dreams"), so that worked out very well!

So Messymimi and Rebecca, please email crabby mcslacker @ gmail dot com with your names and mailing addresses to claim your copy of Eat, Shrink and Be Merry.

Thanks everyone, particularly all those who submitted poems and haikus--they were a blast to read!

July 29, 2008

What does it mean when your body Hertz?

[By Merry]

I had a moment of insight.
Yes, another one.

Oh crap! Another moment of insight post! Someone save me!

Okay, so maybe brilliant moments of insight are not always as profound as they seem.

Moments of insight are like dreams: they convey an emotional message that makes them seem tremendously important to the person who's experiencing the revelation, but they're not always translatable to another person. Ever listened to someone trying in vain to describe why a dream felt like such an amazing metaphor for their entire life?

What? Why are you looking at me like that? Am I the only one?

Would you sell yourself? If not, why sell yourself short?

No, this isn’t really a post about selling yourself. I still kinda regret I wrote Skanky Fitness -- a lot of people have clicked on it with Entirely the Wrong Idea. (It was a joke, people!)

This post is about the difference between renters and owners.

What is the difference between renters and owners?

I'm glad you asked.

One thing I learned from buying a house ("one" thing?) is that it makes a difference in how you feel about the place.

fail owned pwned pictures
Well, with most homes, anyway

When I lived in a rental, I wasn't quite as careful. It didn't seem as important.

Not that I deliberately acted like a rock star in a hotel and trashed the place.
Gee, and I only invited a few people over...

I figured if something broke down, someone else would deal with it. Now, for some reason, I'm starting to develop hyper-Neatnik tendencies that I never exhibited before. I want to put things in their place, keep everything clean and looking good. This is probably in part because since I bought the house, everyone wants to come visit. But it got me thinking. (Rare occurrence, but it does happen occasionally.)

If you rent a place, you don’t invest as heavily in upkeep and maintenance. It’s like a rental car; it’s a vehicle to carry you around but you don’t care how it looks or how well it runs. If you own your own car, then it matters. Even if you aren’t worried about a few crumbs on the seats, you still make sure that you put gas in the tank instead of diesel or something that would make it hard for you to get around.

Is your body a rental?

One way to tell is if it Hertz . (Sorry. Couldn't help myself.)

I think a lot of people who are overweight or out of shape (or both) tend to look upon their body as a rental car rather than as their own personal property. We use the body to haul the brain around.

For example, I sit at a computer 10 to 12 hours a day . If the body sends up a message that it’s hungry, it’s easy for me to grab the nearest bag of potato chips and satisfy the complaints without taking any thought for how this will affect the long-term mileage.

It’s like giving your car the cheapest gas rather than premium, not bothering to change the oil (don’t ask me how that relates to body care, just trust me that it’s a vague analogy). Or like neglecting to maintain your house except for the amount of work required to be a couch potato.

fail owned pwnd pictures
see more fail pictures

Maybe I shouldn't have used two metaphors at the same time. Potato chips as a bad source of fuel is a good way to express eating right, but I think the owning vs. renting analogy is a better way to express this basic idea:
If you wouldn’t even consider selling your body, why are you renting it?

Don't think this analogy only holds good for couch potatoes. I mean, what about those crazed fanatics runners who keep running even though they know that they're going to pay for it afterwards in the form of injured knees, torn muscles, or sundry pain?
This hurts just to look at...

There are a lot of people who treat their body like they were renting it.

What, you don't want to talk about it? Fine. Then tell me your strangest dream. Go ahead. I dare you. I'll even explain what the dream means, free of charge. (Or at least, I'll provide an explanation that sounds good. Fair enough?)

July 28, 2008

Radioactive Granite--Who Can I Blame?

[By Crabby]

(Photo: NancyHugoCKD)

Have you seen the rather depressing article in the New York Times about how our kitchen countertops are going to kill us all one day?

OK, it didn't exactly said that. The article was specifically about granite countertops--most of which are apparently only a little bit radioactive.

Gosh, that's reassuring.

The article goes on to talk about scary things like radon emissions and lung cancer. And it notes that the EPA has been getting more and more calls from homeowners and radon inspectors lately, saying they're getting "radiation measurements several times above background levels" from their granite countertops.

“It’s not that all granite is dangerous,” said one expert, “but I’ve seen a few that might heat up your Cheerios a little.”

Of course there are conflicting quotes from various sources, some saying the risk is so minimal you should worry more about being struck by lightning; others saying any radiation exposure is a bad thing, and that some countertops are really freakin HOT. (And not in a good way).

According to the EPA's radon guide, radon is "a cancer-causing, radioactive gas," something you'd probably rather not have much of in your house. And it's not just granite countertops: "radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe."

Yikes. I'm kind of attached to the air I breathe and would have difficulties giving it up.

The only way to know if you have a radon problem, either in your countertops or your house generally, is to test for it. Doesn't matter if you don't have granite surfaces and live in an area without a known problem, you could just be unlucky and have this creepy stuff silently poisoning you even as you're scurrying around making sure you're using green cleaning products and fragrance free toiletries and eating only organic food.

Great. Another new scary might-give-you-cancer thing to worry about. My list is ridiculously long already, guess I might as well throw radon on there too.

Fortunately, if you're concerned, you can test for radon yourself. Apparently there are inexpensive test kits out there, though none of the helpful radon sites I went to seemed to link to where you could order one. I'm thinking testing might make more sense than worrying, so I may need to spend a few minutes on Google to find a good test kit--unless any of you radon-savvy folks have recommendations.

But anyway, I was not thrilled to read about the killer granite countertops. When we moved to the East Coast this spring we did some renovations on our new place. And one of the first things we did... can you guess? Yep, we replaced the aging synthetic something-or-other countertops with brand-spankin'-new granite countertops.

Who's to Blame for the Shocking Health Hazard in our Home?

Blaming "mother nature" for a "natural radioactive breakdown" is a bit unsatisfying. Perhaps we could fault the governmental regulatory agencies for not warning us, or the granite countertop makers for not testing the stuff to make sure it was safe before sending it to our houses?

But that's the same old rant again, right? Let's look for another culprit, one that may be lurking in your house too...

Hmm, why did we pick granite countertops in the first place? Why not go with, say, ceramic tile: a humble but durable material we were perfectly happy with back in our old California place?

Here's why: we watch HGTV.

And the reason we may now have a radioactive kitchen is because the Home and Garden Network bullied us into putting in granite countertops!

It's true. They made us do it!

Have you ever watched HGTV? Whether it's a show about searching for a home, buying a home, selling a home, or renovating a home, one is left with a consistent message: Should you ever want to sell someday, no one will ever, ever buy your place if your kitchen does not have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

Who made up this stupid rule? What if you don't even like stainless steel or granite? Well, tough luck. Doesn't matter. Buyers "expect" it, so you better have it.

We know, of course, that this is the height of idiocy.

In fact, we scoff at these shows--the way they insinuate that we should toss out perfectly good appliances because they are the wrong color. We laugh at spoiled young couples who wouldn't think of living in a house unless it had ginormous walk-in closets and bathrooms the size of bus stations.

But... we also couldn't help paying attention. Having just sold, bought, and remodelled ourselves, we were fascinated by the whole subject. House shows are like porn for the middle-aged, and you don't even have to draw the shades to watch it.

Some of the shows are like little morality plays. Hard work pays off! Greed gets you in trouble! Look before you leap! Use your head before spending money!

We really didn't want to be that family who replaced their dining room with an indoor hot tub--and then couldn't figure out why their house wouldn't sell.

So when we realized the aging countertops in our new place needed to go, how could we ignore the constant HGTV imperative to buy granite? To ignore that would to become those poor hot tub people.

But I do wish at least one of the hundred times they mentioned a glorious granite countertop, they could have maybe slipped in, "on the down side, it might give you lung cancer?"

Maybe it's about time to just turn off the tv.

Anyone else have thoughts on the increasingly carcinogenic world around us, the lure of home and garden shows, kitchens, remodeling, or anything else?

July 25, 2008

Whither Random Friday?

[By Crabby]
Long-time readers may have noticed that I've kinda stopped doing "Random Fridays."

If you're new: "Random Friday" was a Friday post with a bunch of short news items, cartoons, and other truly random links. Often these would have nothing to do with health or fitness, unless one can define "cute cat videos" as health and fitness.

Now we seem to be doing giveaways instead. Because, well, people like free stuff, right? But to be honest, part of the reason I'm doing giveaways instead of Random Friday was that Random Friday was becoming a Random Pain in the Ass.

It started off as just nifty place to put links I had handy and wanted to mention, even if they didn't happen to fit in with a "regular" post. But then it became a Thing, and so I turned it into this big production (in my own mind). I felt like I had to find links for it every week, and some of them had to be very silly, and some had to be scientific, and some should mention great blog posts from Cranky-Friendly blogs, and the whole thing needed the right picture and maybe a theme if possible, and there couldn't be too many of this and there had to be enough of that...

Have I mentioned I'm neurotic?

Also, I was starting to use it as an excuse to surf the web for hours and hours, just, um, "looking for 'Random Friday' links!"

Note: Inventing reasons to sit on your ass for hour after hour surfing the web for random amusing stuff is not necessarily compatible with health and fitness.

So I stopped.

But now I seem to have no place to put the random links that I find without even looking for them, the links I want to tell you all about. I'm back to where I started!

So it's possible that a new, low-key version of Random Friday may pop up now and then. But it's going to behave itself this time and not get all greedy and out of control. It may just contain a link or two I want to mention and no smart ass commentary or cartoons or anything.

Links like this blog post by Tokaiangel that just blew me away with its eloquence and humor and honesty. Check out "I Know What the Boys Like;" it's fascinating.

Or links like this crazy-ass but intriguing mass transport idea that Mary Anne from Kentucky alerted me too. It's a human-powered monorail, and it's adorable. It has these little capsules you climb in and pedal. They can go pretty fast, and they swing out when you go around curves. It sounds like a blast.

Photo credit: Gizmag

But the best thing? It's called "The Shweeb."

How can you not love something called a Shweeb!!!

But skimming the article, I had one question: if everyone starts using it to commute someday, and the pods are rigged up on little tracks, how the hell do you pass people? I found myself already getting pissed off at the imaginary Shweeber ahead of me too busy texting his girlfriend to remember to pedal. C'mon already! Move it!

But I read more closely, and here's the deal: "When a fit rider comes up behind a slower rider, the impact is cushioned and they act as a single unit. The rider at the rear...is able to put all their power into pushing the lead vehicle. Two Shweebs acting together will always travel faster than either rider separately."

Just add a drink holder for my morning coffee, and I'm there. I want me some Shweeb!

And if you're an urban or suburban person who wonders how those rural types can stay in shape without fancy gyms and personal trainers and elaborate equipment and such? Check out the Bag Lady's amusing fitness Product Review round-up.

(OK, so the real truth behind why I had to kill off Random Friday? The Cupcakes didn't approve. And everyone knows that it's dangerous to piss off a cupcake...)

Cartoon by Natalie Dee

Giveaway & Poetry (?!) Contest

[By Crabby]

This week, we got cookbooks to give away! Two copies of Eat, Shrink, and be Merry to be precise, written by sisters Janet and Greta Podleski.

(Note: I think they mean "Merry" in terms of "happy." But who knows, perhaps if you make enough of their recipes, you will magically turn into our beloved and recently made-over Cranky Fitness co-blogger, Merry Sunshine?)

(Blue hair sold separately)

We can only hope, because with more Merry's around, I can be even lazier. Let the new Merry clones write all the Cranky Fitness posts, I'll go to the beach!

Anyway, while you may not actually turn into our "Merry," the book looks promising: it offers strategies for healthy living, nutritional advice, and a whole bunch of corny jokes and puns. Can it really deliver "all of the taste but not on your waist?" Well, I don't know for sure but it looks mighty tempting to find out. It has recipes for things like 3-cheese lasagna and thai chicken pizza and double chocolate cheesecake and boy, am I hungry all of a sudden.

"Shockolate Cheesecake"

However, there is some bad news about the contest: Yet again, one must reside in the U.S to win, or be willing to have your cookbook sent to some U.S. friend of yours. Sorry!

But now, on to the good news: You can win just by commenting (random drawing), or you can increase your chances by competing for a second copy in addition to the random copy. This second copy will be awarded to the best poem or haiku written about cooking, or attempting to cook.

I, Crabby McSlacker, will be the sole and arbitrary (and most likely clueless) judge of what constitutes the "best" poem, so be forewarned.

Are you brave/creative/bored enough to give the poem a shot? Your chances of winning will be pretty darn good, 'cause how many people are going to be sitting around this weekend writing poems about cooking? Think about it! But it's also great if you leave any kind of comment about cooking or anything else for that matter, and you'll be entered in the random drawing.

Contest deadline: Tuesday night the 29th, midnight EST. Winner announced Wednesday morning, and get back to us with your contact info by Thursday night the 31st, midnight EST or we'll pick new winners.

Note: and if you're on the prowl for other giveaways, Healthbolt has been doing a Sunday roundup lately; Mizfit often has them (along with excellent fitness advice), and there's a whole site you can visit devoted to online sweepstakes.

Let's see:

There once was a man from Nantucket
Too lazy to cook; he said ".....!"
He risked heart attack
With his fries and Big Mac
And fried chicken (it came in a bucket)

See how bad these can be? You can do WAY better than that!

July 24, 2008

The fun, the shocking truth, & the philosophy

[By Merry]

Okay, so I had this brief, possibly profound moment of illumination, right?

Merry gets a brilliant idea ... for some reason it's in black-and-white...

And I was going to start off the post with the brilliant insight. But then it occurred to me that some people, not that I'm naming any names because I don't want to get sued because I'm too nice for that, come here to have fun. So methought I would put the fun first, and anyone who still wants to read past that can be enlightened. Deal?

The fun
Over at iVillage, they have a makeover section. Yes, I know there are other makeover sites out there; this one involved real photos, not cartoon graphics, and if you sign up for the free registration you can upload your own photo, play with it, and save the results.

The Shocking Truth
Despite the numerous glam shots of a certain crustacean around a certain Party-town, you might have noticed that I've never posted a photo of myself up here.

Until now.

Yes, this is what I look like when I'm wearing a J-Lo-styled wig that's been dyed blue. And fashionable sunglasses. And a questionable hat. And "diva red" lipstick. (Do I have the pout right? I was trying for 'fashion-model' pout, but it looks to me more like 'two-year-old-past-nap-time' pout.)

The philosophical part

It's fascinating to try to make yourself look like someone else. It's an adult version of dress up. But think about it. Seems to me that at the root of this play lies the evil seed of insecurity.

[Editorial note: Can an evil seed lie at the root of something? For the space of this post, let's presume it can.]

Seems to me that the people who get through life with the maximum of enjoyment and the minimum of angst are people who can accept themselves as they are.

I don’t want people to accept me as fat. I don’t want them to accept me as thin either. But yes, I would like to be accepted. It’s a paradox, not a contradiction.

I’ve had the experience of losing lots of weight and being offended by how people reacted to me. They weren’t repulsed; on the contrary they were overjoyed. I know this because they told me so, repeatedly, over and over again how great I looked, I really looked so much better, they wouldn’t have recognized me, really, trust me here, you look sooooo good.

It was annoying as hell.

They repeated themselves to the point where I felt as if that my weight were the only thing in the world that mattered as far as they were concerned. Personality, ability, humor, willingness to enjoy life – none of that mattered, just how much I weighed. I wanted to say “but I’m still the same person I was before when I was overweight. I haven’t changed.” Kind of the same feeling when you still think of yourself as young, but some wet-behind-the-ears kid calls you “ma’am.” I’m still the same person I was then.

That’s what I want people to accept. Not Fat-Merry or Thin-Merry, but just me. The person.

I’ll start a Movement (the capital letter is important) and call it Merry Acceptance.

Enough philosophy, woman! We want more fun!
Okay, fine.

This site shows you what you would look like if you had a Manga makeover.

Or at least, what a J-Lo'd version of me would look like if mangled into a Manga cartoon.

Or do you prefer yourself the way you are? That would be really cool, so long as it's acceptance and not resignation that prompts your preference.

Thanks to Jennifer Crusie at ArghInk for the makeover links.
If you want to laugh at Romance Novel clich├ęs, check out her Romance Heroine's Don'ts List.

July 23, 2008

Scientists: Let's Get Crackin'

[By Crabby]

(Photo by practicalowl)

So Women's Health magazine ran an article recently highlighting some of the "Next Big Things" on the horizon in terms of medical advances. You know, the stuff researchers are busy working away on and they're almost there and any minute now they'll have it all figured out?

And it's a great list, as far as it goes. Make sure to read all about it if you want to see where scientists are in terms of these health breakthroughs:

1. Male Birth Control
2. HIV vaccine
3. Condomless STD Prevention
4. Female Viagra
5. Needle-Free Blood Sugar Test
6. Easier Cancer Treatment

Hint: They ain't quite there yet. So keep your pants on (and we may mean that literally, if you're waiting for numbers 1, 2, or 3).

But since I have slightly different priorities, I'm afraid my personal Breakthrough Wish List wouldn't look much like this one.

For example, is it just me, or does it seem like instead of working so hard to develop female Viagra, they should just take away male Viagra so that older couples are back on the same page again? Then those elderly couples who'd rather watch 60 Minutes most nights could do so again, guilt free.

Because to be honest? All those high-pressure TV commercials with amorous geriatric couples just chomping at the bit to Do the Wild Thang Every Chance They Can Get after 50 years of marriage--well, they're scaring the crap out of me. You don't have to be constantly horny in your Golden Years, do you? Surely that can be optional?

So here's my Viagra-free personal list. Note that I'm also not including stuff like time travel or living forever or becoming invisible or enabling people to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Mine are all reasonable requests, ones that shouldn't be that hard--and some are WAY overdue.

1. Fake Low-Cal Foods That Don't Taste Like Crap and Won't Kill You

I know lots of you wouldn't touch a new Franken-food no matter how tasty it was or how many studies proved it was safe. It's the principle of the thing, right? Natural is always better! (Unless we're talking about our cell-phones or laptops or indoor plumbing).

But me? I don't care if a food is natural or if it's fake as long as it tastes good and won't eventually poison me. I like things that are sweet and greasy and would like to eat many more of them! I'd be perfectly happy eating lots of real, whole, natural foods to meet my nutritional needs--but then afterwards scarfing a bunch of fake no-cal fun food. Cupcakes and ice cream and brownies and cheeseburgers and nachos, hurrah!

The trouble is, the food industry spends way more time trying to sell stuff than actually testing it, and our government doesn't seem to give a rat's ass whether they poison us with carcinogens or not. Plus the fake stuff doesn't actually taste very good.

With all the money they pour into the quest for guilt-free fake food, why aren't they better at it yet?

2. Artificial Cartilage

I'm one of the many Baby Boomers who has trashed her joints through years of pavement-pounding but continues to run anyway. Yet the idea of an eventual knee replacement totally freaks me out. (Just the word "bone saw" is enough to make me want to barf). I've been reading about promising cartilage alternatives for what feels like decades, but where the hell are they already?

C'mon, with all the nano-particles and genetic engineering and other miracle medical inventions, why can't they do fake cartilage yet? I'd SO much rather add some extra cushion to what's there than chop the whole dang thing out.

3. Sunscreen in a Pill.

This has been "just around the corner" for a long time. I won't repeat my sunscreen tirade, but please, please, please hurry up on this one.

4. Instant-Advil

Or Instant-Aspirin or Instant-Tylenol, whatever. I'm a wimp when it comes to any kind of pain, and it just seems like they should have a quicker means than this old fashioned "wait 45 minutes for it to get digested and end up in your bloodstream" business. What if I have killer cramps NOW???

Lets get going with an inhaler or something you put under your tongue or even, God Forbid, a portable injection. I would seriously rather shoot up and hurt for a second or two than wait forever for the damn pills to work.

5. Virtual Colonoscopy

Hey Doc? Get The Hell Away From Me.

These are supposed to be here already. First I read they worked great and then I read maybe they didn't, and then I thought I saw a study that said yeah, they work just fine... but "bottom" line, I've never heard of anyone whose gotten a virtual one yet. Doctors always seem to insist on the real kind.

I'm a few years away from having to do my first one, but I'm already dreading it. I do NOT want to be drugged and then have someone snake a giant scope way up my ass and look all around. There's even supposed to be a kind on the way where you swallow a tiny camera that takes pictures all by itself on the way down. (Though I'm not sure how the retrieval process works... that can't be fun.)

6. But Before Any of The Rest of This Stuff:

How about we throw a few more resources into curing fatal and/or severely disabling diseases? I think it's sad that we have so much money going into developing pills to keep guys erect or creams to make women wrinkle-free or 9 zillion products to make our teeth white, when we still haven't figured out how to cure cancer or MS or AIDS or any number of awful diseases.

I might even trade my sunscreen pill for that.

So what would you guys put on your list of health breakthroughs you're tired of waiting for?

And the Fitness Thingy Goes to...

Jenn (of the tiny hula hoop/gym bunny ring toss). Sorry, other Jenns--of which there were several. As always, we love our commenters and wish everyone could win!

So Jenn, please email at: Crabby McSlacker at gmail dot com to claim your Sportstep! (Note: deadline is Midnight Thursday the 24th, EST.)

Note: I LOVED all the hilarious suggestions on how to use the Pilates Ring!

Stay tuned for this coming Friday's giveaway--there will be TWO winners; one will be randomly chosen and one will earn a prize by SUBMITTING THE MOST AMUSING ENTRY.

More details to come... So sharpen your wits, all you competitive types!

July 22, 2008

What the hell is a Kettlebell? Sarah Lurie's Workout DVD

[By Merry]A product review? On Cranky Fitness?

Yes, I know. I do product reviews about as often as I say something nice about... well, about pretty much anything. I made an exception in this case because I was intrigued by the name. What the hell is a kettlebell? Something that rings when it's made a pot of tea?

What the hell is a kettlebell?
Turns out it's a hand weight with a luggage handle on top. Cute as the dickens.

Don't knock the power of 'cute'! Hand weights are like people: both are much more likely to get picked up if they're cute. The son of Charlotte (from The Great Fitness Experiment) named her kettlebell 'Tinkerbell'.

What are you supposed to do with it?

Hey, it's a hand weight. You do the math.
(Sorry. I always wanted an excuse to use that expression.)

Okay, in case you're as mathematically challenged as I am, there is help. Sarah Lurie has put together some fitness DVDs showing how to get a workout with a kettlebell. What's really cool is that her DVDs combine working out aerobically with lifting weights. To someone like me, who would rather clean house than lift weights, this idea out-wows sliced bread.

The DVD I was given was called Kettlebell Basics, but Gofit.net has a list of several different DVDs that you can choose from.

Reasons to use a kettleball
1 - It's fun. Doing something different spices up a workout routine, which means I'm more likely to keep exercising.

2 - It's a workout. For several of these exercises, you hold the kettleball with both hands, thus using more muscles than you would with holding a weight in just one hand. Kind of like using a snowboard rather than two separate skis. With a snowboard, you end up using more core muscles because you're desperately trying to stay vertical.

3 - While it's nice to use muscles I wouldn't ordinarily put into play, even nicer is the idea of lifting weights while getting a cardio workout. Sarah Lurie guides you through a series of exercises that have you doing lunges, squats, and such like while raising and lowering the kettlebell. (The handle makes it much easier to swing the weight around than it would be to swing a regular hand weight.)

Things I didn't like so muchTo be completely fair and unbiased, there were a couple things I didn't like.

- Between exercises, the DVD lists key bullet points about form, things to keep in mind. Which would probably be useful if the font weren't so small that I couldn't read the text from 4 feet away.

- One of the exercises involve grasping the kettlebell with both hands, swinging it between my legs and then up to above my shoulders. These people have great faith in my ability not to accidentally lose my grip on the kettlebell and send it flying across the room. [Some manual dexterity is required to use a kettlebell.]

To read another review of Sarah Lurie's Kettlebell Workout DVDs, check out Workout Mommy's blog.

What about you? Have you tried using one of these things before, and if so did you like it?

P.S. My apologies to Nitmos. Here at Cranky Fitness, we are keenly aware of the robust necessity of remaining dynamically sensitive to our readers' needs. However, this is a serious product review, and it would be totally inappropriate to work in any gratuitous Martina Navratilova references. Besides, I could not find any indication that she had ever used this product.

July 21, 2008

Crabby's Shocking Night Life Revealed

[By Crabby]

It is rare that I write a blog post that is 100% enthusiastic about something.

And don't worry, it's only temporary--still no plans to change the blog's title to "Cheerful Fitness!" anytime soon. Nor do we plan to decorate our blog home with cute kittens, unicorns, or fairy princesses.

(This is more Crabby's style).

But it occurred to me that I have a favorite fitness activity that I've rediscovered, and I've been enjoying it immensely for the past couple months. Remarkably, this activity is (a) healthy and (b) fun and (c) free, so I have to talk about it!

(And no, this is not the healthy, fun, free activity that takes place in the bedroom. You all know about that one already.)

So what is this curious pastime that has me all cheerful and gushy all of a sudden?

Summer Evening After-Dinner Walks.

I LOVE them!!!

Oops, sorry--not sure how that happened! No perky cuteness is allowed at Cranky Fitness.

Anyway, part of my enthusiasm is probably due to the novelty of East Coast summers. Most of my summers had been spent in the San Francisco Bay Area--which means no yucky heat and humidity during the day (hooray!) but also: no warm nights to stroll around in. You can stroll, but, well, you better take a jacket and you're probably not going to have much company.

But now that I'm back east again, how can I justify sitting my ass on the couch and watching t.v. after dinner? It's so lovely outside!

(Damn! How the heck did that thing sneak in? There must be some kind of security breach!)

What was I saying?

Oh right. Summer walks.

As it happens, I'm lucky enough to live in a neighborhood perfectly suited for evening strolls. We're living in a resort town which is (a) scenic; (b) safe; (c) walkable; and (d) full of other enthusiastic evening walkers. Many of them are on vacation and so they're totally drunk off their asses in a very good mood.

Even better--well, this is Provincetown. Mixed among the eccentric evening parade of tourists and locals (we get ALL kinds here) are the paid entertainers, who must circulate energetically in order to sell tickets or earn tips. So we have a multitude of elaborately costumed drag queens; scantily clad male strippers; witty and/or loud-mouthed stand up comedians; earnest folk singers, and even circus burlesque performers, all out showing off and brightening things up.

(And we saw Martina Navratilova the other night, being all smiley and friendly! Tacky hicks that we are, we gawked. I'm not good at the pretend-you-don't notice-the-Famous-Person game. When the Lobster points one out (because I never see them first) I get ridiculously excited).

However, even when I've lived in other East Coast locations with no drag queens or strippers or lesbian tennis icons, I still enjoyed our warm summer evening strolls.

Why do I like them so much?

Well, some reasons are boring and practical: I don't crave dessert like I do when I'm sitting at home, wishing dinner weren't over already. I sleep better. And I burn a few extra calories without it feeling the least bit like a chore.

But I think what really motivates me is that I feel more a part of the physical world, and less like a passive consumer of manufactured, electronic entertainment. And perhaps it's weird, but there's something that feels vaguely transgressive about being outside at night. Maybe because as a kid, I was allowed to run free on summer days, but it was understood that all children had to be home by dark. Or else, unnamed bad things might happen.

So to be outside roaming around at night, even as a grown up? I feel like I'm getting away with something.

Does anyone else like to take after-dinner walks when the weather is good? Seems like there are a million reasons why they might not work for everyone. Kids, jobs, weather, chores, safety concerns...

Oh crap. I give up.

Anyone have any comments for our new blog, Cheerful Fitness?

July 18, 2008

Reader Recipe: Stuffed Peppers

[Posted by Crabby]

This awesome looking Stuffed Bell Pepper recipe comes courtesy of Susan over at Nutrition, Fitness, Life.

She even included this picture, and if you're not hungry yet? Just hang on a second...

How 'bout now?

Anyway, rather than clutter up her post with a bunch of tedious musings on Stuffed Bell Peppers (and believe me I could--I have thoughts and opinions about EVERYTHING, including stuffed bell peppers) I'll turn it directly over to her. Thanks Susan! --Crabby

Hello everyone, and a big thank you to Crabby and Merry for inviting me as a guest on their blog! (I did take off my shoes.) I'm very honored, and I have to say that the cupcakes look even bigger from up here!

But now on to the recipe (it doesn't involve cupcakes)...

I concocted this version of the stuffed pepper while playing in the kitchen one day and was pleased with the results. I used brown rice for a healthier twist and chose lean, ground sirloin. Tofu would work as a replacement for the meat, though. You could also replace the tomato sauce with chopped tomatoes, which I bet would taste heavenly if fresh from the garden!

This recipe serves 6*, so please feel free to adjust the recipe if cooking for fewer people. Then again, these make for a good lunch the next day. :)

  • 3 bell peppers (green, red, yellow… any color will do)

  • 1 cup water

  • ½ cup uncooked brown rice

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • ½ tsp olive oil or nonstick cooking spray

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

  • 1 pound ground sirloin or ground turkey

  • 1 cup corn (frozen works great)

  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

  • 2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce

  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 cup shredded low-fat cheese (any flavor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).

Combine water, rice, and ¼ tsp salt in saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook until rice has absorbed the water and is tender – about 30 minutes.

As rice is cooking:
Rinse peppers and cut in half vertically, or cut just the top off. Remove the stem, seeds, and the membranes inside the peppers. Set aside.

In a large pan/skillet over medium heat, add oil or spray pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add chopped onions, and cook just until slightly tender, about 4 minutes. Remove onions to a dish, and set aside.

Place the ground meat in that same pan and cook until evenly browned. Drain fat.**

Add onions, corn, garlic, Worcestershire, tomato sauce, and seasonings to meat. Cook on medium-low heat. Add rice and gently combine. Turn heat to very low.

Fill large pot with warm water that has been salted and bring to a boil. Immerse peppers in water for 2 minutes and remove from water. Set peppers in a large baking dish with hollowed side up.

Fill each pepper with meat and rice mixture. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Any leftover mixture can be stored in a container and used with salsa as a topping for tortilla chips!

Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and lightly golden brown.

Let cool for a few minutes and dig in!

*Cutting just the tops of each pepper will provide a pretty dish for the stuffing and result in one, hearty serving. You can increase the number of peppers from 3 to 4 if using this method.

**I like to pour off any grease from meat into a used container, such as an old pasta sauce jar. Then I wipe off the side of the pan with a paper towel. Be careful about draining grease directly into your sink as the grease can harden and clog the drain. And please keep in mind that hot grease can cause nasty burns! Be careful not to spill any on yourself!

Exercise Equipment: We Got Some!

[By Crabby]

You know how I'm always griping about going to the gym? Well, as many of you have discovered, if you have stuff at home, you don't have to. Voila, no more sweltering temperatures or frustrating equipment or old people kicking your ass!

So in this week's give-away, courtesy of Sportsmith, you get the chance to win one of three lovely Fitness Thingies you can use at home.

Would you like the Sportstep, which is similar to a Bosu balance trainer?

(Sorry, perky gym playmates are not included. And no, that object in the lower left is NOT a complimentary super-sized botox injection.)

Or perhaps you'd like a sporty blue 56" aerobic mat?

(Ankle cuffs and boy-toy sold separately).

Or, here we go, maybe you'd prefer the pilates power ring?

So is anyone else (who is not a Pilates Person) totally mystified as to what the hell this thing is? It's too small for a hula hoop and too big for a nose ring and too hollow for a frisbee. I'm sure it's fun and all, but what on earth does it DO? Note: for bonus points (see rules below) you'll get a chance to tell me.

And sure, I could google and find out, or just ask the sponsor, but what fun would that be?

Now on to the Contest and the Rules. ATTENTION: they're a bit different this time, so you may want to actually read them. It'll only take a minute...

Photo by Whatknot


Alas, prizes can only be shipped to U.S. residents. But...

I'm thinking if you don't live in the U.S., you could still enter! Why would you do that? Well, if you won, you could designate that your prize go to a U.S. friend. You won't get the thingy itself, but you'll get a chance to be generous, which is fun too. If you don't have an "In Real Life" U.S. friend (and these are highly over-rated), perhaps you have a U.S. Blog Friend whose email address you know or could obtain off their blog? We can work it out that a prize goes to them instead. However, sorry, no imaginary friends. You'll just have to give them imaginary prizes.

This means, however, two different sets of instructions:

Instructions for US residents: Just leave a comment saying which Thingy you'd like if you won, and FOR AN EXTRA BONUS ENTRY, tell us what you think Crabby might do with a Pilates Ring--even if it's not your prize of choice.

Instructions for non-US residents: leave a comment and let us know that you don't live in the US but that you're playing for someone else. And likewise, for a second entry credit, get creative and tell Crabby just what she can do with that Pilates Ring!

After the entries are assigned either one number (regular entries) or two numbers (bonus pilates ring entries), our sophisticated Statistical Analysis Department will pick the winner--which will be announced Wednesday morning the 23rd. If you have won, Email us at Crabby McSlacker at gmail dot com. (No spaces). Please, you must claim your prize by midnight EST on Thursday the 24th or we give it away again. (And if you are International, please try to round up the email address, and even better, the mailing address and prize choice of your beneficiary ASAP after you discover you've won).

Thanks for playing (and for stopping by Cranky Fitness)!

UPDATE: The contest is closed now and we have a winner! But check back Friday for another giveaway.

July 17, 2008

The post without a title

[By Merry]

So close to Friday.
Almost there.
Must... hang... on...

Hang on a minute. What kind of post is this? Where are the chipper puns? The quirky health studies? The fun Fail photos? It doesn't even have a proper title! Bring Crabby back! We want a real post!

The headache is taking up most of the front part of the brain, where all the serious thinking is usually done, so my mind is in trivia mode.

I know gas is expensive

... but this is ridiculous
(I don't know if you can see, but the horse is on a treadmill, which powers the vehicle. Literally horsepower.)

Winner of the Addictive Game award of the week:

Damn that game. Be warned that this game is highly addictive and very frustrating. Also, if you go to that site, please do something about the spelling and grammar. Please.

More ways to help the world while feeding your trivia addiction:

Free Kibble
Kind of like Free Rice except you only answer one question a day. Every time you answer a question, more dog kibble is donated to animal shelters. There's also its feline equivalent, Free KibbleKat.

Cartoon of the week:

And, of course, the cat video of the week:

Okay, I can't take the guilt. Here's productive, useful information:

I'm being a headache-addled wimp and shirking my duties as a dutiful blogger. Crabby will be sad. I can't be having that. So here. I put together a long list of useful and helpful blogs, where people talk about how to be more organized and productive and all that good stuff. (When I say "put together", I am of course referring to the fact that I personally went to that blog and copied the URL myself so that I could link to it here. That's pretty strenuous activity right now.)

Have a great almost-Friday!

July 16, 2008

Fanning the Flames at the Gym

[By Crabby]

As a grown-up, reasonably intelligent person, I do understand that everyone is different. When it comes to opinions and personal preferences, it's all subjective--there really is no real "right" or "wrong."

Is "big band jazz" a better kind of music than "death metal?" Is blue a prettier color than yellow? Is a big bowl of chocolate ice cream tastier than one containing ginger-lime sorbet?

It really isn't fair for me to say--though of course I have strong opinions on all three counts. You all may think differently and doesn't your opinion count just as much as mine?

So when I go to a theoretically air-conditioned gym on a hot day, and the cardio area is sweltering hot, and I realize that fan is set on low and so ask in a general way if anyone minds if I turn it up, and then a woman scowls and says:

"Oh god, please don't, I HATE the fan more than anything,"

despite the fact that everyone else is nodding, yes, please, please, please turn the fan up, we're dying here...

well, then isn't that woman an obnoxious, selfish, crazy-assed, crankpot entitled to her own opinion?

Well, no, she's not. Because her opinion is WRONG.

Areas in which cardio machines are placed should not be hot. They should be cool.

I was also baffled as to why someone who hated the idea of even a smidgen of cool air touching her skin would go to the gym wearing only a skimpy tank top and shorts. I would hereby like to recommend that people who go to air-conditioned gyms but prefer to work out in very warm temperatures BRING A SWEATSHIRT. Or a snowsuit. All of us who were sweating away had done all we could, clothing-wise. There was nothing more we could remove without risking arrest.

Of course I totally sympathize with the people who are trying to do yoga or other forms of stretching in a room set at meat-locker temperatures. It sucks that gyms aren't better at temperature regulation. (But at least it gives you yoga folks an excuse to purchase more of that hip yoga-wear that looks almost like something you could wear to a party, right?)

I have to confess that this is a constant complaint of mine--I often find the cardio areas of most workout facilities are too warm. And yet do I say to myself "gosh, Crabby, if you keep running into this, do you think you must run a little hotter than normal when you exercise?"

No! I say that the gyms and all the other people who are quite happy there are WRONG.

I'm such a grown up.

(Note: I tried to find some actual scientific research to say: "Gyms should be kept at cooler temperatures not just because Crabby likes it that way, but because it's actually better for you!" I could swear I read that unless you're specifically training for hot-weather exercise, that you're not getting "more" out of your workout by being hot and miserable. But alas, after spending a few minutes on google exhaustive research I couldn't find much one way or the other on optimal gym temperatures.

The best I could do was an article citing the guy who invented SuperSlow exercise, saying he discovered when doing his research that people performed best when it was about 61 degrees.

But then I read further in the same article about optimal workout conditions, and decided it might not be the most impressive reference source. Other "helpful" observations: "Nothing is more distracting than an attractive member of the opposite sex wrapped tightly in spandex, and nothing is more repulsive than an unattractive person in that sort of get-up." Thus, when choosing a Fitness Instructor: "Dress slacks and a long sleeve shirt are the minimum you should expect. Ideally, male instructors should wear a tie."

So, um, so much for the research.)

Does anyone have an opinion about optimal workout temperature or the subjective nature of human experience or the evils of scantily clad fitness instructors?

Hypnosis CD Winner

And the winner is...


(Sorry, to all the not-MJ's. But do not despair! We've got another cool give-away coming up Fri.)

So MJ, please email Crabby McSlacker at gmail dot com and send us your mailing address by midnight EST July 17th and we'll tell the hypnosis folks to send you your CD.

Thanks fer playin' everyone, and better luck next time!