Thursday, September 28, 2017

Stadium stairs

Taking advantage of my time at MTSU this week to run the stadium stairs.  Been a while since I did this.  So, with the daylight fading and thanks to a lesson cancelation, I hit the stairs.
Hoka trainers  
brief warmup 
20 x stadium stair sprints
Like doing an interval workout, the last 10 steps are the real workout of each flight.  I took a bit more time in between than usual but 20x is a lot for an early season workout.

This is a pretty good flight of stairs.  The exhaustion hits only after I finish the flight.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rusty return

I felt that 6 weeks was enough so I hit the track today at Marist.   On a school recruiting trip to Atlanta to attend an arts job fair.

I was really surprised at how painful my warmup laps felt.  Carrying an extra 5 or 6 lbs than normal, everything hurt.  But after a full warmup it felt better... but, I'm in terrible shape.  I was going to run an 800m but I bailed.   It would have been a struggle, so I ran a 400 at 800m pace and did some up tempo stuff.
Hoka trainers on 
800m warmup, stretches, drills 
400m - 76 
300m - 44 
200m - 27.5
Actually surprised I ran the 300 and 200 as fast as I did.  My body is beginning to remember how to sprint.  It's going to take time.  I'd be hard pressed to run 60 sec 400m right now.   But, gotta start somewhere.  I just feel heavy and I should be back to normal in a few weeks.  Not looking forward to the foundation stuff i know I need to do.

I signed up to race in a senior games district meet 4 weeks from today.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Cardio health part 2

Well, I had my first CT calcium scan of my heart yesterday.  The machine was a low dose state of the art GE which was reassuring.  The actual scan took just a few minutes.

My calcium plaque score was ZERO.  yes!

That is a perfect result, essentially indicating almost a zero chance of heart disease or heart attack in the next 15 yrs, according to studies.  A zero score isn't that unusual, if I read the stats correctly, about 1/3 of white males age 57 tested get a zero result.   That being said, false negatives are possible with some blockage material being too low density to be seen on such a scan.  But, I'm encouraged.

It affirms the benefits of the fact that I haven't eaten beef or pork for 26 yrs, and only recently started occasionally eating poultry.   And, I've never allowed myself to become overweight or obese, never having exceeded a BMI of 25.

Unlike some who might celebrate this result with steak and ice cream, I'm going to persevere with the dietary recommendations that were given to me as mentioned in my previous post.

As someone stated, one of my risk factors is triglycerides and that makes sense because I've not been able to correct is my massive intake of sugar.   Now, I say sugar, and we all know sugar is sugar, but I am very particular about the sugar I use.  I use only 2 types of sugar exclusively:  1) raw turbinado or 2) pure maple.   If you have to eat sugar, these are miles better than white sugar, and they taste soooo much better too.  I have not ever purchased granulated white sugar.   But I will tell you this:  I would opt for the deadly pure white sugar in a heartbeat before I'd take a chemical sweetener like aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, acesulfame, or any of the others.    I hate chemical sweeteners with a passion.  It sickens me to see how pervasive sucralose has become.  I read labels religiously before I buy anything.

I consume almost all of my sugar in coffee or tea, which I probably also drink too much of.  I use sweet coffee and tea to ward off hunger when I am cutting fat off my body in preparation for race season.   Even in the widest swings, I'm only varying 10 or 11 lbs maximum.  To get that last 5 lbs of firm fat off prior to competition, takes some extraordinary measures.  Like eating one main meal a day and completely eliminating starchy carbs.   Essentially fish and vegetables, nuts and fruit.

Today, I tried a natural zero calorie sweetener blend of stevia and monk fruit.  It was ok in my oat bran, but terrible in tea.  But it was ok in cappuccino, not great.

So, I'm going to try and kick the sugar habit for a while and see how it goes.  I've decided that it's ok to eat some artisan baked wheat bread.  But oat bran + flax seed cereal and blueberries will be my go to in the morning, or for the first meal ... instead of sugar and caffeine.

What is healthy?  I guess olive oil is NOT
Everyone talks about the benefits of olive oil and the 'Mediterranean Diet.'  Olive oil is high in mono unsaturated fat.  Well guess what: studies in apes show monounsaturated-fat-rich diet and saturated-fat-rich diet were equally damaging. That's right, olive oil was no better than saturated fat.
“The monkeys fed monounsaturated fat developed equivalent amounts of coronary artery atherosclerosis as those fed saturated fat,” wrote Dr. Lawrence Rudel and colleagues at Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston–Salem, North Carolina. “The point here is, we’ve got to look beyond blood lipids. We’ve got to examine exactly what happens to our arteries,” asserts Dr. Jay Kenney, Nutrition Research Specialist at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida. As this very important long-term study on monkeys demonstrates, “better” blood lipids do not necessarily lead to better arteries. Though the monkeys on the mono-fat-rich diet had lower LDLs and higher HDLs than the monkeys on the sat-fat-rich diet, they ended up with the same amount of damage to their arteries.
So what is it about the 'Mediterranean Diet?'  Well, it's really not just the diet, it's the lifestyle.  If you are a farmer or a sheep herder in coastal Mediterranean community, you're on your feet and walking up hills a lot.  THAT is what gives the benefit as much as diet.  In the diet, it's not so much the olive oil but the other stuff:
 “The beneficial components of the Mediterranean diet,” concluded Robert Vogel, MD, and colleagues at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, “appear to be antioxidant-rich foods, including vegetables, fruits, and their derivatives such as vinegar, and omega–3–rich fish…
So, read this article if you think olive oil is so great. Apparently, the science say it's not. The science supporting claims that monounsaturated fats are heart protective is weak, based largely on population studies, not controlled trials. Whatever modest health benefits are associated with consuming olive oil are largely due to the beneficial plant chemicals, such as polyphenols and plant sterols, found in the extra virgin olive oils, but these plant chemicals are largely lost in the more processed ‘light’ olive oils... the kind my mother tends to use, unfortunately.

The article is full of scientific references, some studies of course better, larger and more conclusive than others.  But the bottom line is that all fats are generally bad in excess.   However, my personal experience is that fats seem to affect my blood sugar and put weight on me far LESS than starchy carbs.

I guess it's back to that old saying.... everything in moderation.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Off season workouts / cardio health

Off Season
I'm committed to taking the rest of the month off from the track, probably my longest break from running in about 4 years, and it'll be about 7 weeks.

In the mean time, I'm doing Stairmaster and Concept 2 rower.  Usually the 20 min hill program on the Stairmaster (level 16), then some weights... focusing on the upper body, core, hip flexors, abductors, etc... and other areas I've trained less on during the season.  Then I do a 2000m set on the rower in 8:40ish.   Not a killer workout by any means, just enough to stay somewhat fit and burn some calories.  I can get this done in 45 min or so.  This is a workout easy enough to do daily when I can.

After the season ended on 8/11, I binged a bit on stuff I normally don't eat.  Toast and butter, a few pastries, pizza.   After cleaning up my act for a few days and having the customary fast, I did a lipid profile blood test and it came back borderline high, thanks much to a family history of high cholesterol.   My total was 218, LDL (bad cholesterol) 135,  HDL (good cholesterol) 51, triglycerides 118.   My LDL has always been too high for comfort... ranging from 99 to 140 in the past several yrs and my ratio of 4.27 is above the optimal although better than average.

I dislike these comparisons to 'average'.  They are meaningless and because the 'average' in America is in such poor health, I don't want to be any part or close to average.

My doctor has given me an option to have a cardiac CT scan for a risk assessment.  This will yield a 'calcium computed tomography score.'   I'm surprised that a lot of health professionals I talked to about this test didn't even know what it was.  It's not particularly reliable as it often gives false positives and negatives.  Positives such as indicating 'severe' when it's not really severe - as in the case of my father's test where he received a sky high severe level score of 1800+ but a cardiac catheterization revealed only moderate blockage (50%).  Any score over 400 is considered high risk.  False negatives result when soft plaque goes undetected.  Also, there is a cancer risk of just having the chest radiated ... and I've had a fair amount of xrays in the past 7 yrs.

I probably will go through with the the test just to see where I stand ... approximately.   My doc is sort of pushing me to go on statin medication and I am NOT interested in doing that, as I have read it is not conducive to athletic training, may damage the liver, cause muscle soreness, susceptibility for muscle/ tendon damage, hurt recovery, impair aerobic conditioning, etc...!  One physician friend told me that the long term benefits of life extension use of statin drugs was mixed and inconclusive.   Plus, once you commit to using statins, just getting off them increases risk, so better to not start.

Partly due to aging, the risk factors increase.  My risk assessment with the same numbers was significantly less if you were to make the same calculations for a 51 yr old instead of a 57 yr old.

Borderline high cholesterol is a risk factor, doesn't mean I am diseased, or at least not terribly.   I have worked tremendously hard as an athlete, have excellent blood pressure for a 57 yr old (usually 116/60 in the mornings) and good resting pulse (in the 50s in the mornings).  So, I think I can improve these lipid numbers with other means than drugs.  I seriously detest the mentality that one can achieve license to indulge in a gluttonous lazy lifestyle by taking a pill.  Also, that you can 'eat your way to perfect health' by being a vegan... or train as an athlete to impeccable health.   I'm pretty certain there is more to it, especially heredity and genes, but the number one priority is to at least know where you stand with medical tests and assessments.  Otherwise, you're living in self indulgent ignorance - risky behavior - especially if you know your parents, uncles, aunts, had/have heart disease or cancer.  Nothing is for certain.  I'm reminded that life is fragile as a few friends have recently had bouts of severe cancer when they seemed to be living very healthy lifestyles and seemed to be low risk.  Risk is something that you shouldn't guess at.  Your life depends on it.

All that said, I've been a near vegetarian for most of my adult life.  Still haven't eaten beef or pork in 26 years.  Been vegan, mostly vegan + fish, recently vegan + fish and occasional poultry.

I'm ok with a challenge.  If I have to take statins sometime in my life, I hope to put it off for at least a decade or more.  I have consulted with friends, some in the medical field, who have successfully lowered their lipid numbers with lifestyle.  Some of these diet recommendations may seem odd and unproven, but they've worked for some people.   Here are some of their suggestions:

When not training, spend off days doing stuff on the feet, home projects, walks, bike rides, etc..

Eliminate -
- all dairy except low or non fat products
- off season binges
- fried food 
 Add -
- oat bran cereal with ground flax
- niacin supplements
- plant sterol and stanol supplements
- replace butter with olive oil or Benecol
- pickled foods or apple cider vinegar
- maybe an occasional glass of wine 

Next lipid test won't be until beginning of Feb. '18.   CT scan this week unless I chicken out.   We'll see how it goes.  I'm always good for a challenge.