Mike Kueber's Blog

May 9, 2014

The moral high ground – vanity vs. materialism

Filed under: Fitness,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 1:47 am
Tags: ,

Following yoga today, a friend asked my age and then commented that I was in good shape for a 60-year-old guy.  I thanked him and said I was lucky that I enjoyed spending time in the gym with weights and yoga and on the road biking.

Later in the day while on the road biking, I reflected further on my friend’s comment.  Ever since college, I have worked out regularly and kept my weight in the 170s.  But every decade or so, my weight would inch into the 180s, and I would react by redoubling my efforts to return to the 170s.  In fact, that happened again just two months ago, and since then I’ve returned to my daily 20-mile bike ride, and things are once again under control.

But the point is that my passion for working out is not enough to keep me in the 170s.  Even with regular workouts, I tend to slide into the 180s, and only my unwillingness to live as a 180-pounder cause me to get out of my comfort zone.  So, as I was riding today, I pondered how important it was to me to stay in the 170s.  Hypothetically, would I rather (a) stay in the 170s or (b) live with an additional 20 pounds in return for receiving $1 million?  To make the question more difficult, I stipulated that the money had to be spent on me instead of the morally high ground of sharing it with family and friends.

My initial reaction was that I didn’t have much use for the $1 million, but I would hate to carry the extra pounds.  That initial reaction became less firm when I realized that $1 million would convert into about $50,000 a year for the rest of my life, which meant I could buy an expensive new car as soon as the old one went off warranty, plus a few weeks in Manhattan every year.  Hmmm.

But what about the moral satisfaction that comes with working hard to maintain 175 pounds.  Then I tweaked the hypothetical question so that I would still have to work hard to maintain 195 pounds.  Thus, the moral satisfaction would remain the same.  The only thing that would change is that I would be carrying around 20 pounds of additional fat.  This is mostly aesthetics, with some health component.

In essence, this seems to be a contest between vanity and materialism, both of which are prominent components of the seven deadly sins.  According to Wikipedia:

  • In almost every list, pride or hubris, is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and the source of the others. It is identified as believing that one is essentially better than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, and excessive admiration of the personal self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God).

 

  • Greed, also known as avarice, cupidity or covetousness, is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of excess. However, greed (as seen by the church) is applied to a very excessive or rapacious desire and pursuit of material possessions.

I suspect that there is no moral high ground, just different values and priorities.  Personally, I would rather spend my remaining years as someone in his 170s instead of a millionaire in his 190s.

March 13, 2014

Yoga practice jades a guy

Filed under: Culture,Fitness,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 1:54 am
Tags:

Yoga aficionados claim that regular practice helps them with strength, conditioning, tranquility, flexibility, and balance.  But my non-yoga activities already give me adequate strength and conditioning, and I’m already a tranquil guy.  So when friends ask me why I practice yoga so often, I tell them it is to improve my flexibility and balance.

But there is another reason – the women.

Nationwide, women comprise about 80% of yoga practices, and that number seems accurate for Lifetime Fitness in San Antonio, too.  But it is not just the quantity; it’s the quality.  I used to notice how tanning salons attracted such attractive women, but yoga studios seem to be even stronger beauty magnets.  In fact, the yoga women are so attractive that it is easy for guys to take them for granted.  Two examples of this occurred to me this week:

  1. Following a practice at Club 281, an extremely attractive woman introduced herself to me and said she had some questions for me.  Apparently she had been taking various practices for a few weeks in preparation to teaching, and she had noticed me at several of those classes and wanted to get my thoughts on those classes.  The shocking thing was that I had never noticed her in those classes.  I’m not the kind of guy to not notice an attractive, new woman, but there are so many attractive women in these classes that one more will usually not stand out.
  2. Following a practice at The Rim, I was visiting with the yogi about politics, and our conversation drifted onto a prominent older politician who had recently married a trophy bride, all well documented on Facebook.  As we were talking, a couple of women walked by and the yogi said hello.  As soon as they were gone, the yogi told me that, in an amazing coincidence, that was the trophy bride.  Aside from the coincidence, the shocking thing was that I had looked at the woman only briefly before returning my attention to the yogi.  The trophy bride in the context of a yoga class was just another woman.

Admittedly, women don’t look as good in exercise clothes as they do in tailored designer outfits, although they do wear colorful, shapely, revealing stuff.  And their make-up isn’t as professionally applied.  But I believe the dominant reason why I’m not noticing these uber-attractive women is that there are so many of them.

The outside world would probably consider three-fourths of the women in a class to be extremely attractive.  I’m like a photographer surrounded my swimsuit models.

Jaded is defined as “tired, bored, or lacking enthusiasm, typically after having had too much of something.”

After a while, they all look the same.

 

 

November 27, 2013

Sunday Book Review #113 – Yoga Sequencing by Mark Stephens

Filed under: Book reviews,Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 8:04 pm
Tags:

As a yoga aficionado who is interested in going beyond my rote participation in a daily 60-minute practice, I have checked out several yoga books from the local library.  Unfortunately, most of those books focus on the spiritual aspect of yoga, which is mostly beyond my current capability to enjoy.  Instead, I am interested in learning more about the physical practice, which consists of a series of poses (asanas).  Yoga Sequencing by Mark Stephens is exactly what I was looking for.

The genesis of yoga goes back almost 5,000 years, and it has evolved in an informal way.  A foundational text of 196 sutras (aphorisms) was written by Patañjali a couple of centuries B.C., but he was not the first to write about yoga and he used others’ writings in his work.  Those 196 sutras create the so-called eight limbs of yoga:

  1.  Yama refers to the five abstentions vis-à-vis the external world.
  2.  Niyama refers to the five observances: how we relate to ourselves, the inner world.
  3. Asana: discipline of the body.
  4. Pranayama consists of breathing exercises.
  5. Pratyahara: withdrawal of senses from their external objects.
  6. Dharana: concentration on a physical object.
  7. Dhyana: steadfast meditation.
  8. Samadhi: oneness with the object of meditation.

Yoga classes consist almost entirely of the third limb – asanas – although some practices touch on the breathing techniques in the fourth limb – pranayama.  Yoga Sequencing is subtitled “Designing Transformative Yoga Classes,” and its objective is to explain how the variety of asanas (or poses) can be fitted together to create an effective class.  The first concept to accomplish this is the Yoga Class Arc Structure.  According to Stephens, an effective class has five parts:

  1. Initiating the yogic process;
  2. Warming the body;
  3. Pathway to the peak;
  4. Peak exploration; and
  5. Integration and savasana.

These parts are really common sense and intuitive.  I remember a few weeks ago sending a note complimenting my instructor (whose name happens to be the 7th limb of yoga or Dhyana) about the great pace of her class that day:

  • Great ashtanga practice today.  Let me count the ways – (1) quick, solid warm-up without getting frenetic; (2) deceptively difficult standing poses that had the entire room sweating like pigs; and (3) yin poses that managed to keep the fire going all the way to savasana. Bravo!

The 60-minute yoga classes at Lifetime Fitness are Single Peak Class.  The book describes three other possibilities – Two Peak Class, Multiple Peak Class, and Gradual Arc Class – but I assume those classes are feasible only where the classes last 90 or 120 minutes.

After determining the desired pace, the next step for a teacher is to arrange the asanas in a sequence to accomplish that.  The yogic process is often initiated with sitting poses that help “establish your intentions” for that practice. It might also include some breathing exercises (pranayama).  The body is warmed usually with one of three sun salutations (namaskaras) – classical, A, or B.  The pathway to the peak includes two or three asana sequences of increasing energy, climaxing with the peak, followed by some calming down with some asanas on your yoga mat.

The author warns, “The peak should not be confused or conflated with the point of maximum internal heat generated through prior actions and poses; it is not so much about peak heat as peak openness.”  He also warns that “poses” suggest something superficial, but that actually they are essentially internal.  (As I noted in the opening, this mental component is beyond my current capability, so I think of peak as the time when the sweat is flowing liberally and I think of the asanas as physical poses.)

The book contains an abundance of guidance in selecting pose-by-pose sequencing, with the objective shifting from some times wanting complementary poses of increased or decreased challenge to other times wanting counter poses to balance what came earlier.

To assist teachers in cueing the various poses, the author provides an assortment of sequencing cues.  Because breathing is an important component, there are separate cues for the inhale and the exhale.  For example:

  1. Inhale – reach the arms out and up from Samasthihi to Urdhva Hastasana;
  2. Exhale – fold forward and down into Uttanasan;
  3. Inhale – extend the spine and heart center forward into Ardha Uttanasan;
  4. Exhale – step the right foot back, knee down to the floor, toes back;
  5. Inhale – draw the torso and arms up into Anjaneyasana;
  6. Exhale – swan dive the palms to the floor;
  7. Inhale – step back to Phalakasana;
  8. ….

In addition to providing sequencing for beginner classes, the author provides specialized sequences for intermediate and advanced classes, plus life-cycle sequences – kids, seniors, and special conditions of women (pregnant, menstruation, menopause).  There are also sequences with an emphasis on standing asanas, core awakening, arm balances, back bends, twists, forward bends, hip openers, and inversions.  Appendix B contains 96 pages with pictures and descriptions of countless asanas.

From the wealth of information contained in this book, I feel confident that my yoga instructors at Lifetime Fitness are highly competent and know what they are doing.  They create a class that is “assessable, sustainable, and transforming.”  Their asana sequencing results in a wonderful arc structure, all based on a foundation of clear cueing.

As I previous told Dhyana, bravo.

 

January 8, 2013

The Fiscal Cliff compromise includes a fix to the estate tax

Filed under: Fitness,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:29 am
Tags: , ,

Today’s local paper included an article on America’s estate tax, as revised by the Fiscal Cliff compromise.  The article’s writer tried to humanize the issue by describing a 91-year-old farmer who has been concerned with how the tax would affect the 5,000-acre farm that he has been building since WWII.  Unfortunately, however, she failed to say how the new law, which increased the exemption from $1 million to $5 million while increasing the rate from 35% to 40%, will affect the farm. 

If I guessed that the land was worth $5,000 an acre, the farm would be worth $25,000,000.  And that doesn’t include buildings and equipment, which I’ll guess at $5,000,000.  Based on my calculations, the estate would have paid $10.15 million under the old law and will pay $10 million under the new law.  Now that’s change you can believe in.

The farmer’s daughter probably didn’t create a lot of sympathy in the article by saying, “You don’t really inherit the farm, you inherit a bunch of taxes. … The heirs lose the farm to pay the taxes. And that’s one more family farm that goes out of business.”

In fact, the estate will first pay the taxes and then transfer to her whatever is left.  The farm will still be worth many millions of dollars, even though it will be diminished by the estate tax.  That is a problem millions of heirs would love to have.

No taxes are painless, but they are a necessary evil.  And I can’t imagine a tax that is less painful than that assessed against a rich person’s estate before passing the remainder onto the heirs.

August 9, 2012

Dress codes and yoga

Filed under: Culture,Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 10:28 pm
Tags: ,

The year I graduated from high school (1971), a Canadian rock band called the Five Man Electrical Band had a hit song – Signs.   Although the song takes on a lot of society’s bugaboos, including materialism, snobbishness, and anti-green behavior, it includes multiple reference to dress codes, and that is what prompted me to think about it earlier this week when Lifetime Fitness decided to impose a ban on topless yoga.  It seems that some presumably-matronly women thought the sight of sweaty, shirtless men in their midst was disagreeable, and Lifetime Fitness decided to accommodate them.

Coincidentally, only a week earlier I had blogged about yoga etiquette and defended the practice of going shirtless.  But beyond the substance of this particular issue, I think that my coming-of-age in 1971 has almost hard-wired me to rebel against rules that seem to have mainstream people imposing their values unnecessarily on outliers like me.  Perhaps that is why I have always been inclined to live in an apartment community instead of a suburban development.  And why I love the slogan, “Keep Austin weird.”    

Not coincidentally, “Rebel Without a Cause” is in my Netflix queue.

August 2, 2012

Yoga etiquette and pet peeves

Filed under: Fitness,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 7:01 pm
Tags: ,

Since retiring, I’ve become less irritable and more of a live-and-let-live sort of person.  The two major exceptions are while I’m (a) on the road (easily triggered road rage while driving or bike-riding) or (b) at yoga practice.  Several people at hot-yoga practice today got under my skin in varying ways:

  • Talking to and giggling with their neighbor during practice;
  • Yogis who skip the challenging asanas and then blithely tell us to work harder;  
  • Checking on a cell phone during practice, or even worse, failing to turn it to silent; and
  • Creating a hubbub by leaving early while the rest of us are trying to downshift into a meditative shavasana. 

Google reveals that I’m not the only one bothered by the lack of etiquette displayed by yoga practitioners.  Among their pet peeves:

  1. Wearing shoes into classroom;
  2. Showing up late;
  3. Refusing to adjust their mat to accommodate others;
  4. Doing your own routine instead of following the yogi’s cues;
  5. Preachy yogis who lecture about non-yoga things like weight, coffee, dairy, vegan, etc.;
  6. Talking outside the classroom while waiting for a class to end;
  7. Talking to the yogi during class with questions or suggestions;
  8. Too many adjustments made by yogi, or too few;
  9. Women who are too chatty leading up to class;
  10. Yogis who hydrate while students are in position;
  11. Not wearing underwear;
  12. Smelly mats;
  13. Too much perfume or cologne.

I’ve actually encountered the first ten items on the list above and most of them can be annoying.  Several addition items deserve a specific response:

  • Shirtless, sweaty men in loose-fitting shorts practicing commando.  I keep my shirt on during normal classes, but, like most men, take it off during hot classes.  Seems silly to wear a shirt that becomes soaking wet.  Seems analogous to going topless at the beach. 
  • Moaners and orgasm.  I’ve gotten into the habit of moaning, much like a tennis player or weightlifter, when I am getting out of a challenging asana.  Feels good, plus yogis often tell us that they enjoy hearing us breathing hard.  A week ago, for the first time, I heard a woman who sounded almost orgasmic during some of her movements, and I didn’t find it distracting in the slightest.
  • Ogling and treating the class like a singles mixer.  As the guy from Chick-fil-A said about his practices, “Guilty as charged.”
  • Yogi drill instructors.  Nothing wrong with encouraging us to try, but save the barking for spin class.

More than one person who posted something on a yoga website noted that the term “yoga pet peeve” was an oxymoron because someone who buys into the spiritual objective of yoga will not let any of these breaches of etiquette become a pet peeve.  There is something to be said for that; mind over matter.

April 10, 2012

Yoga, Islam, and Namaste

Filed under: Culture,Fitness,Religion — Mike Kueber @ 9:48 am
Tags: , , ,

Most people consider yoga to be some exotic, mystical, even quasi-religious experience, and that turns them off.  To avoid this turn-off, yoga in America has evolved into a form of physical exercise that focuses on building strength, increasing flexibility, and improving balance.  There is still a minimal amount of attention to stress relief and meditation (the concluding shavasana), but chanting is almost always excluded.  I have one new instructor at Lifetime Fitness who likes to throw in a few chants even though she acknowledges that some participants object because of its religious implications.

According to a recent article in the NY Times (attached below), the practice of yoga in New York City is experiencing a similar narrative, especially in Muslim dominated areas, such as Jackson Heights in Queens, an area that I have visited several times.  Muslims are much more sensitive to avoiding anything that might be inconsistent with their fealty to Islam, and the article examines how practitioners of yoga are “Seeking to Clear a Path Between Yoga and Islam.

Namaste. 

Incidentally, Wikipedia says the following about Namaste:

  • Namaste is a common spoken valediction or salutation originating from the Indian subcontinent. It is a customary greeting when individuals meet, and a valediction upon their parting. A non-contact form of salutation is traditionally preferred in India and Namaste is the most common form of such a salutation….  When spoken to another person, it is commonly accompanied by a slight bow made with hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointed upwards, in front of the chest. This gesture, called Añjali Mudrā or Pranamasana, can also be performed wordlessly and carries the same meaning….  Namaste is derived from Sanskrit and is a combination of two words, “Namaḥ” and “te.  Namaḥ means ‘bow’, ‘obeisance’, ‘reverential salutation’ or ‘adoration’ and te means ‘to you.’  Therefore, Namaste literally means “bow to you” translated as “I bow to you.”

Another internet website provides essentially the same information – “Nama” means bow, “as” means I, and “te” means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you.”

All of which makes me wonder why all of the yogis at Lifetime Fitness conclude practice by saying some variation of, “We finish yoga practice by saying Namaste, which means that the divine in me bows to the divine in you.  Namaste.”  According to Wikipedia, this is a modern extrapolation.  Sounds like they have all been programmed by some yoga sensei in their corporate headquarters.   

In Queens, Seeking to Clear a Path Between Yoga and Islam

By SARAH MASLIN NIR

Published: April 8, 2012

As a community activist in Queens, Muhammad Rashid has fought for the rights of immigrants held in detention, sought the preservation of local movie theaters, and held a street fair to promote diversity.

But few of those causes brought him anywhere near as much grief and controversy as his stance on yoga.   Mr. Rashid, a Muslim, said he had long believed that practicing yoga was tantamount to “denouncing my religion.”

“Yoga is not for Muslims,” he said. “It was forbidden.”

But after moving to New York in 1997 from Bahrain, he slowly began to rethink his stance. Now Mr. Rashid, 56, has come full circle: not only has he adopted yoga into his daily routine, but he has also encouraged other Muslims to do so — putting himself squarely against those who consider yoga a sin against Islam.

In New York City, where yoga has become as secular an activity as spinning or step aerobics, the potential sins of yoga are not typically debated by those clad in Lululemon leggings. But in some predominantly Muslim pockets like Jackson Heights, Queens, yoga has been slow to catch on, especially among first-generation immigrants, newly arrived from cultures where yoga is considered Hindu worship.

When Mr. Rashid, who also tutors children, had his students learn yoga to help improve their concentration, three Muslim students quit after a few sessions, he said, in part, he believed, because of their families’ stance toward the practice. “I am putting them in something extra that is not in the Muslim religion,” he said. “The parents did not accept it.”

The religious opposition to yoga also extends to some Christian sects. One widely publicized clash came in 2010, when R. Albert Mohler Jr., an evangelical leader and the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, declared the practice of yoga blasphemous because of what he said were its pantheistic roots.

In India, near-annual pushes by members of Parliament to make yoga compulsory in schools have riled Muslim parents who feel it bridges on indoctrination. When a Parliament member proposed to insert yoga into most curriculums in 2010, wording was included to exempt things like madrasas, or Islamic schools. Four years ago, a council of Malaysian Muslim clerics issued a fatwa against yoga, declaring it haram, or forbidden by Islamic law. The ruling followed similar edicts in Egypt and Singapore, where one of the earliest bans was issued in the early 1980s.

The fatwas typically cited the Sanskrit chants that often flowed through yoga sessions, and which can be considered Hindu prayer by some in the Muslim faith. According to  “Yoga in the Hindu Scriptures” by H. Kumar Kaul, who has written numerous books on yoga, yogic principles were first described in the Vedas, the Sanskrit scriptures that form the backbone of Hinduism, and are considered to be over 10,000 years old.

Even the word “namaste,” for example, invokes the divine.

Given that cultural history, it was understandable that when Mohd A. Qayyoom, an imam who runs the Muhammadi Community Center of Jackson Heights, joined a large yoga demonstration at an open-air interfaith festival in Jackson Heights last summer, it would not go unnoticed.

His participation drew instant reproach from the community, he said. “As soon as we finished our event, they said, ‘Imam, what is that, why are you doing that?’ ” he said. “ ‘This is not within our Islam.’ ”

But Imam Qayyoom said he had come to believe that Islam and yoga could be compatible — if the Sanskrit benedictions are left out, he said, and women’s skin-tight yoga gear is traded for more conservative garments. “Reformed, it will be more popular” among Muslims, he said. “It will not contradict with Islamic religion.”

Others are less convinced.

Anwar Hassan, 27, who is from Bangladesh and works in the Queen of Sheba grocery in Jackson Heights, says yoga’s roots are irreconcilable with his faith.

“When I came here, I see there is yoga and everything, but we don’t go,” Mr. Hassan said. “A lot of people, they are new to it so they think it’s a gym class, or something. But Hindu people started it, and I think it’s Hindu religion, so I don’t go.”

When Dr. Alex Eingorn prescribed yoga recently to a Bangladeshi woman who came to him with spinal pain at his Better Health Chiropractic clinic in Midtown Manhattan, “she looked at me in horror,” he said. “She said, ‘I’m a Muslim, I can’t practice a different religion.’ ” Dr. Eingorn persuaded her to try it, he said, by saying that in New York, it is viewed as a secular, or at the most, spiritual practice.

Mimi Bord, 46, who runs Mi-mi-for-Me Yoga, a tidy and serene studio in Jackson Heights that is one of the neighborhood’s only yoga centers, has had to make similar allowances. “If there is a little chanting going on, right away this is a turn- off” for some of the Muslims who sign up for her sessions, she said. “Often they won’t come back.”

In response, Ms. Bord has tailored certain classes, cutting out Sanskrit chants if she thinks it will upset certain students. “Emphasizing the physical, they’re kind of cool with it,” she says. “They feel safe.”

For Ms. Bord, who has taught yoga to a variety of audiences, including Hasidic women in Brooklyn, it came as a shock, when shortly after opening a studio in the area eight years ago she was approached by a Muslim student who voiced concerns with customary chants like “ohm.” She found herself fielding questions like “ ‘Is ‘ohm’ God? Is ‘ohm’ Allah?’ ” she said.

Ms. Bord adapted her classes for her new clientele, either omitting chanting, or adding both “shalom” and “amen” to the traditional sign-off of namaste, to indicate that a plurality of religions were being represented.

“A lot of us in the Western world, we look at it as anything that is going to enhance the way we look aesthetically,” she said. She said that some Muslim students were “not looking at the physical aspect, they’re looking at the spiritual aspect.”

For many immersed in a culture where vinyasa yoga is more readily associated with a New York Sports Club than a Hindu temple, the origin matters little. And for some of the devout living here, the American conception has overridden the beliefs with which they were raised.

When Mr. Rashid finally took up yoga, he said there were more similarities with his faith than contradictions. In salat, the five-times daily Muslim prayers, which entail a meditation-like centering of focus and several kneeling bows, he felt there were echoes of yogic poses.

“I discovered whatever I’m doing in yoga, I’m doing five times a day in prayer,” said Mr. Rashid, who is originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

During the daylong yoga class at the festival that Mr. Rashid helped organize in Jackson Heights last summer, classes were halted for salat.  Imam Qayyoom and others performed those prayers on their yoga mats.

It dawned on him then, the imam said, that many Muslims, in a sense, practice yogic postures several times a day. “Maybe they’re getting that same benefit in their prayers,” he said. “Maybe they don’t need to do yoga.”

March 22, 2012

For dieting, all all calories equal

Filed under: Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 3:56 am
Tags: ,

When I was a kid, most people dieted by counting their calories.  Since then, however, that strategy has been ridiculed as simplistic and old-fashioned.  In its place, new diets have focused on either (a) burning more calories through exercise, or (b) reducing the consumption of certain types of calories – fats, protein, carbohydrates, or alcohol. Now, according to an article in the NY Times today, we have come full circle to realize that “a calorie is a calorie” in whatever form it takes.    Yes, some calories may be better for your health, but to lose weight, the formula remains what it has always been – i.e., consume fewer calories than you burn off.

Incidentally, a gram of fat has 9 calories, a gram of protein has 4 calories, a gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories, and a gram of alcohol has 7 calories.  Thus, a gram of fat will provide your body with more than twice as much energy as a gram of protein or carbs, but that is not a good thing because your body will store as body fat any consumed calories that you don’t burn off.

 

February 23, 2012

Performance-enhancing drugs

Filed under: Fitness — Mike Kueber @ 2:49 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

For several years of riding bike and lifting weights, I have worked at a maintenance level (i.e., not trying to get better).  Although I had long aspired to ride a bike 20 miles in an hour, I eventually realized that I could accomplish that goal only by training harder or losing weight, and I didn’t have the discipline to do either.

Then a couple of months ago, I decided to take my conditioning to another level.  Maybe this changed mindset was prompted my enforced layoff following knee-replacement surgery in November.  Or perhaps I was motivated by my friend Rebecca’s decision to start training for a marathon.

Whatever the prompt was, I started.  On the bike, I tried to take advantage of the ten pounds that I had lost since the surgery.  With the weights, I started lifting two sets a day instead of one.  Obviously, I was applying old-fashioned strategy of working harder, not necessarily smarter. 

Then one day, a group of friendly weightlifters who regularly lift at 10am at Lifetime Fitness decided to socialize at StoneWerks for a Happy Hour.  The time was exceedingly well spend, because in addition to getting to better know some wonderful people, I learned an important weightlifting insight – i.e., everyone at the table used a post-workout protein supplement, even the women who weren’t obsessed about building muscle mass.

Although I am not a lemming who always follows the crowd, I decided to try a protein supplement, and loved it.  Not only does it taste great (like a low-calorie vanilla shake) when mixed with a clear soda, but it works – to help avoid getting run down from your day-to-day workouts.  That has been especially helpful with my daily bike rides.  Caveat – some studies report that protein supplements are not as effective with senior citizens, but I’ll worry about that when I get there.

The danger with supplement usage, however, is that it can be a slippery slope.  In addition to a protein supplement, half the people at the StoneWerks happy hour used a pre-workout supplement, which usually creatine, caffeine, etc.  So naturally, because the protein supplement worked so well, I decided to give a pre-workout supplement at try by picking up some samples this past weekend at a local supplement store.  All I can say is “wow!”  I immediately could life more weight and ride a stationary bike much faster. 

But not all is good.  Recently there was an article in the NY Times reporting that the U.S. Army had removed several pre-workout supplements from their bases pending an investigation of the heart-attack deaths of two soldiers potentially related to their supplement usage.  This is a bit disconcerting because I have noticed on a stationary bike at Lifetime I can get my heart rate to 160 in ten hard minutes of riding after using the supplement, but my rate goes to only 150 if I didn’t use the supplement.  Of course, I am pedaling much faster with the supplement because I have so much more energy.

I think I will discuss this with my internist when I see him about another matter next month.

Incidentally, Wikipedia defines performance enhancing drugs as “substances used by people to improve their performance in the sports in which they engage. The term may also refer to drugs used by military personnel to enhance combat performance.”  I wonder why the term hasn’t been extended to include “enhancing academic performance.”  There have been a plethora of news articles in the past few years reporting on college kids taking Ritalin or Adderall to sharpen their focus prior to taking exams.  Apparently, those drugs are so effective that the non-abusers taking the same exams believe they are at a distinct disadvantage.

A key difference is that Ritalin and Adderall are FDA-approved drugs, whereas the supplements are able to evade much scientific scrutiny.

 

February 16, 2012

Dealing with celebrities

Filed under: Culture,Fitness,Media,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 6:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

America has become obsessed with celebrity, and this obsession has resulted in a media that focuses more on hounding celebrities than on developing thoughtful communication. 

Ordinary people who try to avoid this culture of celebrity sometimes are placed in an awkward position when they encounter a celebrity.  The awkwardness comes from not wanting to be too hot or too cold.  Celebrities are entitled to their privacy, but their privacy does not take priority over the rest of us doing our thing.  For example:

  • Give them their privacy.  I often see NBA All-Star Michael Finley at Lifetime Fitness, and he is apparently keeping his game sharp in the event an NBA team needs him.  If you look at my Facebook page, you will see that I have a photo album of my “glory days – high school basketball.”  Because I played in the relative obscurity of North Dakota, you might think that I would want to challenge Finley to a game of one-on-one, and you would be right.  But that would not be the right thing to do.  Even if I beat him, what would that prove?  And it wouldn’t be fair to Finley to spend his time letting every Tom, Dick, and Harry compare their games to his.
  • Celebrities need to get in line with the rest of us.  Today at Lifetime Fitness I was doing some work on one of their four flat bench presses, starting at 135 lbs.  (That’s also the weight I finish at.)  After doing one set, I moved away for a few minutes to do some bicep curls.  While I was gone, NBA David Robinson and another guy (looked like a player, too) started using my bench and my weights (135 lbs.)  I gave them a few minutes, but when they started on their second set, I decided to move in.  David may be the Admiral, but that was my bench.  I walked right up to David and said I was using that bench, and furthermore I thought that 135 lbs. was a little too light for them.  He said he was sorry (everyone knows David is one of the nicest guys in the world), and I said don’t worry about it because I will use one of the other benches.

        It’s all about balance and perspective.

« Previous PageNext Page »