may’s links worth reading

Happy last day of the month! Here is some stuff I read this month that I think you should read, too.

It’s the vague talk of toxins that reminds doctors of leeches.

“Juicing” is basically bullshit, but if you like juice, that’s still great for your health, says NYT.

Despite spending billions of dollars on weight-loss drugs and dieting programs, even the most motivated are working against their own biology.

Coming to understand that my body has a weight it likes, and that it’s better to judge your health and fitness by any of about a million other markers rather than weight, has changed my life. If you’re not converted yet, maybe this article will help.

In its early days, Runner’s World wasn’t in the weight-loss game—perhaps because runners in the 1960s were mostly wispy men with little to gain from losing. But over time, slimming down became a big theme in our pages.

Runners’ World congratulates itself on how awesome they are at being positive at weight loss or something, and the weird prose makes me uncomfortable, but just looking at the pictures is an interesting basis for a sociological analysis you can do in your head.

Those who endorsed more of those false beliefs showed more bias and were less accurate in their treatment recommendations.

I’ve been thinking a lot about pain and race and gender lately ever since I finally got a diagnosis for my generalized crappiness disorder (aka fibromyalgia), and this article is really telling.

When doctors actually asked women if they wanted to have these fake periods, many said they didn’t.

This. I don’t have endometriosis, or at least I’ve never been diagnosed with it, but I have had unwieldy, incredibly long lasting and incredibly heavy periods since whatever point of puberty where you start to have regular ones, so a year after you start or something? Whatever. Point is, as the really good comments section illustrates (I really want you to read it even more than the article), women’s experiences matter, and also, evolution designed us to have babies roughly every year from age 12 to 52, thus NOT MENSTRUATING, so the idea of having a billion periods just because you cannot or choose not to have children is absurd.

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fitness for bibliophiles: the henry and clare

“I won’t ever leave you,” she says. “Even though you’re always leaving me.”
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The driving tension of The Time Traveler’s Wife is the alternating POV chapters – which don’t just alternate POV but also times. Henry and Clare, destined to be soulmates, are always meeting when she’s too young, then Henry is disappearing whenever they’re trying to work on their marriage, and then the babies Clare is pregnant with time travel out of her body and she miscarries, and now I’m just making you sad, but you see my point? They’re always in each other’s lives, but they’re never in the right place at the right time.

So. Let’s say you are the type of person who needs accountability and companionship to commit to going to the gym. Or, alternatively, you have already committed but you also happen to like having a gym buddy. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you want to get ideas for workouts, so here is how you’re going to get your fitness on, Henry and Clare-style.

Scope out the floor of your gym and identify some machines or free items that you want, like kettlebells or various weight machines, as well as a little bit of space for body weight exercises. Discuss ahead of time what specific activities you’re going to do, and pick at least four (so, for example, bicep-curl-to-press with dumbbells, the adductor/abductor machines, wall sit, kettlebell deadlift – and we’re going to call them “stations”). Have your eye on the clock or get a watch or use your fancy pocket telephone computer, whatever. Just be able to regularly see 60 seconds passing.

Now (you already warmed up in this scenario). One of you starts at a station, and the other stays near enough that you can converse and encourage each other. At the start of the minute, one of you does the station, the other does a cardio interval. If it’s convenient to you, you might try hopping on an elliptical or treadmill, but otherwise you can run in place or do jumping jacks. Grab a jumprope, maybe. Just get your heart rate up.

At the end of the minute, switch places. No break.

Then you switch again, but on station 2. One minute, one minute. Move on, no break.

Lather, rinse, repeat until you’ve gotten through each of your stations (that is, each person has done each station and each corresponding cardio interval). With four stations, that’s eight minutes. After you’ve finished, get a sip of water, towel off, and then do it again. Another sip of water, wipe the sweat off your brow, and then do it one more time. That will take you to around 30 minutes, including your warmup and cooldown/stretches, obviously more if you’ve worked in more stations. Even if you only do it twice, it’s high intensity interval training, which means you’re working hard, improving your cardiovascular function, and getting stronger. Congratulations: you win! Henry and Clare did not, but that’s their problem, not yours.

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i mudded! again!

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 12.19.22 PMTwo Saturdays ago, April 30, I did a 10K mud run – for the second time.

I never could have anticipated I’d become any sort of fitness person. I hated physical activity as a kid unless it was riding my bicycle*, I couldn’t breathe**, and I was afraid of the ball in all sports that required them. But I guess I have always enjoyed climbing on things, because learning to rappel off a mountain in eighth grade was pretty great, and high ropes course was infinitely superior to low ropes course, because it was all me and all climby fun stuff, none of that bullshit team building crap. So when I first heard about the Tough Mudder, I secretly thought it sounded cool, even though I outwardly  scorned it for being ridiculous.

It is ridiculous. Mud runs are ridiculous. And I would never do one. Certainly never a Tough Mudder.

I have a penchant for signing up for things I have explicitly and recently stated I have no interest in. So last October, mainly because I wanted to make new friends, I did a 10K Terrain Race at Old Tucson Studios. I did make new friends (two cycling teachers from the gym where I work), and I had a great time. One of the girls I ran with, who is also a PE teacher, told me that even though I didn’t run at all, all the cycling I did would actually make me a more competent (in terms of endurance, not actual form) runner than I’d thought, and she was right.

So I figured sure, why not do the run again.

It was way, way harder this time. I forgot until moving back to Tucson that I have the worst allergies in the world, since in Boston and the Bay Area I did not. I cannot breathe in the spring out here. I had to stop for walking breaks so many times, which was a bummer because I have gone practice running like four times since the last time I did the 10K, and whenever it’s a real race I need a walking break, but when it’s just running to run, I don’t. I thought I had broken down that wall, but clearly there’s something to competition (and, probably, pacing myself) that I have not cracked yet.

That said, though, I got through it. And it’s partly because of a thing I’ve done as long as I can remember but only recently learned the name for – defensive pessimism. It’s what happens when you, like me, tell yourself the plane is going to crash when you’re going through takeoff. Or when you determine that if you don’t finish a thing, you’re going to quit (I’ve done that with my novel, and I’ve yet to finish it but also yet to quit altogether). Where I learned it was an anecdote about one of those people who tried to swim the Arctic because apparently an Ironman or something is for losers. He was feeling like he had nothing left to give and told himself over and over just how many miles down he would sink, just how cold he would be as he died, and said that to himself over and over again as he….finished the swim. So I spent the race telling myself I could just quit at the 5K split and call it a day. And then my friend and I got there (I’m 100% sure that this race, which had numerous logistical failures this time around, actually had it split into about 7K and 10K, but that’s another story) and she asked if I wanted to do that because she could see I was struggling, and I said no. And I did lots more walking breaks and forewent more obstacles than I’d planned to, but I finished it.

I finished. I did not check my time and I’m sure it was a shameful one, but I don’t care. It wasn’t a race for me. It was just a thing I did, and I finished, and defensive pessimism got me through it. The end.

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*not all that surprising that indoor cycling was my first certification and my favorite class most of the time

**nope, not asthma. Vocal cord dysfunction!

review: the first 20 minutes

Okay, I get it. You are maybe not a weirdo like me and thus do not want to read stuff that is super heavy on the exercise science. BUT you are also a person who respects the scientific process. Awesome! The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer is a book you’ll want to pick up. Here’s why:

First, take a look at the author’s qualifications. Gretchen Reynolds is a long-time columnist for The New York Times, arguably the most respected newspaper in the country. Reporters, as you might know, are trained (at least we hope) in doing their homework, fact checking (or, at least, sending someone else to fact check), and coming at things from multiple perspectives. People who take time on things are usually more convincing people than those who do not. Good author? Check. Extra points because she’s chatty and super engaging and occasionally funny.

The book is organized as a glorified FAQ to exercise, basically. That makes it incredibly readable, even if you, unlike me, do not like reading science books cover to cover. You can skip around to chapters that interest you and learn, in very easy prose, summaries on the latest studies in exercise science so that you know that HIIT is actually worthwhile and produces results, that running actually does NOT ruin your knees, and that regular engagement in fitness will indeed keep you from aging before your time.

If this book has a flaw, it’s that Reynolds does have the underlying assumption that the only reason anyone cares about fitness is because they care about weight loss. She often ends sections with a bit of self-deprecating snark, which I can absolutely appreciate, but that snark holds some derision about fat people and fatness. She doesn’t really get down to a lot of the whole “skinny fat” or HAES movement.

But if you have questions about random fitness things and don’t want to have to flip through every back issue of SELF to see if they were answered? This book. This book. Good stuff. Definitely pick up the paperback for keeps and make notes in it.

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