Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tracking Runners

Tales written in sand

When I was a kid I learned how to track as a matter of course. Most everyone had at least the basic skills where I grew up, some were better, some were worse, I was somewhere in the middle. (still am as best as I can tell)

The track and sign left by an animal or a person can allow you to read their condition, their level of fatigue, how quickly they are traveling as well as a number of other things.

Looking at my own tracks is something I often do for myself, being as it is one of the few ways to get feedback on my own running technique without someone coaching me. There is nothing like looking at your own tracks to tell you if you are running as well as you think you are.

I also do this with the people I work with. I take them to a convenient sand lot and have them walk and/or run across the sand. This allows me to study the tracks they leave and gain much more information about their walking/running technique than I can tell just from watching them run. I have to admit, it can get me some interesting looks from time to time. To really study a track you often need to get down on your belly and move around the track in a 360 degree circle in order to see all the nuances.

One of my newest students, a young lady who has decided to take her health into her own hands, and I, running across the sand.

Reading someone's tracks can be a really valuable tool for learning how they are doing things that may be contributing to various problems. If someone comes to me complaining of back, hip or knee pain, whatever is causing this will be reflected in their tracks. Often it's the easiest way to discover how they are doing their discomfort and to see the changes that will help correct the problem.

The key is what's called pressure releases. A pressure release happens as the foot pushes off against the ground. Pressure releases will tell you where and how hard a person is pushing off with each foot.

Here is an example from one of my own tracks.

We see a good forefoot strike, with the leading edge of the heel just touching the ground (I'm wearing my trail running shows so I can make a good impression, no pun intended) only the first two lugs on the heel are visible. This means that the only heel contact was from absorption as the Achilles tendon stretched from the energy of the foot strike. There is a slight pressure release in the area of the third, fourth and fifth toes (upper left corner of the track) This indicates that I took off with more weight on the outside of my foot. I suspect tension in the foot as the cause, giving me a slight twist at take-off, or not allowing full pronation on landing. The latter seems the most likely as the track is not as deep at the big toe. I need to pay attention to this.

Here's another track from one of my students. Notice the deep pressure release at the outside forefoot. What would be a possible cause for such a movement of the foot?

The trick is, of course, to imagine how a foot would have to move to make that release, and under what circumstances it would do so.

There are some good resources to learn the rudiments of reading tracks out there. What you want is something beyond just identifying a track. A good place to start might be with the book "Tracking: a blueprint for learning how" by Jack Kearney

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A little Thanksgiving (and Eid) music for you

With thanks to the Muppets.

Happy Thanksgiving and

Eid Mubarak!

Whatever holiday you celebrate today (or tomorrow) I hope it's a good one!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ya know how dumb the "average guy" is?

Well, by definition, half the people out there are even dumber than that, and they all seem to be voting Republican these days. (with thanks to Robert Anton Wilson)

Here is a very interesting group of interviews from outside a book signing in Ohio.


Come on people! "Conservative" doesn't mean saving those brain cells for a rainy day. William F. Buckley must be turning in his grave.

I think you'd have to add everyone's numbers together just to get the IQ points out of double digits.

Seeing things like this always brings me back to the question "Have Americans become too stupid to survive?"

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bowling Ball On A Stick

And other fun ways to get a workout.

Some time ago Mo'in asked about my workout routine, well, appearances aside, I didn't forget. The question was:

"At your convenience, could you elaborate on what your experience has shown to you as serious exercise? I am admittedly highly critical of much of modern exercise advice. In the last few years, I have embraced a very different, and far more intense, form of exercising popular in many combat athletic circles."
OK, well first, I want to be clear about goals, which will determine what "serious" is for each of us. For me, first and foremost its health, above all else. So if an exercise doesn't promote my overall health I just drop it and never look back.

Second is general fitness, which is, for me, the ability to "move in the world". That would mean walk, run, jump, swing, climb, lift, throw, etc. with ease.

Third is sport specific fitness. I want to be as fit as possible for the activities that I love. This would be martial arts, specifically Silat and full contact stick fighting, biking, running, XC skiing, snowshoeing and walking.

Everything I do fits into this hierarchy. If something might be good for martial arts, but does not contribute to my overall health, or takes away from it, (and a lot of exercise sure does give you short term benefit at the expense of long term health) I stay away from whatever that is.

The keystone of my practice is sustained aerobic exercise. I know that these days a lot of "fitness gurus" look down on this, but my glucose meter doesn't lie. Nothing keeps me at proper blood glucose levels like sustained (an hour or more, I like a lot more) work in the "aerobic zone". It also keeps me as healthy (or healthier to tell the truth) as most 30 year olds here in the US.

I use a simple test to make sure I'm working in the aerobic zone. If I am working hard enough that I can't sing, but can still talk, then I'm right where I want to be. I also use a heart rate monitor, but this test works just fine as an overall indicator.

I'm pretty convinced that the human body craves aerobic work. I certainly seem to thrive when I get enough and suffer for it when I don't. Running and biking are the two things I do to get most of my aerobic work in. During good weather I usually manage around 100 + miles a week on my bike and 20-30 miles running.

But we also need to work the muscles against resistance.

For this I use a combination of bodyweight exercise, strange devices, and weighted objects.

One think I am not interested in is "muscular hypertrophy", that is to say "bulking up" or having "massive muscles", as the ads in the back of the comic books offer. These days I am right around 175 at 6'2" and 12 % body fat. which is just about where I want to be. (I'm shooting for 10% body fat at the same weight, it should take me no more than 2 months to get there) For me, lean is healthy, so I' don't lift really heavy weight (in boring mechanical linear repetition) to "bulk up".

Most of the bodyweight stuff I do is either yoga, drawn from the Zurkhaneh of Iran, or taken from Scott Sonnon. If you're looking for good bodyweight based programs, check out Scott's material, it's second to none.

Then there's weights of one sort or another.

Clubbells are one of my very favorites. I have used them since Scott first made them available and consider them essential for every thinking person's gym.

I also like sandbags. You can pay a premium for the commercially made ones, or you can make your own for next to nothing.

I keep an eye out at yard sales for duffles and stuff sacks I cam pick up for cheap, then fill them with sand myself. in the photo above you see 50, 30 and 20 lb bags, which together cost me around US $10 to make.

At some point I'll do a post on how to make your own modular sandbags, ones that you can change the weight of in seconds, for next to nothing. But for now.....

One of my very favorite home made toys is the Bowling ball on a stick.

This is just a modern cheap version of the Indian Gada, or mace. This tool has been used by Indian yogis, wrestlers and warriors for centuries, perhaps even millennia, for overall strength and endurance. The one you see here is made from a bowling ball I picked up at Goodwill for a couple bucks and a broken hoe handle. It weighs just 17 lbs, but don't let that fool you, moving it around is a challenge. If I want a greater challenge, I use the 35 lb gada with the 4 foot shaft you see in the photo of my equipment.

One thing to keep in mind, a gada is not a clubbell. If you try to use them interchangeably you will hurt yourself. The gada has its own rules of use and it's own exercises.

Here are a couple.

The first is the most common single exercise done with a gada. Here in the States its known as the "Gama cast", after The Great Gama, one of India's most famous wrestlers.

And then we have a curl and flag. The eccentric nature of the weight really forces recruitment of the core stabilizer muscles in movements like this one.

Then we come to strange devices. I use several, enough that I will have to devote a separate post to them one day. let me just tell you about three of them here.

I am lucky enough to be friends with Vince Brown out in the Bay area. Vince, besides being a great coach and instructor, is something of a mad genus when it comes to home made torture devices exercise equipment.

This is a little something that Vince whipped up in his lab, brought to me by my friend Carey the last time she came out to visit.

It's a simple pulley and strap device with all manner of uses, here are just two, both for working core strength.

The first moves from the upper body.

and the second moves from the lower.

This is a lot harder than it looks.

Ten of these and you will have found all sorts of muscles you didn't even know you had.

You may remember that a while back I wrote about using a strap and a tree as exercise equipment, well I am still quite happy with that simple device.

I've found many different things to do with a simple strap, you are limited only by your imagination and sense of adventure.

Another toy I love playing with is the "power rope". One of my favorite exercises involves a lighter rope used to work both speed and endurance for the upper body.

Again, you can spend a lot of money on ropes, but with a little hunting at yard sales and salvage yards you can outfit yourself for very little (hint: used fire hose is great for a heavy power rope).

I also use bands and tubing of all sorts, and large rocks and heavy tree branches, but I think I'll save that for another time.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gotta Love It

A little theme music.

And so to the point.

Jon Stewart is yet again

My hero!

Some of you may have heard about the 10 year old kid that decided not to say the pledge of allegiance until there actually was "liberty and justice for all". Well, as you can imagine, he has been getting hassled quite a bit at school for taking such a stand. (not to mention being raked over the coals by so called conservatives, who only believe in liberty and justice for themselves)

Well, Stewart has the solution!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gaywatch - Peter Vadala & William Phillips
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

(Huzzah Mick Foley!!)

Born to Run Barefoot?

An interview with Chris McDougall, Author of "Born To Run"

Done by ABC News.

Ya never know, there just may be something to this barefoot stuff. There certainly is to running.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gimme that ol' time religion

Since Religion seems to be a subject that's up a lot these days,

what with the Catholic church flexing its political muscle, Fred Phelps and his nut jobs standing around with their signs, all the hate coming from all quarters, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, and all (I even heard of a Jain that sharpens the bristles of the broom he uses to sweep insects from his path) I thought some inspirational church music might be in order. (Warning: Not Safe For Work)



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fun Music

With a fun name

Meet Pomplamoose, an Indi Group from the Bay Area. I just discovered them last night, and I have to say I find them quite charming and engaging. (If it weren't for YouTube I'd be so far behind the times....)

The group consists of Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte, two very talented musicians. Ms. Dawn sings (with a very sweet voice, a little reminiscent of Feist, but with her own character) and plays the bass guitar. Mr. Conte plays everything but the kitchen sink (and I wouldn't be surprised to see him work that in on some tune or another) and does backup vocals.

They are using a medium that I was not familiar with called a "VideoSong". They describe it (from their YouTube site) as:

A VideoSong is a new Medium with two rules:

1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice).
2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds).
This turns out to be a pretty fun format, and it puts music videos back in the hands of musicians, even if they don't have million dollar budgets.

I really got a kick out of their music. They cover a lot of songs, and do their own material. They even manage to make a tune from a TV commercial sound good.

I am a little envious of my friends in SF. The next time I'm out that way I will be hoping they will be playing live somewhere near.

I am going to exert what little influence I have with WYCE (one of the world's best stations) to see if I can't get their music a little air time. With any luck they might just get really popular here in West Michigan and end up playing here one day.

Here are a couple of videos by Pomplamoose for your enjoyment. You can find a lot more on their YouTube Channel. You can also find their music on itunes.





Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Applying the Brakes

Without busting the shins.

I have been noticing this interesting thing when I watch people run.

Someone will be moving along with near perfect form, feet landing directly under center mass, proper heel flick, good turnover, the whole nine yards. Then the go to stop. The throw their body back. dorsiflex the lead foot, lock their lead leg at the knee and heel strike to stop themselves.

¿Cómo se dice ‘OUCH’ en español?

Then they wonder why they are still getting shin splints, sore knee and hip joints and other such pains.

Slamming the weight and momentum of your body into a rigid lead leg with all the force focused on the heel bone, to decelerate from 8 to 0 mph in one or two steps, is not what I would think of as a long term survival strategy.

This is one of those areas where barefoot training can be a real help. The only reason a person can repeatedly perform this maneuver is because the padding in modern running shoes will keep you from feeling the immediate pain of impact (while doing nothing to lessen the shock of the landing).

You can test this (though I DON'T recommend that you do) by taking off your shoes and running a few yards, then stopping in this manner.

A saner way to come to a halt, or a walk, is to land on the forefoot and allow the knee and hip joints to absorb the forward motion by converting it into downward motion. This gives your stride a little dip for a step or two, but it does not put unneeded impact on the leg. With a little practice you can go from a run to a walk in one step, without slapping your foot on the ground or striking your heel into the path.

Here is a video clip of a field hockey player with a good stride, but bad breaking. You will notice that with the slow motion shot, you can see the shock-wave going up his shin from the heel strikes.



Monday, November 09, 2009

Autumn Leaves as a Training Tool

Or, "How to run better and play like a kid at the same time"

I was out working with a client today. This of course means different things with different people. In this case we were working on his running.

It was a fine autumn day here in West Michigan with the parks and most of the streets and sidewalks covered in leaves. As it happens, a leaf covered running trail is a wonderful thing for improving one's stride. All you have to do is run through them and listen. You will be able to hear if you are dragging your feet, or any number of things that will mess with good stride.

Then all you have to do is try to run more quietly. The quietest stride will be the one where you pick up your feet and land them directly under your center of mass. So when you are running (or walking for that matter) with just the light crunching sound of compressing directly down on the leaves without any of the scuffing sounds, your stride will be very good.

Also, it's just fun to run through autumn leaves.

Give it a try next time you're out.

Here's a little running music, "The Hunt" from Azam Ali and Niyaz.



Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Paleolithic Athletic Drink

And all around great food that most people have never heard of.

There is a food that at one time was prized from central California to Texas, from Colorado to Central Mexico. It was a staple of the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe from the Palos Verdes area of southern California, The Chumash collected it as far north as San Louis Obispo County. The Hopi and Zuni used it as a travel food, the Apache collected it wherever they found it.

Amongst the Native peoples of Mexico it was considered so valuable that the Aztecs paid their taxes with it.

The Gabrielinos called it "Pashi", the Chumash knew it as "Ilepesh", I'm told the Mayan name for the plant meant "that which gives strength", the Aztecs adopted it as "Chian" which meant "oily". The Latin names for the plant are Salvia columbariae and Salvia Hispanica.

Until recently we knew of this plant only through late night commercials and the jokes about them. I am of course talking about the Chia Plant and chia seeds, the original Native American super food.

When I started doing research on foods that supported healthy blood sugar levels I found many references to it as as one of the most promising, and I was reminded of having had it as a treat when I was a child.

Until the book "Born to Run" was published, it was likely that most people didn't even know the chia seed was edible, let alone good for you unless they were close to South Western Native or Mexican cultures.

As it turns out, the humble chia seed can help normalize your blood sugar, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, help prevent heart disease, as well as help you lose significant weight. It will also most likely make you smarter. The seed is very high in Omega-3 fatty acids especially alpha-Linolenic acid. It is also quite high in antioxidants as well, and has complete protein.

Here is a breakdown of chia as a nutrient. This is calculated for one ounce of chia seeds, which is about two tablespoons worth.

An ounce of chia has a glycemic load of "1" and is mildly anti-inflammatory.

You can get a pretty in depth nutritional analysis here. This is a good article on chia seed for diabetics.

Back in the day, Apache warriors would keep a bag of chia seeds on their belt when on the trail. This was preferred over any other food because it was light, compact, and could be eaten right out of the bag with no cooking at all. It doesn't taste like much, but chia and water can keep you going for weeks if need be.

There are many ways to use chia as a food, and I will go over a few of them here.

First though, for those people who have sisters who like to drink pancake batter-like substances when they run, we have Chia Fresca.

Chia Fresca is my answer to Gatorade and all the other so called "energy drinks" out there. (All of which are not fit for human consumption as far as I am concerned).

Here is my recipe.

In a one liter bottle:

fill half way with good water

add three tablespoons of dry chia seeds and stir (or shake, with the lid on of course) until the seeds are mixed well with the water.

Add the fresh juice of two limes, (with the pulpy bits from making the juice).

Add one packet of Alacer Electro-Mix.

Add one level teaspoon of MSM powder.

fill the bottle the rest of the way with water.

Sweeten to taste.

Put the lid and and shake like crazy, then let it sit in the fridge for a half hour or so.

When I make this and I know I'm having a light workout day I use stevia as a sweetener. If I will be working out hard enough to need serious calorie replacement I will sweeten the mix with agave syrup. (very low glycemic index for a sweetener)

The MSM helps support joint health and also seems to convince your body's cells to be a bit more permeable (and thus fight insulin resistance).

The chia seeds will absorb about nine times their weight in water as they sit in the bottle. After a half hour or so the will form a gel around themselves and you will have what looks a bit like a liter bottle full of frog's eggs in swamp water.

This stuff will rehydrate you very quickly and give you calories from real food rather than from "high fructose corn syrup", and it won't spike your blood sugar. I have found nothing better for long runs or bike rides. (it also tastes good and is fun to drink)

Now that athletes have found out about chia fresca you can find all manner of articles on the web about how great it is.

Here's another recipe that uses chia.

Ilaká'its'éé Sélt'sé (Apache Sunflower Cakes)

2 cups of raw, shelled sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon of salt
1 rounded tablespoon of chia seeds
4 tablespoons of blue corn meal (or other heritage corn)
1/2 cup of water
a little cooking oil

Stir the chia seeds into 1/2 cup of water and set aside for about a half hour so that the seeds form a gel.

Place the sunflower seeds in a pan with the teaspoon of salt and just cover with water. Cook at a low boil for six minutes then take the pan off the stove and let it cool.

Place the seeds along with any water left from the cooking in a good blender or food processor and grind them into a paste.

Place the paste in a bowl and add the corn meal, stir well. Now add the chia gel and mix it into the batter. Chia gel will bind ingredients as well as gluten or egg, so it is a great substitute for anyone who is vegetarian and wheat intolerant.

Bring a lightly oiled cast iron skillet to a medium heat.

Scoop out a rounded tablespoon of the batter, form it into a patty and place it on the skillet, use your spatula to flatten the patty a bit more. Repeat until your skillet it full.

Cook until both sides are golden brown.

Serve warm or cool.

If people have an interest I'll post some other recipes that involve chia as time allows.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Meatless Pemmican

Making your own trail/workout food

One of the problems I have run into as an "endurance" athlete is that most of what is used to fuel oneself on the trail might as well be poison for what it does to my blood glucose.

The modern gels, goos and power bars are designed to dump a lot of calories into your system VERY quickly. This is hard enough on your metabolism if it is "normal" but for a diabetic, It's way too much.

So I have taken to making my own trail/running foods and drinks and testing them to make sure that I get sustained calories that are released at a sane pace and real nutrients to boot.

One of my favorite running foods is "meatless pemmican". Pemmican is a traditional Native American food that contains fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It has been used since forever as a travel ration and as a food that can be easily stored for months. As a ration it can keep you going for weeks. Along with a little pinole and beans, people have walked from one side of America to the other with pemmican as their main food source.

Traditionally, the protein in pemmican comes from dried meat, and the fat is rendered from bone marrow. Being as the quality of commercial meat is more than a little dubious, and I am not set up to properly dry the wild meat I get, I have developed this recipe that is vegetarian, (vegan even)

You will need

Piñones (pine nuts) 1/2 cup
Pepitas (pumpkin seeds, hulled) 1/2 cup
Almonds 1/2 cup
Pecans 1/4 cup
Dried Cherry 1/2 cup
Dried Blueberry 1/4 cup
Dried Apricot 1/2 cup
Dried Apple 1/2 cup
Salt 1 tsp
Coconut Oil 1 tsp

Note: the best pine nuts are from the "Pinus Edulis" (Colorado Pinion Pine) and are harvested mostly in New Mexico. A quick Google search will turn up several sources. Any of the other pine nuts will do in a pinch though. CostCo sells a large bag for a very good price.

The first thing you will need to do is dry roast the Piñones and Pepitas. I use a wok, but a cast iron frying pan works as well, or an oven for that matter, though it is a bit harder to get the right roast in my experience.

I roast the seeds very lightly, just enough to improve the flavor. If you want an all raw food you can eliminate this step, But I don't think it tastes as good.

At the end of the roasting, when the seeds have taken on a light golden color, I add one rounded teaspoon of coconut oil to the pan and stir it until the seeds are covered in the oil.

Next, add the seeds, as well as any other nuts you are using (almonds etc) and the salt to a food processor.. (one of the great inventions of the 20th century)

And grind them into a fine meal.

Then add your dried fruit.
Note on dried fruit: Be sure to read the labels when you get your dried fruit. Much of the commercial stuff has sugar added, which is really unnecessary (and potentially harmful). I get my fruit from the local healthfood store which sells certified organic with no sugar added.

Grind everything together. You may need to stop and use a spoon to get the mis off the side of the processor as it tends to be a bit sticky at this point.

Cut sheets of wax paper into appropriate size take a couple of spoons of the mix and shape it into a bar.

Wrap the bar tightly. When you have enough, seal them in an air tight bag or other container. If you keep them in a freezer they will stay fresh like this pretty much forever.

You can experiment with different seeds and nuts to develop a flavor that pleases you. I will sometimes add sunflower seeds, chia seeds or ground flax seed to the mix with good result.

Note: If you are diabetic avoid using dates. Date sugar has a higher glycemic index than glucose (date sugar is 103 to 106, glucose is 100) Dates will always spike my blood sugar.

There you have it, a trail food that will keep you going all day, that tastes good and that most children think is great.

If you try this do let me know what you think.

Monday, November 02, 2009

DC Green Muslims

How Kewl Is That?

Visit Their Blog

Musical Interlude

Yo Yo Ma and the honkers (for the child in everyone)