Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Unhealthy Extreme Fitness Mentality

Over the years I've noticed a fitness trend that can be intimidating, unhealthy, and even dangerous. It is the message that you need to go 100% beast mode when it comes to exercise and fitness. I believe there is a time and a place to work on max lifts, beating personal records, and giving it all you've got, but that should not be every time you work out.

One of the places I see many of these unhealthy messages is on Pinterest with brash memes about how you need to push yourself to exhaustion. After seeing so many of these messages, I decided to create a page featuring examples of what I'm talking about.  You can see them if you click on the red examples link. These extreme memes and sayings are geared towards fitness motivation, but they can also spill over into other areas of your life.

There is a time and a place to test your limits, but adopting the extreme mentality is not a healthy choice. I love seeing videos of people bench pressing 600 pounds, deadlifting over 1,000 pounds, setting world records in track and field, or seeing the Iron Cowboy complete 50 triathlons in 50 days. I can appreciate pushing the body and mind to their limits, but doing so on a regular basis can be unhealthy and dangerous.

I'd like to briefly address some of the more popular memes and messages I've seen that probably have good intentions to motivate us, but can be dangerous if we don't use common sense:

"Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going"- I agree we should not give up too early or quit when things get uncomfortable but saying we need to push ourselves until we vomit, pass out, or die is not a good idea because eventually you will do one of those 3 things. I guess they need to add bleeding to the list. The picture below is a Russian weight lifter who's nose started gushing blood when he was deadlifting during the Arnold strongman competition several years ago. He completed the lift and was fine after but I'm afraid he set the new standard for beast mode. I would not be surprised to see a meme saying "If blood aint gushing out your nose on a heavy lift then you are a just going through the motions."

"I regret that workout... said no one ever"-  I appreciate the message since many people skip exercise and end up on the couch watching TV instead, but if you have a shoulder injury yet persist in going to the gym and work on your max bench press you will regret that workout. Exercising when injured without modifying your workout is a recipe for compounding your injury. I have regretted many workouts when I didn't use common sense or listen to the feedback my body was giving me. Over training is a real problem for some people.

"Pain is weakness leaving the body"- Or it could be a heart attack, broken bone, nerve damage, a torn muscle, etc. I believe in the principle of the harvest  and that consistent efforts and sacrifice will pay off with results but we need to remember there are different kinds of pain. The good pain is the soreness you feel the day after working out, or the burning in your legs as you finish a set of squats. Bad pain can be a sharp painful feeling or a nagging injury and if you keep exercising under those conditions it is not weakness leaving the body, but stupidity entering.

"You can sleep when you are dead"- Or you can die 15 years earlier from never allowing your body time to rest and recuperate. I can appreciate the "seize the day" mentality and know most people can do much more, but not getting quality sleep will increase stress, cause weight gain, hinder recovery, and eventually lead to exhaustion.

"Second place is the first loser"- I am all for competition and have been saddened by the trend in society to give everyone a trophy regardless of how they do, but I believe that competition should usually be with yourself. If you constantly compare yourself to others with more experience, better genetics, or those using performance enhancing drugs, then you will always be disappointed with your results and feel like a loser. Anyone who improves their health and gets better at something over time is a success.

As I have aged I have learned the hard way that my body takes longer to recover after intense bouts of exercise and longer to heal when I get injured or sick. If I were to ignore the feedback from my body because I wanted to adopt the beast mode mentality of a meme I would have a very bad experience when it comes to exercise and my health.

I hope this post has not come across as a sour grapes kind of attitude. I have great respect for those who have difficult and disciplined workouts. I acknowledge the importance of incorporating intensity into your exercise regimen, but that is done by building up over time. There is a time and a place to go all out and work towards a personal best record but that is not every time you exercise. Exercise is a very personal activity and you shouldn't feel like a failure or loser if you don't workout as often, as long, or as extreme as some people do. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Huntsman World Senior Games- Year 2

Last year I attended the Huntsman World Senior games for the first time and loved it. I've been looking forward to coming back all year. I only participated in a fraction of the more than 30 events they offer but here is a summary of how things went.

The opening ceremonies were held the first night at the Dixie Stadium. The next morning I attended the wellness screenings where they check vision, cholesterol, body composition, VO2 max, and about 10 other things. I didn't need an official assessment to tell me that I have gained a lot of weight since I've been back in the United States but all the checks came back well. I avoided the hearing test this year since I already know I have substantial hearing loss in my right ear.

The first day of competition I ran 5K the race. The weather for St. George was quite a bit colder than usual that day but it wasn't too bad. I ran a slower time than I did the previous year but still ended up getting a silver medal thanks to some of my speedier friends from last year not being there. The fastest runners for the whole event were not the youngest participants like you might expect but rather runners in their late 50's and early 60's. It is cool to see that the competition can get even more intense as you age in some of these events.

Shortly after the race I went across town to a different venue for 3 on 3 basketball. I played with the same team I met last year from California and we had a good time. We played 4 games over the next two days. On Saturday morning I participated in the hot shot competition where you have one minute to score as many points as possible from 6 locations on the court and you have to rebound your own shot. I didn't shoot quite as well as last year but somehow still ended up with a gold medal.

Later that day we played two more basketball games in the tournament and ended up winning Gold medals in our division. One race, 6 games, and another basketball event was a lot to do over 4 days and I had two minor ankle sprains at the end of the week so I was happy to be able to rest and recuperate on Sunday.

On Monday morning I went to my last basketball event which was a free throw and three point shooting contest. It was not timed so you could take your time to shoot 6 3-pointers and 25 free throws. Unfortunately I was in a huge hurry since I had registered for the long jump across town at basically the same time. I asked to go first and they accommodated my schedule but I rushed my shots and didn't do too well. I sped across town and arrived at the track just as they were making the final call for long jumpers.

I was pretty sheepish about this event since I had never done it before. I didn't know proper technique for getting your steps right and just estimated it. As a result I fouled on half of my attempts. On my final attempt I injured one of my already sprained ankles worse. I was embarrassed about how poorly I did and even apologized to some of my competitors for making a mockery of their sport. I was supposed to run the 1500 meter race an hour later but I was limping  and knew it would not be pretty so I decided my body was done for the week. I drove back to the basketball venue as they were doing the medal ceremony and was shocked to see I still got a bronze medal from earlier that morning.

I ended up leaving a day earlier than I had planned but my body was done and I had 4 medals to take home with me. I had a good time and look forward to participating next year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A New Challenge?

I've been in a bit of a rut lately and have been looking for some kind of physical challenge to get me motivated. I remember many years ago the first time I saw a video about Spartan races and thought it looked kind of crazy but it would be a fun challenge. I ended up doing one and really enjoyed the experience enough to do many more over the years. I recently came across some videos about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and the idea is starting to grow on me, especially after watching the video below.

This idea of climbing Kilimanjaro is especially appealing since I'm already in Africa and I'd only need to fly over to the East side. I have never climbed higher than 12,000 feet so I think it would be a fun challenge, especially since each day features such different terrain it makes it seem like several different hikes. For now the idea of climbing Kilimanjaro is brewing. We'll see what happens next year.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Nutritional Info: Ghanaian Food

Estimated 1,300 calories
Since I've been living in Ghana over the last year I've made some big changes to the way I eat. The biggest change is that I eat much less fast food than I used to. I live in Kumasi which is a city of nearly 2 million people and the only American fast food I am aware of are two different KFC establishments.

Not having access to fast food can make things inconvenient  but it is also a blessing in disguise since it helps me to eat less processed junk food than I would at home. There are many local street vendors here who sell their version of fast food but they are dishes made from scratch each day.

I'm pretty sure all the fruit and vegetables here are organic and have not been genetically modified which is a good thing but produce does not last very long. We have to buy most fruit every day because it goes bad after just a few days due to the heat.

Another challenge I've had is trying to track calories and macros for many of the local foods here. I've talked to people at the nearby gym who are concerned about their nutrition but they have no idea how many calories the food they eat contains so I decided to do some research on some of the traditional staple foods in Ghana.

Fufu- Is made from casava root and pounded until it has the texture of raw pizza dough. It is served in a ball shape and then ripped into pieces, dipped in a stew or soup, and swallowed.

Kenkey- Is made from ground up corn and wrapped in leaves to hold it together. It usually ferments for a few days before it is eaten with a soup or sauce.

Banku- Is prepared by combining fermented ground corn and casava dough into a smooth paste and then rolled into balls.

Jollof- A spicier version of fried rice made with tomatoes, onions, meat, and spices.

Plantains- They look like giant green bananas and are sometimes mashed up with casava to make fufu or frequently eaten after being fried in oil. They can also be dried into chip form.

Yams- They are prepared by boiling them then cutting them into cubes. They have the texture of a dry baked potato and are usually dipped in sauce and eaten. They can also be combined with casava to make fufu.

Beans with gari powder and palm oil added is another popular staple. Gari powder is made from dried casava and when it is sprinkled into the beans it makes them solidify so they are no longer runny. White rice, fried chicken, and fish are also favorites.

I've been trying to find the calorie content for most of these foods but when I research them online I get a huge range of possible calories due to different recipes, preparation procedures, and serving sizes that are not well defined. Here are the approximate calorie estimates the best I've been able to research them.

1 cup jollaf rice= 300 calories
1 cup beans and palm oil= 400 calories
Fried plantains 3 pieces= 180 calories
1 cup fufu= 400 calories
1 cup yams= 200 calories
1 Ball of kenkey 500 calories
1 cup banku= 500 calories
1 cup of white rice= 200 calories

I bought the plate of food pictured above from a street vendor for less than a couple bucks. It has the following foods: Starting at 12 o clock and moving clockwise there is a cup of jollaf rice, a small piece of fried chicken, a cup of beans mixed with gari powder, 3 fried plantains, and a boiled egg. I estimate that the total calories of that meal are between 1,200-1,400 calories depending on how it was prepared. Most people might have only one big meal a day like that but if someone has three daily meals similar to this, they'd better be extremely active or it will be very easy to gain weight.

Many Ghanaians do manual labor and work hard all day so these calorie dense foods not only taste good but provide their needed daily fuel and help them to feel full for an extended time. Unfortunately, just like in the United States, when people are sedentary and consume more calories than they burn, the result will be weight gain and Ghana has seen a rise in obesity over the years.