January 31, 2008

Fitness Equipment We Hate

[By Crabby]

As threatened promised earlier in the week, there's no way Cranky Fitness is going to post about awesome exercise equipment (or least the kind I like) and not balance it out with a post about the other kind of fitness equipment--the kind that's not so awesome.

Unfortunately, however, some of the items on my "worst" list happen to be other people's "bests." Sorry about that!

I'm guessing that as people weigh in on what they think sucks, they'll be dissin' some of my favorites too. But diss away! Seriously--I actually kind of like it when people hate the very things I'm crazy about. (Like marshmallow-covered yam casserole, for example). It reinforces my own unique individuality and also means there are more marshmallows and elliptical machines in the world for me and I don't have to share!

Anyway, here it is:

Crabby's Entirely Subjective List of Worst Exercise Equipment:

1. Exercise Bicycles.

I have no opinion on spinning bikes, or the thingamabobs that take a regular bike and turn it into an exercise bike. I haven't tried those. I'm talking about the standard issue sit upright and pedal, pedal, moan, and pedal type bike.

Why are they so horrible? How do some of you folks stand them?

I used to spend a lot of time riding a bike outside when I was younger, yet I find the indoor version tremendously painful and unrewarding. I can't get my heart rate up and my legs hurt like hell. There's no FUN in the movement. I need to move my whole body as I do cardio, rising and falling, or slipping and sliding, or bouncing or rolling or stepping or hopping or whatever. But plopped down on a seat, flailing my legs around while my ass and upper body is entirely stationary? Arrgggh.

2. Itty Bitty Ladies Weights.

My favorite tough gal, Kelly at Fitness Fixation, has already ranted quite eloquently about the fact that women often don't lift heavy enough weights to do them any good. I guess for people who like the pretty colors and want to work on their arm endurance during cardio, one and two pound weights might have some purpose.

But I gotta say I just don't get it. Why lift a 2 pound weight 875 times in order to build less muscle than lifting a 25lb (or whatever) dumbell 8-12 times and only being miserable for a few seconds? Has word not gotten out that women don't bulk up without a lot of effort and an unusual amount of testosterone? (Some of us would actually like more muscle definition and have a hell of time getting any).

Note: if you're new to fitness or whatever, start where you need to. I just personally want to spend time with those damn things if they're not doing me any good. (Also, for some really informative tips on real weight lifting technique, go visit Stumptuous. (Thanks for the tip, Jaime!) )

3. Resistance Bands.

The thing I don't like about them is that they sound so good and so I keep trying them over and over. Because after all, they're light-weight and cheap and practical and everyone swears they get a great workout with them. I even saw some study that says they do a fairly good job.

But then whenever I try them, they seem totally lame and worthless. What's wrong with me?

Through most of the range of motion, there's, like, no resistance at all. Then for about two inches, they're insanely impossible and, if you're trying to use them on your legs, they cut into your flesh. I end up doing these herky-jerky little two inch repetitions and cursing a lot and promising I'll never try them again.

Until the next time I read somewhere how great they are.

4. Almost Any Equipment Found at a Cheap-Ass Gym.

You know those gyms that buy crappy low-end equipment and/or don't perform any maintenance or ever do any repairs? I run into this on the road a lot. Tiny small-town gyms and and hotel fitness rooms are the worst.

Anyway, so you wait your turn and finally a cardio machine of some kind is open and then you find out it goes squeeeeek squeeeek squeeeek or thunka thunka thunkity thunk with every footfall. No matter how loud you turn up the music, you know other people can hear it and they hate you.

(No, it's not your fault, but trust me, they hate you. When I'm lucky enough to have the quiet one, I still hate the person on the noisy one for being so irritating.)

It's not just cardio equipment either. I hate wobbly weight machines, missing pins, broken cords, and a haphazard selection of equipment that leaves major muscle groups unaddressed. (On the plus side, you often get to skip a lot of stuff during travel-workouts without feeling guilty).

5. My Ipod.

Yes, this was on my best list too, because music is essential. And I have an ancient iPod, so perhaps all these issues have been resolved now. But I used to have a Nomad (back when mp3 players were roughly the size of dinner plates, not sticks of gum), and the interface seemed way more friendly. I could easily queue up music to last for hours, was not forever scrolling up and down through various menus.

Even better, before I met iTunes, I could actually share my music with the Lobster, which was only fair, since she actually paid for all those fine songs. But our iPods and computers don't seem to be speaking to one another, and we frequently end up buying the same damn songs twice.

Also, as it happens, I have a particularly satanic iPod full of little quirks:

It will turn itself on spontaneously, even when it's off and locked. Not only that, it will somehow manage to run down its battery even when plugged in and supposedly charging.

The iPod also likes to reboot for no particular reason and reset a bunch of settings. It's favorite is to turn down the contrast ratio, making the screen is unreadable. (Of course, this makes it virtually to impossible to find the contrast button again to fix it back.)

Even better, sometimes when it f*cks with the contrast, it will also change the language setting. Can you find the word "contrast," in nearly-invisible letters, in Czech or Dutch? Gosh, that's fun, especially when you're otherwise ready to head out for your run.

And finally, for some reason, it has a huge ego. When it's plugged into my laptop, which is already plugged into the wall socket, my arrogant iPod thinks it should supply all the power for both machines. Or something--the iPod will literally go from full to empty within ten minutes when I try to transfer songs from my computer.

I hate (love) hate my iPod. (And actually, I need a new mp3 player. Is there an alternative that won't mean losing the 300 plus songs I've already purchased from iTunes? Or am I Pod-slave forever now?)

All right, that's far more than enough of my whining (for today). Your turn! What do you guys hate? (Or heck be cheerful and like something, that's okay too.)

January 30, 2008

Fitness Fantasy: Adult Playground

Cartoon courtesy of Joy of Tech

Oh dear.

I saw this cartoon and I laughed--but dang it, I've always had this little fantasy that someone would open up a new chain of gym-like facilities that were just big playgrounds for adults.

(And no, I don't mean the X-rated version of "adult," though no doubt the porn googlers will find their way here, what with words like "adult" and "fantasy" and "equipment" and "swinging" and all.)

No, what I mean is an actual play ground with fun adult-sized equipment. Is it just me or do any of the rest of you walk by kid's playgrounds and wish you could take a turn on the swings or the merry-go-round? I would, except that most of the stuff is too small and adults aren't generally allowed. I'd hate to break something or get arrested as a suspected child kidnapper or something.

So what would we put in our adult playground? There's got to be better ways to combine fitness and fun than elliptical trainers. Maybe we could start with some adult-sized swings and slides and rocking horses, throw in a rock-climbing wall and some pick-up kickball games. Or how about some of these?
  • Pedal-powered bumper cars
  • Or pedal-powered roller coasters? (Not real scary ones though, okay?)
  • Trampolines combined with bungee cords suspended from above so you could really go flying
  • Mini American Gladiator contests
  • Bigger, crazier pogo sticks
The problem is, when I start to try to figure out how this would work so I can start a franchise and become a trillionaire, the logistics get a little complicated.

Would you sign up for equipment? Would there be time limits? How would you keep your heart rate up if, god forbid, it was time for the merry-go-round but other people were hogging it? Or would you have to pay a fortune to ensure that only a few people were using the playground at the same time so you wouldn't have to share?

Would you need helmets and pads? Would boys and girls play together? What about liability issues...

Sigh. Maybe the cartoon is right after all and playgrounds work better for kids.

What about you--would you go to an adult playground to work out? What would you want to see in there?

January 29, 2008

Ah Ha--Just What I Thought!

[By Crabby]

So apparently some Australian researchers took a look at how people search the web for health information. And guess what they found?

People pretty much just pay attention to stuff that confirms what they already believe.

As one of the researchers said: "Even if people read the right material, they are stubborn to changing their views. This means that providing people with the right information on its own may not be enough."

Gosh, what a surprise.

I recognize this "I'm going to believe what I want to believe" tendency in myself, obviously. But I do at least know it's a fault, not a virtue. As much as I spout off my opinions, I am at least kind of aware they're opinions, and I try to take other points of view into consideration. Sometimes, I even change my mind!

So this study got me to thinking about the idea psychological maturity. Because I think the ability to get past your own biases and take in new information has something to do with that. So we'll leave the dull topic of "health information on the web" far behind as I go out on a limb and invent my own Simplistic Psychological Dichotomy!

Unfortunately, personality traits do not come in convenient black and white categories. But it's much more fun to pretend they do instead of dealing with a big messy continuum. So for the sake of discussion, we're going to divide the world up into two kinds of people: the Screaming Baby-Heads, and Wishy-Washy Grown-Ups.

Who are the Screaming Baby-Heads? Well, their whole lives are like the Australian study. They only take in information they want to take in. They just haven't achieved the ego-strength to separate their own desires, biases, emotions, and fantasies from reality. A "reality" apart from their own self-interest is too threatening and just not very much fun, so it can't exist.

The Wishy-Washy Grown-Ups, while not immune from Baby-Headedness in certain circumstances, have at least learned that they filter "reality" through their own perception. These people acknowledge, at least in theory, that they are not always right about everything. They know that even if they really want something to be true, sometimes it isn't. When evidence changes or new perspectives emerge, they may even (gasp) change their minds. These people are not, obviously, allowed to head up corporations or run our governments or even be listened to much anymore because they "flip-flop" and they're not decisive, strong, and steadfast like people who never question themselves. They're boring when they speak because they're always saying things like "possibly" and "I could be wrong" and "on the other hand."

I have a strong suspicion that most regular readers of Cranky Fitness spend the majority of their time being Wishy Washy Grown Ups, which is why I love you all. Even a brief perusal of the comments section reveals curiosity, open-mindedness, respect for others' points of view, and self-deprecating humor, all, in my opinion, hallmarks of emotionally mature adults. So what if that attitude may not get you elected or chosen to star in any reality tv shows? I still say, hooray for WWGU's!

(And actually, not all Screaming Baby-Heads are obnoxious over-confident assholes. There are different kinds of baby-headedness. Some SBH's can freely admit to mistakes, and can actually be really nice to people with whom they don't agree. But, like the obnoxious variety, these babyheads are incapable of believing that their own emotions and desires are not reality. These people fall for the same sociopathic boyfriends over and over, max out their credit cards for luxuries and expect no consequences, and keep believing those ads for miracle diets that will allow them to lose 50 lbs a month while eating all they want.)

So, assuming most of you are WWGU's and know all about the joys and disappointments of boring every-day fact-based reality, here's a brief guide to the life on the other side.

What's good about being a Screaming Baby-Head? Plenty! Check it out:
  • Life is simple.
  • All the people you like are good people.
  • Coincidentally, all the people you don't like are bad people.
  • You are the center of the universe.
  • Your religion is 100% right and everyone else is screwed, but that's okay because they must deserve it for some reason.
  • Your chances of buying a winning lotto ticket are much higher than anyone else's.
  • Even though bad things may happen, they will probably go away soon and are never your fault.
  • If you are angry at someone, they must have done something very bad to make you angry. Conveniently enough, your emotions are always a perfect mirror of reality. This means you never need to apologize for anything!
  • If you are attracted to someone, it's because they're perfect.
  • If you are no longer attracted to someone who seemed perfect, this is because they are evil and they tricked you. This makes it easy to move on with no regrets.
  • Whatever you desire, you deserve.
  • You don't have to worry about how your actions affect others, because you never do anything wrong.
  • Tomorrow is always going to be way better than today, because you're special!
  • Because TV networks, box-office hits, and political campaigns are totally tapped into the SBH market, there's always something good to watch and someone great to vote for!
Pretty nice, huh? If you're a Wishy-Washy Grown Up grappling with a subtle, complicated, conflicted reality, being a Screaming Baby-Head can start to look pretty darn attractive.

So what's bad about being a Screaming Baby-Head?
  • Oddly enough, considering you're such a special person, you don't catch as many breaks as other people. For example, you may get fired for no reason at all!
  • Again, strangely, since you're incredibly likable, many people are not nice to you and even people who don't deserve you as a friend don't even try very hard to get to know you.
  • People who start off "good people" can instantly turn evil.
  • Most mystifying of all: so many things keep turning out differently than they should! Where is that happy marriage, that fit healthy body, that rewarding career, that fortune in the bank you deserve? What the hell is up with that?
Someone is obviously responsible for the frustrations of the SBH's. Obviously, it's not their fault... must be some Evil Conspiracy by a bunch of those Wishy-Washy Grown Ups?

Of course I have plenty of babyheadedness of my own to deal with, as I assume we all do... but do any of you know any real Babyheads out there? Or is the whole notion sort of, well, Babyheaded?

January 28, 2008

Exercise Equipment : We Have Opinions!

[By Crabby]

No, this isn't a useful product review of the best and worst fitness equipment out there. (There are plenty of those around and they all contradict each other). This is just a list of things I like and why. Chances are, you'll all have opinions of your own that are different—because of course you're all wrong we're all unique individuals, and isn't that what make the world a wonderful place!

(Note: at some point soon we'll also do a “worst exercise equipment” list. After all, this blog is not called Cheerful Fitness is it?)

So here we go,

Crabby's Entirely Subjective List of Best Exercise Equipment Ever:

Big-Ass Weight Machines: And yes, I love the girly kind where you just move the little pins, not the macho kind where you lug big plates around and try to wrestle them onto each new machine like you're building the damn thing from scratch.

It’s very out-of-fashion to like these anymore. You're supposed to be doing free weights or having a personal trainer devise sadistic unendurable creative ways to use your own body weight to get stronger or whatever. It's uncool to use a machine to isolate just one set of muscles at at time.

Well, screw that. I like to sit down on a comfortable machine and only be miserable in one body part at a time. (And I only do one set apiece, at the heaviest weights possible, so it doesn't last long). Is using a bunch of big machines like this less efficient? Is it less functional for carrying groceries or hand-to-hand combat with invading aliens? I don't give a crap. I can still schlep groceries with the best of them; the aliens have not yet arrived; and I like my big-ass machines.

Elliptical Machine: This is another relatively wimpy choice, in some people's eyes, compared to the treadmill or the stairmaster. But getting on a treadmill to walk or run just makes it obvious that you're not outside, where such activities are much more entertaining. Even though I do use a treadmill, it is essentially a compromise machine. And a stair-stepper (especially the backwards escalator kind) is a torture device. Whereas an elliptical machine?

An elliptical machine is a RIDE! If used properly, (or actually, improperly) an elliptical machine is fun! Here's how to make it a piece of playground equipment and much less of a chore.

You must:
  • Play awesome kick-ass music with exactly the right cadence so that each step is to the beat.
  • Get a machine without the stupid handlebars, or if you can't find one, try to avoid getting smacked by them when you forget they're there.
  • Pump your arms vigorously and cultivate the ability to balance, both going forward and backwards. (This must be good for some core muscle or other, don't you think?). Finally, the most important part:
  • Launch yourself higher in the air than you need to on each upswing so that you feel like you're sproinging along like an antelope to the beat.
It's fun, really.

WARNING: Following these instructions puts more stress on your knees and may result in your looking like an ass. (Especially if you close your eyes, add some dance moves, and lip synch to the music. But that part is totally optional).

Big Bouncy Inflatable Ball. I know you’re supposed to do all sorts of challenging exercises on it and that it will get your core muscles in great shape, but I lost the little pamphlet that came with it. (And also the pump, so it’s kind of squishy now).

But what I love about the big goofy green ball in our basement is that it’s a great way to stretch out my back. I sit down on it, then lean back until my head dangles upside down, trying to keep my feet somewhat balanced on the ground so I don’t lose control and crash-land on my head and split my skull open. Once equilibrium is obtained, however, it's a great stretch--you can feel all the little vertebrae spreading out and relaxing and putting their feet up, happy to have a little personal space for once.

It’s also my impression (based on something I read somewhere long ago that probably isn’t even true), that using gravity to pull your spine apart will keep you from shrinking as you get older. If this is a totally preposterous theory, don't tell me, because part of the fun of the stretch is my belief that it's making me taller.

Well, duh. Gotta have tunes. (On the other hand, this device, or at least my old-fashioned version of it, has enough infuriating quirks that it will also be appearing on Crabby's Entirely Subjective List of The Worst Exercise Equipment Ever Invented.)

Heart Rate Monitor
Notice how I'm running out of steam here, and all of a sudden the sections are getting shorter? Sure, I started off with lots of energy, but now, wow, this is getting old. I'm tired. Am I putting out enough effort still or am I just going through the motions and secretly slacking?

Well, if you're exercising instead of blogging and the same questions come up, you'll have an answer--if you own a handy-dandy heart rate monitor!

(So was that the lamest segue ever??)

Actually, part of the reason for not saying much down here is that I already wrote a whole post on the awesomeness of heart rate monitors. The bottom line? They give you a concrete number to fixate on and become completely obsessed with inform you about your progress. (And you can also use them as handy biofeedback devices).

Anyway, I've been opining for long enough--I want to hear about other people's favorites. That is, if you have any opinions about exercise equipment... or anything else for that matter. At Cranky Fitness, we love opinions!

January 25, 2008

Random Friday

[By Crabby]

Sorry About the Mess!
I've been trying to change my template, and what looked fine on my computer is apparently a disaster on everyone else's. Will do my best to get things up and running soon! Anyway, on to the Randomness..

Tired of Good Food/Bad Food?
If so, then you may not want to read about how regular consumption of grapefruit might increase breast cancer risk. Or even that there's more good news about extra virgin olive oil. (Recent research suggests it may help prevent cell aging, osteoporosis, and cancer. However, the headline seems to promise more than the article delivers--I like olive oil anyway so I'm totally prepared to believe it'll cure anything).

Oh, and there's also more confirmation that oatmeal is really good for you. Too bad I just don't like it at all unless it's a cookie. A hot bowl of oatmeal? Blechh. But I know all the rest of you love it in all its bland gloppy glory, so don't mind me. (Note: the oatmeal item was discovered while browsing the Happy Hospitalist--a cool blog written by a hospital internist who, like me, has lots of opinions but who, unlike me, actually knows something about medicine).

Which Gym is Best: Big Chain Or Local Place?
According to Consumer Reports, your best bet may be a local gym, not a national chain. The New York Times Blog has more, noting that "national chains were often criticized for long wait times for machines, problems with contracts or fees, poorer cleanliness and less adequate locker rooms than other gyms."

As someone who has taken a lot of road trips, I've visited many Wonderful and Awful gyms--and the chaininess or locallyness of them didn't seem to figure in much. My recommendation? Take advantage of day passes and work out a couple of times before you sign up anywhere, national or local. No huge nationwide survey is going to tell you whether the gym down the street will keep the temperature sauna-like or blare weird music at you or have friendly instructors or great equipment or long waits or smelly locker rooms. Gotta find that stuff out yourself before you fork over big money.

Fat Because You're Broke?
It's no secret there's a link between obesity and socio-economic factors. But for a great no-holds-barred exploration of why these two often go together like coffee and Krispy Kremes, you have to check out this post (and the follow-up) over at Violent Acres.

For example: "Celebrities aren’t wearing size 00’s because they possess more self discipline or willpower than you....These people aren’t better than you. They’re richer than you and it’s likely that they spent more on their bodies than you made last year."

I was new to Violent Acres, and liked the screw-it-all honest style of writing, so I went to look for the comments section so I could suck-up and maybe siphon off some new readers share my appreciation of her writing, but guess what? No comments. Want to know why? Check out her FAQ:

"Why don’t you allow comments on your site? Why don’t you post your email address?"

"Because I don’t want to interact with you...I don’t want to feel obligated to reply to your boring emails. I don’t want to take time out of my day to moderate your silly little comments... Networking is just a fancy way to say ass kissing and a link from you is not important enough to me that I’d actually pretend to like you."

Damn, she saw me coming!

Another Reason Why Crabby Will Never Appear on Jeopardy:
Besides not knowing much about anything, I apparently have an appalling slow reaction time. This slightly addictive self-test is billed as way to figure out if you're tired, but even wide awake, I discovered I suck relative to other people when it comes to reaction time. I tested two different times of the day--didn't help. The thing that's cool about this is that it counts the milliseconds and you get instant feedback as your time gets better or worse. When it's over, they tell you what's average--which for some of us, can be really depressing.

And This Is Why Crabby Will Never Ever Get on A Roller Coaster:
This is either a very funny or very painful video, depending on how much of an anxious wreck you are. Being the high-anxiety type myself, I treated it as an Dire Warning: do not EVER let anyone talk you into doing something you know is going to scare the crap out of you. (How's that for personal development advice? All you "face your fears head on" folks can count me the f*ck out).

Anyway, check out this poor newscaster try to be a good sport and do a live report on a new roller coaster. (Note: it takes about 2 minutes to get to the good/horrible stuff, but it's worth it, and as usual, turn the sound down).

Don't Lie: LOI.
So there is now a new movement to stamp out the misleading and inauthentic use of the acronym "LOL" by web users who are not actually laughing out loud. The use of "LOI," (Laughing on the Inside) is suggested as a replacement, and this is an idea which Cranky Fitness heartily endorses.

And finally, a gratuitous Lolcat psychological test:

Funny Pictures
(Plenty more lolcat silliness at icanhascheezburger)

So have a great Friday everyone!

January 24, 2008

WARNING: Site Weirdness Ahead

I'm going to be working with the template this evening, and I've discovered I can't do much on preview so all the little ugly comings and goings are going to be evident. It will all look very bizarre. I'm hoping we'll be up and running for Random Friday tomorrow.

Thanks for your patience!

Placebo Power: Is Your Doctor In On It?

[By Crabby]
Cartoon by Mike Bannon at Mordant Orange

So you go to your doctor with some painful or otherwise bothersome medical problem, and after perhaps running some tests and/or poking around, the doc nods and mmmh-hmmms a lot and finally takes out the prescription pad.

"Take this twice a day for the next two weeks. It may help your condition--and it certainly won't hurt."

Would you be upset if you later found out that the "medicine" you were taking (and paying for) had no active ingredients that could do anything at all for your ailment?

Because it turns out that 45% of doctors in a recent placebo survey copped to prescribing medication to patients as a placebo. Only 4% of them told the patient that's what they were doing--which kind of make sense. "Take this, it won't help you at all unless you think it will" is somehow not nearly as persuasive.

But is it ethical? It's sort of misleading. But it's not an easy question to answer, because, well, placebos work for a lot of people. That's why they have to have control groups whenever they test a new medication. If you tell people you're giving them something that may help their arthritis or their hemorrhoids or their ear-wax build-up or whatever, a good portion of them will obediently get better even if the medicine itself is useless. The freaky thing about giving people placebos it that it actually results in physical changes in the brain that make people feel better.

Can the placebo effect actually cause you to lose weight? Kateio at Sister Skinny recently alerted us to the hotel maids study. This was a weird one: maids who were told that their hard physical jobs actually burned enough calories to meet the surgeon general's definition of an "active lifestyle" started losing weight and lowering their blood pressure. Those who were told nothing... didn't. Can abstract knowledge actually burn calories? Wouldn't that be weird if it did?

(Note: I'm still a bit skeptical of this study, perhaps because it just seems so amazing. But I wonder: if you were an overweight maid who thought you weren't getting any exercise, and then you suddenly found out you were getting plenty, would that change your attitude about the food you were eating? Might that not be an incentive to make some dietary changes?)

Still, if it turns out to be true, the study has amazing implications. You can think calories away! I'm going along with Katieo on this one, and am going to repeat to myself every day: "blogging burns 300 calories an hour." Or hell, make it 700!

So back to the question we started with. Given that placebos can actually trick some people into feeling better, would you be annoyed to find out you're been given one by your doctor?

Unfortunately, as I mentioned before (in a post about placebo doping in sports), I'm just not a very good placebo person. Being a cranky pessimist, I usually expect things NOT to work. So if I shelled out money on a fake drug that didn't help because my doctor thought she could trick me into feeling better, I might be less than grateful.

On the other hand, I've been doing better with knee pain since I started wrapping ice packs around my knees. Is it the ice? Or is it my tiny little suggestible brain believing the ice is helping? Who knows? (It's the ice, I swear).

How about you guys--would you whomp that lying doctor upside the head with your big bottle of fake pills? Or would you give that doctor a hearty thanks for creative thinking about pain management?

January 23, 2008

True Confessions

So yesterday we were talking about New Years Resolutions and whether people were keeping them or not. And I explained that like many of you, I hadn't made any official resolutions, but I'd already announced earlier I was going to do a couple of things.
  • I was going to get more serious and structured about interval training; and
  • I was going to stop trashing my knees by running.
So today, I'm going to try to explain justify rationalize make up some weasely lame-ass excuses as to why I'm Zero for Two on those.

Yes, like one of those wholesome house-wifey drug abusers straight out of a made-for-tv-movie, I've been keeping up appearances but sneaking out the back door to get high. I may say "exercise" or "workout," but for the last month or two that's included running, and it feels wonderful, so much better than dork-walking! And yeah, my knees do hurt a bit more sometimes (but not THAT MUCH, okay?).

Is this some sudden magical change in the physiology of my middle-aged knees? Maybe that fish oil and glucosamine are finally kicking in, even though I've been taking them for years? Or is this is yet another short-term experiment that will only end badly?

Any sensible person knows the answer to that question--but someone who desperately craves running endorphins is not a sensible person.

Why no doctor visit? Well, the reason is boring--it involves our moving, and filling out insurance applications again, and my wanting to look like I never actually visit a the doctors office. But I swear I'll go once I'm set up again. It's not like I'm doctor-avoidant or anything...

In the meantime, I've discovered icing.

Not the fun kind of icing, like on cupcakes. I discovered that kind of icing quite a long time ago. No, I mean the kind where you wrap something freezing cold around your injured joints after you abuse them. And (this may be wishful thinking, but...) icing helps! I'm pretty darn sure that my knees are not nearly as crotchety after a run as they used to be.

I started with the low-tech version of a Cold Pack:

And yeah, I know you're supposed to use peas or carrots or something more pliable, but we didn't have any of those.

(By the way, Frozen Asparagus? Works way better as an ice pack than as a side dish. Some vegetables just should never ever be frozen and asparagus, it turns out, is one of them.)

Anyway, now I have an Official Expensive cold pack instead, which is good, because the asparagus bag finally split open and was dripping foul asparagus ice-water all over everything.

So enough about the running and the asparagus. What happened to the intervals?

Well, I still do them, because I do think they're really good for you. But I bailed on the whole "structured" part, which worked better on a treadmill. It was too creepy going all-out on a treadmill and hoping I didn't trip and fly off the back and slam into a wall and kill myself. (Paranoid? Who me?)

So I'm back to doing un-timed, unofficial intervals when I run--and these tend to coincide with hills or really great songs on the ipod. I think I'm pushing myself further and harder with these intervals than I did on the treadmill, but in all honesty, I'm probably not doing as quite as many of them.

Whatever. Close enough.

So of course there's two ways to frame this. "Bailing on my resolutions..." or, the much better sounding "Being Flexible!"

And thanks everyone for checking in about your own progress yesterday. Since this is sort of a continuation of yesterday's post, it doesn't leave a whole hell of a lot to stuff to comment on. So feel free to say hi or not or weigh in something totally unrelated that made you happy or cranky or amused you today.

On a personal note, I'll be in and out today, as the Lobster and I are going to be visiting a notary and signing a stack of documents about two feet high, then wiring what seems a rather whopping sum of money cross country. If all goes well, by close of business we'll be the official owners of a place in Provincetown, Massachusetts!

We plan to visit it next week, start getting it fixed up, and put our California house on the market as soon as we can after we get back. (We'll also be in DC again, as the Lobster has some Business to Attend to and I get to come along for the ride). So if I'm a little lax in blog visits etc these days, I promise I'll get much better once things calm down a bit. ('Cause I'm obviously so good at keeping promises).

January 22, 2008

Resolutions Made... and Broken?

[By Crabby]

So let's see, we're getting toward the end of January. And many people made New Years Resolutions a few weeks ago, right?

Remember? You were going to eat healthier or get more exercise or stop charging up your charge cards or clean the house more or remember to floss or whatever.

So... how y'all doing so far?

Should we have an annoying little pep talk?

Because it seems like we're about at the point where the novelty of whatever Great New Initiative you embarked upon will have just about worn off. It's either getting a little easier, because the changes are becoming a habit... or you've come to discover that whatever the hell you promised yourself is WAY harder that you thought. You're about ready to bail or you already have.

If it was a totally ludicrous overambitious plan anyway, bail away! Good riddance to bad resolutions.

But... what if it was a good idea but you just can't seem to live up to it?

Here's where I think it's important to fight the natural tendency towards black/white all-or-nothing thinking. A "broken" resolution doesn't mean you should just walk away and feel like crap about it. "Oh look at my poor broken resolution, it's all smashed to pieces. God I suck. I'll just have to sweep it up and throw it away; maybe I can start over with a shiny new one... next year!"

Nah. Don't be like that.

Instead, try picking up one little shattered piece and don't worry about the rest of the mess. So what if you said you were going to go to the gym 5 times a week and do 25 miles on the treadmill and a bunch of weights and yoga and stuff? Screw that. Go walk a mile during lunch tomorrow and build on that. Were you going to quit smoking forever and made it just a few days? Well, try it again. Every day not smoking counts for a lot, and eventually all the false starts will add up to success.

Just don't beat yourself up for your failure and use self-flagellation as a substitute for action. Honor the progress you were making by taking another tiny baby step. Forget about how far you said you'd go, and concentrate instead on just heading in the right direction. It's that old tortoise and hare thing--small slow steps will win in the end, even if it's not as exciting as charging out the gates and beating the pants off some turtle.

And for those of you who are still at least somewhat on track, hooray for you! Give yourself a lot of acknowledgment and don't just take your awesomeness for granted. Change is hard! Giving up candy bars and eating more broccoli and lifting weights instead of watching Law and Order reruns--that sort of behavior doesn't come naturally for most people. If you're doing stuff like that--well, you rock!

So what about those of us who didn't make New Year's resolutions? Well, we still have goals, which we are either accomplishing... or not.

For example, while my basic "ten commandments" are pretty much still in place, I previously announced on the blog a couple of intentions:
  • I was going to get more serious and structured about interval training; and
  • I was going to stop trashing my knees by running. This meant: (a) I'd go to a doctor again to get them checked out or (b) I'd return grudgingly to race-walking, despite it being the dorkiest form of exercise on the planet.
So, how have I been doing with those two items?

Stay tuned, that's tomorrow's post.

In the meantime, I'd love to know how everyone is doing on their health, fitness, weight loss, or other life goals. Is it harder than you thought, or easier? What's working or not working? Confess your sins or trumpet your accomplishments, it's all good--and very helpful for others who are starting to struggle right now and may need some encouragement or commiseration!

January 21, 2008

Embitterment Disorder: Cool, A Brand New Disease!

[By Crabby]
(OK, So It's Not In a Text Book Yet, But Let's Pretend.)

I don't know why, but I'm always amused whenever the psychological researchers try to introduce a potential new mental disorders (like, say, cyberchondria or blogitis). Perhaps it's that process of taking behavior that seems "part of regular life," (however f*cked up regular life may be), and medicalizing it. Does this mean there will be a pill for it soon? (And will it be a bitter pill to swallow?)

Which is not to say these phenomena aren't real and painful--but pretty soon we're all just going to have to declare ourselves psychological basket cases of one sort or another. None of us will have personalities anymore, just clinical diagnoses.

So this latest study talks about a new potential diagnosis: post-traumatic embitterment disorder. (Quick translation: being all bitter because something bad happened to you.) Being too cheap to subscribe to actual scholarly journals, I can only work off the embitterment abstract, but to me the whole study seemed, well, kind of dumb.

(A brief digression: I love the idea of psychological research, because, well, people are bizarre and fascinating and I want to know why, don't you? But the actual studies themselves--I've read a ton of them and they're pretty much all lame. They're always proposing some obscure model or explaining something obvious in confusing made-up language. I studied psychology for many years--but I can't say I learned much of anything useful, in terms of helping or understanding people, from any of these studies. Microbiology? That's a science. Psychology? I'm not sure it is, yet.)

Anyway, back to Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder. It's defined as "prolonged embitterment, severe additional psychopathological symptoms and great impairment in most areas of life in reaction to a severe negative but not life threatening life event."

Did the abstract include the interesting part, that is, how do you define "embittermnent?" Nope. Are you clinically bitter? No way to know from this. There's apparently a scale, the Bern Embitterment Scale, which sounds very useful to administer to potential spouses, co-workers, friends, or whatever, but I couldn't find any info on it. What do you ask to get people to admit it? "Hell yeah, I'm a bitter pain-in-the-ass to be around, thanks for asking."

So basically what they did for this "study" was they gathered up a bunch of people they already decided fit this description, and compared them to 50 other mentally ill people who didn't. The bitter people were more depressed, suffered more adjustment problems, but were less anxious than the others. Okay, whatever.

But bitterness is an interesting psychological concept. I'm going to ditch the scientists for a moment and struggle with my own conception of what it is and why it's so hard to be around.

Because to me, it's more than mere crankiness (thank goodness). You can bitch and complain about all kinds of things and still be a basically happy well-adjusted person. To me it feels like there's not just depression and negativity about bitterness--it also seems tinged with hostility and entitlement too. Not just "why did this bad thing happen," but "why did this bad thing happen to ME and not YOU? Bad things always happening to ME and they shouldn't. And I'm not going to do anything different to avoid bad things, either, because none of them are MY fault."

But maybe that's just my idea of what bitterness sounds like. You all may have better suggestions as to what we're actually talking about when we say someone is bitter.

Another question: why are the researchers focusing on post-traumatic bitterness, the kind you would get as a result of having an Awful Thing happen? In my experience, bitterness is more interesting (and I think more prevalent) as a personality issue, not as a response to stress.

We all know people suffering from Bitter Personality Disorder, whether they call it that yet or not. They're bitter when something bad happens and bitter when something good happens. It's a world view that often seems independent of actual life events. We've all know people who've been through horrendous trauma and aren't bitter--but other people who stay bitter for weeks over a parking ticket that they totally deserved.

Anyway, I think a better question about those suffering from Embitterment Disorder: how do we get them de-bitterized? That would be useful information.

January 18, 2008

Random Friday

[Posted by Crabby]
natalie dee
Image courtesy of nataliedee.com

So remember we were recently complaining about how conflicting health research was messing with our heads and making us confused about what the heck we were supposed to do? Well, here are some more studies to make you nuts.

Calcium and Older Women:
So yep, you guessed it, after years of research urging women, including older women, to take calcium supplements, guess what they're now discovering? That calcium supplements might increase heart attack and stroke risk in postmenopausal women. The researchers warned that the findings weren't conclusive and needed to be confirmed by other studies. But if true, they wrote, "this effect could outweigh any beneficial effects of calcium on bone."

Revenge of the Acrylamides:
It's as though the scientists have a dark sense of humor, because I had barely finished posting "whatever happened to acrylamide?" when I saw this news: "Acrylamide in Food May Increase Breast Cancer Risk."

(However, true to form, right next to that study was one from a few months ago saying "Acrylamide Not Linked to Breast Cancer." I like that one better.)

So what is acrylamide and how do you avoid it, if we're supposed to be avoiding it again? It sounds nasty, doesn't it, with that icky synthetic "acrylic" prefix?

Well, it's a carcinogenic chemical formed when carb-heavy food is cooked at high temperatures, and you find acrylamides in a lot of processed foods you should be going easy on anyway. French fries and potato chips are the usual example. However, they can also be found in innocent foods too, like toast (even healthy whole wheat toast), and (gulp)in coffee. (Here's a Big List of acrylamide-containing foods if you want to get really depressed.) Smoking will increase your levels a lot too.

Too Depressing to Publish?
Turns out there may be some selective publication of drug studies going on: according to the article, "nearly a third of antidepressant drug studies are never published in the medical literature, and nearly all happen to show that the drug being tested did not work." The result: the drugs look more effective than they actually are.

Now, On the Brighter Side...
If you're female and over 40, a recent Swedish study seemed to suggest that, oddly enough, daily consumption of high-fat dairy products might help with weight control. But don't break out the Ben & Jerry's just yet. Despite a more optimistic report about this in Health, looking at the actual study made the conclusion seem a bit tentative. This study also contradicts another recent study that looked at high fat diary consumption in American men. (And researchers noted that the effect observed in these women differed according to the type of dairy product and the subject's body weight--cheese was good. Ben & Jerry's, alas, was not specifically mentioned).

Confused About All This?
Here's one theory that may explain the conflicting data.

Can you tell we're getting to the silly stuff now?

The Perfect Social Networking Site for a Crab:
Cheerful folks, however, may not appreciate bugroff. (And I believe "bugroff" is properly pronounced with three syllables, not two.)

Advances in Feminine Protection!
Okay, so it may not be an actual product you can buy at Walgreens, but check out the tampon stun gun. I love the concept. Wielding the tampon alone will mostly likely scare off the attacker, and if not: ZZZZZap!

When You Can't Understand The Lyrics:
So do you ever download songs in a foreign language for your workouts, then find yourself hearing English lyrics in them that aren't really there? A mostly hilarious example of this phenomenon can be found here. (Sometimes they stretch a bit too hard looking for dirty interpretations, but often they're spot on. Made me giggle most of the way through).

Health and fitness? Oh well, um... there's dancing in the video too!

Have a great Friday everyone.

January 17, 2008

Parkour and FreeRunning: Yikes!

[Written by Crabby]
Photo by: Sergio Silva

So I followed an innocent link from the mild-mannered Washington Post "Lean Plate Club," (not sure how to link; it's a newsletter you have to sign up for). It just said "Using the outdoors is a great way to keep your workout fresh!"

Well, sure, I can go along with that. So I clicked a few links, and... holy crap! There was a whole weird wild-assed new form of exercise that was lying hidden there behind the understated prose that I'd never heard about.

I don't watch much tv or see many music videos, so perhaps you all are years ahead of me on this.

Parkour and FreeRunning are sort of like skateboarding without a skateboard. From what I understand, parkour places more importance on speed; freerunning is more about the acrobatics. But basically, people run around, usually in urban environments, and gratuitously jump over and off of things. They climb up things that don't look climbable and do flips and fly around in ways that defy gravity. A lot of them seem willing to risk life and limb and incarceration and looking like asses (when they fall) and I didn't see a lot in the way of helmets or pads.

As a sidenote: I went to a rollerskating rink last summer (long story; it was the Lobster's fault). I fell once, banged my head, and said: never again. Never ever ever. And sure, I fell all the time as a kid--but it f*cking hurts a lot more to fall when you're over 40! Alas, parkour is not for me.

But there is something appealing about the idea, as nutty as it sounds. It looks, well, fun. (Especially if you were 17 years old and made of rubber). And sorry, dial-up folks, but there's not other way to really to describe it without resorting to video.

For a more sensible, instructional, less psychotic video, try this Washington post introduction to parcour. I don't think registration is required, but I could be wrong about that.

But for a better idea of why this is whole phenomenon is starting to get some press, check out this video. If you are over the age of 25 or watching at your place of employment, you may want to turn down the sound before it gets past the opening credits--as least on my computer, the music was way too loud.

And here's a website with a little more instructional info about parkour if you're feeling inspired to give it a try.

And please, if you do, keep us posted! Any takers?

January 16, 2008

Gym Class Memories: Happy or Heinous?

[By Crabby]

According to a recent A.P. article, P.E. classes have changed since the old days. That is, in the schools that even have physical education anymore.

Now there's less emphasis on team sports and more on doing exercises and other individual activities.

More attention is being paid to limitations of overweight or obese kids, which is another reason, the article says, why individual activities are preferred. This way the heavier kids can go at their own pace. And "even if the lesson is about a team sport like football, they focus on skills like passing the ball."

You can kind of tell from the tone of the article that we're supposed to think this is all a great thing--and I'm not saying it isn't, exactly. But the lead paragraph starts off like this:

"With music pumping in the background, the kids in Terry Wade's physical education class are in constant motion, going from sit-ups to jumping jacks to curls with light weights"--and the picture is of two wildly happy looking adolescent girls jumping up in the air.

Well, at twelve I would NOT have been wildly happy about that sort of P.E. class.

Back when P.E. was just another word for "recess" to me, occasional drills and calisthenics and walking/jogging around the track seemed like cruel and inexplicable punishments. Why were we stuck doing boring hard icky things when we could be playing something?

I loved playing. Pretty much anything: soccer and basketball and softball and tennis and volleyball and dodgeball and kickball. Even if my lungs were burning and my legs were aching, I'd be having a blast.

But I was lucky. I was a reasonably well-coordinated tomboy. This was back in an era when girls were not allowed to play full-court basketball until high school, and we weren't supposed to know to know how to swing a bat or even which end of a tennis racket to hold. We were all supposed to throw "like girls." In other words, expectations were really freakin' low. So even though I had no special athletic talent, I was considered "good" at sports. Playing them was fun 'cause I was better than a good percentage of the other girls. (I am pretty much incapable of finding things "fun" when I suck at them.)

In fact, once I went off to college, and sports were no longer mandatory so everyone who hated them or was lousy at them didn't play anymore, I found out I wasn't actually all that good at anything. Not coincidentally, sports became a lot less interesting to me and I haven't played any for years.

So for all the people who weren't motivated or coordinated or were self-conscious about their bodies or whatever: I can totally understand why the total elimination of team sports in gym class might seem like a phenomenally awesome idea. (And if you want an off-color but amusing take on why high school gym class sucks, as usual our friends at the Midwest Teen Sex Show are all over it. Warning: NSFW.)

Still, reading the article I had mixed feelings. Sure, P.E. classes should be as inclusive as possible. And there should be a variety of activities so that at any given time, only half of the kids are totally miserable, and not always the same half every day.

But isn't something missing if the kids can't play any team sports during P.E.? Should we not teach algebra because it's going to make some kids feel bad that they're no good at it?

Sure, competition can be ugly sometimes, and I think the whole "character building" aspect of sports is grossly overrated. (A rant for another time). But dang it, I hate to think of a whole generation of kids having to take aerobics classes and do sit-ups everyday and coming to dread them at 13 when they could save that dread for later, when they're 30 or 50 0r whatever. Can't they spend some days at least trying to kick a goal or catch a fly ball or hit a home run? 'Cause that stuff can be, you know, hella fun. Sit ups are never hella fun; I don't care WHAT kind of music is pumping.

So this whole post is really just an excuse to hear about your gym class experiences. Any fond memories or horrible nightmares? It's my impression that the mere word "gym class" can induce in many people the sort of visceral reaction normally associated with "tax audit" or "colonoscopy." Or how do you feel about team sports? Play any voluntarily these days? Feel free to share!

We're getting some strong feelings and amazing stories in the comments section--honestly, I had no idea gym class was so awful for so many people. If you don't normally pop in to read comments, today is a good day to check it out!

January 15, 2008

UnScientific American

[By Crabby]

Cranky Fitness, as a health and fitness blog (albeit a half-assed one), would love to tell you exactly what to do to live a long, happy, healthy life. After all, we all have questions don't we? Questions like:
  • Will drinking milk help me lose weight?
  • Is it better to get seven or eight hours of sleep a night?
  • Is it ok to use sweeteners like Splenda and Equal?
  • Which fruits have the most antioxidants?
  • Should I take glucosamine to help with joint pain?
  • Could putting milk in your tea interfere with antioxidant absorption?
  • Is it better to exercise in the morning or the evening?
So what are the answers to these questions? Strangely enough, it's the same for every single one:

It depends on which f*cking study you read.

Sorry. Each one of those questions has authoritative, research-based, contradictory answers. So our answer is: who the hell knows?

This issue came up when we were talking recently about boiling and steaming vegetables. Some of you expressed frustration that first we heard eating vegetables raw was better; now we're supposed to boil or steam them--but not fry them. Whatever! Isn't enough that we eat vegetables at all when ice cream tastes so much better? And how come the answers keep changing?

We hear about "superfoods" that turn out not to deliver. We read about supplements that are supposed to help us and then find out they do just the opposite. We freak out about possible health hazards and then never hear much more about them again. (What ever happened to toxic shock? Acrylamides? Killer bees?) Post-menopausal women were urged to take hormones, now they're not supposed to. The list goes on and on.

Part of the problem, of course, is that health reporters and blogs like Cranky Fitness jump all over stories that are weird and counter-intuitive. They make great headlines or post titles. I should drink a beer right after my workout, really? And often, the kind of analysis that might be helpful to a careful thoughtful reader is kind of boring to a more casual reader-- so we decide to just leave it out. But it's not just the reporting of studies that sucks. The studies themselves really are all over the map.

I used to get completely excited when some new study came out saying "take this or do that or eat this, it's REALLY good for you." So unless it was something totally obnoxious or disgusting, I'd actually run out and do whatever the study said. Jogging, melatonin, glucosamine, calcium supplements, step aerobics, blueberries, counting fat grams, strength training, chromium, meditation, interval training, fish oil...

Some of those turned out to be really smart. Others--well, not so much.

Likewise, when a study would come out with a dire warning about something I was doing or eating, I'd quit it immediately. At times I've given up or cut way back on: coffee, healthy as well as unhealthy fats, plastic beverage containers, anything with acrylamide, white flour, salt, sugar, eggs, Cokes and other sodas, antiperspirants... the list goes on. And again, some of these were good things to give up, and others were totally stupid moves (in retrospect) that amounted to pointless deprivation.

So now, when a new study comes out? I say, "hmm, that's interesting. Keep me posted, will ya?" I only bother to change my behavior under one of the following conditions:
  • The study tells me to do/eat more of something I already like;
  • It tells me to avoid something I don't care for much anyway;
  • It's an easy change that involves no hardship whatsoever;
  • There have already been a bunch of other studies saying I should be doing/not doing the same thing--and then even then, if the change is too depressing to contemplate I'll just continue to ignore them all.
But here's the thing: as much as I sometimes just want to say "screw these studies, I'll believe what I want to believe," I still think the scientific method beats the alternatives. Through the years, some helpful information as indeed emerged despite all the noise. Some results keep coming up over and over. For example, I feel pretty confident that:
  • It's good to eat natural whole foods, especially vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein.
  • It's bad to eat lots of sugar, white flour, processed foods, saturated fats and transfats.
  • Exercise is good.
  • Sitting on your ass all the time is bad.
  • Stress and smoking are bad.
  • Relaxation and sex and companionship and a good night's sleep are all good.
  • And you really should floss your teeth and wear a seatbelt.
These things may seem obvious now, but 40 years ago this stuff wasn't at all clear. So, despite being wrong and annoying sometimes, yay science!

And even with all my grousing, I still intend to pay more attention to a large study conducted by a reputable research institution, with control groups and all the bells and whistles, than what my next door neighbor tells me he just read in some book. (Especially since my next door neighbor is eighty years old, slightly crazy, and is quite fond of talking about his prostate).

So Cranky Fitness will keep reporting the research as it comes out, especially if a study says good things about chocolate, wine, pet ownership, naps, avocados, massages, coffee, goofing off, or cupcakes. But you may want to take it all with a grain of salt--which may or may not be hazardous to your health.

January 14, 2008

Was it Something We Said?

[By Crabby]

Warning: this post is pretty much bereft of any breaking health and fitness news. But as Mary is busy moving right now, our standards are temporarily lowered. Do come back though, as she won't be gone forever.

Oh wait, here's a health item.
I saw this in the paper and it's sitting right here so why not? A test is in development may allow dentists to spot breast cancer with a saliva test. They've just identified a bunch of new proteins associated with breast cancer that will raise the accuracy of the test, they believe, from 85% to 95%.

Won't that be a nice non-intrusive way to look for early signs of a deadly disease? We're used to spitting at dentist offices anyway, and they're pretty used to dealing with our spit, so it works out great for everyone. Unfortunately though, the process for testing and approval is excruciatingly slow, so it looks like it's still a few years down the road until it's good to go.

Whoops, It's Statcounter Again
Anyway, here's the actual reason for the post: I was checking my statcounter recently, and came across some interesting entries. Now that Cranky Fitness is a little bigger, I can no longer catch all the comings and goings, but I do like to pop in and take a peek whenever I can. (Oh hell, why try to pretend: I'm still totally addicted to stats, even after being forced to change from Sitemeter to Statcounter.)

(Technorati's good too, but it's not as fun since we lost almost all the old links by changing from the blogspot address. Sigh. So if you're a blogger doing Cranky Fitness the tremendous honor of linking to us, it is even more appreciated if you use the www.crankyfitness.com address so we look bigger and more influential like a real blog!)

Anyway, what did Statcounter reveal?

First the good news:
Cranky Fitness got a very nice endorsement from a blog we admire very much, Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds. But this is not just a courtesy "thanks for the link from a blog with lots of visitors" mention. This is to urge you go visit Wide Lawns and check it out. If you enjoy quirky, bad-ass, opinionated, hilarious, uncompromising, extraordinarily well-written observations, family history, and personal anecdotes, do stop by. This is a blog written by a real writer, a fact that makes me insanely jealous.

Now the Weird News:
Cranky Fitness has been blocked! We are apparently offensive enough to have been filtered out by members of "Covenant Eyes," a group dedicated to helping protect the vulnerable from the lurid temptations of the internet. Of course, we're horror-struck to have run afoul of a group so friendly with the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families. (We won't link there, you can google. Though we totally approve of both Children and Families).

So what was it we could have posted that triggered this? Is the frequent use of f*ck and assh*le? Perhaps they are not fooled by the use of asterisks. Is it the penis post in the sidebar? The vagina post in the sidebar? (Maybe they know what a hoo-hoo is). The post on gay bombs? The fact that many people arrive here googling "big bouncy breasts" only to discover a post about leotards and sports bras?

Or perhaps it's not our content. Perhaps Cranky Fitness is just so darn addictive people are having trouble staying away from it and it's ruining their lives. (Sure, that's it!)

Who knows. We won't lose any sleep over it. In fact Cranky Fitness can only aspire to become more of an addictive destructive internet temptation--like Sitemeter and Statcounter! (In our dreams).

January 11, 2008

Random Friday

[By Crabby]

So it's Friday, and that means it's we've got another mishmash of health research and Weird Stuff waiting here for you at Cranky Fitness. And it's a short mishmash too, maybe more just a mish, due to an untimely computer disaster.

Now wouldn't it be a shock if one day you checked in to a Random Friday post and there was no disclaimer, just a well-organized round-up of important health news? Ha! Anyway, let's jump right in, shall we?

Boil your vegetables?
You may have read that boiling your vegetables destroys the nutrients in them, but new research says: does not! In fact this study found that boiling vegetables preserved or even boosted nutritional value in comparison to raw vegetables, whereas frying allowed more loss of nutrients. Broccoli, in particular, got an antioxidant boost when it was boiled or steamed.

Another Weight-Related Health Hazard:
According to this research, obese people are less likely to use their seatbelts than other folks, with about 55 percent of extremely obese individuals reporting they did not use a seatbelt. The researchers said: "efforts should be made to raise public awareness about seatbelt extender availability, and manufacturers not offering seatbelt extenders should be encouraged, or required, to make them available." Crabby says: "hell yeah."

File This One Under: Oops!
Apparently some hospital's 'Do Not Resuscitate' wristbands look a lot like Lance Armstrong 'LiveStrong' bracelets. So far, close calls have been reported, but no accidental Lance-related dnr's... yet.

And File This One Under: Yecch!
Don't know how we missed this article, but it says that 1 in 5 Chicago area restaurants studied had more bacteria and fecal matter in their ice cubes than in a random testing of toilet water. I'd say "glad I don't live in Chicago..." except it's probably the same everywhere. Curiously, however, many of us go to restaurants and aren't dead yet. Maybe this is another study endorsing the relative cleanliness of toilet water and/or toilet seats, which have proven cleaner than cell phones, steering wheels, and drinking fountains.

Specialized Food Pyramid:
This silly link supplies an antidote to one-size-fits all nutritional advice.

And Yeah, Christmas is Over, but...
Those of us with a twisted sense of humor can still enjoy this creepy but strangely compelling cartoon.

Too Many Demands?
Crabby already has a Ph.D. in How to Avoid Responsibilities, but some of you go-getters might need some tutelage. Sample advice:

"The ‘required amount’ of work is arbitrarily determined. How often does the car need washing; how much of our work is necessary? More to the point, how little could we get away with? People who talk a lot about duty and responsibility probably never know how much they depress everybody else."

Trying to Get Unhealthy?
This amusing video will show you how. Note: for those of you who frequent the comments section, the guy who put it together is "weightlossguru," the cheerful man who shows up sometimes with a duck on his head.

News from the Sidebar...

Cranky Fitness is very pleased to have added a couple of great new sponsors, whom we hope aren't scared off by all the shenanigans that go on beside their ads. Note: these are not soul-less corporate conglomerates like G**gle, but actual live human bloggers with lots of great weight-loss and fitness tips and insights! For example, at Iowa Avenue, which is a whole weight-loss community, you can explore whether your body image is realistic or get better about planning your meals. And Fat Man Unleashed has tons of great advice, including a special ass-kicking workout for bloggers who have trouble leaving their laptops long enough to get fit.

So have a great Friday everyone! (Crabby will be praying to the Computer Gods for speedy delivery of a new laptop to replace the one that died. She is working on an ancient one dug up from the basement that freezes, crashes, and needs rebooting approximately every three seconds. She will be boning up on Stress Management over the weekend.)

January 10, 2008

A Magic Weight Loss Pill! It's True!

[By Mary]

If anyone but Dr. Mirkin wrote an article about a Magic Weight Loss pill, I wouldn't bother reading past the title. However, it might really be true this time.

(Dr. Mirkin puts out an interesting and intelligent e-Zine on health and fitness. If he were cranky as well, we'd have to just hang up our hats and go home, leaving him to do all the health reporting for us. He's really good.)

Quick biology review, stolen from Dr. Mirkin's article

You have two absorption systems in your body. You absorb most of your food as it passes through your small intestines. Food that is not absorbed in the small intestine goes to your colon. The colon contains a huge colony of bacteria that work to ferment undigested carbohydrates such as soluble fiber into short chain fatty acids and simple sugars that can then be absorbed through the colon walls into the bloodstream. Most people get about ten percent of their total calories from food absorbed through their colons.

That wasn't too long, was it?

Scientists have found that one of two different types of bacteria is dominant in mice. If the mouse is obese, it has a different type of bacteria in its system than a lean mouse has. The bad bacteria are called Firmicutes, which I swear sounds like a name thought up by a Marketing department to describe a new diet that gets rid of cellulite and makes you want to wear really short shorts. The good bacteria are called Bacteroidetes. (They really need to re-think their PR strategy.)

When I first skimmed this article, methought the findings were simply cause and result. In other words, it seemed to me that if you eat a mostly high fat diet, the "bad" bacteria proliferate because they've got more food that they like to eat. It's like providing a moist enclosed environment and then seeing a lot of very happy mildew all over the walls.

That's what I was thinking, until I got to this sentence:
"Transplanting Firmicutes bacteria into the guts of lean mice made them fat."

If that's true, perhaps the reverse is also true? If transplanting the Bacteroidetes bacteria would make fat mice thin, then there really could be such a thing as a magic weight loss pill.

Until then, I suppose we could stick with the eating-healthy-food strategy. It's not only helpful to keep the weight off, it also keeps you healthy in other ways, such as reducing the levels of inflammation in the body. Researchers in Buffalo have published studies suggesting that if a fat person and a thin person both eat a high-fat fast food meal, the obese person suffers ill effects longer than the person who is not overweight.

But that's so boring! A nice simple pill would be much nicer, preferably one that's all sparkly and cool looking. Or at least one that costs a lot of money. Since if it's cheap, well, it must not be very good, right? Maybe that's one reason no one is interested in the eating-healthy-food strategy -- it's cheaper than the fancy pills you see advertised on television.

January 09, 2008

Icky Fitness Ad Roundup

Usually, it's fun to see advertisements for healthy products and services. You know, like running shoes or organic natural food, cool gym equipment, bikes, or whatever. We love to see the great gadgets and cute outfits and sturdy functional gear and all these happy people! They're all working out in gorgeous settings doing the very things we're trying to motivate ourselves to do--but suddenly it looks like a blast, not drudgery.

But then there are the other ads--the ones that make you want to take your healthy little magazine and shred it, spit on it, and then set the whole mess on fire. Or at least sigh and grumble a bit.

Now Cranky Fitness could fund an expedition out to the local newsstand to dig some of these up--but well, we'd rather just steal from acknowledge the contributions of some of our favorite bloggers who have found some awful ones already.

Faux Elitism: Let's Trash the Joggers!

First up: Katieo over at Sister Skinny had a great post about this obnoxious ad campaign by Pearl Izumi. (Note: coincidentally, Katie and the two authors of Cranky Fitness all happen to own this brand of shoe. Since I can barely ever find them in a store (and won't be looking quite as hard now), this was a surprising discovery. Are bloggers naturally attracted to pretentious shoes? If it's any excuse, none of us had seen the ads before we bought them.)

Anyway the point of the ad is to separate the wild, daring, dangerous, heroic "runners" from the lazy, boring, half-assed "joggers." You're supposed to identify as a runner, no matter how slow you yourself go, and look down on mere joggers. The ad portrays runners as "endangered" by all those joggers messing up the purity of their running experience by merely existing.

Not sure if you're a runner or a jogger? Some tips: if you do your "running" on a treadmill or with a stroller or an iPod, sorry, you're not really a runner. (You may, however, be a runner and own a plasma tv or an expensive car). The answer, if you're a poor pathetic jogger and want to be a runner? Just go faster--and buy their shoes.

Yeccch. Wouldn't it be great if they were pushing health and fitness for everyone, not just the "special" people? Why do they feel their experience is cheapened if others are allowed to have it too? Jogging is great exercise! Screw you, Pearl Izumi.

"Fit" Women

Kelly at Fitness Fixation found this ad for Champion products--which looks kind of normal until you check out the width of the women's arms (particularly the one in the blue shorts). Kelly has a great rant not only on model selection but on the general assumption that women should aspire to be skinny, not muscular.

It's annoying enough when underwear or high-fashion models look dangerously thin and/or airbrushed. But when you're in the sports clothing industry, wouldn't it be nice to pick a few women who look like they could lift a ten pound weight or even a can of Diet Coke without breaking an arm?

Women as Scantily Clad Cuts of Meat:

This skeezy ad for Equinox Fitness Clubs was spotted by Leslie, who has a great blog called The Weighting Game over at iVillage. (She has also written a book, making me jealous, about women and body image called "The Locker Room Diaries.")

The ad is awful enough as is, with a collection of vapid, plastic, women-as-pieces-of furniture. (Why in the world does anyone aspire to be furniture?) But what I would have missed, had she not pointed it out, was the fact that these women have been marked up like pieces of meat with a marking pen. It's creepy and confusing, too--does anyone have any idea why that's supposed to make you want to go to the gym?

And Finally, Combining The Most Loathsome Elements of All the Rest: the Anti-Gym!

Amy at Shaping Up My Life directed us to this rather amazing gym. Or sorry, anti-gym. No, wait, it's "Denver’s only health and vanity lifestyle boutique!" Think that's weird? Oh, hang on, it gets weirder.

Like the Pearl Izumi people, they need their second class citizens, the "chubbies," to make fun of. Naturally though, you can have your beer gut and still not be a "chubby" if you go to their gym and work out. The "chubbies" are always other people. So please don't be offended by their "No Chubbies" T-shirts.

Like the Equinox Ads, women seem to be pieces of meat, and like the Champion Ads, their fitness seems to be judged by odd standards. At least if you go by the pictures, which are basically porn with clothes on. Women are featured licking lollipops, clinging (in pairs) to men, and getting ready to make out with each other. Oh wait, they can also be cage dancers! And do martial arts--or something. (In one odd photo, a robotic looking woman seems to be trying to fend off a quasi-sexual attack by a man wielding a cupcake. )

WTF? Could someone explain this to me? If this is a macho gym aimed at guys who like porn, then what's with the "vanity lifestyle boutique" language? What actual macho guy would want to go to a vanity boutique? This is not to say there's anything wrong with a gym being sexy, or edgy, or "adult." But why is sexy always defined through 13-year old male eyes?

However, one persons "ick" can be another persons "wow, that's creative!" so I'm curious if others find these ads to be annoying too or if it's just me. And has anyone noticed any other health or fitness ads that grate?

January 08, 2008

This Just in...Live 14 More Years!

[By Crabby]

This study is the sort we love here at Cranky Fitness: Doing these four things helps people live longer. Fourteen years longer, on average.

What's so great about this research? Well the four good health habits are very likely things you're already doing, or at least trying hard to do. So here's some additional motivation to keep on track. And while the study talks about length of life, rather than quality of life, you can bet you're getting both with these four:

  1. Not smoking;
  2. Eating at least 5 servings of fruit/vegetables a day;
  3. Drinking in moderation; and of course,
  4. Exercising.

Not smoking was the biggest life-extender; fruits and veggies were next. Interestingly, exercising and moderate drinking were tied. (This does NOT mean you should substitute Pina Coladas for push-ups--but if you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, it's another reason to say "cheers!")

Another great thing about this study is that it's not one of those that extols the benefits of healthy living and then comes up with some wimpy little number at the end. You know the kind--you get all excited because you're doing something healthy, then you get to the final paragraph and it says you're 3% less likely to die of some disease that you hadn't even thought to worry about in the first place.

No, this one isn't wimpy. Fourteen years, on average. (Just think how much more whining I'll be able to fit in!)

Note: this is just a little mini-post, tossed out hastily because we'd prefer you to see the study first here on Cranky Fitness. We'd like you to associate us with good health, good news, fine wines, and longevity. Please return to our regularly scheduled programming and check out Mary's post below for actual thoughtful analysis and humor.