April 30, 2008

Your Brain on Blueberries

[By Crabby]

So yet another study has come out saying that blueberries and other phytochemical-rich foods are good for your brain. These superfoods are even supposed to be "effective at reversing age-related deficits in memory."

Hooray! I love hearing that the healthy food I make myself eat all the time is really good for me.

But hey... wait JUST one minute.

I eat tons of blueberries and consume boatloads of other phytochemicals. And I exercise and get Omega 3's and do all that good brain stuff. And how good is my memory?

It's crap!

Well, it's not Alzheimer's time yet, but since I hit my mid-forties, I've definitely noticed an ever-increasing tendency to space things out.

Someone Never Forgets, but it Sure Ain't Crabby

Would it be that much worse if I was subsisting on the average American Big Mac and Coke and Twinkie diet? Would I enter and leave and re-enter and re-leave and re-re-enter and re-re-leave a room ten times, instead of five, before I finally recalled what I the heck I was looking for?

(Note: Apologies to you young folks. This post will seem boring and irrelevant. Check back in a few years when you, too, are wandering all around the house trying to recall where you set down your coffee cup only to discover you're actually still carrying the cup in your hand.)

Growing up, I'd heard that people's memories started to decline as they got older. But I thought they meant older older. Like, 80. I had no idea that stuff started slipping so soon.

Of course, if I'd just admit my memory is starting to go down the toilet, then perhaps I'd develop better coping skills. I'd write lists and learn mnemonics and rehearse things and just generally pay more attention. But instead, I just float around like I'm still 20 and don't really try to remember things. I just assume that important information, once heard, will be recalled.

But sometimes, it isn't recalled. It's just gone-- phhht!

It's not just the important stuff, either. It's all kinds of things you used to know. Have you ever sat with a group of middle aged people watching Jeopardy? You could make a whole new game out of it. Every time someone says something like: "I know that! Damn it, I know I know that!"--you all have to eat a handful of blueberries.

But here's the one that bothers me the most: often, I will think I have forgotten to do something. So, for example, I'll drag my sleepy ass out of bed and stumble downstairs at 3 a.m. because I suddenly realize I didn't remember to feed the cat or lock the door or whatever.

But of course I once I'm down there, I discover I did remember to lock the door and feed the cat--I just have no memory of having done it.

Perhaps there are only so many slots for mundane day-to-day memories, and by your mid-forties, most of these are full. I'm sure if I went to feed the cat one evening and discovered she was standing on her hind legs and had sprouted opposable thumbs and was using the can opener to help herself to our tuna supply--well, I'd remember that.

I hope.

(There are some memory resources here and a lot of products and services out there you can purchase which can help to train your memory. Personally, rather than add yet another set of exercises to my to-do list, I'd rather just forget things and whine about it. Other tips I've seen: get more sleep, magnesium, fish oil, choline, exercise, relaxation, social activity, and sage.)

Is anyone else a bit forgetful sometimes? Any suggestions?

April 29, 2008

A breathtaking approach to exercise?

[By Merry]

I mean the title of this post literally. Honest.

One of my pet peeves is people using the word "literally" incorrectly.
Friend - "He was so upset that he literally exploded with anger."
Me - "Wow, that must have been messy."
Friend - "Huh?"

[Crabby reaches out a claw -- figuratively -- and drags Merry back to the point]

Anyway, the point is that pollution is a problem.

Breathing on an airplane is bad for you. Apparently noxious vapors leak into the cabin through the air-conditioning system and can cause breathing difficulties, fatigue and even permanent brain damage. Some former pilots claim they have been left unable to fly after exposure to this recycled air.

Breathing while living next door to a shoe factory is apparently really bad for you. One woman spent 8 years fighting the shoe factory and the city council because she claimed the glue fumes from the factory were poisoning her. (It's a depressing, scary tale.)

But apparently you can exercise when you're in Los Angeles on a windless day. Exercising when air quality is bad is okay????

I ripped off leveraged the details of this study from Dr. Mirkin's site.

Researchers at University of Dublin asked whether a person would absorb more pollutants while walking or cycling slowly, or while covering the same distance at a faster rate. You would think that the faster you move, the harder you breathe, causing you to absorb more pollutants through your lungs. However, the opposite is true. Cycling and walking at a faster speed causes you to breath at a higher rate over a shorter duration of exposure. This results in lower total absorption of pollutants than cycling or walking the same distance at a slower speed (Journal of Environmental Science and Health, November 2007). The reduction was greater at lower concentrations of pollutants than at high concentrations, and was more marked in walkers than in cyclists. They found that fast walking decreased absorption of pollutants by 26 percent compared to walking slowly, while cycling fast decreased absorption by 17 percent over slow cycling .

This has me puzzled. The more breaths I take, the more I exercise, the better? Every expert I've ever heard speak on the subject says that when the air quality is bad, you shouldn't exercise. How much weight should I put in this study?

Sometimes all the different studies out there in Internet-land drive me crazy.

On the other hand, you can also find people on the Internet who get paid to drink or get paid to eat chocolate. So it's not all bad.

April 28, 2008

Losing Your "Cool"

[By Crabby]

I suppose I shouldn't admit this, but one of my favorite things about exercising (and there aren't that many) is the "coolness" factor.

Sure, we're supposed to just do it for our health and our sense of accomplishment or whatever. Because we're all far too secure and self-confident and evolved to care what other people think of us.

But for me, feeling cool and smug is one of the best parts of getting exercise! I know there must be others like me too, aren't there? We imagine that our sedentary friends who find out we go to the gym at 6am, or even complete strangers in cars who see us running uphill in pouring rain are thinking: wow, I could never make myself do that! (Instead they are more likely thinking "what a crazy freak," but that's irrelevant. We know we're cool).

(How Crabby Imagines Herself When She Exercises)

Imagined Coolness is part of what makes those intervals and sore muscles and early wake-up times worth it. Look at me! I'm exercising! Isn't that awesome! Don't I rock?

(Closer to How Crabby Actually Comes Across)

When Even Imagined Coolness is Impossible

Unfortunately, some exercise situations are NOT conducive to even an imagined sense of coolness. I'm sure everyone has their own list. Are there ever times when you feel particularly self-conscious about your workout?

I'd love to hear what your own personal Un-favorites are. In the meantime, here are mine:

Top Six Ways to Feel Uncool Exercising

1. Do Stupid-Looking Stretches Outside of a Class.

If you're in an actual yoga or other fitness class, with an instructor and a bunch of other helpless victims students, you can practically bend over and stick your head up your ass (if you are flexible) without feeling stupid. Because the instructor told you to stick your head up your ass, and so you're supposed to, and everyone else is doing it too!

However, what happens when you are not in class but instead are out on your own in the tiny stretching area in the corner of the gym? And all around you are burly weight lifters and snotty type-A executives on treadmills who have not themselves ever been to stick-your-head-up-your-ass class? Do you still go right ahead and do it?

One of my least least favorite stretches for public consumption is, I think, called the Cat Stretch. You get on all fours and curl your back up towards the ceiling (not too bad), but then you do the opposite and drop your stomach towards the floor and stick your rear end way up in the air like an animal in heat. Unfortunately, it is the second part of this stretch, the butt-in-the-breeze part, that I most need to do to loosen up my tight lower back muscles.

My other least favorite is the iliotibial band stretch, in which you cross your legs and do a side stretch. I look like a six year old child who desperately needs to pee. But if I don't cross my legs, I don't get much of a hip stretch.

See, Even Cute People Look a Bit Silly Doing This
(Photo: Dr. Pribut, provider of handy Sports Medicine tips).

Sometimes I close my eyes when I do these stretches so no one can see me.

2. Go Race Walking

I've written about race walking before, (twice) so I won't belabor it.

Let's just say I saw finally saw someone else besides me race-walking a few weeks ago. And my immediate gut-level uncensored reaction was: "what an asshole!" The guy was doing it much more gracefully than I ever do, too. But there seems to be no way to race-walk without looking simultaneously prissy and deranged, unless maybe you're doing it in an official race with a number on your chest.

3. Try New Things at the Gym

It's supposed to be good to try new things, right? And it's no problem if you have a personal trainer to introduce appropriate new exercises and show you how to do them.

But what if you're too cheap to hire one and prefer to read about new exercises on the internet that sound cool but you have no clue how to do them in real life?

I have too many examples of this to list them all... but here's one: not long ago I read a very persuasive article about the amazing benefits of running backwards on the treadmill.

It's, um... somewhat harder than it sounds.

4. Exercise Out of Context

You're standing on a platform waiting for a train or whatever. There are lots of people around, but plenty of space still available. You realize you could be making efficient use of this wasted time by doing the stretching you forgot to do for the last three days, or, if you're particularly willing to look like a jerk, knocking out some jumping jacks or push-ups.

Do you?

There are stealth moves, like pretending to tie your shoes to stretch out your hamstrings, but if you do it without bending your knees you still look kinda funny.

If you have a co-conspirator, I've discovered, you feel less doofy exercising out of context, but it's surprisingly hard to do alone, even if it's a perfectly logical thing to do.

5. Make Peculiar Clothing Choices

Hey, 10776-- Orange hat with a red shirt? Don't think so!
(Photo by Marganz)

Sometimes these fashion violations are not intentional. Ever realize that all your running clothes are in the laundry and too toxic for the "shake-it-out and pretend it's clean enough" recovery method?

Do you skip your workout? Or do you do it anyway, wearing something tattered and sweat-stained, or originally intended as a gag gift, or belonging to another person who may be a child or your 83 year old mother-in-law or someone 10 inches taller than you?

Note: it does not help you look like less of a weirdo to announce loudly to no one in particular that you don't normally dress like this.

6. Karaoke Syndrome

The only way to truly make aerobic exercise enjoyable, in my opinion, is to do it to the pounding beat of music on an mp3 player. I do NOT sing along when people are around (though I may sometimes be forced to mouth the lyrics silently to myself if the beat is too good).

But sometimes I find myself alone first thing in the morning, and the street or the trail or the track or whatever is deserted, and I think... what the hell.

How liberating to sing along with the rockin' beat! It makes aerobic exercise almost fun! Wheeee!

And so what if you're middle-aged, can't carry a tune, and will sing along to just about anything on your playlist? It's fun!

"You and me baby we ain't nothing but mammals, so let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel..."

"Can't you hear the music pumpin' hard like I wish you would?
Now push it, push it reeeeeal good..."

Why is it that the more inappropriate the lyrics are, the more likely someone is to come bounding around a blind curve or pass you sneakily from behind?

Nothing like discovering your off-color warbling has been audible.

Does anyone else ever feel hopelessly Uncool during your workout?

April 25, 2008

And the winnah is...

[By Merry]

[photo courtesy of flickr]

The moment has come to draw the magic number to win a Lipton bicycle.

You know, I was going to glean Merry's top 10 favorite ways to stay young from the terrific comments on the Lipton Bike post, but the more I read them the less I liked the idea. Because there were far too many great ideas to choose a mere 10 favorites. And so many of the comments were thoughtful and inspiring and funny! (Those of you who haven't read them all yet might want to go back and do so). I think you all deserve a bicycle. (Lipton? Any chance that... oh. Well, it was worth a try asking.)

Okay, the moment has come. We will now run the Random Generator, numbering 1 through 137 inclusive, and have the magic computer pull out a number.
[Well, it's not me. Crabby, is that you in disguise?]

Please imagine some dramatic music playing right now, if you would be so kind. It helps build the moment.

[The suspense begins to build...]

And the winnah...
[Anxious crowds gather to hear the news from Cranky Fitness]

of the Cranky Fitness Lipton Tea Bike Contest...


[Oh Please... ]





Okay, enough drama.

The winner is Pushupullme!
Congratulations ! You are now the proud possessor of a Lipton road bicycle!

Pushupullme, what you need to do is:
Send your name and address to crabbymcslacker @ gmail.com (yes, without the spaces) so we know where to send the bike! Lipton has promised not to use your name for any marketing purposes. Along with the bicycle, Lipton will send you a $75 check to have the bike assembled.

Thank you everyone for all the great comments! I enjoyed reading all of them. I only wish everyone could win a bike!

April 24, 2008

When work conflicts with working out, what do you do?

humorous pictures

[By Merry]

Them: No pressure, just get it done right away.
Me: Instead of the other 12 things I have to do asap?
Them: No, in addition to them. You don’t mind, do you?

Pop quiz:

Is the above a
a) scenario for assertiveness training?
b) nightmare that you hope to wake from in a couple of minutes?
c) way to make sure that you do not get any exercise today?

The answer is: d) what my day was looking like yesterday. Technical writers, even the most prepared and organized of them, live their lives to the rhythm of Forces Beyond Our Control.

So one week things are calm and fairly rational, I only work 40 hours, and it’s not that hard to fit in the exercising around the work day.

Other weeks I can chose two of the following three options:
1 – work
2 – sleep
3 – exercise

That’s when the fun really starts. (I keep telling myself it’s fun. Nothing wrong with a good healthy self-delusion.)

Best solutions that I've found so far to manage working and working out:

1 – Take five minute breaks during the day (at least one in the morning, one in the evening) to go up and down the stairs. Stairs get the heart rate moving real fast. Plus, if I present a moving target, it’s harder for people to grab me and say “hey, are those docs ready yet? Never mind if the product doesn’t work, just write the manual anyway. And make sure everything's accurate.”

2 – Take a whole 20 minutes to step outside at lunch and run away. (And come back, alas.) I can eat at my desk – I know it’s not the best way to go, but it beats not eating and it beats not exercising. A steady 20 lunchtime minutes of getting the blood pumping and the respiration even slightly elevated helps keep the stress down, too.

3 – Alternate days when I exercise and days when I just go home (after 12-15 hours) and sleep. If I’m too tired to eat in the evening, that’s better than skipping breakfast.

4 – Take ten minutes at the end of the day to breath and stretch and turn off the brain. Andrew Weil has a whole CD devoted to breathing exercises. They do work, when I have the patience to listen to them and practice them.

4a - Sometimes I’m so stressed I want to kick the calm, relaxing CD player across the room – I can’t relax, I’ve got too much to do! – but in that case I take ten minutes to pace on Manuel, my new treadmill.

I’m probably going to get banned from certain blog-feeds for saying this, but Manuel still needs lubricant before he’s really useful… okay, I can’t even type that without blushing. I suppose I will have to learn to stop referring to my exercise equipment by pet names.

But you probably have better ideas

So what do you do when you’re absolutely nose-to-the-grindstone crunched for time?

You get extra points if you can describe your exercise activities, if any, without using words such as ‘lubricant’ – Crabby has standards, even if I don’t.

And yes, this is the last time we're going to mention the Lipton Tea Bike Contest. The contest ends tomorrow morning at 5:38 a.m. Oregon time (Pacific Daylight Time). That will be your last chance to leave a comment about how to stay young and win a bike! (And trust us, if we could find a way to have all of you win a bicycle, we would! Crabby and I both think you guys deserve lots of nice stuff like free bicycles.)

April 23, 2008

Out of The Basement and Into the Streets

[By Crabby]

[Note: This post was edited to remove all the introductory chat about the Lipton bike contest, which is now, unfortunately, over. But we still want you to get back on your bike!]

Are You Suffering from BIBD?

Please raise your hands: are there any of you out there who think riding a bicycle is an excellent idea, a healthy, practical, good-for-the-environment activity, but it's just too much of a pain to do in real life?

If so, you may be suffering from "BIBD," a medical condition we just made up. The good news? It's sometimes entirely curable! Read on to find out more.

How do I know about BIBD? Because I suffered from it too, starting sometime in 1983 until just last week. It's too early to tell if I'm cured, but I'm finally "on the road" to recovery!

So what is BIBD? It's short for Bicycle-in- the-Basement Disorder. (It also goes by the names "Bicycle in the Garage," "Bicycle in Storage at your Parent's House," or "I really Should Buy a Bike Someday" disorder.)

Warning Signs of BIBD:

1. You never or hardly ever ride a bicycle anymore;
2. You have access to a bike or the ability to get your hands on one without too much hardship;
3. You used to enjoy bike riding when you were younger;
4. You are still physically able to ride;
5. There are places near where you live suitable for bike riding and you feel slightly guilty when you see other people enjoying them.

Important Distinction: It's not a disorder if you have a Damn Good Reason for not ever riding a bike. Some of these include:

1. Your knees or back or other body parts won't let you.
2. You live somewhere where biking is unsafe.
3. You can't afford a bike.
4. Even in good weather, on a nice safe smooth level bike trail, you never really enjoyed being on a bike.
5. You have no place to put a bike.
6. Other reasons I'm forgetting which you'll let me know about in the Comments section.

Recovery From BIBD

Actually, there is no one cure for BIBD; rather, there are an arsenal of BIBD therapies and approaches.

1. Borrow or rent a bike somewhere fun.

Yeah, it's annoying to think about paying outrageous rental fees if you already have a bike, but never ride it. But if your bike needs fixing, or you never seem to make time for it in your regular life, then consider riding around somewhere scenic on vacation. Is it fun? This is important information.

2. If your bike is no longer ridable, go get it fixed or replace it.

Forget the fact you used to do all your own bike maintenance. Are you doing it now? No, you are not. So take the damn bike to the shop. Or if it's totally trashed, get another one. (You can get a bright shiny new one, or buy a used bike from someone who took better care of theirs than you did of yours). Promise yourself, if you need to, that when you start riding again for real, you'll find your tools and learn how to do all that stuff yourself again. But don't let the fact your bike is in a state of disrepair keep you from ever riding again.

3. Start with really short rides. Otherwise, your ass will hurt.

Yeah, your legs too, but you're sort of prepared for that. It's the ass thing that will take you by surprise. The weird thing is, it won't necessarily hurt the first time or the second but may wait until the third or fourth time out. (At least that's what happened to me). Keep your rides short and get used to it again gradually.

(And does anyone understand, physiologically, how exactly your butt manages to "get used to it" again? Are there callouses in there somewhere? Or do your butt nerve endings die off so you don't feel soreness anymore? That's always been a mystery to me).

4. Go on scenic routes to pretty places, if these are available.

It's worth a little extra planning to keep your rides really pleasant the first few times out. You may have to buy a rack for your car if your immediate neighborhood sucks. Just don't make your only destination commuting to work, especially if you hate your job, until you teach yourself that it's the job, not the bike, that sucks.

5. Once you remember that biking is a mostly-fun activity, start saving time, gas, and parking money by combining exercise with commuting or errands.

Depending on where you live, biking may have some practical advantages in addition to the exercise you're getting. Do you live somewhere where parking is nearly non-existent? Your bike could allow you to be one of those smug people who doesn't even care!

6. Buy some fun accessories.

If you haven't been biking for a long time, you're missing out on a chance to Get Cool Stuff. The nice thing about biking is that aside from the bike, there isn't all that much you need-- but there are great little gadgets and packs and clothing and such if you want them. And then the only way to enjoy your new purchase is to get out on your bike again and try it out!

Note: don't skip the helmet. Yes, it may squish your hair and make you look a bit geeky. But in the same way that forgetting your umbrella attracts rain clouds, not wearing a helmet is a magnet for crazy drivers and funky road conditions and concussions.

7. Move somewhere where biking is easy and fun.

This may seem an extreme step, but...

Too many people put fitness last when they are figuring out where they want to live. If you are thinking about moving anyway, and are lucky enough to have some options, consider a town or neighborhood that has bike lanes and bike paths and cool biking destinations. I often wonder why people are so willing to trade off having walking, running, and biking opportunities in order to live in large energy-hogging houses in isolated suburban areas where they have to drive everywhere.

Brief Case study:

Yeah, it's me again. I moved, and it got my bike out of the basement!

So obviously, having been in recovery from BIBD for only a week or two, I am so NOT an expert on all the plusses and minuses of riding around a lot. Do any of you ride? Do any of you wish you did but don't?

April 22, 2008

I Keep on Fallin'

This is a Guest Post by the fabulous Leslie Goldman, author of the blog The Weighting Game. We could do a really, really long introduction of Leslie because she's done so many cool things (she's written a book and is even the co-host of a TV show!) But rather than repeat ourselves, we'll refer you to her previous interview and urge you to go visit her fantastic blog. So here's Leslie!

Last week, I got sucked into watching some mind-numbing show on E! called "The Best of the Worst Red Carpet Moments." Twenty minutes in, I actively thought to myself, "I am voluntarily wasting 20 minutes of my life," and then quickly slipped back into a TV coma filled with wardrobe malfunctions, celebrity babbling and Joan Rivers' scratchy squawking. All in search of the elusive payoff: E!'s All-time Worst Red Carpet Moment.

Kimberly Stewart and Paris Hilton, all tan legs and blonde extensions, were straddling tricked-out motorcycles, in very tiny dresses, looking as hot as they possibly could. Then Stewart pushed a button which she shouldn't have and was inadvertently catapulted down the red carpet at seeming warp speed. She tumbled off, spread eagle, paparazzi bulbs flashing and, as she tugged at her skirt to cover her bruised thighs and ego, all I could think was, "That is totally something I would do."

You see, I am not at all kidding when I say I am one of the biggest klutzes ever. On a daily basis, I trip over invisible cracks, bump into tables and walls, whack my head against the ceiling of the car. I spill milk all over the counter, missing my cereal bowl by a mile. I politely tuck my dress under before sitting down, only to miss the chair and end up on the floor. You know those comedy sketches when someone is talking to a friend behind them and is so into the conversation, they fail to notice that they are about to walk right into a metal pole? I have been that person.

My clumsiness started at a very young age. At nine years old, I vividly remember riding my bicycle with a friend and yelling out, arms overhead, "Look, Nicole! I can ride with no hands!" Apparently, I could not. I crashed headfirst into a mailbox, knocking myself unconscious and the next thing I remember is being delivered by Nicole's mom to my house, blood splattered on my Tweety Bird sweatshirt, not knowing my own name. "Who is the President?" I recall my mother frantically asking me, checking for signs of amnesia. I did not know. (Now I just pretend I don't.) Ever since that concussion, my life has been a series of spazzy stumbles, scary spills, and shaving accidents on par the Carrie finale.

I have a sad scar on my knee from three years ago when, while running to get the eggs off the stove before they boiled over, my legs got tangled up in my long skirt. For what seemed like two minutes, I sailed through the air, my husband watching helplessly, before I landed on the hardwood floor. Knees, then wrists, torso and head. Thud, thud...thud, thud, thud.

Later, in that same apartment, I set fire to our bed during the worst of possible times, mindlessly tossing a pillow aside without thinking. It landed on a candle. All of the sudden I heard him scream, "Fire!" and I opened my eyes to see flames lapping toward the ceiling. I tried to smother it with our comforter as my husband ran for water but unfortunately, my gentle fanning with the duvet was not forceful enough -- embers flew up and a chunk of them landed on my wrist, literally melting my skin away and resulting in an awful burn. As my beloved came to the rescue with a pitcher of water, I writhed in agony on the berber carpet with no one to blame but myself.

The strange thing about all of this is, I consider myself a fairly graceful woman. I've been a dancer my whole life, am 5'11" with a long neck and have been told, on numerous occasions, that I am well-poised, elegant even! So what makes me do things like rush to squeeze into the ever-decreasing space in a revolving door compartment, as I did at a wedding recently, only to get caught between the moving partition and door jamb, resulting in a massive head rattling, forearm bruise and public humiliation?

Apparently, the answer lies in stress and a hectic schedule, both of which I have plenty. Research shows if you're uptight and constantly focused on what you have going on five minutes from now, your muscles tense up, leading to jerky movements like sending water glasses sailing or whipping your head around and smacking your skull into the stranger behind you at the grocery story (yes, I've done both). So I guess my take-home lesson should be, when I notice more and more cuts and bruises showing up, I should take that as a sign. Slow down. Take a yoga class. Stop the ridiculous multitasking (hello, walking downtown while emailing on my phone, sipping an iced coffee and juggling my laptop and gym bag).

On a more a more serious note, accidents and unintentional injuries are a leading cause of death among all ages according to the CDC; experts suggest those people who consider themselves serial klutzes may want to examine their lifelong accident patterns and see if something deeper is at work. Depression, for instance, may cause a person to, say, not pay attention while driving, crossing the street, or bounding down the stairs.

I myself had a stair mishap but I'm pretty sure depression wasn't at the root: slippery socks were. That evening I was feeling particularly domestic and decided to mop the bathroom floor. Afterwards, I carried the bucket of dirty water and mop down two flights to the basement. Almost at the bottom, my right leg slipped out from under me. As I began to tumble, my butt hitting the first stair with a sickening crack, I had the clarity of though to realize the bucket of nasty bathroom floor water was now careening through the air, about to splash all over me. Four stairs from the bottom I attempted executing a MacGyver-like roll to the side but it was for naught. The pain upon impact was too much and I lay there, covered in mop water, legs splayed, bruises already forming...a poor woman's Kimberly Stewart.

Crash and Burn

Mayday! Mayday!

[By Crabby]

(Note: This is one of two posts today, the "real" one is coming up soon.)

So have you folks discovered the blog Elastic Waist yet? If you haven't checked it out, you definitely should.

I love Kim and Weetabix and Anne, and the whole crew over there. They're hilarious, and they manage to combine lots of useful information about food and fashion and fitness with positive messages about women's self image and size acceptance and all that cool stuff. Plus there's a lot of entertaining celebrity gossip, swearing, snark, and general outrageousness. What's not to like?

Given how much I admire the professionalism and general kick-ass awesomeness of Elastic Waist, I'm always shocked that they take the time to be so nice to funky little blogs like Cranky Fitness.

So recently Elastic Waist gave me an opportunity to talk about Cranky Fitness! But due to a misunderstanding, my being a total moron, I ended up being unprepared for the phone call.

You know that nightmare you have where you're on stage and you don't know your lines and so you start just saying things at random? (OK, so maybe not everyone has that nightmare). Anyway, that's kind of what happened.

I burbled and babbled and made no sense. Here was this great opportunity to introduce people to the blog, and I just said things that weren't funny and I sounded completely psychotic! Oh, and I said "Um" a lot--like, um, every other, um, word. The Elastic Waist folks did the best they could, and were very nice about it. They put up amusing photos in the background and edited like crazy, but they couldn't hide the fact that I was a blithering idiot.


So here's the dilemma: while I don't want people to actually witness my idiocy, it occurs to me that just ignoring it on the blog is kind of rude to people who were so very nice to me! I do want to acknowledge the great site that Elastic Waist is, and the great job Kim does in hosting the Daily Special.

So check out the Daily Special! Just not the one I was in.

Has anyone else ever embarrassed themselves in an interview or other stressful public speaking situation? Did you eventually recover your dignity and self-esteem at some point?

(And do stay tuned for the next post, it's much better than this one!)

April 21, 2008


[By Crabby]

Do you stretch?

If so, do you think it does you any good?

I've always been a big believer in stretching. It seems to help my back and knees and it's the least loathsome part of my exercise routine. But because I don't hate it, I do way less of it than I should.

Yes, I know--that makes no sense at all. But here's what happens:

I save stretching for the end of my workout. So if I'm the least bit rushed that day, I'll get to the stretching part and say to myself, "oh, you like stretching--you can just do that later, it will be fun!"

Then I almost never remember to do it later. Or if I do remember, it no longer sounds fun. Because later in the day I'm not comparing it to the treadmill or the leg press machine, I'm comparing it to eating dinner or checking up on my favorite blogs or watching Grey's Anatomy. Come evening, even bad TV beats good exercise.

We Interrupt This Post For a Special Note to The Yoga People:
You folks are hereby excused--unless you just want to hang out and make fun of the rest of us. You have the stretching thing totally down already. You can go back to your poses--Hungry Snake On a Mountain or Upside Down Duck Looking for Bugs or whatever.)

(Goodbye, Gratuitous Semi-Naked Yoga Guy!)

So here's what I've always heard about stretching:

If you don't want to end up tottering around on unbendable limbs like Frankenstein's monster, or shredding up your joints and tendons and cartilage and muscles when you participate in strenuous athletic endeavors such as surf-boarding or mountain climbing or running a marathon bending over to tie your shoes, then you have to stretch, right?

Stretching is one of those crucial, obligatory foundations of healthy living-- like drinking enough water, getting aerobic exercise, or starting your day with a nutritious breakfast.

Note: This is Not a Nutritious Breakfast

And stretching should happen after you've warmed up; you should breathe deeply rather than asphyxiate yourself; and you should hold the stretch without moving, (and particularly without bouncing) for at least 30 seconds.

So Here's What I'm Starting To Hear Now About Stretching:

Stretching Ain't All It's Cracked Up to Be:
Some research seems to say stretching doesn't actually prevent muscle soreness.

And static stretching (where you hold the stretch rather than move around), may even be counter-productive if you do it right before a competitive event. According to Greek researchers and That's Fit health bloggers, pre-exercise stretching can decrease muscle strength. (Longer than 30 seconds, strength decreased by 8.5 percent; more than 60 seconds led to decrease of 16 percent).

Apparently There is Such Thing as Dynamic Stretching:
There are perfectly good stretches that involve moving around, instead of just holding your position and cursing. In fact, dynamic stretching seems like a better idea if you're the competitive sort and want to stretch right before a race or something.

To get you started, here are a few sample dynamic stretches. In addition there is always the popular "supine couch stretch" in which one tries to simultaneously reach for the remote with one hand while balancing a pint of Ben & Jerry's on the stomach and attempting to pet the cat with the other hand--a stretch that Cranky Fitness doesn't exactly recommend, but we do acknowledge that it's more fun than the other kind.

What You Should Stretch and When You Should Stretch Is Actually Kinda Complicated.
According to our friend Mike Howard over at Diet Blog, stability is important as well as flexibility--so people who are too flexible can get injured as easily as those who are too tight.

He says relative flexibility is a key: often when one joint is too tight, the adjacent joint is too flexible. "The key is to try and stabilize what is too loose and release what is too tight." And that "asymmetry of flexibility is a more likely cause of injury than tightness..." for example, "if one hamstring muscle is far tighter than the other".

Well phooey. That sounds harder than just doing the same damn thing I've been doing for the last 30 years, whenever I actually remember to do it. And how do you know if you're asymmetrical and you're stretching the right things? Anyone know?

But the Nice Old-Fashioned Authorities on Health Still Seem to think the Boring Old Kind of Stretching Is Just Peachy.

Mayo Clinic, for example, says stretching can increase flexibility and range of motion, improve circulation, relieve stress, reduce injury, and improve posture. And their how-to-stretch slide show features the usual suspects--those static stretches you've seen everywhere for the last 20 years or so. If they're good enough for Mayo, maybe they're good enough for me?

So What Are Crabby's Thoughts and Observations About Stretching And All this Research?

I thought you'd never ask!

1. Do static stretching (the regular, non-moving kind) after your work-out, not before. (But, for heaven's sake, I've been hearing this for years and years now! Why are all the studies dissing stretching, then talking about the pre-exercise kind?)

2. Dynamic stretching is an interesting idea and I may try to incorporate a little of it into my very haphazard stretching routine.

3. Research, smeesearch, you have to figure out what works for you. For most people I know, skipping out on the stretching means lower back pain and sore necks and tight calves and creaky knees and all-around crankiness. However, if you're young and lucky and flexible and it doesn't seem to make much difference whether you stretch or not, then the heck with it! And check out both static and dynamic stretching--you may want to do both or neither or one might work better than the other.

So what do you folks think about stretching? What do you actually do?

April 18, 2008

Oh Nooooo!

[By Crabby]

Katieo & Molly

So how often do I post 3 times in one day? That would be never.

But late breaking news compels me to send you over to Sister Skinny, where Katieo and Molly are saying their blog farewell! Arrrgh!

The title is "Mission Accomplished," not to give away too much.

(We hope they change their minds about no longer posting, or start another blog about... well, anything! )

The video is cheerful and inspiring, yet somehow left this Crab in tears. Katie, in particular, has been a huge influence here, a great blog buddy, and a good friend.

So head on over there to say goodbye (for now... fingers crossed). You can come back here later to Win a Bike and get all Random.

We'll miss you Katieo and Molly!!!!

Seriously, This Could be YOUR Bike!

[By Crabby]

Note: This Is an Important Public Service Announcement (and it includes you Canadians too!). Random Friday appears Right Below.

So here at Cranky Fitness, we are not known for Optimism and Over-Promising. But what was perhaps not clear about the Lipton Tea contest--because we didn't entirely get it ourselves--is this amazing fact:

A Cranky Fitness reader will be winning this bike!

Due to Lipton's insanity generosity, they're setting aside one of these bikes for YOU FOLKS to win. It's not just one of the prizes in the big $25,000 video contest . (Which you also may want to enter, 'cause it sounds fun).

And I've been told that while they aren't eligible for the video contest, Canadians can enter and win the contest for THE BIKE!

As many of you have no doubt figured out, Cranky Fitness is NOT a huge blog with bazillions of readers. And of the readers we have, many don't of you don't bother to click on things or vote on things or enter things. (Yes--we can see the pageviews. No problem, we love you all anyway!)

But the point is: your chances of winning this bike are way higher than in most contests. And yeah, the bike is yellow and says Lipton on it. But Scientific Research shows that riding a bright yellow bike will keep you young! (Well, we made that up, but it seems plausible, doesn't it?) Most importantly, this cute little Lipton bike is set aside for just for us, and it's a FREE BIKE!

So go back to the Lipton Tea Contest Post ASAP (and at least before Friday the 25th) and leave a comment with your suggestion as to what people can do to stay young and active. You've got ideas, right? It can even be a stupid idea, or sound just like someone else's, we really don't care!

Hard-working Merry will collect the entries and randomize them and pick a winner on Friday April 25th. If you commented before but didn't make a suggestion, by all means GO BACK AND MAKE SURE YOU ENTERED!

Random Friday: Bimbos, Pink Axes, and Unusual Undergarments

[by Crabby]

Honestly, Does This Saddle Make me Look Fat?
(Photo by Dogmatic)

In keeping with Crabby's not-quite-back-from-vacation-yet slackitude, all the random items this week are stolen from some of our favorite blog friends. But don't worry; I'll soon return to my usual practice of lifting items straight from Science Daily instead.

Wholesome Fun For Your Daughters?

The always entertaining Red over at Unstarved alerts us to this, well, unusual online game that seems to be very popular with girls (most 9-16 years old), at least in England and France.

It's called "Miss Bimbo" and shall we find out a little more about how it works?

According to The Guardian, the aim of the Miss Bimbo beauty contest game is to become the "hottest, coolest, most famous bimbo in the whole world." Contestants are encouraged to "stop at nothing," even "meds or plastic surgery." Starting with a naked virtual character, players compete to earn "bimbo" dollars so they can "dress her in sexy outfits and take her clubbing. They are given missions, including securing plastic surgery at the game's clinic to give their dolls bigger breasts, and they have to keep her at her target weight with diet pills." (Note: apparently now the game no longer includes diet pills).

Here's another cool feature: the game is free to play, but when the contestants run out of virtual cash they have to have to send expensive text messages or use PayPal to refill their accounts!

The game's creators say it's not a bad influence for young children. "They learn to take care of their bimbos. The missions and goals are morally sound and teach children about the real world."

Of course we're sure that the 9 year old girls playing this game are hip to the ironic subtextual messages about the superficiality and oppressiveness of our popular culture's obsession with women's weight and appearance... right? Um, right???

(And be sure to check out Unstarved --Red is kind of a smartass, which is why we like him. Also, as a bonus, he brought his adorable sister in on this one; she writes and waves like a pro.)

Eat the Damn Broccoli; Skip the Pills

Over at Best Health Blog, which is associated with the Canadian magazine Best Health (at Cranky Fitness we love all things Canadian), we learn yet again that taking high doses antioxidants in supplement form doesn't do you any good. According to Best Health, the Cochrane Folks reviewed a bunch of studies (with over 230,000 subjects) and guess what? If you want to live longer, you gotta eat the actual vegetables, people! Overdosing on A and E supplements can even be harmful. Cranky Fitness readers knew this already, of course, but some of us keep hoping they'll change their minds one day and give us a way to eat more cupcakes for our antioxidants, and less cauliflower.

Get Caught "Palming" at Work!

It was ergonomic week over at Marijke's blog, Help My Hurt, and there's tons of useful info there on all things ergonomic. Marijke includes links to some helpful exercises you can perform at work, like: "the Executive Stretch;" "Palming;" and the always popular "Yawning." (Yawning, apparently, is an eye exercise--"it produces tears to help moisten and lubricate the eyes." Just tell your boss that at the next staff meeting!

Bean Counting

Monica over at SmarterFitter has been running lots of great articles, including this round-up of why beans are so healthy for you. (Cranky Fitness will refrain from the usual fart jokes and just send you over there for inspiring bean-related nutritional info).

Weirdest Apparel Item of the Week?

It's a tie!

From the fabulous MizFit, we have been alerted to the "Shape-Up Shoe," which promises "lifted buns" and "toned legs" if it doesn't kill you first.

And for the man in your life, via Vat19, check out a pair of "Manties!"

Yes, They Come in High Cut, Too!

Pretty in Pink

Leslie at the Weighting Game had a great post on PMS, and included this video which totally cracked me up. You may have all seen it, but I hadn't, as I am officially too old for late night TV. (And we've got a guest post from Leslie coming up next week--we're hoping pretty soon she'll do the whole blog for us!)

That's it for this week, and thanks to all the bloggers I stole stuff from! Have a wicked awesome Friday, everyone.

April 17, 2008

No wonder they were popular in prison

[By Merry]
"I'd like to look at treadmills." Seemed a reasonable request to make in a sporting goods store.

The salesgirl waved a perfectly manicured hand. "They're over there."

I went over there.

Then I came back. "I'd like to try one out."

She stared at me as if I'd said I'd like to perform an immoral act with a particularly unhygienic duck. "Try -- one -- out?" she said, disbelief dripping from every syllable.

"Yes, try one out," I repeated. That was my story, and I was sticking to it.

A bit of background: I love my new house, but I do miss living in a place where my front door was 96 merry-steps from a secluded, well-lit jogging trail. I felt safe running in the local park even in the dark, I never felt like people were staring at me, and all I had to worry about was having to share the path with skateboarders (which beats the heck out of sharing a narrow road with cars).

My new neighborhood isn't really new; in fact it's fairly old. It doesn’t have amenities like jogging trails. Or sidewalks or streetlights, for the most part.

In a situation like this, the reasonable thing to do is, of course, to go shopping. But then, I thought it was reasonable to try out a treadmill before buying it, so what do I know. It was not a straightforward procedure.
The salesgirl had to get a manager to approve the request.
Then, of course, we had to figure out how to unfold the treadmill without the salesgirl chipping a nail.
And then how to turn it on.

By this point, the salesgirl was clearly wishing she'd stuck to her register and called Orlando from the back to come help me. Eventually the deed was done, Orlando carried the big heavy box to my car for me, and I went home with a new treadmill.

And ran into another problem...

You know how they say people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones? I’ve developed a variation on this: do not buy a motorized treadmill unless you live in a house that has modern wiring but not GFCI outlets.

It doesn't say that on the box. You have to open the box and read the manual to learn this information.

You must plug the treadmill into a surge protector, since electrical surges can fry the treadmill’s computer. Surge protectors mean you need to have a grounded outlet. You should not plug the treadmill into a GFCI outlet. (Searching on the Internet brought up stories of how the random electrical flow created by the treadmill motor makes the GFCI outlet think it needs to reset itself.)

Scene II, same sporting goods store, the next day

"I'd like to return this treadmill."

The salesgirl raised an impeccably groomed eyebrow. "Why?"

"I can't use it without having an electrician rewire my house. I want to get a manual treadmill."

Now she was looking at me as if the aforementioned waterfowl were not only unsanitary, but underage. It was time to call Orlando in the back. “Do we have any manual treadmills? No, not a manual for the treadmill… Oh. Okay.”

After consulting the poor long-suffering manager again, they found an “on clearance” manual treadmill in the back. The good news is that it was one-third the price of the motorized treadmill. The bad news is that I have the feeling it’s cheap in more than the monetary sense of the word. Still, I have to try something. I know myself well enough to know that buying a gym membership would not provide enough guilt to get me to use the place, and I can’t face running in my new neighborhood – probably someone would think I’d just stolen something and call the cops to report me.

So far, I’m not particularly impressed with this thing. The first time I stepped on the belt, it was like stepping onto ice: I slipped and needed the railing to keep from falling. After that, it got better. I can walk fairly steadily, but every now and then the belt gets stuck. (The belt was perhaps not evenly lubricated?) This is a major pain – suddenly stopping without warning strains the leg muscles. I can see why manual treadmills were used in prison as a form of punishment. I’m going at a slow walk so far; I can’t imagine trying to run on it if this keeps up.

Has anyone out there tried using a manual treadmill? Or plugging a regular treadmill into an 'open ground' outlet? Or does anyone out there happen to be a really handy electrician living in Southern Washington/Northern Oregon? (Well, it was worth a try asking.)

I’m thinking that this is still a matter of getting the lubricant evenly distributed. I’ve only tried the treadmill for a few minutes last night, so I’m not sure how much ‘breaking in’ needs to take place. If it doesn’t improve in another day or so, I’m afraid I’ll have to face that salesgirl again, which would rank right up there with dental surgery for pure joy.

On the other hand, it would mean that I could see Orlando again...

April 16, 2008

Stay young and win money, bicycles & stuff

[By Merry]
I have a confession to make – I buy Lipton brand black tea. On purpose. People make fun of me, because this is not a brand of tea that claims to have been hand-picked by Tibetan monks who’ve intermittently fasted for weeks before the tea harvest. But I’ve been drinking it for years because it helps with my migraines.

Migraines are bad. Trust me. When I get migraines, I develop an extreme sensitivity not just to light but also to smells. Hyper-sensitive to smells. Really, really hyper-sensitive. I can't stand the faintest smells. Migraines have something to do with dilated blood vessels, and black tea helps alleviate that condition. So if I have a migraine, I end up drinking lots of black tea.

When I’m in migraine-mode, I don’t want any damn fancy tea with oil of bergamot or some hint of lavender – that drives me crazy. I can't stand those smells, it’s the nasal equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. Nor do I want something that’s so strong it’s going to hurt my stomach (like most of the expensive brands of black tea) or something so weak it’s not going to do any good (like most of the generic brands of black tea). I like the Lipton brand because it delivers tea with a consistent amount of strength and quality, and because it doesn’t have a lot of frou-frou extras. And because I think it helps with the headaches.

So when I was approached to do a contest advocating Lipton white tea, I was all for it. Your mileage may vary, and I suspect Crabby might be humoring me. (I mean, have you read the things Crabby does to her tea?)

What did they do, offer you lots of goodies?

They offered me some free tea, which I’m going to try out. Sadly, no diamonds, rubies, or pearls were included in the offer. On the other hand, white tea (unlike jewels) delivers loads of antioxidants, which are a lot healthier for you if not so sparkly.

You’re just going to become a huckster and pitch products to people? How boring!

No, I’m also going to mention that you can win a free bicycle, money, and stuff.

Oh. Well, that’s okay then.

The Lipton people are very kindly sponsoring a contest. Since Lipton’s White Teas are made from young tea buds, plucked early in their life cycle, they're going for a "Free your Y" contest. It's about freeing your youth and drinking white tea. Look, if you want pertinent details, check out the link: The Free Your Y Video Contest.

I like the idea of drinking white tea, because it's got more antioxidants than Albert Einstein had brain cells (or at least a comparable number), and because I like the idea of being young much better than being old. Or at least the idea of feeling young, i.e. feeling healthy. The idea of freeing my inner youth sounds pretty good to me.

Besides, you’re not old, are you? I don’t care if you’re sitting in a rocking chair waiting for meals-on-wheels to stop by, you’re not old inside, no matter what your body may look like on the outside. The person inside doesn’t age. Why not show the world that you’re not old?

Why the hell drink white tea? What’s the difference?

All true teas are made from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Black tea is heavily fermented, while green tea is moderately fermented, and white tea lightly fermented. The more fermentation, the more antioxidants are destroyed. (You still get some, just not as many.) White tea has the highest antioxidant levels of any true tea you can find. (I’m not talking about herb teas such as Red, or Rooibush, tea. Including them in this paragraph would make life far too complicated and probably bring on a headache for both of us.)

Wait a minute. Go back to the chance to win money and stuff.

Very simple. All you need to do is:

1 – Think up some way to show you’re young. To quote from the Free Your Y site:
Cut loose. Make it old school, original, or freestyle–whatever moves you. Use any of the music tracks we've supplied here, or your own originals. Please, no copyrighted tunes.

Show us your skills, like a reverse dunk or a Triple Lindy. Let's see your best trick shot or athletic move.

Here's your chance to showcase your unique talent–stupid human tricks, silly songs or watermelon juggling–whatever doesn't fit into the other categories. Anything goes!

2 – Videotape it. Do you have a digital camera or cell phone that tapes very short videos? Or do you have a friend or relative who does? There you go.

3 – Send it in to these people. Why?
• The grand prize winner will receive $25,000
• One second place winner will receive $10,000
• One third place winner will receive $5,000

What the hell, why not?

What about the free bicycle?

Oh, you want more details about the bicycle contest on Cranky Fitness.

Details about the bicycle itself

1 - There's a picture of it shown up top. More information here.
2 - It's free if you win the Cranky Fitness contest.
3 - In addition to the bike, the winner will receive 5 coupons for Free 1.5L of Lipton White Tea and a $75 check for professional assembly of the bike.

Details about the contest

In keeping with the high standards here at Cranky Fitness, we decided you needed to work for this bike. Here's what you have to do:

1 - Figure out what you would recommend people do to stay young and active.
2 - Post your recommendation in the Comments section below. (I was going to say, email it to us, but Crabby has a very hungry spam filter, and this way your comment won't get eaten.)

It’s not enough to merely stay alive. I want quality years! I personally want to die of extreme old age on a yacht, with a champagne glass in my hand and a cabana boy massaging my feet, whilst watching a magnificent sunset -- not counting my wrinkles and thinking of all the things my body used to be able to do once upon a time. Any recommendations you have will help! That way everyone who reads the post will get useful tips on how to stay young and active.

Crabby and I will number the comments in the order received, and pick a number based on a random number generator.

Deadline: winning entry will be picked Friday, April 25.

Obligatory disclaimer
The Pepsi/Lipton Partnership will provide a check for $75.00 to be used for professional assembly of all Lipton Fuji bicycles awarded. Neither Pepsi Co. nor Unilever is liable for any injuries, damages or accidents that may result from the receipt, assembly or use of this bicycle.

April 15, 2008

A Very Cranky Year

[By Crabby]

Was it really a whole year ago that Cranky Fitness ran its first post even though no one was around yet to read it?

Holy crap, that sure went by fast!

For those of you me who were there from the very beginning, lets take a nostalgic trip down memory lane, shall we? And for you folks who came along later, don't worry: it's not too late to catch up. Just quit your job, abandon your children, divorce your spouse and settle down with the archives for a few weeks. You can read all the posts and comments, and soon you'll know everything there is to know about Cranky Fitness!

Once you've done that, take the Cranky Fitness First Anniversary Quiz. Or just take it anyway and get a bunch of the answers wrong.

The correct answers will be provided soon, in the comment section, when Crabby gets around to rounding them up.

Don't feel like a quiz? Then just skip down and say hello to the Crab at the end of the post. Not a particularly flattering picture, but what the hell. It seemed like time.

How Well Do You Know Cranky Fitness?

1. Crabby hardly posted on the blog at all this month because she was too busy:

a. Giving birth to an 8 lb 2 oz baby boy;
b. Serving time in county jail for assaulting a mime;
c. Moving cross-country in order to walk on some rocks;
d. Auditioning for American Idol;
e. F*cking Matt Damon.

2. "Fran"; "Lobster"; "Moo." These are names or nicknames for Crabby's:

a. Sister; Favorite Dinner Entree; Rear End;
b. RV; Wife; Favorite Abstract Artist;
c. Mother; Favorite Cocktail; Dog;
d. Brother-in-Law; Car; Favorite Exclamation Whenever Directed to Do Something.

3. Short Answer question: Without going back to check the archives, what momentous event in Cranky Fitness history happened on November 22, 2007? _______________

4. What does "MUFA" mean?

a. It's a scarf-like piece of clothing worn over the neck and mouth to retain moisture and aid breathing in cold dry air;
b. It's a slang term for a common sexual act;
c. It's a really yummy sandwich full of fried things that has 47,034 calories;
d. It's a healthy oil that magically reduces belly fat.

5. What Do the Awesome blogs Sister Skinny, Back in Skinny Jeans, Big Fat Deal, Lose the Buddah, and a humble little blog called Craggy Feelings have in common? __________________________________

6. A "Slanket" is:

a. A piece of jewelry worn on the ankle that also functions as a pedometer;
b. A garment worn by celebrants of an obscure religious cult during sacred ceremonies;
c. A New Zealand brand of candy similar to the American "M&M;"
d. A young woman of easy virtue.

7. What do favorite commenters Holly and "Mary Anne from Kentucky" have in common? ___________________________

8. According to a news item featured on Cranky Fitness, the Pentagon once considered developing what sort of military equipment?

a. A bomb that would turn enemy soldiers gay;
b. A bulletproof bra for female combatants;
c. A genetically engineered army ant colony capable of infiltrating enemy barracks and devouring the human occupants thereof;
d. A shoulder-fired rocket that on detonation would emit an odor just like farts.

9. A highly disproportionate number of Cranky Fitness commenters are, compared to the general population:
a. Argumentative;
b. Fashion-conscious;
c. Republican;
d. Canadian.

10. Merry, being more ambitious than Crabby, aspires one day to complete a Century bike ride (100 miles!) and also to finish a:

a. Marathon;
b. Triathlon;
c. 401K;
d. An Entire Ferris Wheel Ride without Throwing Up.

11. Which of Crabby's blog friends lost a bet and was forced to teach a fitness class in a revealing Jane-Fondaesque leotard, complete with leg warmers, and pose for a multitude of humiliating pictures?


12. Which of the following search queries artificially inflated Cranky Fitness google hits for several months?

a. Lose Weight Fast;
b. Nude Aerobics;
c. Great Big Bouncy Breasts;
d. Humongous Penis.

13. Three of our favorite commenters are related to each other, though not to Crabby (that she knows of). Who are they and where do they blog?

14. It took a while to abandon the practice, because Bossy does it, it seems to work well for her, and Crabby is a great admirer of all things Bossy. However, a number of months ago Crabby realized it was time to stop:

a. Replying to comments in Pig Latin;
b. Composing blog posts in the nude;
c. Tossing off three or four Cosmopolitans before commenting on other blogs;
d. Writing all her blog posts in the Third Person.

15. Crabby just wants to finish off this post by saying:

a. Thank you everyone, it's been a blast!
b. Thank you everyone, you all crack me up!
c. Thank you everyone, you're a really smart, thoughtful group of people!
d. Thank you everyone, I feel like I've made some real friends here and you are all awesome!
e. All of the above.

It's been a fun year, hope y'all will stick with us at least a while longer!

Greetings from the Crab in Provincetown!

April 14, 2008

Intermittent Fasting: A Cranky Fitness Primer

[By Crabby]

Mmm, Nothing Beats The Fresh Crisp Taste of Air!

We at Cranky Fitness endeavor to stay at the cutting edge of nutrition and health reporting, except when we can't be bothered.

But we can't help noticing that Intermittent Fasting is becoming a hot topic. So it seems a good time to try to scrounge up a few extra google hits bring readers up to date on this important new research development!

So here is it is: a Cranky Fitness Q & A, telling you Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Intermittent Fasting, Unless It's Kind Of A Hard Question.

Q: What is Intermittent Fasting?

A: "Intermittent Fasting" means: Not Eating (yikes!)-- But Only Sometimes (whew!)

Q: Sounds Unpleasant. Why in the World Would I Want to Do That?

A: Because research suggests that intermittent fasting may have health benefits. This seems to be true even if you go back and scarf up all the calories you missed out on once you go back to eating. And this technique works particularly well if you're a mouse! (Most of the studies are still animal-based).

Also, there is plenty of research suggesting that people on long-term calorie restricted diets see improvements in health and longevity. But then who wants to face the prospect of nearly starving yourself every day for the rest of your very long, long, long, long life? Intermittent Fasting is, at least theoretically, a way to get some of those Calorie Restriction benefits while still getting to pig out every now and then.

Two good but somewhat conflicting sources of information on this are: Mark's Daily Apple, which gives handy and rather optimistic suggestions on how to do IF, and an article by Alan Aragon, who has brought together a lot of research on the subject and is perhaps not quite so optimistic.

(Note: we love Mark's Daily Apple, but they are much more Hardcore Healthy over there than we are, so we shall be poking gratuitous fun at them. They are always so darn cheerful about eating their junkfood-free diets. Where's the whining? Anyway, Mark fans, be forewarned).

Q: What Are Some of these Great Health Benefits From Fasting?

A: Glad you asked! If the animal stuff proves out in humans, some of the benefits could include: "decreases in blood pressure, reduction in oxidative damage to lipids, protein and DNA, improvement in insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, as well as decreases in fat mass." (Note: summary stolen word for word from Mark. Why waste good summarizing?)

Q: Sounds Cool! So How Much Not-Eating Will I Have to Do?

A: Here's where it gets complicated. There seems to be two ways of looking at it.

The Easy Way:

This is the approach taken by the folks at Marks Daily Apple. Basically, they say: don't eat whenever you don't feel like eating. You don't have to go a whole day without eating, because, well, I don't know why not.

Along with more difficult options, they suggest the "condensed eating window," the "early and late" plan, and the "skipped meal." (They also suggest elsewhere on the blog that you should generally be trying to fuel yourself by grazing throughout the day, eating frequent meals to keep your metabolism moving. So as far as I can make out, if you're eating frequently or not eating at all, it's all good. Or all bad--it depends on your general tendency towards either smugness or guilt).

But Mark isn't the only one who suggests that skipping even single meals might bring health benefits. He's got Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist, on his side. And we hate to argue with neuroscientists because who knows, one day they might do something sneaky to our brains when we're not paying attention.

Q: So What's Wrong with Doing it The Easy Way?

A: Well, a quick glance at both the human and animals research seems to indicate a mysterious leap from studies looking at "Alternate Day" fasting to recommendations that one try "Intermittent Fasting" and skip a meal here and there. The studies that look impressive tend to be "Alternate Day" regimens that involve fasting or drastically reduced eating (i.e. 300 calories total) for an entire day, not just missing a meal now and then.

In fact, research suggests that "haphazard eating" isn't smart and that eating just one meal a day has some health downsides.

On the other hand, research for this blog post was not exactly exhaustive. (Hello, Google? Got anything on intermittent fasting?) So if anyone knows of a good study showing awesome health benefits from skipping random meals, please pass it on.

Q: Okay, So Should I Try Alternate-Day Fasting Then?

A: Sure! But watch out:

Most people who do it get really hungry.

On the other hand, many of us know people who fast periodically or who eat just one meal a day and they seem to be totally fine with it. (Weak-willed cupcake-consuming slackers like Yours Truly are not among them).

Q: This is Too Confusing! Maybe I Should Just Go Back to the Idea of Fueling My Metabolism by Eating Small Frequent Meals All Day Long?

A: Errr... maybe not!

Weirdly enough, given how many times we hear this "fueling" suggestion, according to the Aragon article there's not really much research to back it up. It looks like folks may be overgeneralizing from the Don't Skip Breakfast research. (Don't Skip Breakfast is indeed well-supported. So we're with your mother on this: don't even think about it).

Q: So then What Do You Suggest?

A: Don't skip breakfast. But then after that, do whatever the hell you want. Keep an eye on the research--or better yet, stay tuned to Cranky Fitness. If the studies get more definitive about when you should eat and when you shouldn't for optimal health, we'll let you know. That is, if we happen to be paying attention that week.

Q: Were You Aware That Reading About People Not Eating Can Make You Really Really Hungry?

A: Yes, this phenomenon has recently come to our attention! However, research indicates that a peanut butter and banana sandwich with a glass of milk will take care of the problem fairly quickly.

So have any of you folks tried fasting?

Or are you thinking about it? Cranky Fitness is too attached to frequent meals to even attempt an experiment, but we'd love to hear your thoughts or experiences.

And On an Unrelated Note:

Tomorrow is a special day for Cranky Fitness. If you're Smart Enough to figure out why, don't give it away just yet--instead, be sure to check in tomorrow for a Very Special Post!